No. 5 on the list of most-read posts on this blog appeared on November 21, 2004. I felt like a lonely figure back in 2004 with my strong criticism of Steve Chalke’s views on the atonement. I argued that his words were close to blasphemy at the time. John Piper would subsequently accuse Chalke directly of blaspheming, and Wayne Grudem would first agree, then modify his position to something similar to what I had said back in 2004.
Many questions remain unanswered about this whole controversy, and I remain open to Steve coming on the blog and explaining his current position more fully to us, or indeed to quoting any clarification comments he wants to make elsewhere. Sadly, to date he has declined my repeated invitations to speak further about this controversy.
Another closely related post that was also very popular was a post which explained how Brian McLaren had supported Steve Chalke.
Controversy over Steve Chalke and the atonement continues to rage, and according to reports, may have been involved in the recent split between Spring Harvest and Word Alive.
“One of the most infamous and tragic paragraphs written by a church leader in the last several years heaps scorn on one of the most precious truths of the atonement: Christ’s bearing our guilt and God’s wrath . . .
With one cynical stroke of the pen, the triumph of God’s love over God’s wrath in the death of his beloved Son is blasphemed, while other church leaders write glowing blurbs on the flaps of his book. But God is not mocked. His word stands firm and clear and merciful to those who will embrace it.”
It doesn’t happen often, but the EA has issued a statement critical of a well-known UK Christian leader. Steve Chalke was criticized in quite strong terms for his book, which apparently says that the “penal substitutionary” aspect of the atonement is a false teaching. This latest criticism comes following a public debate and an article by Steve Chalke available online, during both of which he reaffirmed his views. The EA statement says:We trust that instead of dismissing penal substitution out of hand as a false teaching tantamount to “cosmic child abuse,” Steve will recognise its significant place in the range of atonement theories to which Evangelicals have characteristically subscribed. We also trust that he will interact more positively both with the theology which underpins it, and with that vast majority of Evangelicals across the world who continue to affirm it. It may be true, as Steve has claimed, that Evangelicals are often perceived to be harsh, censorious, and ungracious, and that this can hamper evangelism. However, we do not accept Steve’s assertion of a causal or necessary link between affirming penal substitution and being harsh, censorious, and ungracious.For these reasons, we do not believe that penal substitutionary atonement can be rejected as it is rejected in “The Lost Message of Jesus,” and as Steve has persisted in rejecting it since. While affirming the many gifts which Steve has to offer, we urge him, as a much-loved brother in Christ, to reconsider both the substance and style of his recently expressed views on this matter.
So what was all the fuss about? Steve Chalk in his book says this:
The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful father, punishing his son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a construct stands in total contradiction to the statement “God is love.” If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and refuse to repay evil with evil. The truth is the cross is a symbol of love. It is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as his son are prepared to go to prove that love. The cross is a vivid statement of the powerlessness of love.
Read more . . . Steve Chalke and the Lost Message of Jesus