Worship, cessationism, and Steve Chalke

As I predicted in last week, I have been rather busy recently, so no time for an in depth post, just for some reflections on what I have been reading.

Today I have had some time for blogging, but have been distracted into an interesting conversation at TC Robinson’s blog New Leaven. The post that started it was on worship, and indeed ties up somewhat with my last post. But the discussion on it quickly got on to how worship might be affected by the alleged cease of spiritual gifts, or some of them, at the end of the apostolic age. The cessationists Richard and dvopilgrim seem to be arguing that the clearest biblical model for church worship, in 1 Corinthians 14, is no longer valid because prophecy and other gifts have ceased. Thus they set aside the specific commands of God through the Apostle Paul, starting in verse 1, because they conflict with a human tradition of teaching. At least, that’s my side of the discussion; read the comment thread for Richard and dvo’s responses.

Meanwhile David Matthias, who is an elder in newfrontiers, gives a positive report of a meeting with Steve Chalke. This makes a nice change from the attitude of his fellow newfrontiers elder Adrian Warnock (correction 6th March: Adrian is not an elder at his church, but he is a regular preacher there), who a couple of years ago in effect publicly cursed Chalke – and by extension myself. David doesn’t agree with Steve about the atonement, but he shows proper Christian love in his disagreement.

Well, I suppose I shouldn’t expect newfrontiers elders all to be of one mind, as I certainly wouldn’t expect that of Church of England ministers. Indeed recently I have been getting to know and working well with one of the elders of our local newfrontiers church here in Chelmsford. I have no idea of this man’s attitude to Steve’s teaching. But it is somewhat ironic that this church meets in Adrian’s old school but uses the same name as Steve’s Oasis organisation.

0 thoughts on “Worship, cessationism, and Steve Chalke

  1. Hi Peter,
    The argument against cessationism comes for me from the same kind of thing that CS Lewis said about Christ – that he was mad, bad or God.
    I think (as a card carrying charismatic)that those who say that the spiritual gifts have ceased need to observe the worship at (say) New Wine or a New Frontiers or Vineyard event. They must then ask themselves whether what they are seeing is a form of insanity or hysteria, whether it is “of the devil” (what a rubbish phrase) or whether it is of God. If they are not personally acquainted with anyone who worships in that style they are much more likely to conclude one of the first 2. If they know and respect as fellow Christians people from the pentecostal/charismatic stream, surely they must conclude the third option, or they are a bit stuck, no?

  2. Wow, reading that comment thread was like stepping back 10-15 years ago when I was well and truly immersed in the cessationist world – a charismatic in a non-charismatic evangelical Anglican church. I’m really glad I’m not embroiled in those debates any more!

    Well done for continuing to debate and dialogue, Peter 🙂 I just don’t have the time, energy or (I suspect) the grace from God to do it any more!

  3. Thanks, Tim and Jon. Yes, I think many cessationists have rejected an extreme caricature of charismatic worship etc and are not really familiar with the more balanced examples Tim mentions. I am glad that here in the UK, as Jon implies, this issue is largely in the past, but sadly it is not in the USA.

  4. At the height of the Toronto Blessing I attended a seminar on charismatic gifts at which one of the speakers was Don Carson. He was concerned about the validity of a phenomenon then being reported of vomiting in the Spirit. He asked us (a bunch of trainee vicars) what we sould do if this happened in our church. Without drawing breath I just came out with “I’d see if it had any fruit in it!”
    There was great hilarity but my joke was accidental. another sign of the authenticity of charismata is the fruit they bear in the lives of the believers and the church.
    (someone else less charismatic than me said they’d get a bucket)

  5. Thanks, Tim. Indeed the long term test of such things must be the fruit that comes from them. In the short term it is best to withhold judgment.

    I must say vomiting in the Spirit sounds very strange, but I would not want to say that it is impossible, that it can never be from God, as I don’t see any fundamental contradiction with God’s character or biblical teaching. If God could tell Hosea to marry a prostitute, and if he can say that he will vomit people out, then I don’t see why vomiting could not be a valid prophetic action. Or God might use it to heal someone who had swallowed poison!

  6. I have never cursed Chalke or anybody else that I can remember. As I have said before, I am concerned about the implications of changing the gospel because ultimately there cannot be more than one gospel. It was Paul who cursed anyone who preached a different gospel to him. So it is important for all of us to be sure what it was that Paul preached.

    I too read David’s post about meeting Steve. I hope that if I was ever able to meet Chalke he and I would be able to talk civilly about these matters. Black and white text does not often capture attitudes well. In point of fact I have reached out several times to Chalke offering him space on my blog for an interview or simply a statement. I have a lot of respect for what Chalke has accomplished organizationally amongst evangelicals over the years.

  7. Adrian, it’s good to hear from you again. To be more precise, you pronounced Paul’s curse on Steve Chalke and others, by name. Thanks for expressing your respect for Steve. I hope at some time you are able to meet him and discuss these matters. I expect that you will then discover that he is not preaching a different gospel, just a slightly different presentation of the same good news.

  8. Peter, You and I both know that comment from you is simply untrue. I said that getting the gospel right is vital and used Paul’s curse as a reason why. Look, if Chalke is right and I am wrong, then perhaps I am on the wrong side of that verse, so you BET I take it seriously. Even after all this time I am STILL not clear in my understanding of what Chalke actually believes so I do not feel qualified to even begin to speculate as to whethet it would be considered by Paul to be consistent with his own gospel.

  9. Adrian, you wrote a post in 2007 entitled ATONEMENT – Who is Preaching Another Gospel? in which you name Steve Chalke and N.T. Wright as “the other side”; you state that “Chalke believes in something he has himself called cosmic child abuse”; and you continue:

    I will not apologize for highlighting Paul’s curse of those who disagree with him over the gospel.

    The clear thrust and implication of your post is that you consider Chalke and Wright to be among those who preach another gospel and so come under Paul’s curse.

    In a 2008 update to a 2004 post you wrote:

    I felt like a lonely figure back in 2004 with my strong criticism of Steve Chalke’s views on the atonement. I argued that his words were close to blasphemy at the time.

    And there is no sign of you retracting that 2004 view in 2008; indeed in your November 2008 series (which I have just skimmed as I don’t read your “blog” these days) you reaffirm your criticism of Chalke’s position as in effect another gospel.

    I agree with you that it is not entirely clear what Chalke actually believes. You want to go by your understanding of what he has written. I am going by my understanding of what you have written.

    If you wish to disown what you wrote in 2004 and 2007, please do so explicitly, in a comment here or a link to a post of your own, which, as an exception, I will read.

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