There is a terrific way to seek to destroy Biblical Christianity: forget about trying to attack it from without – a much better strategy is to ravage it from within. And that has happened plenty over the past two thousand years. There have been all sorts of heresies and apostate leaders doing their best to bring the whole thing down.
Theological liberalism has been a clear case of this kind of white-anting of the church for quite some time. When it is carried out in the name of a cool, hip and groovy ‘new way of doing Christianity,’ then we really see the results. I refer of course to the emergent church movement which has been doing a great job of destroying from within the faith once delivered for all the saints.
Whether it is a Rob Bell or a Brian McLaren or a Steve Chalke or a Spencer Burke, they relish being new and progressive and trendy – all of which means they just disdain orthodox Christianity, and are happy to chuck out all sorts of basic Biblical beliefs.
They have been jettisoning one major doctrine after another, whether the atonement, or the infallibility of Scripture, or the doctrine of hell. And just as night follows day, when they abandon key Christian teachings, they also then abandon key Christian behaviours.
So the next thing you know they have fully hopped on board all the latest trendy secular bandwagons, chief of which being homosexuality. Capitulate on basic Bible doctrines, and soon enough you then capitulate on basic Christian practices.
Yet another clear case in point of all this is English emergent church leader, Steve Chalke, who is involved in a new controversy. But it is not surprising in the least, since we know that the rot had already set in years ago. Back in 2004 in his book, The Lost Message of Jesus, he very strongly condemned the penal, substitutionary understanding of the atonement, regarding it as “cosmic child abuse”.
So what do we now find the emergent leader telling us? Why, there is nothing wrong with homosexuality of course. One news item speaks in terms of shock and surprise, but it does not surprise me in the least. Here is how one report puts it:
“When one of the most prominent evangelical Christian leaders steps out in support of same-sex relationships, heads naturally turn. This is exactly what has unfolded in the United Kingdom after Steve Chalke, the senior minister at Oasis Church who is widely regarded as one of the region’s key faith leaders, came out in support of homosexuality. He announced his change-of-heart — one that is sending shock-waves throughout the international evangelical community — in the most recent issue of Christianity magazine.
“In his startling proclamation, Chalke admitted being nervous about how the news will be received. He noted that some will accuse him of drifting away from the Christian scriptures, while others will claim he’s no longer an evangelical. However, he noted that his ideological transition comes after ‘prayerful reflection’.”
So how does he deal with the clear biblical stance on homosexuality? Oh that one is easy: “When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear. … Christianity is not about a book, but about a person who is the word of God made flesh.” Yep, we have heard it all before. It is time to ‘move beyond’ the Bible and focus on ‘relationships’.
The Word of God is not all that important to the emergents, and we cannot even know whether it is true anyway. So let’s just concentrate on getting along, being really inclusive and tolerant, and accepting everyone just as they are. Let’s forget about all this ‘sin’ nonsense and let’s just focus on being really nice and accepting of everyone and everything.
So Chalke, like so many other theological revisionists who no longer embrace the Bible, have simply made things up as they go along. After all, if the Word of God is not authoritative and conclusive on important moral issues, then we just wing it.
Indeed, his justifications are so incredibly lame, that I wonder how anyone can take the guy seriously. Consider this lulu: “Here is my question: shouldn’t we take the same principle that we readily apply to the role of women, slavery, and numerous other issues, and apply it to our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships? Wouldn’t it be inconsistent not to?”
Um no, Steve, not at all. These guys use the same old tired objections. They will tie this argument into the Galatians 3:28 passage: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
But as I explain in my book Strained Relations, this argument will get us nowhere:
William Webb has written an entire volume on the issue of slaves, women and homosexuals. He carefully demonstrates how biblical texts concerning the first two groups “move in a less restrictive or freeing direction relative to their original culture. . . . On the other hand, homosexual texts move in a conservative or restrictive direction relative to the original culture.”
As to the Galatians passage, an examination of it shows that it “has nothing to do with the breaking down of social stigma concerning homosexuals, on either an exegetical level or in terms of extrapolated implications for subsequent generations.”
Indeed, Webb says that modern additions to Paul’s threefold list would include such things as: “In Christ there is neither:
-rich nor poor
-blue collar nor white collar
-black nor white
-baby boomer nor generation Xer
-single nor married.”
But if we followed the thinking of the theological revisionists and add “neither gay nor straight” to Paul’s original list, then we would also have to extend our list today this way: “In Christ there is neither:
-erotic lover of animals nor erotic lover of humans
-adulterer nor faithfully married
-sexually active single nor waiting virgin
-incestuous person nor nonincestuous person.”
Indeed, half of my book deals with all this errant theological revisionism, so no need to repeat myself here any further. Suffice it to say that Chalke is just the latest in a long line of emergent leaders who have completely rejected the Bible and what it has to say about human sexuality, and has instead embraced the values of the surrounding secular culture.
Fortunately not everyone has bought his revisionism. Steve Clifford, the head of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, said this: “While I understand and respect Steve’s pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong. Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce ‘a god’ in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.”
Yes quite right. But again, none of this should surprise any biblical Christian in the least. We have seen the emergents over the last few decades as they engage in their demolition job of orthodox biblical teachings. That they should now be attacking with the same vehemence basic Christian practice is just to be expected.
As Mark Driscoll said back in 2006, “The emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that the old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity.” Exactly right. And we are seeing the bitter fruit of this played out everywhere amongst their ranks.