Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson discuss Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson discuss Penal Substitutionary Atonement March 12, 2014

Steve Chalke’s rejection of Penal Substitution around 10 years ago was the first major controversy I got involved with on this blog. In the next of a series of video discussions between him and Andrew Wilson that were moderated by Justin Brierley they revisited this.

Chalke continued to support his viewpoint, but still seemed surprised at the strength of the reaction to him calling Penal Substution “Cosmic Child Abuse” He was clearly scornful of the idea that the wrath of God needs to be satisfied by blood. It was again clear, as the previous session particularly demonstrated, that Chalke simply does not approach the Bible in the way evangelicals have always done.

Andrew Wilson makes the point that the cross is self-giving, and that understanding the Trinity helps us to see penal substitution as nothing like the caricature Chalke rejects. Wilson is nuanced, and sensitive to the way popular theology often twists these concepts, but he is clear on his biblical stand. I am grateful to God for him, and proud to be part of the same family of churches as him. We share a history, and a DNA.  I trust you will enjoy this as much as I do, you can watch it right here:

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  • Rebekah C. Joy

    ”Chalke simply does not approach the Bible in the way evangelicals have always done.” True, he certainly does not… and thank God for that. He does not approach the Bible the way evangelicals always have done – in other words, he doesn’t interpret the Bible literally, out of context, and through a personal, biased hermeneutic, reflecting the reader of the text, rather than what the text actually says… i.e. an angry, blood thirsty, fallen patriarchal male. Sorry, but this is the impression Wilson leaves me with – every time. The way he speaks of God, sounds nothing like Jesus Christ, and isn’t that who we, as Christians believe our God to be? Right? Jesus Christ. As Jesus says in John 14:7 ‘If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.’ Likewise, Jesus says in verse 9 “…Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip [or Andrew in this case]? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Wilson is, I’m not afraid to say, like an annoying school boy who loses the debate every time, and becomes increasingly frustrated. The way in which Wilson represents mainstream evangelicals, further proves the stereotype. He sadly doesn’t make me think of Jesus through the way he speaks of God, and isn’t that what Christianity should reflect? Jesus. And, of course, evangelism? Reflecting the Good News. On the other hand, Steve Chalke hits the nail on the head, every time. Go Steve, you’re doing a better job at reflecting/imitating Christ than many angry, evangelicals. And I say angry, because Wilson, like many others who adhere to his views, ALWAYS, sounds angry. No offence intended – just the impression I am left with.

    • Im left wondering if you read the same Gospels I did. Jesus says some pretty straightforward things about judgement, etc. He was not the smiley friendly God you want him to be.

      • Rebekah C. Joy

        Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Which Gospels did you read? Interesting response by the way. I fear you might believe that everyone who disagrees with your theology of the atonement, or view of Jesus’ level of friendliness must have read some other Gospel? As Christians we should still walk in love, inspite of disagreement… Though I worry that your idea of Jesus is inaccurate if you omit his friendliness, and therefore loving inclusiveness from his character. Jesus was quite literally a friend to the most unlikable of society. If that’s not being ‘friendly’, than what is. Now, Jesus IS the loving God that I want him to be, but not just because I have a presupposition of wanting God to be loving. I believe this because that is the message Jesus gives us throughout the Gospels. Remember 1 John 4.16? As Steve said, when you take ideas of judgement out of the wider context of God as love (as well as, I might add, the context of the style and language in which Jesus spoke in) you miss the whole point. God wants what is best for us, God LOVES us, and yes there are warnings, but out of love, and in exposition of the fact that sin literally leads to hell on earth. It is a punishment in itself. When Jesus speaks of those who won’t inherit the Kingdom of God for example, where do you think that Kingdom is? Jesus gives us the answer in Luke 17.20-21, ‘Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you’. Jesus does not appear in the Gospels to be warning us of a God who is hateful and wrathful, and needs blood to atone for our sins. God is righteous, and hates sin, agreed. But I have to agree with Steve when it comes to theology on the atonement. Penal Substitution does not represent the Jesus of the Gospels, and once again, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ John 14:9. Jesus and the Father are one, (John 10:30); God does not poor wrath upon himself. Atonement is about restoration, conquering death and evil, and restoring the full glory of all creation. ‘Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things’ Matthew 17:11. As Sonderegger says of St. Anselm’s theory of atonement ‘Cur Deus Homo’, ‘Jesus Christ does not substitute for the sinful human race; as incarnate flesh, he represents and renews it…’

        Now, in reference to Isaiah 53, let’s look at verse 4: ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.’ This is humanity’s perspective and stance upon the matter. Actually looking at WHO crucified Jesus, it obviously wasn’t God. It was man, in his sin, who cast the whip upon Jesus’ back… Verse 8 says ‘By oppression and judgment he was taken away’. But not by God, nor was Jesus judged by God, but by man. All throughout the Gospels there is reference, after reference to sinful man who wants to kill Jesus, for reason, after reason (see examples in John 7.19, 25, 30, 44). Penal Substitution is not in sync with the Gospel. Oppressed and judged by man, Jesus died for our sin, because of man, and by the hand of man. Not at the hand of God. But because Jesus IS God, he willingly gave himself, to conquer evil, satisfy our debt, and restore creation to its fullness, and glory. The debt we owe for our sin is for failing to honour and obey the Lord God. Restoration of creation, reconciliation between God and man, that is justice to God, not seeing wrath satisfied by punishment. Satisfaction is gained through the conquering of evil, ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ Mark 10.45. We are reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ the mediator, and finally, through the restoration of all things. God does not need to see blood slain for our sins, because he is so wrathful that he can’t let it go. This is not how the atonement works. The Gospels are quite clear on that. Salvation is not about Penal Substitution, but restoration; the restoration of the purpose of human life and all creation (Rev 21:5); it is also mediation (1 Tim. 2:5-5), and it is reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). It is repayment of debt (Matt. 18: 23-27), and it is a victory over evil (1 Cor. 15:57).

        • Ciarán O’Ceileachair

          Rebekah, thanks for your reply to Adrian and I do agree with you to an extent. I do believe there are a few more sides than merely penal substitution to what happened on the Cross, it accomplished a few things but from my reading of the scriptures and the teaching I’ve had, I’m convinced that penal substitution is a major aspect of what happened at the Cross.

          From reading your reply though, it feels as though you believe the Gospels to be more important than the rest of the Bible. So my question stems from that observation, do you take everything else in the Bible in the light of the account of the Gospels?

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            Ciarain, hi. In answer to your question, yes, I do believe that the Gospels are more important in a sense, because they are the very destination, or key message that the Bible is leading us to. So, yes, I do read the Bible in light of the account of the Gospels. Scripture should be read through the lens of the Gospels. But asking if I think that the Gospel is more important than the rest of the Bible, is perhaps like asking, is the journey more important than the destination? We embark upon the journey to get to the destination, but there is a lot we can learn from the journey along the way. We should look at, or embark upon the journey in light of the destination, as the journey is supposed to lead to the destination of course. Is that clear? I hope this answers your question.

    • I don’t know what video you were watching Rebekah but I didn’t see Andrew getting angry here at all. That is also a very weird accusation since you appear to be implying that the one who gets angry first is the one who is less like Jesus and is therefore less likely to be right theologically. It’s a good thing that the disciples were not playing that game the day Jesus went into the temple and saw the exploitation going on. The Jesus of the gospels gets angry. The NT even states clearly that anger is not a sin per se. Also, philosophically speaking, your criticism is regarded as a logical fallacy since you’re attacking the person and not the person’s arguments.

      Also – the charge that evangelicals have a literalistic hermeneutic and read the Scripture out of context through biased lenses is a very muddled accusation. Everyone reads everything in a biased fashion so I don’t suppose that’s much of an accusation to make. Unless, that is, you’re the first person in the history of the church to be able to read it completely objectively with no agenda? As for reading it out of context and being overly literal you don’t give any examples.

      The impression you were left with was a very subjective one and I suspect it tells us more about you than it does about this discussion. No offense.

      • Rebekah C. Joy

        I most certainly agree – anger is not always a sin. I made no implication that anger is always a sin. There is such thing as a ‘righteous anger’, and Jesus’ reaction to the traders in the temple is a perfect example. My first point was simply what it was; a subjective opinion, which in the case of the impressions Christian leaders are leaving people with, are extremely important, and they do have their place. Whilst Andrew wasn’t displaying his usual anger in this video, I see it (in my subjective opinion) beneath the surface through his body language. One may disagree, but I don’t view it as a righteous anger. It seems to be more of a character flaw; an anger at Steve’s willingness to make certain that the Bible is interpreted through the lens of the Gospels. The Gospels present us with a message of love that does not allow for division, exclusion, or gods moulded out of patriarchal anger and angst. My point was simply relaying the way in which one’s views will affect how they are perceived as people, and – as Christians. My perception was that Wilson’s views seem to make him appear as an angry and annoyed person, as opposed to humble and composed. Steve Chalke, in my opinion, is expressing views that I see as being more in alignment with the Jesus of the Gospels, and because of his views, he seems to be a calmer person. But I may be wrong. Or, I may be right. I do believe he hits the nail on the head in so much of what he is saying, about how we should interpret the Bible. It must be viewed through the lens of the Gospel. Now, you may disregard my subjective views of one’s character, as having any weight as evidence for why someone’s views are wrong, but I have to say that it is through the opinions one holds, that their character is shaped. In other words, the way in which someone is acting, says a lot about who their true god is. This may sound harsh, but once again this is the impression that I am left with.

        Regarding the hermeneutics of evangelicals, I should have specified, I mean ‘fundamentalist evangelicals’, of which not all evangelicals are. I can give plenty of examples of literal interpretations, which will only provoke further debate, and I’m sure you are aware of many topics evangelicals have developed their view on, through a literal interpretation of the Bible. But I find, often, that these mediums of interaction are less than productive, so instead I shall write a paper which you may then refer to, and respond accordingly if you so wish. Now, not everyone reads the Bible through a ‘biased lens’. There are those, as a matter of fact, who genuinely and sincerely want to find out through their reading of the Bible, what God is actually saying to us. A hermeneutical exegesis that looks at each scriptural passage in its cultural-historical context, and further through the lens of the Gospels, is one that is most likely to bring forth the message of God. If the way in which a scriptural passage is interpreted, leads to a conclusion of its meaning, that turns out is not in sync with the Gospels and the core message of Jesus Christ, then I believe we can safely say that the interpretation is not correct.

