It has now been three years since Steve Chalke, seemingly unintentionally, upset the evangelical community by suggesting that its core doctrine of penal substitution could be likened to ‘divine child abuse’. Certainly some within the community have been quick to distance themselves from Steve, however others have been more sympathetic to Steve’s point of view.
Recently, three scholars connected with Oak Hill theological seminary, Steve Jeffrey, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach, have produced a book called Pierced For Our Transgressions with a website accompanying it to clarify the doctrine of penal substitution.
But just when you thought that was the last word on the subject along comes NT Wright to clarify his position. Justifying and defending a misunderstood Steve Chalke and criticising those both to the left and to the right of him.
In the mean time, this theological debate has resulted in Keswick Ministries and UCCF’s Word Alive event being pulled from Spring Harvest as the Keswick and the UCCF could not agree to Steve Chalke speaking from the Word Alive platform.
I would like to see an end to this damaging and distasteful debate soon. If as Wright and Spring Harvest claim Steve can sign up to the Evangelical Alliance’s new and revised Basis of Faith clarifying his position on penal substitution then we must all receive Steve back into the fold with much celebrations. However, if there is still uncertainty about Steve’s position then that must be clarified openly and immediately before anymore harm comes to the evangelical community.
Having read NT Wright’s position I find it worrying that he is not better informed as to Steve’s public and total rejection of penal substitution (not only in The Lost Message of Jesus but else where and on repeated occasions). Still, I find his defense of penal substitution and demolition of Jeffrey John heartening.
On a personal note, whilst I have some sympathy with NT Wright’s ‘New Perspective’ it disturbs me that he should consider other scholars such as the authors of Pierced For Our Transgressions and supporters of the book such as Don Carson, I Howard Marshall, and J I Packer to be in someway ‘sub-biblical’ in their views.