Is Christian Media a Trojan Horse for Heresy?

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 11.46.28I write regularly in different Christian media – up until a few weeks ago I wrote a twice weekly column for the Christian Today website.  I have written for conservative, liberal and mixed Christian media.  My only condition for writing is that I am allowed to write what I want.  Sometimes one has to exercise self-restraint remembering the prospective readership.  My hope is always to seek to put forward biblical truth, encourage critical thinking and engagement with the culture and proclaim Christ.

Some have recently written to me and asked why I have ceased writing for CT in the midst of a series on Ecclesiastes.    Was I fired?  Did I resign in disgust?  Neither.  Basically Christian Today is in financial trouble and has had to let go a number of its staff.  The financial model is not working.  I have my own ideas about that – but there is something that I think is a factor.   Christian media have to walk a fine line in terms of the content and the editorial line they take.  On the one hand they want to avoid a narrow and legalistic line in order to get as wide an audience as possible, on the other they need and want the resources and support of evangelicals who tend to be more committed than most.

In this regard yesterdays article on Steve Chalke is apposite =- Steve Chalke and the Cross of Christ    Christian Today (like Premier and other mainstream sites) like to present Steve Chalke as one side of the argument and people like yours truly as the other.  In one sense of course that is right but in another it does a great deal of harm.  In presenting issues like the atonement, or the Bible as ‘in house’ Christian debates equivalent to discussions about baptism, the millenium and speaking in tongues, they give a wrong picture of the importance of these issues.  They suggest that they are in effect peripheral issues which are open for Christians to disagree about.

My problem is that this is indicative of a wider problem.  These organisations would not for a minute countenance a racist being given a free platform on their platform.  They are (rightly) totally opposed to racism.  So why give a heretic who does as much harm to the Gospel as any racist, a platform?

I suspect that this is something that is played out in many evangelical churches and organisations.  People like Chalke and Campolo (before they go totally public with their views) act as ‘honest brokers’ with the ‘on the one hand this, and on the other hand that’ approach.  But that introduces and endorses the poison of heresy in the Body of Christ.  It’s my job – and the job of every pastor, teacher and undershepherd to protect the sheep from the wolves (whether their heresy is right wing or liberal).  We should never endorse or imply that heresy doesn’t matter.  (Of course we need to be careful not to call heresy that which is just a difference about a secondary matter).

I don’t believe that the Lord will prosper Christian organisations which end up promoting anti-Christian teaching.  There is a warning in there for all of us.  The choice is not between being legalistic or liberal.   Christian media should not be the Trojan horse for heresy.  There is a better third way – the way of Christ.

19 thoughts on “Is Christian Media a Trojan Horse for Heresy?

  1. There is a conflict of interest between espousing ethics of independent “balanced” journalism and the theology of Christianity and the Good News of Jesus, the none negotiables of Christianity. It seems that journalism (loosely defined) dominates. All (most) Points of View, although polar opposites, are platformed as of equal merit along with a synchronised “balance” and a preening sense of intellectual, diplomatic, superiority. With some rudimentary discourse analysis, however, it can be seen frequently where the editorial symathies lie, thus negating any independence, with a surreptitious form of advocacy.
    Just one example is offering Chalke an easy, “smoothies” platform as he seeks to demolish or deconstruct, scripture, but mostly the Gospel Good News of Jesus to which all of scripture coalesces. He has no Good News, no Gospel. But it is recycled, regurgitated guff, masquerrading as trending, trendsetting, ahead of the curve, far -sighted, cool, anti-establishment, a rebel even.

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  2. Spot on as always David. Thank you.
    I think Music is also a Trojan Horse for heresy. I love a lot of the Hillsong and Bethel worship songs, but oh dear.

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  3. I don’t think it is fair or Christ-like to compare heresy to racism. In Greek, heresy means ‘choice’. Do we as Christians believe in Free Speech or only Free Speech when it agrees with us. Does that mean that we are being hypocritical on our stance to Free Speech when it comes to criticize LGBT issues?

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    1. Why not? Racism is heresy….No one is saying that we can’t have free speech. People are free to say that Jesus is not God – that does not mean that the Church has to then accept them as Christians!