        Your final comment makes no sense by the way. What you are saying is that having a subjective opinion of someone (or perhaps you mean MY opinion) tells you more about me, than about the person influencing my opinion. Poppycock, for want of a better word. My subjective opinion simply tells you that Andrew Wilson is not making a good impression on people (who all have subjective opinions by the way, which do count for something). If you want to read more into it than that, then perhaps you are merely trying to find fault in the person who has perceived someone to be X or Y, because of your defence for the person’s (Andrew’s) views, which therefore tells me more about you, and your standpoint, which is obviously biased. But that’s OK, we all lean in one direction or another, and I apologise if my opinion has offended you. It is interesting though, don’t you think, how different the characters of the likes of Wilson, and other angry conservative evangelicals are, in contrast to the likes of Steve Chalke, and say, Rob Bell. The latter two take the Bible far more seriously, and come out with conclusions more in sync with the Gospels, than any conservative evangelical I have ever come across. But, of course, this is only my subjective opinion.

        • Rebekah,

          Well you must be one heck of a psychologist and human behavioural expert to spot “Andrew’s anger” on the basis of just how he’s holding himself. And, in addition to that, be able to know that the type of anger as well and be able to spot his underlying character. That’s really impressive. Can you talk to animals as well? I’m mocking because that’s a totally absurd view, even if you’re willing to admit it’s subjective. I think Andrew was very composed myself and I think the video supports that view.

          Steve definitely gets frustrated quite a few times in this discussion but I don’t care about that. That has no bearing on the truth or falsity of his opinion. They both get a bit frustrated from time to time but I think that has more to do with the small amount of time. I also think it’s because Steve is hiding his views up a bit and making them more difficult for Andrew to get at (eg. saying the whole Bible is ‘authoritative’ when we know full well he means something very different than what most evangelicals mean by this).

          If you meant fundamentalists you should have said fundamentalists then and not evangelicals.

          Your position on hermeneutics is a rather unorthodox one and I’d much rather see a paper defending that. You are now setting yourself against a huge amount of literature in the last fifty years which, the bulk of it, suggests there is no such thing as perfect objectivity in interpretation. That is not to say, as you suggest, that people cannot work really hard to study the cultural background and be aware of their biases and then deliberately challenge their bias. It’s also not to say that there are not better or worse readings of the text either. My point was the charge of bias is one we are all guilty of and those who cannot admit they have them usually have the most damaging forms of them.

          Your final comments are weird since you take your highly subjective opinion and now state that he is having this impression “on people”! Who are these people? Who exactly are you speaking on behalf of? Again you make the accusation of bias and again I say to you – it’s not an insult. I’m not insulted to be called ‘biased’ by you or anyone else. But at least I try to make myself aware of my biases. When someone accuses other people of being biased it suggests they are deluded into thinking they’re not. You might as well be accusing me of using language!

          I’m sorry but I also don’t agree with your conclusion either. If you think your best two examples from liberal Christianity (Bell and Chalke) take the Bible “more seriously” than “any conservative evangelical I have ever come across” then you should read some more stuff by conservative evangelical scholarship – and when you do so try to be more objective when reading them. Again, I don’t see the reason for this need of yours to attempt to slur evangelical scholarship.

          Of course, because your whole line of attack has been to the person rather than the actual arguments at hand you appear to have missed the point that all of this is nothing more than ad hominem attacks on your part. I sure hope you can manage to get beyond how a person comes across to you personally and actually weigh their arguments in a less emotional way the future.

          All the best,

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            It only takes a basic understanding of human body language to see someone’s underlying emotional state. You think Andrew was very composed, as you say. I don’t. My opinion is as valid as yours. I think he looks, and sounds angry. The way I see it, it’s the same sort of anger that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day expressed toward Him, when he challenged their way of life. Steve Chalke and Rob Bell come under much criticism from conservative evangelicals, much in the same way that Jesus did, at the mercy of the Pharisees and the High Priests of the day.

            Wilson is leaving a certain impression on people. I am one of those people. I am sure there are many others. If you read through my comments you will see that they are not just an attack on Wilson’s character. I was making a point, which I will reiterate: one’s behaviour often reflects the opinions one holds. I’ve watched many debates between Wilson and others that have left me with the same impression. However, I went on to speak about what I believe to be the extremely poor methodology, and literal interpretations of the Bible that many evangelicals are renowned for.

            Now, all fundamentalists are in actual fact evangelicals, and many evangelicals are fundamentalists. Wilson, (as it appears from his views) has a very fundamentalist approach to scripture. However, it is true that not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. But if you think they are entirely distinguishable, and separate, then you need to do a little more research.

            It’s interesting that you think my view on hermeneutics is ‘unorthodox’, which makes me wonder if you are fully aware of the many different forms of hermeneutical exegesis, and if you actually understand the hermeneutical process. What would you call an orthodox form of hermeneutics? There really is no such thing. But to interpret scripture through the lens of the Gospel is the closest we can get to understanding what Jesus teaches. So, unless you disagree that Jesus is Lord, there is no argument here.

            I have read plenty of conservative evangelical scholarship; I have come from your side of the fence, and moved into what one would probably call progressive Christianity, as opposed to liberal Christianity. The Spirit is moving, and ‘whilst the letter killeth, the spirit giveth life’ (Cor. 2:6). I always try to be objective when studying scholarship, as in, I read everything through the lens of the Gospels, but of course as you rightly point out we are all biased. But, my bias is toward Jesus, and everything Jesus stood for. I am sure I have other biases as we all do, but I try to ground myself in the teachings of Jesus, and bring my views around to be in alignment with them. Of course, I admit, we all fall short. What is important here though, and the reason for what you might call an attack on evangelical scholarship, is that we remember the greatest commandments Jesus Christ has given us, of which the entire law and Prophets hangs upon: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). Loving God and neighbour go hand in hand; love of God is tied up with love of neighbour – Jesus said, ‘‘Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen’’ (1 John 4.20). From much experience and study, I have concluded that the views and often behaviours of conservative evangelicals, fail to show love of neighbour. This is the sad truth, and whilst I am sure it is not true of all, the overall consensus of conservative evangelicalism is one that I view to be entirely out of sync with the Gospel, and the greatest commandments of all.

          • Well we’re going to have to agree to disagree on whether Andrew was “angry” or not but I certainly do not agree that there is strong evidence of any such thing and you have not convinced me in the slightest.

            Oh please! Don’t liken the criticisms that Bell and Chalke get as being like the criticisms Jesus got. That’s a cheap shot and anyone can do that. Wilson has been criticized himself. Would you like it if I likened Wilson’s critics as being the Pharisees and Wilson to Jesus? Of course not. No modern-day Christians’ persecution is anything like how Jesus was persecuted. Again, you only make such comparisons because you have already decided whose side you’re on. Don’t try to vindicate that with the fashionable evangelicals/Pharisees analogy. That’s an abuse of the text in its original context.

            And, by the way, by using that comparison, you appear to be suggesting that the evangelicals are not your brothers and sisters in Christ given some of the strong things Jesus had to say about the Pharisees. He said some of them did not even know God. That’s not very loving and accepting now is it? I thought you were supposed to be an example of how loving and all-embracing progressives can be?

            I never said that there was no connection between evangelicalism and fundamentalism (I’ve read ‘The Fundamentals’ thanks) so I am well aware of the historical connection but it’s just sloppy to suggest, as you did, that ‘evangelicals’ have a literalistic hermeneutic. That’s just simply misrepresenting the breadth of hermeneutical approaches one can find within evangelicalism. And mainstream evangelicals have been outspoken about the misuses of interpretation found in fundamentalism. I have read pretty much everything Wilson has written and he’s not a fundamentalist I can assure you.

            I made it clear what I meant by the mainstream view in hermeneutics as I referred to the view that interpreters come to texts with agendas. You should know this if you are a student of hermeneutics as you say you are. Jesus never taught that one should interpret the Scripture through the lens of the gospels since they did not exist. Instead he affirmed the authority and integrity of the Hebrew Bible – as do other writers in the NT. So while I agree that Jesus is Lord, there is a disagreement here. I don’t think citing Jesus solves the nuances and problems of hermeneutics.

            Well I’m glad to hear that you are biased toward what Jesus said. Me too in one sense. And I find that Jesus very much affirms the Hebrew Bible as the word of God. I don’t find Jesus anywhere suggesting that people in the OT had written down things which put words into the mouth of God which were not genuinely from God (which is what Chalke is suggesting). So you have a choice. You can either affirm the OT, as Jesus does, or you can take the ‘progressive/liberal/post-evangelical’ approach and distance yourself from Jesus who affirmed the OT in the strongest of terms. (Matthew 5: 17-19) But I am not with you if you’re saying you’re “biased toward Jesus” in a way which suggests that, somehow, the rest of Scripture is less authoritative or true. What Paul says in Romans is as much the word of God as the words of Jesus recorded in the gospels. So, for that matter, is the OT.

            Again, I would highly recommend you look up the logical fallacies called ad hominem and tu quoque. You have used both a number of times now and it’s making your complaints look rather shallow and illogical. For example, in my experience, some of the more “progressive” types who love talking about loving Jesus can be pretty mean people if you don’t agree with them. I have experienced this first hand myself. But their hypocrisy would not be a good reason for me to say that their theology is wrong per se. To make that case I have to go to their arguments rather than their ability to live up to their ideal. Please stop using logical fallacies.

