22/08/2011

The Lost Message of Jesus (by Steve Chalke)

I don't remember when I first heard of Steve Chalke. He's a Baptist minister in the UK who is socially aware and does a great deal to raise public awareness of homelessness and other important issues. However, it was in 2003 when he suddenly became the centre of a major controversy in evangelical church circles after the publication of this book.

We didn't get hold of 'The Lost Message of Jesus' until recently, and I just read it over the past few days. Although it was a little slow to get going, I found it well-written, thought-provoking, and entirely in line with both my early understanding of the Christian faith, and what I read in the Bible. It is, however, rather different from the theology espoused by many evangelical churches.

Much of the book explains the story of Jesus from a contextual, historical viewpoint, giving examples of how we 21st century Westerners sometimes misunderstand what was meant by his teaching or actions. Living close to the Middle East, I'm aware of some of this already, and felt that Steve Chalke's examples and explanations were helpful and probably accurate. Throughout he emphasises that the Kingdom of God was - and is - about life rather than death.

God is portrayed as a loving Father in this book (as well as in the Bible), and the life of Jesus is seen as pointing us to God. This simple message has apparently been lost through the ages due to misconceptions by various writers, from Augustine in the fourth century, through to some in the Reformation years who wanted to push a viewpoint of humans being 'sinners', rather than created in the image of God, albeit with a propensity to sin.

While many disagree with Chalke's central premise, that Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom to all (other than those who deliberately refuse), I did not find any points where he seemed to have veered away from Scripture or sound theology. Many of the attacks written about this book seem full of anger, as if people have something to lose - rather than everything to gain! - by God loving us in an inclusive way, accepting us as we are (as the Prodigal Son's father did).

The controversy about 'The Lost Message of Jesus' seems to have faded away, but I'm glad to have read the book at last and would recommend it highly to anyone interested in this topic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 22nd August 2011

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