Steve Chalke's other marathon

Rev Steve Chalke has reclaimed the world record for the most money raised by running in a marathon, nearly £2 million (or US $4 million) – news from the Church Times, tip from Adrian, but nothing else in this article is new. See also this article.

Yes, this is the same Steve Chalke who is still being vilified by many Christians for calling a distorted view of the atonement “cosmic child abuse”. The money he raised shows how many people still support him and his ministries. Chalke completed the London marathon in less than four hours, but his atonement marathon has been running for nearly four years, and still looks set to run and run.

0 thoughts on “Steve Chalke's other marathon

  1. I just had lunch with a friend who pointed out an important context for Steve Chalke’s comments — a context which seems to have removed from subsequent discussion.

    He reminded me that Steve Chalke is working primarily among the poor, and is trying to find a way to make evangelical Christianity relevant, accessible, meaningful, and life-changing for the poor, as apparently the record shows that up to now evangelicalism has not done too well in this category. My friend reminded me that Pentecostal-based churches have traditionally fared much better in terms of ministering to the poor.

    So it was in this context that Chalke was trying to figure out a better way to explain the gospel, and in particular, the work of the cross.

    My friend also reminded me that Jackie Pullinger, who as we all know has had tremendous success in ministering to the poor of Hong Kong, is in the same boat as Steve Chalke, and does not preach penal sub. Instead she emphasises expiation and the infilling of the Spirit.

    If this is true, it would somewhat help us to understand where Chalke is coming from. I agreed with my friend that we need to frame the gospel and frame the atonement in different ways, with different nuances and accents, depending on who is receiving it. This isn’t just about correct theology — its about transformed lives.

  2. Thanks, Alastair. My concern is also for the disadvantaged of society, not necessarily financially but in many other ways. The typical evangelical preaching that people are miserable sinners who deserve death may be just what is needed to counteract the pride of the privileged, including UCCF’s target audience of university students. But this is not news for those who already consider themselves disadvantaged. What they need to hear is how in Christ God has shown to them their infinite value in his sight. Both aspects are true, and the latter must not be lost from too much stress on the former.

  3. Peter, I quite agree! I think ultimately we cannot have just one official version of the atonement, but have to continually contextualise depending on who we are communicating too. The underlying theological truths doesn’t change, buts its flavour, emphasis, nuance etc. does. I guess perhaps not everyone believes this? Perhaps Steve Chalke just over-stated his point, in an attempt to get us to look at others way to share the gospel. I am willing to believe this!

  4. Thansks for mentioning this Peter,

    It is heartbreaking to think that people who really are carrying out the commission of Christ, who do work with others outside the established Christian circles, in evangelism and mission, are so open to criticism.

    It is reminiscent of the attitude of Calvin towards burning heretics in his day.

  5. My concern is also for the disadvantaged of society, not necessarily financially but in many other ways. The typical evangelical preaching that people are miserable sinners who deserve death may be just what is needed to counteract the pride of the privileged, including UCCF’s target audience of university students.

    I’m not certain why one’s economic status has anything to do with this. I expect that if I tell a privileged arrogant person that God hates their sin that such a person will just laugh at me.

  6. Well, Pam, that is certainly true of most apart from God’s grace. But perhaps this message works well with privileged people who are not arrogant themselves but are feeling a bit guilty about their privilege when they find out more about the world. That might explain why it goes down well with students.

  7. How about the possibility that people might actually be convicted of their sin?

    As for the poor and disadvantaged, why should we think that rebellion against God and putting our own interests above those of others are exclusive to the privileged? Paul says that the root of all idolatry is covetousness. Since that’s a form of self-centeredness, which is ultimately a form of pride, I just can’t see any reason to criticize the traditional idea that pride is the root of most sin. You have to approach it from a different direction to see how the marginalized are prideful, but I don’t think you can ultimately deny pride as a fundamental sin behind all or most others just because some don’t manifest it the way rich people do.

  8. Jeremy, I would dispute that covetousness is a form of pride, although there is of course a link. Now I am sure everyone is at least to some extent guilty of pride. But I dispute that it is “a fundamental sin behind all or most others”. Where do you find that in the Bible? For many of the disadvantaged their most obvious sin is rather the opposite, despair. Such people need to be built up by showing them their value to God as his beloved sons and daughters, accepted despite their sins and other inadequacies. Preaching to them that they are sinners in need of punishment only reaffirms what many of them already know. The preaching they need is that God forgives and loves them.

  9. I’m opposite to Jeremy in that I think that most people need most of the time to hear that God loves them.

    I will admit that there are exceptional people who need to hear that they are sinners for various reasons, but I think that they are few and far between.

    I believe that every single person is a sinner. However, I believe that our understanding of our own sin is elicited by God’s forgiveness; it is not our repentance that elicits God’s forgiveness.

  10. Pam, I tend to agree with you, for most people. But maybe some really need to be told both. And I think it is right and proper for everyone to be told both because a gospel without both is only part of the truth. Certainly no one needs to be told they are a sinner without also being told that God loves them, because that is simply bad news and not Christian at all. But then I am not accusing PSA supporters of saying this, although I wonder what message people were getting from Cunningham’s “God never forgives”.

  11. Peter, I find it very hard to preach “you are a sinner” to people. I don’t find it hard to preach “This is the nature of sin, here is how sin manifests itself in the world, here is how sin manifests itself in my life and I’ll leave to decide whether any of this rings bells for you in your own life.” I don’t find it hard to preach “God loves you.”

    Yes, people need to understand the nature of sin, but I think that we also need to trust in God’s love in order to repent.

    I don’t think you’re accusing PSA supporters of telling people that they are sinners without telling them that God loves them and neither am I. I do not see this as a cause and effect thing; I do know from personal experience that it happens that individuals will major on sin and minor on God’s forgiveness on the presumption that “eveyone” thinks they are forgiven and “no one” believes they are sinners.

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