            Honestly, just because I disagree with Bell, Chalke, and yourself, you don’t need to quote verses to me about God’s love. I am fully aware of them I can assure you. It’s the sayings of Jesus about judgement which appear to lack serious explanation by the ‘progressive’ movement in my opinion. It’s been noted by many that Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in the NT. Why don’t you quote some of those verses? I find that many ‘progressives’ (and this might not be true of you) want to paint Jesus as someone who only talked about love and acceptance but they have little to nothing to say about all the other things Jesus also said. (“Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28; “…and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:50; “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:29) The ‘progressives’ seem more concerned with explaining these verses away than actually explaining them to me and the fact that it’s hard to ever find them citing Jesus on hell appears to be an indication that they wish he’d never said such things. (PS. Evangelical scholars have addressed these verses in the original Greek before you go there.)

            If I found everything Jesus said to fit in comfortably with my views then I think I would be worried that I’ve painted a picture of him to fit my view.

            Even though we have very differing views I still wish you all the best,

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            The reason I liken the two, is because I see the humility and love that Bell and Chalke are trying to express to the world, as being very like the love of Jesus. They are criticised for the precise same reasons that Jesus was. They are different; they don’t go with the judgmental religious boundaries like that of conservative evangelicals and the Pharisees. Agreed that it is nowhere near the persecution that Jesus received, however, I see it as being on a very similar level.

            Jesus said some strong, ‘unfriendly’ things about the Pharisees, because of their hateful, hypocritical, behaviour. In much the same way, conservative evangelicals, whether you like it or not, have behaved this way toward women, gay people, and God knows who else… Perhaps ‘unbelievers’. Basically, anyone who shares a different view point from them, they ostracise, and try to cut off. That is exactly what is happening with the likes of Bell and Chalke.

            Now, you say that ‘Jesus never taught that one should interpret the Scripture through the lens of the gospels since they did not exist’… I think you need to rethink this here. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL. Therefore, the message of Jesus, should be the first and foremost proof that we use, to refer back to, in order to make sure our interpretation is correct. That is what I mean, by interpreting the Bible through the lens of the Gospels. If one’s interpretations are not in sync with the greatest commandments of love of God and neighbour, then they are wrong. If you think otherwise, who are you following?

            You then state that, Jesus ‘affirmed the authority and integrity of the Hebrew Bible – as do other writers in the NT.’ Well, not exactly. Jesus affirmed that ALL authority, as in the law and the Prophets, hangs upon the greatest commandments of love of God, and neighbour which go hand in hand, as I said before (Matthew 22:37-40). To exalt anything else, above this, is idolatry. It is as though you are chasing your tail, and ignoring the flag that Jesus is trying to wave in front of you.

            If you don’t think that ‘citing Jesus solves the nuances and problems of hermeneutics’ then where on earth do you take your authority from? After reading this, I may as well stop here, as you clearly do not take the message of Jesus seriously. I worry you are more concerned about being right, being a conservative evangelical, and having all your rules, and regulations, over and above the love of Jesus Christ. To reiterate, if you don’t think that citing Jesus solves the problems in hermeneutics, then my friend, we need to start from the very beginning. Jesus IS. That’s it. JESUS. You didn’t make it clear what you meant by ‘Orthodox hermeneutics’ at all. You said that others come to the Bible with agendas, but do you think that evangelicals don’t? The only way to put bias and agendas aside in hermeneutics, is to come to the scriptures through the lens of the Gospels. The Gospels is the RED MEAT of the Bible. Finally, I don’t believe that evangelicals aren’t my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I do think many evangelicals are somewhat misled. I am en evangelical. But just not the kind you are, I don’t think.

            Now, there is much in the OT that is speculation and the views of the Patriarchs, and not a law from God. For example, when they say ‘God put Onan to death for spilling his seed outside of the woman’ (Gen. 38:9)… Well, Onan died, and they presumed it must have been for what he had done. However, if anyone died, they believed it was God’s doing, rather than a natural cause that God had not ordained. This is why Jesus came to tell us, that it all comes back to love, and it is through love of God and neighbour (which are interdependent) that the entire law and Prophets hang upon.

            The fact that you think that taking a non-conservative evangelical approach, is distancing myself from Jesus, shows me the exactly how far you are from the truth.

            I am writing about the many things that Jesus had to say about hell in my thesis, and I shall not be ‘explaining them away’, but finding out what Jesus actually meant by this. In order to do so I shall look at precisely how He used language, and metaphor, to get His message across. There is much hell on earth, and when we sin, we bring ourselves into that hell. Likewise, God is love. So whoever lives in live, lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16). The way you quote scripture without context, says it all. So please, please, try to learn about biblical hermeneutics. It seems that you are literally taking the words of Jesus oh so literally, as in without context, and without looking into the linguistics, or how Jesus used language, and metaphor to speak about things. This is not about personal bias or agenda, but about using the correct methodologies, to read ancient texts, in order to discover precisely what JESUS WAS AND IS SAYING TO US.

            Once again, the entire law and Prophets hang upon the greatest commandments (which I worry you keep ignoring) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself’’ (Matthew 22:37-40)

            I think you misunderstood my point about people’s beliefs leading them to certain actions. When you speak of ad hominem and tu quoque, are you aware that this is referring to people who claim X, but DON’T live up to X, so X must be wrong? That is not what I said in the slightest. That is entirely different to what I was saying, about one’s beliefs shaping their character. I said, one believes X, and it makes them act X. One’s beliefs may shape their character. Not the same as one believing something, not practicing it, and thus there opponent says that something must not be true. So, to be blunt, you are wrong. I have not used any logical fallacies.

            To end, I am going to recommend some books for you to read (other than the Gospels). In turn, I will read whatever you may want to recommend, and then, if you like, we may reconvene… ‘Jesus Wants to Save Christians’, and ‘The Velvet Elvis’, both by Rob Bell. At the end of the day, what is most important is that, as Christians, we love one another. To exalt anything else above love of God and neighbour is idolatry. May God bless, you, and I am sure we both want the same outcome for all of humanity, in the end.

            In Christ, God bless,


          • Hi again Rebekah,

            I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to go through every one of those paragraphs disagreeing with you (as much as I’d like to). But I do think you have misrepresented me a few times and I still think you’re using the logical fallacies I’ve advised you not to use. However…

            Your view (and Chalke’s by the sound of it) is to say that there are misunderstandings about what God was saying in the OT. Now since we both agree that Jesus is the climactic revelation of God what I would like is some indication from Jesus himself that this is the case.

            Where does Jesus indicate that some of the writers of the OT got things wrong? And are there any verses which might just suggest the opposite (that what they wrote was right)?

            Many thanks,

            PS. By the way, the reason the hypocrisy charge is a fallacy is because it most definitely would apply to all Christians. Who of us really demonstrates the love of God like Jesus did and taught we should? None of us. This is one reason it’s considered an illogical complaint to make.
            PPS. I’m afraid my reading schedule is far too full to make space for reading Rob Bell. I have already read hi ‘Love Wins’ and I have read Chalke’s ‘Lost Message’ so I’m not criticizing as someone who’s never read them.

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            Jesus says that the entire law is fulfilled through love (Matthew 22:37-39). People have clearly misinterpreted God’s will for humanity; as such the OT patriarchs clearly had ideas that were far from the teachings of Jesus. I will come to an example in a moment. But first, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Now, a classic example, of how we have moved from the old law, into the new law of love, is Matthew 5:38-48, ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ The old law of giving equal measure in return to someone’s bad actions, ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’, may be found in Exodus 21:24. Now Jesus is not abolishing the law per se, but He is saying that the law is fulfilled through love, as opposed to fulfilled through fighting fire with fire (which may be ascribed to Penal Substitution). We know that two wrongs don’t make a right, and the only way to put out a fire is with something opposite, and pure, such as water. In the same way, the only way to overcome hate, evil, and death, is through love, goodness, and life. Therefore, anything that is interpreted and concluded to be outside of these things is clearly not God’s will. Jesus has affirmed that the law is fulfilled through love (Mat.22:37-39). The new law is not the same sacrificial law of the old, that man believed was the way to God’s heart; now, the Lord Jesus Christ is telling us, it is all about love. The law is fulfilled through love of God, and neighbour which go hand in hand. It only takes common sense, to see examples all throughout the Old Testament that are not in alignment with the new law of love. So if one’s interpretation of something is not in sync with the law of love, then we know that it must be an incorrect interpretation, because God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

            Once again, I have not used any logical fallacies. Your understanding of ad hominem and tu quoque, was not correct, as I had not used anything like this that may be considered such. I agree that all Christians fall short, we are human. However, there are certain denominations that fall short in their beliefs, which makes them further away from Christ in the first place, yet they claim to have the whole truth. This is what I find to be very similar to the hypocrites Jesus referred to.

            Perhaps if you carefully read through each paragraph I have written, you might find that you actually agree with what I am saying. Anyway, happy reading, and happy learning… I hope you only get closer to Jesus, as I hope for myself, and for all.

            God bless,


            P.S If you really value the true teachings of Jesus, and want to learn more about hermeneutics, and the importance of it, then I really recommend you make room in your reading schedule for the aforementioned Rob Bell books.

          • Thanks Rebekah,

            The reason I don’t have time for Rob Bell in my reading schedule is because I am currently reading Anthony Thiselton’s ‘New Horizons in Hermeneutics’, various books by N.T. Wright, and Chris Wright’s ‘OT Ethics for the People of God’. No offense to Bell but I am too busy with real scholars for popularist stuff like that. As I said, I have already read some Chalke and Bell and find both of them to be lacking in scholarship in the contentions they make that have caused a stir. I certainly learnt nothing from Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ since I read my fair share of liberal theology in my undergraduate days.

