Context, Context, Context…

I still have not read Steve Chalke’s book, but here is an assessment from Andy Gemmill, pastor of Beeston Evangelical Free Church in Nottingam, when speaking at Bible Week in Derby 2004 (this is my own transcription of the tape):

Some of you may have come across a book by Steve Chalke called The Lost Message of Jesus. Not a very encouraging title, I have to say, for what turns out to be not a very encouraging book. It’s a very, very unhelpful book and in it he redefines most of the big, core Christian doctrines. He redefines his understanding of the character of God. He redefines the Bible’s understanding of human nature. He redefines the work of Jesus on the Cross.

And the method he uses in that is crucial for his being able to do those things. He very frequently quotes from the Gospels. In fact, the book is full of quotations from the Gospels. But, he fails to take into account that the Gospels contain in themselves quotes and ideas from the Old Testament. And again and again, when looking at the Gospels, he ignores the context of those Old Testament ideas, which means he has a Jesus who is kind of free-floating and lacking in definition. That is why he is able to reinterpret Jesus in the way that he does. It’s a dangerous book because it is well written, but it’s not Christian.

Apparently, quite a few people were upset about it afterwards. Steve Chalke is held in high esteem by many. But Andy reminds us of a very important principle: Scripture must be interpreted in ever-increasing circles of context. The OT is one of these circles. But, then, most of us are too lazy to read it very often.

Context, Context, Context…

3 thoughts on “Context, Context, Context…

  1. Jon says:

    Don’t you just hate Christians… :-p Once someone is liked everything they do is liked forever. For crying out loud! Calvin wanted to kill the Jews… Dr MLJ made mistakes too! But we treat them as more infallible than the Bible!

  2. Danny Brierley says:

    It seems odd that you should quote another person’s quite critical review of Steve Chalke’s ‘The Lost Message of Jesus’ and then state you have not taken the trouble to read the book for yourself. How do you know if this person’s review is justified?

  3. Stephen says:

    Hate Christians? Er,..yeah. I think I remember a verse about that somewhere… Can you remember where? In a loving kind of way, I’m sure.

    It’s an interesting point you raise, though. A lot of what is accepted amongst Christians is because of recommendations of others. The marketeers know that if a well known Christian leader writes some blurb for a book by a lesser known writer then people are more likely to buy it. Organisations have to have the right kind of ‘council of reference’ to give it credibility etc. We (including me) seem to be happy to go along with the herd.

    I’m a little undecided on whether it is a bad thing per se. God appoints leaders to the church and leaders should be followed. Yet we must beware that they are to be followed because of the content of their message not because of their reputation.

    (Is that Danny Brierley of the Oasis Trust?)
    Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure what you think is odd. I have been up front that I have not read the book. All I can say is that I have read the EN review, and I have friends who have read it and agree with the EN review. Andy Gemmill seems to go beyond the EN review, as I remember it, and point out a fundamental error in Steve Chalke’s approach to the Scriptures. This is a new angle for me, and I thought it was worth pointing out. Mr Gemmill rightly teaches that there is a correct approach, and that is what I was commenting on. Of course, I can’t say first hand whether Andy Gemmill is right about The Lost Message – I have not checked by reading the book. But he is part of a widening consensus.

    What do you think? Have you read the book? Are Mr Chalke’s ideas sufficiently controlled by OT Scripture?

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