Steve Chalke says the Bible got it wrong in lots of places

Steve Chalke says the Bible got it wrong in lots of places March 5, 2014

In the second of the Steve Chalke vs Andrew Wilson debates, evangelicals are going to be shocked. Perhaps not surprised, but shocked nonetheless

Chalke clearly states that he believes that God does not strike people down for sin. He claims that whenever this is reported by The Bible it either means that someone was mistaken about what they thought God was saying, or that the interpretation of the Bible writers of the event was just plain wrong. His logic for this was that if something else in the Bible was in his view inconsistent with how he believes Jesus is, that the Bible must be in error.

This video is a train wreck. And it is abundantly clear by the end that whatever else he is, Steve Chalke is not an evangelical by any meaningful definition of the word. It is time he owned up to being a liberal or if he prefers “progressive” Christian. I am sure that his views would be more likely to be affirmed among people who own that label than among evangelicals. If we cannot trust the Bible, and have to subjectively interpret it by what we believe Jesus is like we have no authority source left.

This video provoked feelings of anger in me, but more than that sadness. It is a truly tragic thing to watch. But watch it I urge you, for until recently Chalke was the most influential Evangelical in the UK and there are some other leaders in both the UK and USA who would think similarly.

You can watch the video here:

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  • Gabriel Powell

    Tragic. Grateful for your strong stance. But I wonder. Are you willing to say that Steve Chalk is a wolf and false teacher? I heartily agree he’s not an evangelical, but he has crafted Jesus according to his own imagination, and therefore twists the Bible according to his own personal morality.

    He accused Andrew of poor exegesis, but he himself is guilty of gross eisegesis having created his own caricature of Jesus and then views the entire Bible through that lens. Surely that is the very definition of a false teacher who leads many astray.

    • “Steve Chalk is a wolf” is an excellent example of the Lucifer Effect.

      “At the core of evil is the process of dehumanization by which certain other people or collectives of them, are depicted as less than human…”

      Dehumanization – The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo‎

      • Gabriel Powell

        Are you accusing Jesus of this? See Matthew 7.

        • I would like to, right to his face, if he were still alive; his response would interest me. No matter who does it, dehumanizing people is the core of the Lucifer Effect. I imagine he might tone down some of his rhetoric after learning of the psychological affects dehumanization has.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            I would love to have front row tickets for that showdown!!

          • I’m not sure why it would be a showdown. Do you assume Jesus to be unreasonable?

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            I just find the image of you ticking Jesus off for using ‘wolf’ imagery amusing and would want to watch…

          • Well, he’s dead, so that’s that. We’ll never know how he’d respond.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            But we do know who would come worse off, which still makes it funny.

            Besides, if Christianity is correct you still might get your opportunity. So, keep your fingers crossed…

        • Jesse Ratcliff

          Neither you or I are Jesus.

          • Gabriel Powell

            What about Paul in Acts 20:29-30? Jude also uses rather strong language to describe false teachers (Jude 4, 11-13, 16). Strong language in the Bible is reserved not for worldly sinners but for those who deceive people and draw them away from the truth, not for those who are deceived and need to be rescued.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            Well, neither of us are Paul or Jude either! You also assume Steve Chalke isn’t deceived himself but the one doing the deceiving. As I said above, there is a lot of judgement calls being made here about someone’s motives that would give me concern…

    • Jesse Ratcliff

      “A wolf?!” Erm, not sure this qualifies. The imagery suggests someone who poses as one thing whilst saying or doing something different. Whether you agree with him or not, Steve Chalke has been upfront about what he thinks and willing to debate his beliefs. That’s not a wolf. As for the accusation he is a false teacher, if he was challenging the belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation then I would agree but again this isn’t what he says. At the most you can call him is a poor teacher, a wrong teacher, a misguided teacher, but false? No.

      • Gabriel Powell

        Is it not true that he is posing as an Evangelical while denying one of the fundamental tenets of evangelicalism? Isn’t it true that he hates God and rebels against Him by creating a Jesus of his own imagination and forbids God of acting in any way that contradicts his own caricature?

        In this video Chalke confessed to not believing in the true Jesus and undermining any credibility for God’s Word (implicating the Holy Spirit).