            You are quite right to say that Jesus lists several things found in the OT and then affirms “but I say to you” but that does not suggest the OT got it wrong. Instead, Jesus is bringing about the fulfillment of the law. It most certainly does not mean that the ancient Hebrews made up the lex talionis (which many scholars have noted is a very good law in the ancient world which puts restrictions on punishment most cultures around Israel simply lacked) and then put such a law into the mouth of God. The obvious reason that would be such a poor reading of Matt.5 is because of the way in which that passage is prefaced where Jesus states: “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.5:17-19)

            As many scholars have noted, the phrase ‘the law and the prophets’ is a way of talking about the whole of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus affirms it and fulfills it. But Chalke’s (your?) view is very different. He’s trying to suggest the ancient Hebrews badly misunderstood God and they put things into his mouth which he never said. But that is not what Jesus is saying in Matt.5. This creates a horrible dichotomy between the Old and New testaments. But Chalke is not getting this theology of Scripture from Jesus but rather from liberal theology and imposing it onto the Bible under the guise of ‘what Jesus taught’. This is why he’s so hard to pin down in discussions like this.

            So, you have not demonstrated any verse from Jesus where he says what Chalke is saying. NOWHERE, not once, does Jesus ever even so much as hint at this odd idea that people in the OT had been misunderstanding God and lying on his behalf. This view is also very damaging for the notion of progressive revelation. If there are passages in the OT where people were making stuff up about God then how do we know which parts are right and which bits are wrong? Why is it that Jesus only ever picked bits of the OT which he affirmed? Why did he not make it clear that we can do away with large chunks of the OT now and why did the Holy Spirit not inspire Paul better when writing things like: “All Scripture (the Hebrew Bible of course!) is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2.Tim.3:16) So the OT writers were writing under the inspiration of God and yet they made stuff up about what God was saying? How does that work?

            Sorry to say it but I don’t see how anyone who takes what Jesus says as divinely inspired can seriously suggest he saw the Hebrew Bible as anything but good and reliable. That has certainly been the standard view of the church for two millennia and I think Wilson is absolutely right to suggest we ought to have pretty strong evidence if we’re going to suggest they all got it wrong on this matter.

            I am sorry you seem unable to spot the fallacies you’ve been using. I have explained them and how you used them.

            All the best,

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            Episcopius, it seems that you just don’t get it. You are clearly not reading what I have to say, as you are misinterpreting me. This is shown evidently by the fact that you ask the question,

            ‘If there are passages in the OT where
            people were making stuff up about God then how do we know which parts are right
            and which bits are wrong?’

            Well, it’s quite simple, it’s not that ‘people are making stuff up about God, but there are misunderstandings and misinterpretations by man, of God’s law. What I am saying is that it’s as clear as the light of day, that if an interpretation is in sync with the greatest commandments, that fulfil the ENTIRE LAW, then we know it is right. If not, then clearly it
            is wrong. You agree with me that Jesus came to fulfil the law, but you then fail to state what that fulfilment is. It is almost as though you want to ignore what Jesus is saying, i.e. that the law is fulfilled through love. I totally agree that the law is not abolished, but fulfilled, only you fail to acknowledge what that fulfilment is, and that there are misinterpretations of God’s law.

            Once again, to get this out of the way before I continue, I have not used any logical fallacies. You keep saying this, but you fail to provide any evidence. Tell me what I have said that you think is a logical fallacy, and we shall examine whether it is or not. Otherwise, stop using
            logical fallacies yourself, such as trying to discredit my arguments by calling them logical fallacies, when they are not in the slightest. If you think there are logical fallacies in my arguments, then you are surely misinterpreting, as I believe you are doing with the Gospels. I am certain that I have not used any logical fallacies here, nor is it something that I have ever been found guilty of in my arguments. So unless you can provide evidence, stop using false
            accusations against perfectly valid arguments.

            The Hebrew Bible is good and reliable, I agree with that, but it’s human interpretation that is not, and has been proved over and over again, to have been wrong. The Church has supported slavery, subjugation of women, and a flat earth view, all through misinterpretation of the Bible. I think you are misunderstanding me, entirely. I am not saying that Jesus
            abolishes the OT, but what I am saying is that there are scriptures in the OT that have been misinterpreted by man, to be referring to a commandment of God, when it is for example, something written by one of the OT patriarchs, that has been taken out of context. Do you see the difference? Again, there ARE also scriptures that were once followed as law, but Jesus has now fulfilled this law, through love. So there is what one would call a progression. The law is not abolished, but it is fulfilled through love, rather than say, in the case
            of Exodus 21:24, an eye for an eye, i.e. punishing with equal measure… Now, Jesus is saying, turn the other cheek, as in if someone asks for something, or takes something from you, then give him double of what he asked for. Don’t punish with equal measure. Whilst laws were in place to bring about a more civilised nation, such as the case of Exodus 21:24, Jesus is fulfilling the law – through love. There is progression.

            Regarding Biblical Scholarship, it seems you are just looking to read that which will support your view, as opposed to actually trying to find out what scripture is actually saying. It looks as though you are coming to the text with a presupposition, as opposed to having an open
            mind, and learning how the hermeneutical process actually works. You need to look at the historical context of the text, the culture, who the text is speaking to, who is behind the text, what is the message that they are trying to portray, and the language of the text, in order to uncover the true meaning behind the passage under hermeneutical exegesis. The fact that you throw Bell out, saying he’s not a ‘real scholar’ makes me think that you would think
            anyone who holds a view contrary to your own, is not a real scholar. You really need to come to scripture with a more open mind. You keep referring to liberal theology, but I’m not entirely sure that Rob Bell, or Steve Chalke for that matter would refer to themselves as liberal theologians. I think that conservative evangelicals simply think that anyone who disagrees with them on any subject is a liberal, as though it is an insult or hate word. I would say
            that Bell, and Chalke are somewhat more of Progressive Christians, although I don’t think either would appreciate labels that try to box one in to one set of criteria. Both Bell and Chalke draw upon many streams of theology. Now, you do know that N.T Wright is not entirely traditional in all his beliefs? I myself adhere to some traditional interpretations of scripture, but there are just certain traditional interpretations that are simply not in sync with the message of Jesus Christ, and are therefore wrong. For example, do you believe
            that one who works on the Sabbath should be put to death? (Exodus 31:14) A literal
            interpretation of this would say that’s God’s law. Who do you think made up this law? God? Or man? Well we know from Jesus, that in order to know what God is like, we only have to look to Jesus… ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘‘show us the Father’’?’ (John 14:19). I have already given plenty more examples previously, of incorrect traditional interpretations of scripture, but one would be the view on women’s leadership, and another homosexuality. There are many good liberal and progressive theologians, along with other non-conservative/traditional evangelicals who have a lot of truth to say. Perhaps you should make time in your reading schedule if you really want
            to know what Jesus is saying…

            …Some examples, Prof. Marcus J. Borg, Rev. John Meier, Dr. Karen
            Armstrong, Brian McLaren, Bishop John Shelby Spong, Prof. John J. McNeil, Prof.
            Keith Ward, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Rev. Dr. David Meyers, The Great C. S
            Lewis, Prof. Elizabeth Johnson C.S.J., Dr. John Polkinghorne, Rev. Nicholas
            Coulton, Letha Dawson Scanzoni, and the list goes on and on.

            Remember, once again Episcopius, ‘Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us
            the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long
            with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has
            seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “Do you not believe
            that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I
            do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
            “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe
            because of the works themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes
            in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he
            will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I
            do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in
            My name, I will do it. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments’ (John

            …And what are God’s greatest commandments that fulfil the
            entire law?

            ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he
            said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
            your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And
            a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two
            commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”’ (Matthew 22:36-40)…

            …So, how do we love God with all of our heart, soul and mind?
            By following the law that is fulfilled through love of God and neighbour;
            follow the Ten Commandments, it is through each of these that we find a
            parallel to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), and of course, by loving our neighbours…
            Jesus said,

            ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is
            a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God
            whom he has not seen’ (1 John 4:20).

            And finally, as Jesus said in 1 John 4:16 says, ‘God is
            love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.’

            In Christ,


          • If your view is different to Chalke’s then it would be really helpful if you would state exactly how otherwise your defense of him is making it look like you adhere to his view on Scripture. I did actually ask that in my last post by stating his name and putting “you?” in brackets since I wanted to check and not assume.

            You say:

            “Well, it’s quite simple, it’s not that ‘people are making stuff up about God, but there are misunderstandings and misinterpretations by man, of God’s law.”

            Okay but what you’re not making clear is who are the people doing the misinterpretation. Is it readers of the Bible or the authors of the Bible? Clearly Chalke means both and you need to state more clearly whether you are with him on that.

            If it is that some of the biblical authors misinterpreted what God was up to and misunderstood by writing things down which God was not actually the author of then there’s an obvious epistemological problem. Jesus did not write any of the gospels as far as we know. They were written down by his disciples and/or people who interviewed them. So maybe they also got it wrong and misunderstood. If you rule that option out then why? It appears that, according to Chalke, God permitted things to be written in the Bible which put words in his mouth that he did not say. In which case, since the doctrine of Scripture Chalke holds to allows for God to not take providential care over his revelation, what assurances do we have that it does not extend to all the bits you think are the interpretive keys for the bits you don’t like?

            There is also a key doctrine of the characteristic of God being missed out here too. Orthodox Christian theology does not believe that God is only love. It has always taught that he is also holy and just and that this has implications on the extent of his love. Liberals and progressives both share a disdain for this crucial Christian doctrine. It appears that the progressives also think God is really really bad at communicating with humanity.

            Your approach to my point about what Jesus said about the OT is evasive. Of course Jesus said things about the essence of the law but I challenged you to find me anywhere where Jesus is suggesting that writers of the OT misunderstood what God was saying and you’ve not come up with anything. You say, with Chalke, that your approach is Jesus-centered but it appears you won’t take him seriously since his clear view of the Hebrew Bible was that it was God’s word and that it could be cited as such. Nowhere is there any suggestion by Jesus that OT writers got things wrong. Therefore you are taking a view of the Hebrew Bible Jesus himself did not take. How can such a view seriously claim to have Jesus at its center? This is precisely why so many liberals have to attempt to scrub out certain saying of Jesus in the gospels as well. They are not content with ascribing fallibility to all the other parts of the Bible – at least they are consistent and also attack the gospels in the same fashion.

            I have already explained to you how it was you used those two logical fallacies. If you cannot see that by reading back then it is not my duty to explain it to you all over again.


