I shared this article with Steve and offered him the opportunity to respond before making it public.
Writing May 2014: Decades ago I was invited to hear a youth pastor preach at the Millmead Centre which was the home of Guildford Baptist Church. This was my first occasion of hearing or seeing the Rev. Steve Chalke (SC). Today Steve is known as founder of Oasis Trust and a prominent figure in the UK Christian landscape. In 2004 he was made an MBE for his services to inclusion and he is a world record holder several times for the most money raised by a single person in a single day. He is founder and Chair of Stop the Traffik, a coalition of 1600 charities in 97 countries to fight human trafficking. As a thinker, writer and broadcaster on Christian issues, he has authored many books and articles. It is to one such article that I am responding: Restoring Confidence in the Bible and sub-titled Can we use the Bible as a reliable moral and spiritual guide in our twenty-first century globalised world?
In particular my aim was to discover what bible contradictions Steve had written about.
Could it be possible that what Steve has perceived as errors and fallible information within the bible are in fact misunderstandings on his part?
This I trust I will demonstrate here.
SC "Genesis records God's act of creation and concludes, 'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.'"
Steve then asks:
"Is this creation account suggesting that the world actually came into being over the course of six literal periods of twenty-four hours?"
Well, we do read:
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Then, if 6 literal days are not meant, was there a real Adam?
Paul certainly thought so "For Adam was formed first, then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:13) and he was real to Jesus too since he mentions Adam's second son "the blood of righteous Abel" (Matthew 23:35). And, if we add up the ages of descendants, when we look at the genealogical lists, it is well understood that a literal young earth position with 6 days is indeed a reasonable position to be read out of the bible. Is it really harder to believe than Jesus' resurrection?
Surely, if we can trust Jesus and Paul on Adam, can we not equally on the 6 days of Creation?
I think so.
Perhaps a "contradictory" feeling on the scientific angle is what Steve had in mind?
If there were no respected scientists who believed in the world as less than 10,000 years old then, perhaps one might say this "feeling" is justified, but there are tens of thousands of scientists1 who are firm believers in Creation. In 2004 I sent the Prime Minister a list of British scientists willing to be involved in a Royal Commission to look into the education of these things which I was requesting2... An alleged contradiction with science is better handled separately, but both sides are real in the world of science and the case for an old earth is far from proven. Sorry, no contradiction.
Here is a simple observation of 5 facts about our tallest mountain that puts a spanner in the works of old earth thinking: 1 - Height of Everest = 8.85 km; 2 - "height - 2-4 km (or more) of rock is removed from the surface of the Himalayas every 1 million years" (cf. my article The Impossibility of Evolution for source); 3 - The rise of the continent - the uplift - is approx the same rate [Note: both 2 & 3 are at the current rates]; 4 - All mountains on earth are either by uplift or by volcanic activity; 5 - All uplift mountains contain fossils.
When do you think the fossils came about?
Disability and the priesthood
SC "Leviticus 21:16-23 explains how, 'The LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron: 'For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary.' " ' "
SC then asks: "How inclusive is this approach to disability amongst the priesthood?"
It is as inclusive as limiting access to only one of the tribes out of 12 since only the tribe of Levi were permitted to be priests. It is not about inclusion; It is for the same reason as Moses was asked to take his shoes off because of the ground being holy; It is about recognising the peculiar entity of a holy God. No Levite under 30 was allowed either and only males; This is about whom God has prepared and made for the job. Now, we know God made the born disabled since we read:
So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
And the disabled are made for a different job, just as the rest of the tribes of Israel were too, in contrast to Levi. But to say God is not inclusive in this, is to forget to whom the Lord spoke in the quote I just made, and why: it was to Moses because of his speech difficulties or impediment. So after saying that, the Lord told him:
Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.
God was calling this disabled man to lead his people. A very inclusive act, if you ask me. Sorry, no contradiction.
Sentence of death for not keeping the Sabbath
SC "Numbers 15:32-36 tells the following short but shocking story,
'While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp." So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.' "
Then SC asks, "Did God order this death or did Moses mishear him?"
Just because working on the Sabbath was forbidden to all, including slaves and all animals it must not be forgotten - a huge progressive in the history and culture of the day - then, a failure to seriously cut out the gangrene of disobedience in that historical setting, would proclaim a disregard for the setting aside of the 1 day in 7 for rest. It is a complete dishonour to the God who made the earth in 6 days, just as murder is a disrespect of the image of God (Genesis 9:6). And, just like divorce, as Jesus said was included for the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8) - i.e. in that setting - so, it was appropriate to punish transgression severely. When all know the rule and one disobeys, there is no other option. It is no different to the way some countries treat drug smugglers today and one (even) does so for people trafficking. Sorry, no contradiction.
An internal contradiction
SC "2 Samuel 24:1 is clear, 'Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah" ', however, 1 Chronicles 21:1, speaking of exactly the same event, takes a very different view, 'Satan rose up against Israel' it asserts, 'and incited David to take a census of Israel.' "
SC then asks: "Can both accounts be right?"