        He fundamentally rejects the gospel because he rejects a God full of righteous wrath who condemns people to death.

        • Actually, you believe corruptions of Jesus by a “band of dupes and imposters”, nothing he’d have ever imagined would be taught about him.

          “Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Corypheus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” ~Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson’s Works, Vol. ii., p. 217)

          Proof of how Paul contradicts Jesus:

          • Jesus: Call no man your father.

          • Paul: “…you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father…when I preached…”

          More contradictions here.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            [Groan!] Not this old chestnut. People have accused Paul of corrupting the teachings of Jesus for centuries, (hence the reason for your quotation) and these supposed contradictions have been discussed thoroughly. The problem is (apart from not really addressing the issue at hand) that this argument would also equally apply to the Gospels. How can you be sure that Paul didn’t get it right and that it was the evangelists who ‘corrupted’ their accounts of Jesus? This is the issue that Steve Chalke and others have, they reject the parts they don’t like and keep the bits they do with no methodological reason of doing so. Marcion lives still it seems…

          • It’s not “supposed,” it’s a blatant contradiction. Try some intellectual honesty some day and call it what it is.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            Where you see blatant contradiction, I see a well worn argument that’s been effectively addressed. By the way, tell me where accusing someone of intellectual dishonesty fits with the ‘Lucifer effect’?

          • You’ve never addressed the contradiction, you’ve just appealed to some anonymous authority and made the claim that somehow ” these supposed contradictions have been discussed thoroughly.”

            I’m hardly impressed.

            Besides, the glaring contradictions between Jesus and Paul—right there they still remain:

            • Jesus: Call no man your father.
            • Paul: You have only one spiritual father. For I became your father…when I preached to you.

            • Jesus: You have received without payment, so give without payment.
            • Paul: Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            I wasn’t trying to impress you, if I was I would have translated all my posts into fluent Aboriginal Australian. Neither am I bothered about addressing issues that have been thoroughly discussed elsewhere (suggest you start with Wenham’s ‘Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity, there are others but that’s as good a place as any). Anyway, still haven’t answered my objection as why you assume Paul got it wrong and not the evangelists? Paul was writing closer to the time of Jesus than them.

        • Jesse Ratcliff

          “Posing as an evangelical?” “Hates God?!” Very strong language that comes close to judging his motives or thoughts, something only God can do. As for recreating Jesus in his own imagination, I think this is something we can all be guilty of to one degree or another, As for rejecting the gospel just because he doesn’t agree with substitutionary atonement, this is an accusation that would also exclude many other Godly men and women who also believe this. I fear your definition of what is an evangelical and the gospel is so narrow that it would only include yourself and a few others…

          • Gabriel Powell

            Jesse, is it really strong language? Assuming you watched the video, did Chalke not confess that he refuses to believe God would do anything he (Chalke) didn’t think Jesus would do? In other words, if some action depicted in the Old or New Testament was offensive to Steve Chalke, he claims it could not be God because God (or, Steve Chalke) would not do such things. Therefore, when confronted with the idea that it is indeed God who does such things (e.g. kills Ananias and Sapphira), Chalke would hate that God. This is no different that people saying they could never believe in a God who would send people to hell. Romans 1 in action.

            I can’t disagree that we each might be found guilty of imposing something of ourselves onto Jesus, but woe to the person who alters the Bible (indeed, the very character of God) to suit their own personal sense or justice.

            As to substitution atonement, that is the heart of the gospel. Paul defines it as such in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff, and it is repeated extensively throughout the New Testament. That is not to say there isn’t more to the Gospel, for assuredly there is. But there certainly isn’t less. Denying substitutionary atonement is to deny the very core of the Gospel. Apart from Christ dying in our stead for our sins there is no Gospel.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            I agree that the substitutionary atonement is important part of the Gospel but would quibble with it being THE core. And, as there are many godly men who disagree, I am not prepared to make it a make or break issue. I would also question whether immediately calling out someone with such strong language is healthy. I am not saying that Steve Chalke can’t be a false teacher but it would require much more than I have heard so far before I made that judgement.

    • John Walters

      There’s probably not a christian anywhere that’s never made Jesus in their own image or twisted the Bible to make it mean what they want it to.