          • Rebekah C. Joy

            The Gospels are a record of the words of Jesus – the disciples heard it from the horse’s mouth so to speak. How do you suppose the patriarchs were certain on everything GOD was saying to them? Did he speak to them through the divine incarnate? No, is the answer, not until the time of Jesus. Therefore the Bible is not inerrant, because man is NOT God. Thus, that is how we have assurance that the Gospels are a more accurate conveyance of the message of God, because God was there amongst them in the flesh… This is as close as we can get to literally hearing the words of God spoken by God Himself. Yes, we have to trust the disciples, so luckily (thank God) there are four accounts of the life and words spoken by Jesus. Where else in the Bible, do we get four accounts of the life and words spoken by the divine incarnate Himself? Nowhere other than the Gospels, is the short answer. That is why we must interpret the Bible through the lens of the Gospels. This is the closest we get to authority.

            Do you see how this is different? There is far more certainty, because they heard it from Jesus Himself. Now, you didn’t answer my question about Exodus and its wonderful laws such as putting someone to death for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15). Who do you suppose gave this law?? There is no need for me to give an ‘example’ of where Jesus explicitly states the words that ‘‘the OT patriarchs got it wrong in places’’, because the words of Jesus on certain issues, in contrast to some of the patriarch’s beliefs, such as stoning, and death for working on the Sabbath, speak for themselves. Again, another example, once again, Jesus said to ‘turn the other cheek’, in progression to ‘an eye for an eye’. This is therefore Jesus saying, it shall no longer be ‘an eye for an eye’, but now I teach you to ‘turn the other cheek’, and ‘give double’ etc. (Matt. 5:39-41).

            Now, once again, and once and for all, I will address your accusation of a logical fallacy. You accused me of, ad hominem and tu quoque. So to repeat what I said in a previous post, are you aware that this is referring to people who claim X, but DON’T live up to X, so therefore X must be wrong? Well that is a logical fallacy, but that is not what I said in the slightest. That is entirely different to what I was saying, about one’s beliefs shaping their character. I said, one believes X, and it makes them act X. One’s beliefs may therefore be shaping and influencing their character. Scripture even supports this – ‘as a man thinketh in his heart so is he’ (Proverbs 23:7). Not in the slightest is that anywhere near the same as one believing something, not practicing it, and thus their opponent says that something must not be true. So, to be blunt, you are wrong, this is not a logical fallacy; in fact it is a Proverb. I have not used any logical fallacies. To state that one’s beliefs may shape their character, is in no way a logical fallacy. So, I think you need to educate yourself on what a logical fallacy actually is.

            Progressives, don’t think as you say, that ‘God is really bad at communicating with humanity’. I think the overall consensus is the acknowledgement that sometimes man’s interpretation of scripture is incorrect (especially when for so many years interpretation has been flawed with patriarchal, androcentric bias, (remember the flat earth view, the keeping of slaves, and the subjugation of women?) and that sometimes people incorrectly think that every word that the patriarchs wrote down, are the words of God Himself. Yet people, being fallible, have forgotten to look at the cultural and historical context of the text. That is what I am saying. There are also times, in the OT, where the patriarchs believed things, that God then showed them otherwise, or a better way, when He was made flesh, in Jesus. For example, Exodus 21:24, progressing to Matthew 5:39-41.

            On God as love and holiness and justice; it seems that you have a very poor understanding of love: Yes, God is also Holy and Just. I agree, because without Holiness, and Justice, God wouldn’t be Love… That doesn’t mean to say, as it seems that you are saying, that because God is Holy and Just, he is less loving or vice versa. Holiness and Justice, along with Mercy, and Goodness, and Wisdom, are a part of LOVE. God is ultimate and pure Justice, and Goodness and Holiness, and Mercy, and LOVE, which is the greatest of these, and contains these things. For God to be truly Just, and Holy, He is Love. That is why 1 John 4:16 says,

            ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them’.

            In order to live in love, one must be acting in a just and holy manner. Love contains within it, holiness and justice. That is why, ‘whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them’. He then goes onto say in the next two verses,

            ‘This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love’ (1 John 4:17-18).

            So there you have it. I think we are clearly going to continue to disagree on the inerrancy/errancy of scripture; the Bible simply does not work that way, but you think otherwise, which the Bible itself, nor Jesus confirms any notion of inerrancy. If you want to believe that every word of the Bible, is a word from God, then there is no point in you studying hermeneutics. Just pick up the Bible, and read it word for word, without context of the culture, or history, or who the author was etc. Then you’ll have all sorts of conflicts, from words spoken of in the Psalms such as ‘Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (137:9), to the ‘commands of God’ in Exodus, such as putting man to death for working on the Sabbath (31:15). But what I want to leave you with, is this: that you should remember, above all, that there is only one place in the Bible, where we have four accounts of the divine incarnate Himself – Jesus Christ our Lord. Read them, read them, and read them again, and again, and again. Because it is here, and only here, that you will find a record of the words of Jesus; you need to remember, that we can only get back to the Father, through Jesus Christ Himself, ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5)… So I shall leave you with the words of Jesus Himself, said before Timothy, as recorded by John in Chapter 14, verse 6,

            ‘Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).

            The Gospels are our reference point.

          • If I may jump in here (this is a public forum and therefore a public conversation) and perhaps add something to the discussion.

            Rebekah, the thing is that I would agree (and I think most would agree) that the whole Bible ought to be interpreted through the lens of Jesus and the Gospels give us that lens to interpret through. Episcopius is more or less saying the same thing, from what I can see – the disagreement is still on understanding how that lens works.

            I’ve been working through this myself in trying to understand how the OT fits in. I’ve looked at the arguments from various angles and am still doing so. In so doing, I’m finding that most of the conservative views I’ve read offer more depth than most of the liberal views.

            For example, the OT laws were given to a nation for upholding a justice system – so when Jesus talks about the commandment of an eye for an eye, he does not mean this was a sub-standard commandment, he just puts it in its rightful place. By all means, a nation’s justice system should uphold an eye for an eye; but an individual should go further than that. What Jesus does is interpret the law properly – he goes to the heart of the law; he uncovers the original intention of that law. He brings out the faith and love you can find in the OT law.

            With regards to stoning, it might not have occurred to you (it certainly didn’t to me until recently) that this commandment was actually instituted to ensure that people would be more compassionate. See, it’s easy to blame someone for something, crook the justice system, and have someone else hang them. However, when it came to stoning, everyone needed to throw the stones – in other words, everyone judged that person, everyone carried out the judgement, and their blood was therefore on everyone’s hands. The intent of this law was to have you look at yourself and your own sin and realise that, well, if you are as you are then who are you to cast any stones? Maybe we should stop handing people over to the authorities and try and work things out differently, because stoning people every day is not pleasant. Etc.

            I’m summarising crudely but I think you get the gist of it. We see Jesus interpret the stoning law wonderfully when he says to people, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” That was the intent of the original law and what God wanted to see happen – God didn’t want to see stoning happen, he wanted to see compassion happen.

            The problem wasn’t so much that this was new to them (the Pharisees) – the problem was that they knew this already, but their hearts were hard to it! They were using God’s laws incorrectly.

            This is what we see Jesus doing – interpreting the law, showing what its original intent is, but not ever saying it was wrong to start with or the original Patriarchs (Moses) got it wrong!

            With this kind of hermeneutic in mind, one begins to look rather deeply at the OT laws and uncovers some very interesting things. God’s love AND his wisdom AND his justice come out more clearly.

            If I may jump in the ‘impressions’ argument you guys were discussing some way up – the issue is that Bell and Chaulke (and I used to like Bell a lot, by the way) also leave an impression, and it’s not always one of love and peace and wisdom, but sometimes also an impression of a wet blanket, to use a crude phrase. In other words, someone who doesn’t stand for much but pretty much is desperate to be liked.

            Is that fair on them in particular? Well, probably not, but my point is that tough love is still love. You may see angry, but that doesn’t mean someone doesn’t love. Because our society has become so over-sensitive and politicised to everything, tough love is seen negatively, but that’s just because our society has become rather unable to stand for anything (except for how others ‘feel’) and loves to crucify people who do. I’ve seen and experienced so much hate from liberals on the Internet, in particular, who love to talk about love but never live it out when someone disagrees with them but often do the very opposite – they also love to see the log in your eye but refuse to take out the speck in their own. If they did, they would understand the irony of the intolerance of tolerance and take a good look at themselves. Honestly – go to a blog like Tony Jones and note just how much anger and hate there is too. (Sorry I’m singling him out).

            I’m not standing for conservatives or liberals, by the way, and I don’t use these words in their political sense but in their Bible-interpretation sense. I’m pretty moderate and I take stuff from both camps. For example, I really like Greg Boyd and have open theist tendencies; while I really like John Piper and the sovereignty of God. I’m neither Calvinist or Arminian. I even enjoy MacArthur and a bit of cessationist thought while I’m a practicing charismatic in the gifts. I’m just saying this to show that I don’t feel I’m overly biased one side or the other, but I do see a heck of a lot of hate and anger from many Christian liberals who talk about ‘love’ and become wet blankets to the mainstream – whatever gets them liked – but hateful towards conservative Christians – because, incidentally, that’s quite a trendy thing to do at the moment.

            Sorry for the hyperbole, just making a point. (And, incidentally, we should also think of making some space for hyperbole in the OT too I think 😛 Jesus used hyperbole all the time!)

          • Rebekah C. Joy

            Hi Ryan. Thank you for your contribution to this debate.
            Let’s be clear: Stoning laws – Exodus 19:13, Leviticus 20:2–5, 20:27, and 24:10–16, Numbers 15:32–36, Deuteronomy 13:7–12, 17:2–7, 21,18–21, 22:13–21 and 22:23–24. So, you think God gave the patriarchs these laws so that they would give out a fairer punishment? I don’t think so. Have you read the Gospels?? These laws were not God given. To conclude such nonsense, is the result of an extremely poor interpretation. To have a whole community casting punishment is far worse, in my opinion, and I think most would agree, than just one person giving out the punishment. Your interpretation is a fine example of the point I am making. Man, often gets it wrong. They interpret a patriarchal, cultural practice, to be God ordained, because they come to the Bible with a fundamentalist soaked presupposition, rather than with an open mind, that is open to the truth of the Gospels.

