More from Broadbent on UCCF – Spring Harvest split

Bishop Pete Broadbent, Chairman of Spring Harvest, who commented on this blog a few days ago, has had more to say about the split between Spring Harvest and UCCF in this discussion forum, where he goes by the name “pete173” – two posts on the first page, one on the third, several short ones on the fourth.

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Illogical condemnation of Steve Chalke

In a comment philosopher Jeremy Pierce challenges my claim about people who condemn Steve Chalke, that

they show their confusion when, in blog comment after blog comment, they simultaneously accuse Chalke of describing a straw man caricature of PSA and condemn him for rejecting PSA.

Jeremy writes:

Your dilemma seems to me to be a false one: …

I haven’t read the blog posts you’re talking about, but here’s what I suspect they’re saying (because it’s what I’d say). They’re saying is the following. He has described a caricature of penal substitution to tear down, and then he has ascribed that view to all who accept penal substitution by simply calling that view penal substitution …

Therefore, he has set up a straw man and torn it down.

Here I want to defend my claim and demonstrate that it is rational and correct.
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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.

What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

Adrian Warnock has posted his definition of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), and also the definition in the book Pierced for Our Transgressions. But these definitions are by no means the only ones; for example Bishop Tom Wright‘s understanding is quite considerably different. Much of the recent unfortunate controversy has in fact been based on misunderstandings, because different people are working from different understandings of this doctrine.

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Steve Chalke, Spring Harvest, UCCF and the Atonement

Adrian Warnock seems to have scooped the interesting news that Spring Harvest is breaking its partnership with UCCF (the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) and the Keswick Convention because they cannot agree about Steve Chalke and what he wrote about the atonement. Dave Warnock, no relation, seems to consider this totally bad news. But in my first comment on Adrian’s post, I actually welcomed this split. So, what is happening here?

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Why did Jesus die?

I’m not actually going to try to answer the question of why Jesus died. But Adrian Warnock has reopened the controversy on this issue in the way that he has started his new series on the atonement. In doing so he has ruffled a few feathers, including making Dave Warnock write “It seems I have no gospel”, and has apparently suggested that Steve Chalke, Spring Harvest and the Evangelical Alliance teach that “Christ Did Not Die for Sin!”

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Adrian Warnock closes his blog to comments…

…except apparently to those which agree with him and with Dr Grudem.

He outlines his new comment policy in what has now become a footnote to every posting on his blog:

Comments posted since 15 Dec 2006 have been approved by Adrian Warnock or an associate but do not necessarily reflect his opinion. Please be cautions of older comments and content on sites with links from or to this blog. …Comment moderation introduces a delay to discussion, and due to the volume of comments, many will be rejected. Writing a post on your own blog with a link to this page may be a good alternative.

Well, I am here taking up his last suggestion.

But what does his new policy mean in practice? I wrote a comment on part 7 of Adrian’s interview with Dr Wayne Grudem, actually before this new policy came into force (which means that it should have been approved because it met the policy in force at the time), which was rejected. I asked Adrian why, and submitted a revised comment, but this was also rejected. The comment was entirely on topic and of general interest, as Adrian appears to accept. And for once I was agreeing with and supporting Dr Grudem’s position. But it seems that Adrian will not allow me even to refer to the fact that Dr Grudem has rejected the positions which I hold on other issues.

Adrian’s blog has become one of the most respected in the Christian blogosphere. Does he now want to “castrate” it (see the PS below re such language), turning it into a forum for himself, Dr Grudem and others who agree with them to pat one another on the back? At least this kind of castration is reversible, although it needs to be reversed quickly if Adrian is not to lose his reputation as a good blogger.

Here is my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview, in its original form as posted 12/14/2006 10:55:16 PM and then deleted:

Well, having been condemned by Grudem for being a “feminist” and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be condemned a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!

But actually in fact the C of E in practice, and semi-officially at least in our diocese, recognises dual modes of baptism and allows them to continue in parallel. In my congregation, it is up to each family whether they want their child to be baptised as an infant; in practice most church members choose instead to have a dedication service, whereas it is outsiders who want a proper infant baptism! Adult believers are encouraged to come forward for baptism by immersion (in our church in a borrowed portable baptistry), or if they have already been baptised as an infant for “renewal of baptismal vows”, which comes to almost the same thing, usually immersion in the same water, but cannot be officially called baptism. Alternatively, some are baptised as believers at other churches, camps etc, as I was before there was a “renewal of baptismal vows” service; and no one complains as long as we don’t teach publicly that everyone should do the same. Indeed a friend of mine who was baptised in this way, and didn’t hide it, was recently accepted for ordination in the C of E. We are not allowed to teach that infant baptism is invalid, but we can opt out of it for ourselves. We cannot insist on believers’ baptism as a condition for church membership – but then most UK Baptists don’t either.