  • Guest

    Where can I find more of these videos?

  • Ciarán O’Ceileachair

    What I found most interesting was his refusal to answer some of the upfront questions from Andew, as it would mean he would stay vague enough that people might not know his true opinion, but I am glad Andrew pushed him.

  • Is there any way of defending Biblical “inerrancy and infallibility” using any strategy different from an amalgam of othering, name calling, and anger?

    This post is an intellectual “train wreck”—unless you can refute his central point.

  • Steven Paterson

    Oh dear! What is Steve Chalke up to? His opinions over the past while have distanced himself further and further from evangelical Christianity. Now if you don’t hold to evangelical Christianity then you may cheer for Chalke but it would appear as if he is now drifting further and further from Christianity period. I’m not saying this in judgement but rather as a criticism of his theology which he rather poorly states in the video.
    If he follows his arguments through to their conclusion there will be less than a little of the Bible left, never mind a coherent book! The flimsy nature of Chalke’s theology was exposed and despite a rather shouty debate Andrew disarmed Chalke with relative ease and could have gone even further.
    If it’s to be put simply I think it would boil down to this:
    1) Does Chalke believe the Bible as God’s word, and if he does how much of it is God’s Word?
    2) If he views everything through a Christ-centric lens then isn’t that poor exegesis and doesn’t that invalidate a key part of Bible study (namely what does the passage mean for the original recipients) ?
    3) If the purpose of the Bible is to make God known to us, including His incredible salvation plan, what is it we’re being saved from (Chalke seems to imply that God doesn’t judge)? Furthermore is this even necessary?

  • David Baker

    Hi Adrian, I have written an article about this on the Christian Today website at Best wishes, David Baker

  • choctaw_chris

    I wouldn’t class myself as an Evangelical but I find Steve Chalke’s arguments very unsafe. Supposing we make Jesus the arbiter of truth, what do we make of him saying that if you call someone a fool you are in danger of the fires of hell? Why did he reject the rich young man and how come Judas was doomed to die? Steve comes across as someone who wants to save puppies because they are cute and cuddly. I imagine Andrew Wilson found this very frustrating. I’d hate to think that Chalke’s ideas are representative of liberals and progressives.

  • Well, I, for one, agree with Steve. I have been writing about this very topic for nearly two years and have come to a similar position.

    Although he shouldn’t have accused Andrew of poor exegesis… that was poorly done.

    Should he own up to being somewhat more liberal or progressive than other Evangelicals? No. Those are terms people use to discredit him without hearing what he is trying to say.

    I would say Steve is more Christocentric … more Cruciform. Interpreting Scripture as he does through the lens of Jesus Christ causes his reading of text to be different than reading the text in Andrew’s linear fashion. Both have good exegesis, but their starting point is different.

    • How can Steve’s view be meaningfully called “Christocentric” given that Jesus appears to have had a very high view of the OT Scriptures? Steve has a different view of the Scriptures than Jesus did and therefore his view of the Bible is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

      Do I claim people I disagree with to be the centre of my thinking? I think it would be very odd if I did.

      • As far as I know, Steve has a high view of Scripture also. So do I. Just because someone disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture does not mean that they have a low view of Scripture.

        • Well that’s only because the phrase a “high view of Scripture” has come to mean a whole range of things. Some atheists claim to think highly of the Bible as ancient literature. That does not make them evangelicals. It actually has little to do with interpretation at this point. Chalke thinks that there are mistakes in the Old Testament and that is what makes his view of the OT so very different from that of Jesus. So if Steve wants to suggest that Jesus is the centre of his theological paradigm and, at the same time, suggest Jesus got his view of the OT wrong then I’m inclined to be highly skeptical that Jesus really is the centre despite him saying so.

          • Did Steve say that Jesus got his view of the OT wrong? I don’t remember him saying there are mistakes in the OT either, but I may have missed that part. I don’t fully know what Steve’s position is. I know that I agree with him on many of the things he said, but I do not believe that Jesus was wrong, nor do I believe the OT is in error.

          • You need to watch his first discussion with Andrew Wilson to see him admit that. Clearly your position is different to Steve’s then.