            The patriarchs, whether you agree or not, did many things that were outside of the will of God, which is one of the many reasons why God was incarnated as flesh and blood, in Jesus, in order to teach fallen man the truth. The law was fulfilled. Not affirmed in the idolatrous manner of thinking, that ‘‘everything the patriarchs said was right all along’’. ‘‘They heard God so clearly, let’s just worship them instead’’. Fulfilment in Ancient Greek is ‘pleroo’, which means to bring about completion. Therefore in order to complete something, there must be something added, or taken away, for completion to take place. The patriarchs didn’t always get it right – that’s why we needed Jesus, to clarify, which he did, in the Sermon on the Mount.

            Theologians/Pastors like Steve Chalke and Rob Bell, are not simply ‘trying to be liked’, they are trying to bring forth the message of Jesus. They are getting to the heart of the Gospel message. They stand for truth, inclusion, justice, and equality, and love, over primitive, fundamentalist readings of the Bible, that man, being fallen, has used to oppress, ostracise, and kill in the name of God. Liberals being ‘angry’, like you say, are only angry at the unjust hypocrisy of some conservatives. I don’t believe Wilson’s angry energy (as I see it to be), is just or righteous. It seems to be more of an egotistical attack, based on a fundamentalist defence. How dare anyone question what conservative evangelicals, with their androcentric, female oppressive, anti-gay, and fundamentalist reading of the Bible mind-set have believed all this time. Jesus made it quite clear, that there is more truth yet to be revealed (John 16:13) … The Spirit is moving. Some, it seems, care more about sharing this fraternal brotherhood of ‘DNA’ (as Adrian Warknock put it) over the love, truth and inclusion of the Gospels. It’s as though they ignore the Gospels, and the fact that Jesus has reversed the fallen, patriarchal system (which I believe conservative evangelicals so desperately want to uphold) shown by His appearing first to a woman – Mary Magdalene, the first Preacher of The Good News (Mark 16:19) and the early churches that were run by women (Phoebe and Priscilla). All of this is ignored, shown evidently through their androcentric ideologies; their subjugating of women, and gay people. Did they not hear clearly the words of Galatians 3.28? ‘No longer Jew or Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female.’

            The fact that Andrew Wilson believes (debate video 2) that God actually told Moses to kill a man for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:35), says it all. He is a sheer and utter fundamentalist. Instead of approaching the text through the lens of Jesus, he goes to it with a closed mind, that says, well, I’ve got to make it fit with my belief that literally everything the Bible says, is a word from God. Or my belief that the Church (which it has not) has always believed homosexuality is wrong. Wilson claims to have studied St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as one of his PhD subjects, but has clearly ignored the huge ongoing scholarly debates over the meaning of arsenakoites and malakos, or the cultural setting of the time, or the fact that arsenakoites have nothing to do with gay people per se, but that the word involves active male sexual activity, with the word ‘money’ also being coined from arsenakoitai. So quite clearly, very likely, the arsenakoites were those involved in the practice of cult-temple prostitution, which was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s time. And the malakoi, is concluded by many scholars to be referring to the passive and younger partner – clearly, Pederastic Prostitution. This is the most scholarly (in my opinion) understanding of these words. They are in no way referring to gay people per se. It’s as clear as the light of day, but when someone is brought up reading a mistranslation of these words, to read ‘homosexual’, in their place, they become brain washed. But conservative evangelicals ignore all of this, because instead, they interpret with fundamentalist, and conservative soaked presuppositions. Male-male, and often pederastic cult-temple prostitution is far, far removed from loving, and therefore consensual, committed, life-long same-sex relationships/marriages, between two adult partners, and is in no way of any reference to two females. (This is all in response to Wilson’s views in the final debate on homosexuality, by the way).

            Andrew Wilson, along with other conservative evangelicals, believes that the patriarchs heard God rightly every time. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. The patriarchs didn’t always get it right. If they did, there would have been no need for Jesus to come to fulfil the law – to ‘pleroo’ in Greek, i.e. to complete it. God is ahead of us pulling us forward, and the Gospel Jesus does not fit in sync with a God who kills people for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. We can know what the Father is like through Jesus (John 14:8-11), and it’s quite obvious, if you read the Gospels, that Jesus just isn’t like that, nor would he ever have condoned stoning (John 8:7).

            This is not a case of being ‘a wet blanket’, as you say. This is about people standing up for the truth of the Gospels, and I believe that Steve Chalke and Rob Bell, along with many others who would fall outside of ‘conservative’ evangelicalism, have brought out the heart and truth of Jesus, far more than any ‘Bible Believing’ conservative evangelical I have ever come across – this is an anger that won’t stop until the fundamentalist lies, and false teachings in the name of Jesus, are stopped, and the Truth of Jesus is made known to the world.

          • “So, you think God gave the patriarchs these laws so that they would give out a fairer punishment?”

            I think God gave them these laws so that they would re-think justice and false testimony and come to the conclusion Jesus presents – “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

            If you bring false testimony of someone and stone them, you are murdering them, thus also breaking the law. The witnesses of the act were also to cast the first stones, apparently. Therefore, you can’t just say “I was wrong” or lie easily for a bit of a bribe. You have to go through the murder every step of the way and be held liable before God for it. That should make anyone think three or four times before bearing false testimony and should make most people think, “Sheesh, before I give this guy up, maybe he and I should talk about it.” It forces accountability, responsibility, compassion and justice.

            You might disagree but I see no logical reason to. There is very little room to abuse this system – you can only abuse it by going all the way (collectively, as a community) in false, wicked justice. Indeed, Israel seemed to have done so on many occasions, but let’s not for a moment think no other nation in this world has not.

            Incidentally, it appears that, perhaps, in that story that the Pharisees and the like may have been bringing false testimony – they accused a woman but the law said there must be witnesses and the husband (as well as the man who she committed adultery with). None of these seem to be there.

            There is wisdom in the OT Law, you’ve just got to spend a lot of time thinking about it and considering it. It’s the kind of wisdom that Solomon represents when he orders that that baby be torn into two and each part given to each mom that was contesting it as theirs. What a brutal thing to order! Of course, it exposed the guilty party straight away (and the baby wasn’t murdered). There’s no chance that God’s intention through this law was to see people stoned, the intention was to see false testimony purged and destroyed. The purpose is different to what seems obvious.

            That said, the OT Law is a shadow of the real thing – that doesn’t mean I do see it on the same level as Jesus, what it means is that I believe Jesus instituted it with the Jewish nation until the time of his incarnation. No system can change a heart, only Jesus can. Only the Spirit can. That’s why the Law is a shadow, put in place for a while, until Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

            As to your comments on Patriarchy I think they are in reaction to an extreme and incredibly bad practice from Jews and Christians alike. Jesus came to restore biblical manhood and womanhood, which looks different to how many had (have and do) practice it. But that doesn’t mean the feminists have it right. In fact, as far as both me and my wife are concerned (as well as most of the Christian women I know), feminism makes females less than what they are, destroys the uniqueness of the female, and has been hopeless at exploring the strengths of the female. This is an irony – instead of exploring what women can do better than men, it’s just assumed that women ought to be considered like men. Therefore, it doesn’t free women to be themselves and many are still stuck in a man’s world.

            As to the gay argument, I am quite convinced that the research and argument you’ve brought forward is quite well known. If it’s well known to me, it’s certainly well known to those who study the Bible as part of their job! It’s not that it’s not well known, it’s just that it isn’t that convincing. For me, it may be convincing if it (by implication) didn’t interpret Romans 1 in such a way as to make parenting and pastoring almost impossible with regards to sexual issues. This is because Romans 1 has to be re-interpreted according to the idea that gay and lesbian and bisexual are genders (their ‘natural inclination’), which pretty much means that a boy is not objectively a boy and a girl not objectively a girl. Therefore, in a very philosophical sense it degrades humanity to an “it” and completely destroys any of the unique and beautiful qualities of the male and female. Could anyone ever, in good conscience, tell their son that they are a boy? Can he only know what gender is until he turns a certain age where he knows that he is, in fact, gay? When will that age be? Perhaps the only way he can know is if he ‘tries’ with the boys and the girls? What if he is wrong? What if he is actually straight but just doesn’t know? What if he thinks he is gay but his ‘natural inclination’ actually isn’t, he just convinced himself that he is because of the culture? Then, in fact, according to the ‘re-interpretation’ of Romans 1 he has committed a serious sin! And he keeps doing it! But he has no way of ever knowing this because he has no objective way of knowing his gender, because gender is now decided upon a subjective attraction that is hard to explain, hard to pinpoint and influenced by a great deal of outside factors.

            The arguments are unconvincing from this point of view and from a point of view of the entire narrative of the Bible. Plus, they present other problems. For example, there is no mention of bestiality in the New Testament. Does that mean that God is not against it? What if the OT patriarchs got beastiality wrong? If they got the one wrong, what about the other? We are making up rules as we go along – today two ‘consenting’ adults is seen is right, but where do we get that from? All it takes is for someone to change the law on what an ‘adult’ is and we have no logical reason to argue against paedophilia.

            “The patriarchs, whether you agree or not, did many things that were outside of the will of God, which is one of the many reasons why God was incarnated as flesh and blood, in Jesus, in order to teach fallen man the truth.”

            Yes, I agree, but that doesn’t mean that the Law was necessarily wrong.

            “They interpret a patriarchal, cultural practice, to be God ordained,
            because they come to the Bible with a fundamentalist soaked
            presupposition, rather than with an open mind, that is open to the truth
            of the Gospels.”

            I’d have to point out that liberals often come to the Bible with a presupposition of the current culture and its sensitivities than an open mind.

            “this is an anger that won’t stop until the fundamentalist lies, and
            false teachings in the name of Jesus, are stopped, and the Truth of
            Jesus is made known to the world.”