Yes of course they can. We have the example in Job to show us that.
In Job 1 it appears the Lord is the mover to cause Job's possessions to be destroyed and his children too, but in Job 2 we read:
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."
The full picture is given us how it came to be in Job1:1 right up to Job 2:7. The missing in the Samuel/Chronicles example is that as with Job, God could say to Satan "you incited Me against him". Job informs us how to fully view 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 together. It is further testimony to the coherent inspiration of the text when different writers and compilers of history wrote them. Sorry, no contradiction.
Paul and women
SC "The writer of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 wants to put things beyond all doubt, 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.' "
SC then asks "Does his writing really reflect God's view of the role of women in church life and society as a whole? Does this text really mean what it appears to be saying?"
Yes, it most certainly does, but in full context of all that Paul said and did. It is not Paul's, but our responsibility to read him in context and see he advocated not what seems to appear, but that women could join in and learn here, whilst elsewhere Paul shows that they can contribute just as much as men and be in church leadership.
For a quick reply I have 3 mini YouTube videos on 1 timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 (the 3 alleged NT passages in opposition to women from Paul), but for the full picture my book Leadership is male? establishes Paul's words as valid and give a full role for women in church leadership. Unlike, it is sad to say, most other books for women in leadership which instead by-pass this important text, and the other two, by placing them in a cultural or historical setting irrelevant today.
Paul's words cannot be treated that way since as per Steve's quote it is clear that the creation order is in view and deception as factors to be addressed (1 Timothy 2:13-14): These factors are not limited to any cultural of historical setting. Due to this I was an advocate of male leadership until I learned the way through these passages in 1993.
As I address fully the deception issue difference between men and women, it is no wonder I had so much opposition from the enemy which contributed to my taking 14 years to put the book together. I know of no other work that fully handles the deception issue which is central to Paul's thinking in his writing this. However, part of the time taken was to study New Testament Greek in order to demonstrate well the mistranslation of Verse 12 of this passage. But, here is a quick reply to 1 Timothy 2:12 (without the translation change - This is the text out of which the mini video earlier mentioned was made):
A Quick answer to 1 Timothy 2:12
What is perceived of 1 Timothy 2:12 is that it "makes" church leadership a male domain and "says" women are not to preach at all. This is seen from what is understood as the translation of this passage:
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1 Timothy 2:12
A quick answer to this is to add it to the preceding verse, note what is in both, and then show this cannot mean something for all of the time used for meeting in public when compared with another of Paul's passages. The preceding verse reads:
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
1 Timothy 2:11
What is both in verse 11 and verse 12 are the words "in silence", other translations have "in quietness". Looking at the Greek, these two words "in silence" or "in quietness" are right at the beginning of Verse 11 AND right at the end of Verse 12.
This means whatever Paul includes in between these two sets of words - a woman is not to teach nor to exercise authority over a man - IS ONLY PART OF OF A COMPLETE PERIOD OF SILENCE expected of a woman. Now Paul wrote elsewhere that a woman can pray and can prophesy in public.
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
1 Corinthians 11:5
Whatever this passage may or may not appear to say, it makes clear that a woman can pray and can prophesy in public. Now, if a woman is silent or quiet then it is not possible to pray or prophesy.
So, Paul's meaning in 1 Timothy 2:12 "for a woman not to teach or exercise authority over a man" cannot be a general rule, but only for a specific time in the meetings.
That is a quick reply to 1 Timothy 2:12. Sorry, no contradiction.
I explain in the book how the interaction time with the speaker other wise known as the questioning and debating period, as exemplified in synagogues, is the period of time in view here. To teach men and lead churches is not in view. In the plural oversight of a church that was intended, the weaknesses of any individual leader, whether male or female, are covered by the plural mindset practice and the truth that, "we" have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Paul said,
. . . appoint elders in every city . . .
At a time of only one church per city, plural oversight was intended. What Paul has in mind in regards to the female make up that would hinder in the robust interaction time is covered in team leadership.
My translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 is,
And I do not allow for a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority of a husband, but to be in quietness.
1 Timothy 2:12 JM
In Leadership is male? I explain what is involved in this translation and also where one can read about the authority of a husband since Paul used the Septuagint as his source for Genesis 3:16...
With the above alleged contradictions with the bible addressed, I am unsure SC has a foundation or platform for saying further things that are in line with what is alleged: an eisegetical practice of reading the bible, as this appears, is not conducive to trust that the enemy can be resisted to prevent a departure from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).
SC "We do not believe that the Bible is 'inerrant' or 'infallible' in any popular understanding of these terms."
With the above points of alleged errancy and fallibility answered, what compelling examples do you have Steve?
1 There are various lists online [e.g. against evolution in general], but my reference is to the last quote I make in my article The Impossibility of Evolution. It is from the book In six days: why 50 scientists choose to believe in Creation edited by John F Ashton PhD and published by New Holland Publishers.
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2 I hand delivered my next letter.
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