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    1. I wrote a piece on the four tribes of evangelicalism on this blog (use the search facility) which explains. I mean those who for example are politically right wing but do not follow the Bible and yet claim to be Christians.

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  4. David, thank you for this as always. Further to my private message to you via Facebook, I think I would want to observe:

    (1) Christian websites do have a duty to report on news – including the views of those with whom we would strongly disagree.

    (2) There is a difference between news items and comment pieces. And in fairness to Christian Today, the comment pieces are overwhelmingly orthodox / traditionalist: for example, the most recent comment pieces on sexuality have been from Peter Ould and David Bennett. And CT has carried comment pieces from me which are critical of Steve Chalke.

    (3) I am not sure that there is an easy financial model for any form of media today. There are well-known evangelical publications that do not break even in a commercial sense but are sustained through generous benefactors. Maybe CT should look at this instead of an ad-funded model, but it isn’t straightforward either way.

    Hope that is helpful!
    Warmly, and with thanks for all you do,
    David Baker

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    1. Thanks David – Of course Christian websites should report on news – I was not suggesting otherwise. But as you point out, there is a difference between reporting about and endorsing. My point was setting up opinion pieces as equally valid

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      1. Thanks – helpful clarification.

        Would it be helpful for clarity to point to specific opinion pieces that you have in mind? For example, far as I am aware, Steve Chalke has not had an opinion piece which he himself has written on CT for years; he has been the subject of news coverage, for sure, but as you rightly say, Christian websites should of course report on news.

        And as far as I am aware, the opinion pieces on CT about him are overwhelmingly negative – eg https://www.christiantoday.com/article/has-steve-chalke-fallen-for-the-oldest-trick-in-the-book/36138.htm which I wrote.

        I had assumed that your reference to “yesterday’s article on Steve Chalke” was in the context of the piece above an item on CT, but of course in fact it is not – it is a link to your own.

        So if there are specific opinion pieces which have given support to Steve Chalke either by him or someone else it would be helpful maybe to have links to those. I am genuinely curious. As you say, this is different from news coverage, which of course Christian websites should report.

        All good wishes – as ever

        David

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      2. WhaI was writing about was the portrayal of Chalke as an Evangelical bible teacher whose heresies are worthy of news? Is it really ‘news’ that Chalke thinks penal substitution is unbiblical? Or that heaven is not just for Christians? Or that LGBT people should get married in church? All of which CT have reported as ‘news’ in the past few months. He is presented as a Christian teacher….that is my problem.

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    2. David (Baker),
      I am aware of your journalist background. Mine is as a former lawyer with the experience the experience of how court cases are presented in the media, and how rarely is the reporting accurate or unbiased, fact-based.
      Yours is a voice on CT that I appreciated, (but that is because of the theological position you espouse -so far as you have revealed it) but generally CT as a whole, I don’t find very edifying as what is reported as news is a mixture of fact and comment (put forward as fact), reflecting the views of the journalist (as is all mainstream journalism). You know what you are getting when you buy newspapers or, even today, the BBC- and little today is fresh, but recycled.
      But, and this seems to be a big but, there appears to be an editorial stance that would castigate, for example, John Piper, (as it would n’t like the content of Piper’s piece to spread or have influence over here) the but condone Steve Chalke. And while I haven’t visited the site recently, again generally, notwithstanding Ould and Bennet’s contributions, they remain as you describe, comment pieces. The underpinning theology is rarely brought to the fore.
      Again, an example is Chalke: has anyone on CT theologically, scripturally, deconstructed his teaching as David has done on his blog currently, and as he did so a number of months back, when Chalke, embarked on his series. I ask from a position of ignorance.m
      I first became aware of CT through this blog site and that time it seemed to be full of off-putting adverts. They are no longer there on my computer, which makes me more likely to visit CT, but the content doesn’t.
      Having said that, another site I visit, but less so now that there seems to have been an editorial policy change is The Gospel Coalition: there is now a plethora of contributors with all the enthusiasm of youth (even if they are not young) who are always surprised to find that they weren’t the first to discover this or that. Nothing new under the sun. I think Tim Challies has mourned that change in blogging.
      A question I ask is – does CT support a “curate’s egg” Christianity editorial policy and theology not wishing to offend? It doesn’t operate from a theological vacuum.
      I must have missed it, but I’ve not really seen the Gospel Message on CT, as it is swamped by daily transience. Maybe it is there but has been drowned out sometimes with what seems like a deluge of a secularly encultured Christianity.
      Tim Keller’s address to Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast emphasised the necessity for the “salt” of Christianity, including sexuality, with a gospel message at the end.
      Where is Christian the salty distinctive at CT, taken as a whole?
      As usual, I stand to be corrected.

