Friday, 2 May 2014

Steve Chalke, Oasis Trust, and the EA


Oasis Trust was founded in 1985 by Steve Chalke as a charity to help homeless young people. It has since become an international ministry covering areas like housing, education, healthcare, youth work and training. Both the trust and its founder have enjoyed a high profile and a good reputation among those who consider practical help and sacrificial service as essential to being Jesus in our communities. Would that it had stayed like that.

Now we read that the trust and the Evangelical Alliance (EA), after protracted and difficult discussions, are to part company. Oasis has had its membership of the EA revoked. The issue, inevitably, is that of same-sex marriage (isn’t everything these days?) but the problem goes back much further.steve-chalkes-change-of-heart-has-shocked-the-evangelical-community

Steve Chalke has a history of rejecting Christian teachings that have been fundamental to the faith since time immemorial. He has denied the trustworthiness of the Bible, and rejected the biblical doctrine of penal substitution, that Christ died for our sins, calling it “cosmic child abuse.” Now he has said that same-sex marriage is acceptable, despite clear biblical teaching to the contrary (but then if you don’t trust the Bible…)

How does this sort of thing happen? One of the challenges Christians face, especially for full-time church staff, is the danger of spending all your time in the Christian community and losing touch with the world around us. I suggest Steve Chalke’s problem has been the reverse, i.e. he has spent so much time with the world, its problems and challenges, that he has lost touch with God and His Word. He has been pragmatic instead of faithful, accepting the world’s solutions to the issues with which Oasis Trust deals.

Inevitably, it seems, rejection of God’s Word in this issue starts with, “but I have a friend who is gay and their alright…” Well, I have a Lord who has something to say about that and I and many others, including many struggling with same-sex attraction, choose to obey him.

Bible falling apartWhat needs to be understood is that, while most people look at the world and ask themselves, "What do I think about this?" an Evangelical Christian believer looks at the world and asks, "What does God think about this?" If God’s thoughts don’t agree with mine, then it is for me to change. I expect to spend eternity with him so I may as well get that straight now.

The Bible is very clear on the issue of same-sex marriage. If, as Christians, we cannot know the mind of God through the Word of God, then we may as well all pack up and go home. That, of course, is what many want us to do.

To the world, this stubborn insistence on actually believing and conforming your life to the Bible might seem bizarre. “I am my own special creation,” they sing. What is bizarre, however, is claiming, as Chalke does, to be an Evangelical (believing in the evangel, the redemption message of the Bible) yet rejecting the Bible’s core values and teachings.

Should we be saddened by this development? Of course we should; no one wants to see people walk away from core gospel truths. Should we be surprised about this? Absolutely not! The Bible declares:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.(2 Tim.3:1-5)

Just last night, in a Bible study, I heard someone say that “No, Lord!” is a contradiction in terms. They are right! Make no mistake, disciples of Jesus have to choose between the Lord and the world. Better to make that choice once and prove loyal than get up each morning and decide who will get your loyalty today, or”…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God?” (Js:4:4)

He is either Lord of all, or he isn’t Lord at all. His Word is either entirely trustworthy, or it is not to be trusted at all because it is the words of men.

Christians understand that this is God’s world, he made it for his own purposes, sent his Son to die for its redemption, and that same Redeemer will return to claim it for himself, a world created anew, “born again,” and preserved for eternity to his glory. That is the reality every Christian knows and Steve Chalke has joined the band of people determined to redefine that reality.

I leave the last word to George Weigel writing in the National Review on the 2011 decision to legalise same-sex marriage in New York.

“Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness.”

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