            Yes, I and I believe that that also sounds remarkably militant.

            Two wrongs don’t make a right and the present conservative / liberal polarisation that is particularly evident in the U.S. is simple stupidity. There are other options – moderate options – and yet too many Westerners think that everything must fit into these two frameworks. The vitriol and downright hatred I see from liberals shouting and screaming about “Love” and “Acceptance” without seeing the speck in their own eye and practicing what they preach to those that disagree, cruicifying anyone who disagrees with their self-righteous opinion, is cut from the same cloth of human sin as the one of the conservative fundamentalists and their own prejudices and equal hatred. It seems to me that those who really preach the Bible are those that are hated by both sides – I tend to take notice of them 🙂

            Anyway, this has digressed a bit. I hold to substitutionary atonement as well as Christus Victor, with a bit of penal substitution thrown in. I tend to view this as different sides of the same coin, the Gospel from different angles. That keeps me sane and keeps theology more interesting. If we explore our options we can come to some great conclusions. We don’t have to fit into this conservative fundamental / liberal mode that everyone insists we fit into.

            All the best in your explorations,

          • Rebekah C. Reville Joy

            The reason I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that God did not give the patriarchs those laws, is because if you are a person, as I am, who is inclined to believe in the 10 Commandments (which Jesus later fulfils in the Sermon on the Mount), then you will believe that God has said ‘thou shalt not murder’. Not only that, but the stoning laws are entirely out of sync with Jesus. And if you believe what Jesus says in John 14:8-11, we can know what the Father is like by looking to Jesus. Therefore there is no adequate or logical reason, to believe that God told the patriarchs to stone people to death. You agreed with me that the Patriarchs may have done many things outside the will of God, but then you say ‘this doesn’t necessarily mean the law was wrong’. Well, if that is the case, then you must believe the law didn’t come from God. I don’t imagine God gives us a law that is outside of His will.

            As for gender, and defining people by their gender, this is idolatry; exalting the created gender, over and above the spirit of the person who lives on in Christ. It is the spirit of a person, and not their gender, that emanates love, the source of which comes from the Creator. Love itself creates, so to exalt the created gender, over love, of which the Creator is pure and ultimate love, is idolatry. In Christ, as St Paul says in Galatians 3.28, there is no longer male and female, we are as one.

            What is your idea of biblical womanhood and biblical manhood?? There is no such thing, other than applying ancient, fallen patriarchal cultures to a society that should be moving on in Christ. As for feminism, true feminism is simply saying that women should be entitled to live with the same rights, value, and freedom as men. Not to be men. But simply to be women, as each woman sees herself to be, in the same way a man is entitled to live as he wishes to do so. In this respect, feminism has been entirely misunderstood by many Christians. Jesus himself was and IS a feminist. To define a person by their gender is wrong, and reductionist. Intersex people might see themselves as neither male nor female. They may simply be referred to as they, as opposed to he or she. But certainly not ‘it’, as you suggest. Further more, who’s idea is it that women are trying to be men? This is simply a man’s idea, in defence of his patriarchal system that places women as subservient, benefiting only the man. It is the idea that unless a woman fits into the patriarchal controlled box that a man sees fit for his own selfish desires (which incidentally God warned Eve about in Genesis), then she must be trying to be a man. The conservative ideologies of ‘gender complementarity’, and ‘male and female roles’, is nothing more than a lie from the devil, and one that once again, God warned Eve about in Genesis. ‘…he will rule over you’ (Gen, 3:16), this was a warning, not a command. People are people, and many men and women do not fit into these created gender stereotypes that we have all come to know, and see how they are presented in society and media, to brainwash young children. Nobody is saying don’t call a boy a boy, or a girl a girl. What feminists are saying, is that each individual should be free to live out their spirit as God intended. Not, as society dictates, that the colour blue and Lego toys are for boys, and the colour pink, and dolls are for girls. Men and women are not as different as you think. I happen to think that apart from the obvious procreative biological differences, the main difference between men and women, is that women are far more able to empathise than men, due to a woman’s ability for selfless motherhood, and nurture. As for anything else, such as the falsity that men are hardwired for say for leadership, and women only for caregiving, it is simply neourosexism, and society that dictates this, due to the fall. Science is showing us more and more, that male and female brains have little difference.

            Many speak of gender complementarity, but I am inclined to believe, that the majority of ‘research’ on this subject, that supports this view, is nothing but propaganda, and neurosexism, which promotes the underlying patriarchal agenda, that fears the feminine. And it is fear of the feminine that is the underlying cause of homophobia. As Wolfgang Lederer MD, of the 1960s says, fear of the feminine is deep within the male psyche. It is then of no surprise, that studies have shown men to be more homophobic than women. Now, as I said men and women aren’t as different as you might like to think, and all that which promotes this idea of such disparity between the sexes is simply nothing but social engineering, and a part of the fall. Two men undermine the ideologies of fallen patriarchal society that want to rule of women. In the same way, two women, who represent female solidarity, also undermine fallen patriarchal society. Love transcends gender. Homosexuality is natural, and found all throughout nature. In Christ, there are no ‘gender roles’, and people compliment one another through their unique spirits, and God given gifts which are not gender specific, not through their genders. ‘There is no longer male and female, you are all one in Christ’ (Gal. 3:28). Jesus even speaks of gay people being ‘born so from their mother’s womb… The one who can accept it should accept this’ (Matt. 19:12) The term eunuch was used to refer to gay people in Greek literature of the time of Jesus, so Jesus then used this term, to show love and inclusion toward gays. Previously in Isaiah 56: 3-7, eunuchs were spoken of, then Jesus fulfilled this prophecy:

            ‘Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant– to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant– these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

            So, it seems you have confused gender and sexuality, as being one and the same. To do so, is to define male and female, or man and woman, boy and girl, by their procreative ability, rather than the spirit of the person, which is genderless. It is the spirit of a human person, that may emanate the love of God. To exalt the created gender of a person and define them by it, over and above the spirit, which lives on through Christ, is idolatry. In the New Covenant there is new life in Christ, not through our progeny, as it was in the Old Covenant. To bring Bestiality into the subject, because it wasn’t mentioned in the New Testament. isn’t helpful. This is simply a matter of using our common sense, not a matter of making up rules along the way. Love between two adult people is love. If a relationship is not consensual, then it automatically, and quite obviously isn’t love, but abuse. So to try to compare something like bestiality, which is abuse of an animal, or peodophlia which is abuse of a child, with a loving relationship between two adults, is entirely illogical. Love transcends gender, but it does not transcend something that would clearly make it not love. So peodophilia or bestiality are clearly not comparable here, as they are abuse. Love is not. The problem with how we define age of consent, and when one is an adult, is not confined to homosexaulity. This is equally a problem when defining righteous, loving heterosexual relationships too. Are both partners of age? It is not confined to homosexuality, so again, an illogical ‘argument’. Love is NOT a sin. Love between people of the same-sex, in marital relationships, may be pure, holy, and chaste. Many people judge the love between two people, because all you can think about is what they may or may not be doing in bed, or their lack of procreative ability. But neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality is a sin. It is how one uses their sexuality, whether for selfishness, or for selfless love (which is how many, many same-sex relationships/marriages may be defined), that defines if one’s relationship is one of sin or not. Love is not a sin, and gender combination does not retract from the love that two people share. As 1 John 4.16 says, ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.’ Gender does not define the righteousness of a relationship. Love is love, and gender does not define it. As St Paul says in Corinthians 13: 4-13,

            ‘Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

            Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

            So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’

            None of the above, is dependent upon gender. And just as you may hold this kind of love for your wife, so too, do many same-sex couples hold this kind of love for one another.

            So yes, we have swayed from the topic in question somewhat, however it is all related to biblical interpretation, and helpful to the discussion. I think it’s important that these subjects are discussed, despite the disagreement that so often arises. Yes, I said “this is an anger that won’t stop until the fundamentalist lies, and
            false teachings in the name of Jesus, are stopped, and the Truth of Jesus is made known to the world.” And in response you say that this ”sounds remarkably militant”. Well yes, but I only mean it to be as much so as the militant righteous anger Jesus had when he turned over the temple tables, in disgust and anger at the market traders. I only have an agenda to make the truth of the love of Christ known, and to seek and find the truth, in order to live it out, in love for Christ. I also totally agree that we do not need to ”fit into fit into this conservative fundamental / liberal mode that everyone insists we fit into.” What is important, is that we all love one another, in spite of disagreement. But of course, sometimes, we each may see it more loving to tell our neighbour that we think they are wrong. Often debate gets in the way of love, and it seems many evangelicals and fundamentalists are more concerned with being right (and so often they get it wrong), than the love of Christ. Take the recent revolting atrocity of supporters of World Vision withdrawing donations much needed for children in poverty, simply because the Charity attempted to extend their love and inclusion to married same-sex couples. The act of supporters withdrawing their donations in protest is entirely contrary to Christ. We can all go around in circles, debating each other until Christ returns, but Christ has called us to love, and this act was not so. So I hope we can all remember St Paul’s definition of this in Corinthians 13.

            All the best, in Christ,


          • Thanks Rebekah for the thoughtful reply.

            Rebekah: “Well, if that is the case, then you must believe the law didn’t come
            from God. I don’t imagine God gives us a law that is outside of His

            Yes, I don’t imagine God does – but I do believe that God gave the Law to Israel as stipulated in the Old Testament. Of course, He gave it to a particular people at a particular time in a particular context, and it was written down within a particular context, which means things like hyperbole are very valid as well as culture etc. But I believe that it was, indeed, God’s Law and studying it is worthwhile in understanding the intent of it. Studying it shows that the intent of stoning was not, actually, that people would get stoned.

            Nevertheless, I am in agreement with Michael Eaton and others that the ten commandments and the Law were given to Israel, not to the rest of the world. That I believe is a distinction that must be made and it helps to make it.

            As for the rest of your post – I don’t mean to make mine short to disrespect your long reply, but nevertheless my reply doesn’t need to be too long.