While this kind of compromise is certainly not ideal, it does seem to work in practice. Of course the C of E loves compromises, and this one is much more acceptable than some of the others!

Adrian rejected this, and I asked him why. I understand that there could be a problem with the word “condemned” in the first paragraph. I wrote the following to him in an e-mail (links added):

Well, what can I say? Would you prefer “damned”? As far as I can tell that is what Grudem is trying to say, about both “feminists” and Chalke supporters. Not exactly bridgebuilding! But I will leave Suzanne to complain about this. Grudem was not quite so explicit in what he actually wrote. He did say, completely without foundation, that “Chalke is denying the heart of the Gospel.” But he doesn’t quite say that Chalke is going to hell, and so he might not say the same about me.So how about “Well, having had my beliefs rejected by Grudem for being a “feminist” and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be rejected a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!”? If I start the comment like that, will you accept it? Well, I’ll try it and see.

And the answer quickly came back: no, Adrian would not accept this. Why not? He gave me a rather unconvincing reason, which I will not publish because this was in a private e-mail. But it seems to me that the real point is that he doesn’t want any reference on his blog to any disagreement with Dr Grudem. He just wants to post Grudem’s propaganda without allowing for any proper discussion of its validity.

Adrian, if I have misrepresented you in any way, you are welcome to comment, but I will be convinced only if you open up your blog again to proper discussion of the issues you raise.

PS: Here is another comment I made, this time on part 5 of the Grudem interview and in response to Donna L. Carlaw’s comment on that post of 14 December, 2006 23:38, which Adrian has at least not yet accepted:

Donna wrote “a good help mate will see when her husband needs her gentle intervention. She can do that without further wounding him by castration.” Then she explained this with “I do believe that a woman can be a strong help mate without seeking to knock her husband out of the leadership role in the marriage. That is what I meant by “castration”, removing him from his God-given position because of his handicap.” (typo corrected)This is an example of one of the worst logical fallacies and methods of argument, labelling one’s opponent’s position with a highly pejorative label (like “castration”), when it has no connection at all with the literal meaning of that label, and implicitly arguing that the position is wrong because it bears that label.

Donna, how would you react if I wrote something like the following: “An egalitarian man does not rape his wife”, in a context implying that complementarian men do, and then explained this with “by ‘rape’ I mean ‘exercise a leadership position over'”? Of course I would not dream of using such language. Maybe some egalitarians have done so, but not in this discussion. Please let’s keep this kind of rabble rousing argument out of this blog.

No need to apologize“, you think, Donna? On the contrary, every need, for your explanation has made your slur worse, rather than better. If your mother can take the lead over your invalid father “without making a man feel like less of a man“, without castrating him physically or presumably in the non-physical sense you have in mind, then why can’t the same happen in a marriage in which the couple agree on an egalitarian relationship? Note that I am not talking about a case where a wife “assumes authority” or “usurps authority” over her husband (something which Paul rightly did not allow, although he reserved “castrate” for the Judaising false teachers of Galatians 5:12) but where this relationship is agreed between the couple.

I didn’t write what I could have done (but which would surely have guaranteed the rejection of this comment), that Dr Grudem also uses the kind of argument by attaching pejorative labels which I objected to Donna using. One of Grudem’s favourite pejorative labels is “feminist”, which is not as bad as “castrate”, but by arguing in this way at all he is encouraging others down the “slippery slope” into using labels like “castrate”. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if someone finds that Grudem has also used “castrate” in this way, but I don’t have any evidence for this.

Well, if Adrian’s new policy introduced 22 minutes after Donna’s comment stops people making generalised slurs of this nature on egalitarian women, and refusing to apologise for them, then maybe the policy is not all bad. But if he allows comments like this to be made, he should allow replies to them – if he doesn’t apply his new policy to them retroactively by deleting them, as he did to the original version of my comment, as copied above, posted 43 minutes earlier and then deleted.

UPDATE: Adrian has now accepted an even further weakened version of my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview. So the answer to the question I put to him in a private e-mail:

Or is your policy in fact that you will not allow any mention that anyone might disagree with Grudem?

must in fact be “No”.

I realised that the opening of my posting above, “…except apparently to those who agree with him and with Dr Grudem”, was grammatically confused as “those” appeared to refer back to comments rather than to people, but was then followed by “who”. I considered correcting this to “…except apparently to those made by people who agree…” But it now seems clear that in fact Adrian’s policy is not directed at individuals, but the content of their comments. So I have corrected this to “…except apparently to those which agree…”