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      1. Thanks Geoff. I appreciate your comments about my writing and so on.
        The answer is that I have written on CT about Steve Chalke – https://www.christiantoday.com/article/has-steve-chalke-fallen-for-the-oldest-trick-in-the-book/36138.htm
        And David Robertson has critiqued him and others here:
        https://www.christiantoday.com/article/10-prophecies-for-the-church-in-2018/122676.htm
        And there’s a good recent article here on not adding to anything in the Bible:
        https://www.christiantoday.com/article/are-you-guilty-of-adding-your-own-beliefs-to-the-bible/129911.htm
        I do not work for the site – I just contribute; and it is not perfect – I am not a spokesman for it. But… it is better than it was a while ago!
        Hope that is helpful and thank you again for your kind comments which I appreciate. Warmly, David

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      2. Thanks for the links, David
        I’ll take a look. Don’t think I’m part of the target demographic of the CT. But I don’t have any idea how influential in forming opinions it is. I have some knowledge of how poisonous and divisive Chalke teaching has been in a local church, generally used to support homosexuality within families looking to argue from scripture. On one occasion I was approached after preaching. By a formerly vibrant Christian, saying she was now confused about the cross, having visited, Chalke’s inclusive church. Theirs was a cause, seeking a reason. It wouldn’t have happened, had not their adult offspring who wasn’t part of the church, admit their homosexuality. Having said that, what Chalke is teaching, is far from new, just not well known in general church membership, or in group Bible study.

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      3. David (Baker),
        I have today had a one-eyed look at CT. and read your piece. You are clearly too young to have lived through PM Wilson’s era, 15% interest rates, three-day working week, Trade Union strikes, shipyards and steelwork communities ripped apart, miners strike, Falklands and more within my living memory, fading though it is.
        But this is my main point: the book. I’m not quite sure how to express my appreciation of the Keller’s “devotional”,”The Way of Wisdom” on Proverbs and other Wisdom literature. The book itself is a reflection of the wise, hard- miles -won, words of the ministry of the Kellers. Inside-out, unsettling, washing, grounded in God and what it is to be sinful, to be human and how far short I fall from wisdom. While I have Kidner’s book on Proverbs on which the structure is based, it is not nearly as spot hitting in todays self-absorbed, free-range self-expression. A book for today’s Church. Would that it were more widely know and read.
        Maybe by the Methodist member of the HoLords, who is headlined in CT could be presented with it.
        David (Robertson),
        I know it is probable that you are aware of the book and may even have it, but it perhaps almost providentially chimes with Sinclair Ferguson’s last sermon on Proverbs, an introduction.

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      4. Thanks Geoff. Yes, “The Way of Wisdom” is a terrific book isn’t it. We are using it in our family devotions. The Keller book on the psalms is also wonderful too – I use that in the mornings: it is a modern classic of its kind really. Grace and peace.

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      5. David Baker,
        We too (wife and I together ) with both books.
        They are for a church of Christian ruminants.
        Yours in Christ.
        And in Union with Him,
        Geoff

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think the issue is Christian media giving people like Steve Challe a platform, so long as others like David have an equal platform alongside such articles to demolish his arguments. The real problem comes from the organisers of Christian events who continue to invite Steve and the like as platform/seminar speakers and Christian magazines who allow him to write unchallenged articles (or where the challenge only appears the following month when some of those who’ve read the heresy will not see the rebuttal). Such actions imply a degree of acceptance of Steve’s beliefs by those involved, or at least a laid back tolerence of them as ‘just another view’, and that is what is really of concern.

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