Development is not evangelical and other arguments of straw

I have discovered yet another reason why I am not an evangelical using the Adrian Warnock formula (motto: evangelicals are Christians who agree with me).

It all becomes clear when you read his latest diatribe on atonement: THE ATONEMENT DEBATE – Steve Chalke Confirms He Does Not Believe in Penal Substitution.

An underlying message is: You are not an evangelical if your faith develops especially if your understanding changes at all.

I could suggest some slogans:

  • Evangelicals don't change
  • Warning you are entering a no thinking zone
  • I used to be an evangelical but then I changed my views on whether bread should be sliced or not

This comes from Adrian's paragraph that attempts to tear apart Tom Wright and Steve Chalke. He tries to build something out of nothing by not recognising that all our views change and develop, we do not always present ourselves in exactly the same way. Adrian seems to be trying to drive a wedge between them by ignoring that fact that all our understanding is provisional and that those who think and reflect on their understanding of God will move onward in their theology. It appears that Adrian thinks such reflection and development is wrong.

One comment by Adrian "To be honest, sometimes Wright can be hard to fathom and it takes great patience to dissect him fully" reminded me of someone else. Ah yes 2 Peter 3:15-16:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear
brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these
matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand,
which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other
Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Remember that at this point Adrian is struggling for arguments. He has tried to claim that Steve Chalke cannot be an evangelical because he does not believe in penal substitution BUT that argument fails. The Evangelical Alliance (in their basis of faith, in their historical summary of what an evangelical is and in the book he is reviewing [see 42: Back on form: defining evangelical]) are consistent that Penal Substitution is not part of the definition however much Adrian wants it to be.

So now Adrian is hunting around for other reasons. Here we have had multiple arguments of straw.

  • Steve used powerful imagery ("cosmic child abuse") in presenting arguments against penal substitution. Solution: attack the language while ignoring the argument.
  • Steve may or may not agree with Tom Wright on Penal Substitution. Solution: Accuse them of changing their thinking. Accuse Tom Wright of being difficult to fully understand (a terrible offence because of course everything about the creator of the universe is plain and simple – well as long as you don't actually think about it).
  • He disagrees with a book Adrian likes. Solution tell everyone they must buy this book, pretend it answers all their questions. Make sure it is a thick book that is hard to get hold of and ignore the powerful critiques of it. Note I have read Pierced for our Transgressions, I wrote quite a few posts on it and totally agree with Tom Wright that it is deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical”. Interestingly enough in his post Adrian comments on how well John Piper dissects Tom Wright, interesting because I dissected John Pipers forward to Pierced for our transgressions in detail: 42: PFOT: The Foreword by John Piper and 42: PFOT: The Foreword part 2 it uses scripture in a way that I can only describe as bizarre.
  • Knowing that you hold an extreme view, ignore that and instead claim that almost everyone agrees with you "he then goes on to explain why he does not believe in PSA as almost everyone would define it." Of course be careful to to think about what a small subsection of society, of Christians, of protestants and even of evangelicals you actually mean by "almost everyone"

Tune in tomorrow because apparently there is more! Maybe we might even get a credible argument (please don't hold your breath – it could be dangerous).

5 thoughts on “Development is not evangelical and other arguments of straw

  1. Blue, with a hint of amber

    On your last point Steve Chalke himself says it represents nothing more than a stark unmasking of what I understand to be the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind the popular theory of penal substitutionary atonement
    So your criticism on that score should be aimed at him too. If it is only popular in a small subsection of protestant evangelicalism…

  2. Adrian Warnock

    Well, I am glad I seem to have provided some pump priming for your blogging efforts, Dave. I have always enjoyed reading your challenging posts. As far as this point about “popular” or “almost everybody” goes, its like this. Most people have heard of the idea that Jesus took the punishment for our sins. Its a concept that you can explain to a child. It is PSA in a nutshell. Most people whether they agree or not with the doctrine, will at least agree on how to describe it. Wright seems to want to redefine PSA and proclaim himself as accepting it, even tho he finds a modern book expressing it to be hopelessly sub biblical!

  3. dave bish

    “You are not an evangelical if your faith develops especially if your understanding changes at all.”
    I find that contradictory with the number of evangelical bloggers out there who are clearly thinking things through and developing their understanding on all sorts of things. Granted that’s done by putting their own views out there but blogging is interactive and developmental (unless you disable comments, but I appreciate there are some reasons to do that in Adrian’s case)
    Likewise, in my 11 years as a Christian, within an evangelical context I’ve found myself growing in my thinking, encouraged to do so, encouraged not to swallow what people say blindly, advised often to read widely – particularly things I might differ with, to beware of having heroes whom I copy everything from (I love Piper and Driscoll but am glad that I disagree with them on a number of points).
    What characterises the whole Chalke debate is that there has been debate – which naturally includes saying people have things wrong. The plea of those I know has been to Chalke “show what you’re saying from the Bible” – let’s talk (which people have extensively with him). That doesn’t necessarily mean you permit everyone to teach whatever they like. Having an Orthodoxy is something we all have, and none of us likes to think we’d find ourselves outside of that – though inevitably we’re all unorthodox in some of our doctrine and life.
    I can see development in my doctrine in all sorts of areas – and naturally I think those have been moves toward orthodoxy since I want to believe what’s sound and healthy rather than believing in a god of my own imagination.
    Working it out, as I’m sure Adrian is.

  4. Dave Warnock

    It does not seem to me that popular is being used in the same way. Adrian confirms that in his comment.
    While I don’t have the full context surely Steve means popular among evangelicals. While Adrian is talking popular in terms of “most people”.
    Sorry just because you can explain PSA in terms of schoolboy understandings of punishment does not make it the only way to understand atonement. This is not a swimsuit judging contest.
    Work by people like Tom Wright to reframe PSA based on careful exegesis is your only hope of rescuing it from the sort of criticisms that Steve is making (and that so far you have not managed to provide a single argument against).
    In very obvious ways PFOT is sub-biblical, just consider the tiny reference to anything in the gospels that it contains. Then look at the way texts are abused as John Piper does in the forward.
    You will see this again in my post on your latest which shows many of these same problems.

  5. Dave Warnock

    I totally agree that many people do develop their thinking and that blogging is part of that for some.
    I agree that evangelicals should be doing this.
    That is precisely why I wrote this post. Adrian is criticising Steve and Tom for doing what you and I believe we should all be doing – developing our understanding of God.


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