Jan 15, 2013
neil

Some doors need to be kept locked – Steve Chalke, sexuality and preaching the negatives

A friend of mine was enjoying a pint in the pub when a guy he didn’t know offered him a job. The job was working on a building site for a multi-storey office block. My friend had never done anything like it but was up for a challenge so he turned up, found a hard hat and walked on-site. Within a few hours he was operating a pneumatic drill breaking up a concrete floor that needed to be re-laid. Within a few minutes of starting he was falling through the floor onto another concrete floor below. He missed scaffolding pipes by a few inches that would have broken his back. He could have died, he ‘should’ have died and if he had, others would have been guilty of his death.

You might say he should have had the sense to have not been there in the first place, but nevertheless someone should have been protecting him. He was put in a dangerous place that he had no right to be in — unprepared for the dangers that awaited him, he nearly lost his life.

I tell the tale because I have recently been reminded that I have a job that involves protecting people from entering dangerous places. The pastor-shepherd protects the flock and the way we protect, at least in part, is by saying ‘don’t go there’ when we see or sense danger.

That charge to protect is a call to ‘preach the negatives’. Our preaching needs to challenge wrong living but it also needs to warn of dangerous theology. In a talk I heard last week I was reminded that false teaching doesn’t even necessarily have to affirm that which is false. False teachers often start by promoting dangerous ideas in an altogether more subtle and invasive way. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins is a case in point. When you turn deadly ideas into open questions, you invite God’s people to enter dangerous places.

Hugh Palmer, Rector at All Souls Church, London (the home of John Stott’s ministry for over 50 years) warned in a recent talk that Bell’s book ‘opens the door to tragic places and never closes them’. You don’t have to walk through the door yourself to be a false teacher, you merely have to open one after another and invite others to explore for themselves where they would like to go.

Our ministry has to have some negatives. We protect the flock by preaching the truth but also by locking and double-locking the doors of dangerous and deadly ideas and then we stand in the way of anyone reaching for the handle.

Paul writes in Acts 20 in his farewell message to the Ephesian elders;

Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!

The preacher must know the truth, preach the truth and warn against those ideas that oppose the truth.

It’s desperately sad to see Steve Chalke walk away from evangelical truth in his recent statements in support of practising homosexuality, arguing that it is consistent with Biblical Christianity. But what is also culpable is the decision of those at Christianity magazine to promote his ideas in the most public way by letting him open doors in people’s minds, many of whom are vulnerable to dangerous ideas. True, the magazine also presents the biblical evangelical position alongside Chalke’s ideas but in effect, that is to leave two doors open and invite people to decide for themselves.

The defence the editor of the magazine makes is, first, that Steve Chalke has written for the magazine for a number of years
(so it’s the least they could do to give his ideas such a prominent place in this month’s edition?) and secondly

opening up the issues is what this magazine does. We’re evangelical in conviction, but our approach has never been to suppress what others think, whether within or outside of evangelicalism.

I hope you notice the emotive choice of words. If it is an act of ‘suppression’ to silence false teaching then the same charge applies to Jesus and the apostles who spend considerable time not only refusing to promote dangerous ideas but actively speaking out against them.

Christianity magazine has decided to leave open the door that Chalke has walked through, and their rationale is that they have opened another door in an alternative and more traditional point of view presented by Greg Downes. What this all amounts to is opening two doors and inviting people to decide for themselves which they will walk through. One door leads to life and the other, death. One must be closed and locked, but that will only happen if you are prepared to preach the negatives.

4 Comments

  • Whilst the ‘walk away from evangelical truth’ saddens me, it does not surprise me; it has been happening for so long! In reading Tertullian’s various works on marriage his walk way from the truth towards Montanism can be clearly seen. It is interesting that whilst ancient heresy tended towards fanaticism and asceticism, these days it appears to tend more and more towards liberalism. One can only hope that like Tertuallian, whom it seems returned to orthodoxy late in life, that those who have walked away once again return. Thanks for this post!

  • I agree entirely about the role of the pastor – it is vital! I also think Steve Chalke is right in as much as the whole issue is about hermeneutics – so a vital part of pastoring will involve equipping people to understand the argument . We must address the revisionist arguments which can sound so attractive and are so deceptive.

  • If Steve Chalke is right then presumably cohabitation is fine? Its difficult to see where the line can be drawn on anything really.

    As society is moving towards a mult-faith “Godist” approach, does Steve Chalke think its fine to affirm people in the religion of their choice?

  • [...] A Faith to live by - Some doors need to be kept locked – Steve Chalke, sexuality and preaching the negatives [...]

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