          • So in that first video, right at 25:05 he says, “Yeah, there are errors and contradictions in the text…” and then he wants to go on to explain that, but is not allowed to. Of course, he himself was interrupting Andrew anyway, so it was right to not let him finish. He never should have interrupted Andrew with such a provocative statement.

            It would be nice to know, however, what he was going on to say. I think even Andrew, if pressed, would admit that there are errors and contradictions “in the text,” but that with study, research, some creative thinking, and by interpreting these places through the lens of Jesus, these can be explained or resolved. This is what Steve argued at the beginning, and Andrew agreed with him.

            As to the idea that Jesus got his view of the OT wrong, Steve nowhere says anything of the sort.

          • Yes but a “contradiction” which can be resolved is not a “contradiction” – it’s an apparent contradiction. Andrew would not concede there are any real contradictions.

            Notice that Steve contradicts himself in the interview. He begins by saying the Bible is not the word of God but when pressed by Andrew later he says it is but with a rather ambiguous caveat. Notice how he talks like a politician as well. Early on in the interview he states the Bible is true! But later on Justin asks him if there are passages in the OT where people put words into the mouth of God that were not his. After fumbling around for a few minutes on the Bible as a library and not answering the question directly he then says “not every voice represented in the Bible is absolutely accurate”. So how can the Bible be “true” and not true at the same time? Right at the end, after much prodding, he comes out and admits “there are errors!”. So he appears to think the Bible is all true (start of the interview) and yet there are errors (end of the interview). Sorry but I prefer my theologians to be a bit more consistent and straightforward than that. Even some politicians talk more honestly than this!

            Steve thinks that the biblical authors put words into the mouth of Yahweh. So Steve thinks there are places in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments!) where the text says “God said…” and the writer was wrong. So if it is the case that the NT could get it wrong when writing letters why is it they were infallible when writing the gospels (which are the documents he appears to trust for his teachings of Jesus). He has admitted that he thinks the NT writers make mistakes so maybe they made mistakes in the gospels too then? He’s created one huge epistemological dilemma for himself and he appears to be completely unaware that he’s cutting off the branch he’s sitting on.

            Now what I am arguing is that this is a very different view of the OT than Jesus had. If one is making the centre of one’s theology what Jesus said then one would have to have complete and utter trust in the reliability of the OT since it’s clear Jesus did. Jesus never suggested that the OT writers were putting words into the mouth of God. So Steve’s view of the OT is very different from that of Jesus and therefore his hermeneutic simply cannot be regarded as Christocentric as he’d like to suggest. Of course Steve’s not going to admit that. He’s going to say that his theology is dictated by Jesus. But Steve takes a different view from Jesus on the OT.

  • Ted D. Pope

    So, if people misunderstood what God was saying, how can we be sure that people understood what Jesuswas saying? In other words, how can we be sure that those who heard Jesus (and wrote about what they heard) are right while those who heard God are wrong? See, the Bible IS in its entirety the word of God or it isnt’ at all.

  • Jason Guinasso

    I have read and re-read the texts debated in this video to come to some conclusion regarding the question presented, to wit, does God strike people dead for sin?

    The only reasonable answer I could arrive at is, yes, God does in fact strike people down dead for sin.

    The second question presented during this exchange, although not stated explicitly, was: what does this say about Jesus? particularly if he is the hermeneutic key to the entire bible?

    When I read and re-read the texts in view of what I know about Jesus in the bible and through His Holy Spirit, I conclude:

    (1) Jesus and His Father are just and that they demand justice, to wit, Jesus is the embodiment of God’s justice;

    (2) the justice of God is satisfied by the mercy of God by the giving the life of Jesus, to wit, Jesus is the embodiment of mercy; and

    (3) God is sovereign and can do what he wills, when he wills, and how he wills, to wit, Jesus is the embodiment of God’s sovereign plan to bring His justice, to delivery his mercy and to give us His life for His glory and good pleasure.

    I found the exchange in this video frustrating because the questions presented were not being answered. Mr. Chalke avoided addressing the questions and made really vague statements. Mr. Wilson spent too much time trying to pin Mr. Chalke down rather than answering the questions himself, so his views came across equally muddled.