Episode 85: Steve Chalke on the Lost Message of Paul

A wide-ranging, powerful, thought-provoking (and quite long!) interview with Steve Chalke. Steve talks about his new book, The Lost Message of Paul and how his message has been misunderstood. The result, claims Steve, is that ‘although Paul has often been presented as the champion of exclusion, he was the very opposite. He was the great includer; a revolutionary who saw a new inclusive world dawning and gave his life to help bring it in.’

9 thoughts on “Episode 85: Steve Chalke on the Lost Message of Paul”

  1. Great to hear Steve’s voice. A voice I trust and have appreciated over the years. I’ve just ordered his book and Rob Bell’s too! Looking forward to reading both.
    Interesting to hear Steve say that the truth of the gospel is fundamentally different to that which he was taught when growing up. Surely this is the danger of a learned “faith”? Hearing the story of Christ may lead to further exploration, but the journey is individual. The discovery is the joy. We find our own way through being inspired and challenged and moved. To just believe what we’re taught means we lose the art of faith. How I express my faith is my way. I add my stitches to the tapestry. If I merely do as I’m told, the tapestry is dull and repetitive and uninspired.
    So…if everyone gets in, does it mean that evangelicals can put their feet up? Or perhaps spend their time being the light? It’s great news to hear that it isn’t just Christians who are saved…I was worrying about how it might be in heaven.

  2. Joe…of course, your theology is dangerous! You preach freedom, joy, acceptance, love, light…but you fail to speak of eternal damnation because of our wretched sinful natures. You remove the control that religious leaders have used to abuse and crush so many over the years. That’s what makes your theology dangerous. You are switching in the light…you are opening the box…the can of worms…you are asking people to think not just follow. That is dangerous. That could overthrow the bully boys in the pulpits. It might even bring about an acceptance of all people! Holy Cow! I need to stay away from you…..

  3. Dear Joe

    Antipodean salutations from God’s own earth. Sorry mate, but until you’ve been Down Under you just don’t understand that Worthing is a mere pale shadow of the Real Thing. Anyway, please insert all the usual accolades about your podcast here… seriously, it’s one of the few things helping me to hold my faith together at the moment. I’ve been lurking here since the early teens (i.e. podcast numbers) and although have been tempted to write many times – this time I just had to. Had To.

    Wow. Just, wow. Steve Chalke’s “Lost message of Paul” episode just blew me away. I have struggled for years with the discomfort of exclusion of same sex relationships from mainstream Christianity but resigned myself to having to suck it up and toe the party line, because no matter how many times or ways I read the usual references, I couldn’t manage to wring any different meaning out of them beyond their face value. Which seemed unarguably, unequivocally clear – in order to accept homosexuality as being within God’s plan one had, it seemed, to simply set aside all of these texts and adopt an alternative non-Biblical doctrine instead. Too much hypocrisy, methought. I could accept that the OT references (esp. Leviticus) were for a completely different audience; but Paul’s letters, while certainly addressed to a specific cross-section of the church, seemed to leave little doubt about the generalisability of the statements.

    Context, as they say, is king. (Wait, isn’t Christ the king? Damn those metaphors…). Steve’s message at a single stroke both gives me hope that so many more understandings lurk under the covers than I had imagined and thus making the Gospel so much bigger than I ever imagined – and yet at the same time makes me despair of ever really understanding this BBB. If it can’t be read by the average Christian (and let’s be clear, I’m a preacher’s kid in my middle age having been a pretty engaged Christian all my life so maybe I’m not even that average) and understood without decades of theological scholarship, and if centuries of faithful translators with countless supporting teams can’t get something so fundamental to a right understanding of the Gospel, what ing hope is there for us poor plebs?? Why bother at all??? How can Joe Average really understand the damn thing if even all the scholars can’t agree on what the words actually meant in their time and context?

    So you see my dilemma. There is hope and despair, all wrapped up in one inscrutable package.

    Then there’s universalism. I’d never really heard anyone I respected seriously proffering this as a viable understanding of the Gospel message before getting on the MFC bus. I’m still not sure even if we accept this understanding of Pistis Christou that it harmonises with other passages that speak to salvational specifics (Romans 10:9 springs to mind as one obvious example). There seem still to be some basics of acceptance of Christ’s saving work upon which our salvation is predicated – implying that there is a corresponding state of non-salvation. I’d really like to hear more about these topics in depth. I appreciate that it’s probably not your intent to make MFC a theological round-table so understand if you don’t really want to go there… but for me at least, I think many of these issues lie at the heart of my own personal mid faith crisis. I’d be surprised if I’m Robinson Crusoe there.

