The Skinny on the Theological Debate: A good night out, a well organised event, a postmodern discussion (should one view of the atonement, one that might be suspiciously tainted by culture, be allowed to dominate and eliminate the other views, and exclude non-believers of the metanarrative as heretics?), a warm discussion by Steve, great points by Stuart a weak response from the other side . . . but it was not about winning or losing. It was more an exercise in how we deal with disagreement. And the losers were the people that unfairly slammed Steve and tried to ban him. Steve is clearly an evangelical, and should be allowed to ask a question without angry people pulling his books off shelves and calling for his resignation. I did leave a little early and was not there for the hostile takeover of the stage and whatever else might have happened there.

Best blog coverage is Graham who also has a link to Stuart’s paper
Si Johnston blogs about it but then he is biased towards Steve Chalke . . well he has to be, doesn’t he, when his girlfriend is Emily CHALKE, Steve’s daughter? Si recommends checking out Conrad’s blog post, and i can verify that Conrad is not dating anyone in the Chalke family.

Offical word from Evangelical Alliance Ekklesia (thanks Graham) who sponsored the event:
“Opening the debate, Rev Steve Chalke made it clear that he was not questioning that God hated sin, that God was angry about sin, or that human beings were reconciled to God through Jesus’ death on the cross. His disagreement, he said, was over the idea that God exacted a violent punishment on his son through the crucifixion. . . In an impassioned plea he talked about how his exploration, drawing on the work of New and Old Testament scholars, had led him to see aspects of Jesus which he suggested, the church, and he himself, had forgotten.

” Filling in gaps that other speakers left, Murray Williams mounted a clear case for why the idea of penal substitution had been developed by the church – something he suggested was due, at least in part, to its move from the “margins to the centre”, and into power in the forth century under the Roman Emperor Constantine.

Penal substitution, he said, was not a dominant idea in the early church, which had no formal doctrine of the atonement. It was, he suggested, only after Jesus victory on the cross over the powers became an embarrassment to a church which now found itself allied to the state, that the church emphasised other ideas such as penal substitution which were no challenge to political power. “


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • graham says:

    Is that ‘official word’ from the EA?
    I’ve got a copy of Stuart’s talk on my site:

  • Robert Hyde says:

    “His disagreement, he said, was over the idea that God exacted a violent punishment on his son through the crucifixion.”
    Two things: 1) God punishes sin. 2) Christ BECAME sin on the cross. I suppose reasoning from 1 and 2 to penal substitution would be denounced around here as cartesian/modernist/reductionist (though the NT makes plenty of use of reason as well metaphor, miracle and experience).
    Isaiah 53:5, Romans 3:25?
    What was all that stuff with Abraham, Isaac and a knife?
    Let’s keep the baby and the bath water together.

  • graham says:

    Robert, what did you think of Steve’s book?
    I don’t know if it wold be denounced as cartesian/modernist/reductionist, as much as less than air-tight logic. But that’s just my feelings on that matter! ;o)
    I, along with many anabaptists, feminists and Black Theologians, reject penal substitution but don’t have a problem with any of the verses you listed.

  • Robert Hyde says:

    I haven’t read the book (ah, exposed!) – these posts on TSK are my first encounter with it. I have read James Denny’s “The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation” which is probably an influence on Chalke (
    Much, obviously, depends on whether we see Christ on the cross as a sacrifice (amongst many other things) and if so, whether that implies that he was punished or it implies something else.
    If he was not any kind sacrifice at all, then how did the apostle John see the “lamb that was slain” in heaven and not “the noble man who died”?
    I am not trying to argue for the idea that God had to take an entirely innocent man and kill him in order to get over his wrath problem. On the other hand, I do believe that the sinless Christ endured wrath and that we who believe are saved due to our being united with Christ as he represented us and our sin. That is surely a reasonable paraphrase of the first few verses of Romans 8?
    I’m not a theologian, however, and so haven’t spent much time reading the relevant material. I just had an evangelical ‘episode’ after reading about the Steve Chalke book (we are prone, I know).

  • graham says:

    Oh, I have ‘episodes’ all the time! I thought I was the only one. :o)
    I can’t speak for Chalke, but I would see Christ as, *in some sense* , a sacrifice.
    Great paraphrase of Romans 8, btw.

  • subvergence says:

    the lost message of jesus

    I read this book recently, and don’t understand why it has created the stir now known as Chalke-gate. It gives a fuller picture of the message of Jesus than is normally heard these days, but not, I think, in a way that negates much of the teaching …

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