            1. I’m not going to comment much on complementarianism. I believe women can lead in certain roles and not others, like men can lead in certain roles and not others.

            2. You seem to have confused “agape” love with romantic and / or sexual love.

            God is love, as 1 John 4 states. Agape love. We can’t make romantic love the same thing – how will you defend that out of marriage sexual or romantic relationships that are done with the consent of the other married partner are wrong? You wouldn’t be able to do so.

            3. You haven’t engaged with Matthew 19 properly – a eunuch is not a term for gay people. The verse itself doesn’t allow it. The verse is firstly talking of divorce and secondly if we were to substitute ‘gay’ for eunuch you run into problems. Because it states:

            there are eunuchs [gay people] who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs [gay people]
            who have been made eunuchs [gay] by men, and there are eunuchs [gay people] who have made
            themselves eunuchs [gay] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

            Interpreting this as referring to gay people, it says that some are so from birth, some have been made so by men (how so, then?) and some have CHOSEN to be gay for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven? But, isn’t being gay natural? How could they have chosen it? And why would they choose that for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.

            Rather, the verse is speaking of eunuchs. It says more about celibacy than anything else. In fact, one could use this verse to encourage a gay person to rather remain celibate. Unless you can show that ‘eunuch’ really does mean gay, and how that fits into the whole verse, I don’t think you have a very convincing case.

            3. I’m not confusing gender and sexuality. I’ve heard many gay people argue that homosexuality is, in fact, a gender. Secondly, if sexuality is different to a gender, as others argue, I can’t see this in the Bible anywhere (I’ve shown that Matthew 19 doesn’t refer to this) you haven’t engaged with Romans 1 in this conversation. (You don’t need to if you don’t want, but I mention it because of the way ‘nature’ is interpreted by pro-gay commentators.)

            At any rate, thank you for the conversation – I will disengage as I simply don’t have the time or space, but I thought a reply was deserved.

            All the best.

          • Rebekah C. Reville Joy

            It is sad that you have reduced marital/romantic love, to having only one dimension. All love, whether eros, philia, or storge, has, or at least should have agape love at the centre. This is the source of love after all. So no, I am not, as you say, ‘confusing romantic love with agape love’. Romantic love, or eros as it is known, is not isolated in a relationship. It is only one aspect. Love between two people that lasts a lifetime, and is of marital form, and self-giving, as marital love should be, should have agape at the centre. It should also consist of storge, and even philia. It is agape love that binds two people together for life. Not, the initial attraction, which is defined as eros.

            As for the term eunuch, I should have elaborated, and been clearer, that the term is used to refer to gay people, among others, such as celibates, priests, and castrated men. Basically those who do not join in a procreative heterosexual marriage. It was in fact a term used to refer to gay people, as well as the others mentioned. This is supported by the fact that there is much Greek literature of Jesus’ time where the term eunuch was used to refer to gay people. It was also used to refer to celibates, celibate Priests, and those who were castrated. Jesus, in Matthew 19:12, is responding to the question of is heterosexual marriage the only way. Jesus tells us that there are three kinds of eunuch. Those who were made so by others (castrated), those who become eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (Priests and celibates) and those who were born so from their mother’s womb (gay people).

            In reference to Romans 1, this is a passage about Pagans who rejected God. Heterosexuals who ‘left their wives’, to engage in all manner of public (Paul witnessed this) sex orgies. Paul tells us that he sees men with men, and women engaging in ‘unnatural acts’ (which could mean anything other than the traditional missionary position), or ‘para physin’ in Greek, which is actually better translated as ‘unusual’. God is even referred to as para physin in the scriptures. So there is no ethical connotation to this word. The word para physin, does not mean unnatural in the natural world sense, but unnatural in the not usual sense. So an uncommon, unusual occurrence. Paul doesn’t actually even mention if any of these acts were women with women. He simply says they left the natural way. He was likely witnessing sex worship, orgies, oral sex etc. This is where it is helpful to read the passage in its cultural and historical context. The former were common occurrences of Paul’s day. Either way, Pagans engaging in public sex, who left their wives (so clearly heterosexuals) is in no way comparable to gay people, especially gay Christian people, who are naturally gay, born so from their mother’s womb (which science supports by the way). The whole point of the passage is that these people were promiscuous, God haters, idolaters, slanderers, murderers etc. ‘being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful’ (Romans 1:29-31).

            In response to your comment on ‘out of marriage sexual relationships’, with the consent of the other partner, well clearly this is adultery. It may be consensual, but there is a third person being brought in, which breaks the sanctity of the relationship, and simply breaks the relationship, making it one of adultery as opposed to love. Again, simple common sense is all that is needed here.

            As for your belief ‘that women can lead in certain roles and not others’, and the same for men. You are quite simply wrong. I do not believe that there are roles that are solely and exclusively for men, that a woman can’t, or shouldn’t lead in. I believe that thoughts like this have arisen in the male mind, quite simply as a result of the fall. Man tries to rule over woman out of fallenness. It is fallen nature that makes a man think like this. God has reversed this brokenness in creation. Jesus first appeared to a woman when he arose from the dead. The first day of the new creation. It was a woman (Mary Magdalene) who was the first preacher of the Good News. I think that says it all.

            God bless,


  • MJT

    Regarding the judgement thing – I think an issue here is that some people assume that judgement is somehow wrong. Would God be not good if he judges people for their sins? Do we think of the legal judge in the law courts today as evil when they sentence criminals and judge them? No we uphold justice as something good. Actually that justice comes from being made in the image of God! We must remember that God is a judge amongst many other characteristics. But… I totally affirm that God is love! And it’s through his love that he makes a way for us to be right with himself and be forgiven. And through that we are able forever more to live secure in his love never having to fear judgement again.

  • Clay

    I understand Chalke’s perspective. The thought that God the
    Father has a need to exact vindictive punishment against sinners is disturbing
    to me. Also the notion that the Father punished an innocent person for the sins
    of others destroys God’s justice.

    However, I think one can go too far by also rejecting the idea of Jesus’ death as in any sense sacrificial. That is where Biblical problems come up.

    So here are my thoughts on the matter, hoping to add to the conversation and perhaps establish some common ground to further discussion between the two “camps” represented in this video:

    I believe in the penal nature of the atonement, in the sense that Jesus paid the natural penalty of death for our sins – “the wages of sin is death”. But I do not believe the cross was about Jesus vicariously accepting the Father’s vindictive punishment.

    I can accept that Jesus experienced the wrath of God on the cross under these terms: 1) wrath is defined as God’s opposition to and intolerance of sin, 2) Jesus “became sin” as St. Paul says, and (3) therefore the wrath of God, as definied above, was directed towards the sins of the world which Jesus took onto himself for the purpose of destroying sin and death.

    Again, this does not have to be understood as vindictive punishment. I would agree with Chalke that there is no Scripture that teaches that Jesus’ death is about satisfying the Father’s need for vengeance.

  • Uber Genie

    I agree with Rebekah that “Chalke does not read the bible the way Evangelicals do…” That said he has not made a case for his proposition that substitutionary or penal atonement is not the correct interpretation. He doesn’t just have to blithely assert that 2000 yrs of church history got this subject wrong, but also that the majority of the O.T. Messianic prophecies have been misunderstood as well. But wait, that’s not all. Chauke must deal with:

    Paul in 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

    Romans 3 and Galatians 3 both encapsulate how the Law was setup to give us knowledge that we were sinners not to inform us that sin was illusory! Not that it was just “in our minds” or areas where we didn’t obtain God’s fullness (Chaukes interpretation of “The Kingdom of God.”

    Peter tells us, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)

    Authors of all four gospels say Jesus claimed he came here to die.

    John the Baptist says of Jesus, “behold the Lamb of God whose come to take away the sins of the world.”

    God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— (Romans 3:25 NIV)

    Again Phillip talking to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8 makes it clear that he believes Jesus is the suffering servant referred to in Isaiah 53.

    “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

    Not only does he have to deal with the central themes (not proof texts) of Paul, Peter, the Gospels, prophets and OT but of the book of Hebrews whose primary theme is Christ’s eternal offering of his blood and his supremacy as a priest in the order of Melchizedek

    Heb 6: 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

    Finally John represents Christ as the Lamb that was slain in Rev. 5. in this passage all inhabitants of heaven fall and worship Jesus saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
    because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    We are way past other controversial subjects like, homosexuality or hell. We can’t obfuscate the authorial intent with regards to the atonement the way we can other minor issues because there are two to three orders of magnitude more data that needs to be explained away!

    Chauke, like Rob Bell seems to have rhetorical flourish and a passion for the lost. But that is a very poor substitute for hermeneutics. Whether he “claims” post modernism or not, his defense is supported by rhetoric not rational arguments. His claims, “I’m an evangelical who is passionate about the Bible,” sounds more like, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” to me.

    The whole point of the atonement is to demonstrate the enormity of God’s love that while we were still sinners God poured out his wrath (burning anger hebrew word Charon (not “anxiety” as Chauke falsely claims) on Jesus!

    Just as Bell likes to equivocate on the word Shalom, Chauke’s pet equivocation is the word wrath. They both also invert the principle of perspicuity, interpreting unclear passages in light of clearer passages. When this principle is reversed it eliminates clarity. Bell and Chauke both then attack the lack of clarity they have just created. To the uneducated these methods are effective. Their approach and agenda is something other than to understand what the original audience would have understood.

    For a balanced serious discussion of the topic I suggest people read The Nature of The Atonement : Four Views.

  • Realist1234

    I read this blog piece on Steve Chalke’s view on the atonement, as he is coming to Belfast shortly, though to speak on his acceptance of gay sexual relationships. It is hardly surprising that given his misunderstanding on one of the central tenets of Christianity – that Jesus died on the cross to deal with my sin and its consequences – that Chalke is now trying to ‘re-interpret’ 2000 years of Christian understanding of God’s view on sexual relationships. I next expect him to deny Jesus’ divinity, if he hasnt done so already.