    The other issue that troubles me that is probably more a function of my own life circumstances is the need for evidence. I’ve always been a bit of a science geek but my own mid life crisis involved changing careers into medicine around age 50. Modern medicine is very much an evidence-based discipline; we are trained to examine the evidence for how we treat and manage patients, and when the evidence points to a need for change we must be prepared to jettison what has become unsupportable in favour of the better evidence. Inevitably I have come to apply this same lens to the rest of my life and frankly found the evidence for many of my Christian beliefs and assumptions to be scant to non-existent. The number of cognitive biases I had identified within myself that were required to maintain said beliefs was frankly alarming. The process of paring back to the heartwood has been difficult, shaking, and very unsettling. I find myself now in this deconstructed liminal state unsure of even how to go about reconstructing. I seem to be losing hope that it’s even possible. I’m not prepared at this stage to call time on belief – I still think that there aren’t better options for how to live well, yet I’m stuck in this ugly nowhere place with no apparent exit in sight. All the prayers seem to just waft into a void with nary an answer in view. Is there even any point to prayer? I just don’t know any more.

    Anyway that’s all a huge ramble that will probably give you mental indigestion at best. I hope you can piece together something meaningful out of all of that.

    In the end, thank you both for this fragile lifeline you have thrown out to us poor confused souls. It means more than you can imagine. Please don’t stop!

    Love from down under,
    Andrew.

  4. Continued from previous…

    I can’t believe I missed the opportunity for a quick online smirk at your discussion of what sounded awfully like “arse-in-a-coitus”… Paul I’m sure would have loved that one if English had been a thing then. So, we got “homosexual offenders” out of “man-bed”? That does seem like a stretch. However I can’t help thinking there must be more to this interpretation than meets the eye; can we really have so slavishly been translating this in this way for so long with nothing better than a guess at Paul’s intended meaning? Seems hard to believe. Either way, I guess your point is that it may not necessarily mean what we have traditionally thought it to mean, and we should be open to possibilities, which is a very good point indeed. Chalke one up for a smidge more hope.

  5. I haven’t made it to the end yet, probably because I am not part of the white, male ‘in club’ that Steve Chalke and friends are part of but I really look forward to hearing him speak outside of his comfort zone (i.e. his mates) that make it seem as though the rest of us uneducated often ‘evangelical’ (which stands for black majority or whacky Pentecostals or baptists) won’t hear because we are brainwashed. I’ve moved away from the church because even though I’d be considered young I have definitely hit the mid faith crisis. I love people and who they choose to be is their business but the bible says what it says and I stand on it. I will try to swallow maybe mine or maybe joe and Steve’s elitist bias and listen to the rest, maybe after a nice walk…

    1. Hey Abigail. Thanks for your thoughts. As far as I know Steve (half Indian by the way) and are not a part of any ‘ white male, in -club’ – throwing mud at others. In fact I would want to say the whole point of the Jesus message is that the doors are open wide. There is no ‘in-club’! Never been called ‘elitist’ before. As far as I am concerned being ‘elitist’ is really at odds with the message of Jesus so I’m truly sorry if I came across this way. Thanks again. Best wishes. Joe

  6. I genuinely would have liked Joe to dig deeper into what Steve was saying as he seemed to say that, ‘everyone is in?’ Hitler etc. I’m only presuming as there was no mention of how someone would be ‘out?’
    I wonder how Richard Dawkins feels about going to Heaven?
    So NO freewill then?
    All religions are valid even those that would discount Jesus as a nobody! – this Jesus that Steve still claims to hold as worthy of worship and following?!
    Goodness we could go on.
    I’m going to keep listening to the Podcast only because I want to hear what Nick has to say, as I feel after this episode Joe has turned this Podcast into more of a soapbox instead of an unbiased (as much as possible) discussion platform.

    In conclusion I’m happy to hear such a variety of opinions I’m just disappointed that Joe was so biased in his questioned etc.
    Thanks
    Tim

    1. Hey Tim. Thanks for taking the time to write in. I’m sorry you found my questions so biased. I’m not sure how unbiased our little podcast is, we are basically 2 friends committed to following the Way of Jesus discussing the issues that we are facing, with life and faith so I guess it’s not unbiased. We are shocked and delighted so many want to join us in this conversation but I’m not sure we can claim to be unbiased. Steve is also a very dear friend of us both. I didn’t give him the Radio 4 interrogation, because I have no issue with what he was saying. However the issues you have raised have certainly been touched on in other episodes. Hope you enjoy listening to Nick’s views, someone must! Best wishes. Joe

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