Steve Chalke’s recent announcement that he has ‘changed’ his mind on gay relationships (he fairly points out he has said nothing regarding Gay marriage although his timing is curious) is more than sad news but ultimately bad news. There are many good Reponses including Greg Downes in the same magazine. There is a helpful discussion between Chalke and Peter Ould here. There is little more to say except that as Carl Trueman points out this is a symptom and not a disease:
Chalke is a good example: in the past, he was revolted by the idea that God could be angry with sin; that requires a redefinition not only of salvation but also of sin itself. Those who reject God as angry with sin tend, historically, to reduce sin to disrupted relationships between human beings. Sin is thus not what drives people away from God, as it is in the Bible, but that which drives them away from each other. On such an account, it is not homosexuality which is sin but the repression or coercive prevention of the same. Chalke is being very consistent with the deepest implicit structures of his theology.
It is this denial of an angry God which marks the real problem with Chalke’s thinking. Chalke says in a discussion with Peter Ould:
I happen to be the founder of the Oasis Trust we have about 20,000 young people in our schools and every one of them needs to be protected and not one of them needs to feel they are God forsaken and there is something wrong at their core.
Surely this gets to the heart of the difference between what I would say (I can’t speak for anyone else) and Chalke would say. Chalke’s real error is not so much to do with his sexual ethics but his view that ‘at the core’ human beings are essentially good, that they do not have something deeply wrong at their core.
The 20,000 young people in Chalke’s schools in reality do they not all need to know exactly that “there is something wrong with their core”. Chalke’s reference is to homosexuality, seeing this as the core of someone’s being is problematic, but the truth is gay or straight we all rotten at the core. Is that not Paul’s point in Romans 3:10-12?
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Perhaps these verses are particularly helpful given the debate. Anyone familiar with Romans will know the condemnation of homosexuality earlier in the book:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
There is much that could be said about this reference but the important one given Chalke’s point is made my Christopher Ash in his excellent book:
“The…reason Paul begin with this is that homosexuality was supremely the Gentile sin. When the Jew looked at the Gentile world one of the things which most horrified him and most made him happy to be a Jew was the appalling practice of homosexuality.” (Christopher Ash, Teaching Romans, pg. 81)
The point Paul goes on to make in the next chapter is that in fact the Jews are no better. The problem of all of us is a corrupt and broken core, which manifests itself in many and varied ways. In some ways, ironically, Chalke is making the same mistake as the Jews. Although he is not condemning homosexuality, he is suggesting that is the problem, which he deals with by excusing, and that the problem is not the radically broken core that we all share. Homosexuality, for some, is the outworking of the corrupt core but for others (most) that outworking is different. Even those who may choose to accept Chalke’s view on homosexuality will still face the problem of the corruption at the core. They may not see homosexuality as an outworking of that but it will not be long before they recognize other ‘symptoms’ of a broken core.
This is where Chalke’s approach then becomes horrific for all of us, gay or straight. Because the very thing that Chalke wishes to deny, corruption at the core, is the very thing that the Bible and often our experience affirms in countless ways. If we have a God, as Chalke presents him, who does not acknowledge or deal with that broken core what hope do we have? Are we really prepared to try and convince ourselves that there is nothing wrong? We are then left with two alternatives, either God just accepts everyone and cares nothing about sin or if there is not “something deeply wrong at our core” we are basically good people who go wrong somewhere along the line. But then what of those who have hurt us is there not justice? And yes we have a God who accepts homosexuals without making any moral demands on them but then he must do the same paedophile, murders and rapists. (Please note I am not for a moment equating these with homosexuality I am simply saying if God doesn’t care about a corrupt moral core then he cannot care about anything which might be product of that core).
The other alternative is a slightly naive who despite what we can see is true of ourselves, refuses to believe it nonetheless. Who despite all the evidence to the contrary still believes in the basic goodness of humanity? Again this kind of God will not respond to evil, because man is good underneath.
Humanities rotten core and God’s anger at such may not be palatable but are we really prepared to accept the alternatives? Even if we exclude homosexual sin (which I don’t think we have any biblical justification to do so) will people not still find the reality of Romans 3:10-12 in their lives? In a desperate attempt to refashion God who “loves us no matter what” do we not then loose the very heart of the gospel? God becomes loving at the expense of his justice and that in reality is not love at all. For how does God love me if when I am hurt by others but he does nothings about it?
In God’s providence the previous Sunday I was preaching on Romans 3:27-4:12 (you can find Christopher Ash’s far superior expositions here, thankfully they do not inflict mine on the online community). The truth Paul expounds there is far better news for anyone who acknowledges that they are indeed rotten to the core because we have a God who does not ignore that or refuse to believe it but who in his love deals with His own wrath against our sin. His love for his people is far greater than Chalke imagine, he deals with it by sending his Son in our place to be propitiation for our sins. Our broken core is dealt with not ignored, as Jesus the punishment that we deserve on himself so that on the basis of Christ’s righteousness we may be acceptable to God. However your broken core manifests itself surely that is a better expression of love than a God who doesn’t care or pretends not to notice.