I read this book recently, and don’t understand why it has created the stir now known as Chalke-gate. It gives a fuller picture of the message of Jesus than is normally heard these days, but not, I think, in a way that negates much of the teaching about him that has happened for the last few decades.
This book is similar in style to Conrad Gempf‘s Jesus Asked in that it is simple to read but is backed by solid thinking based on good historical background. I would almost describe it as NT Wright/The Divine Conspiracy for dummies — perhaps that’s why I liked it so much!
Here is a quote from page 153 that I think gives a good summary of the book’s message:
Jesus didn’t come to tell people how to become Christians. He didn’t even spend his time telling people how they could join the Church. Rather, he came to show them how to be human. He encouraged people to follow him, to become his disciples, to get re-connected to God and other people. Salvation isn’t about having the right labels; it’s about becoming truly and fully human. It’s about living the way God has created us to live, in harmony with him, with each other and with the rest of creation. And it’s not so much about what happens after you die, though that is one important dimension of it; it’s about life right here and now. Put simply, Jesus believed in just one story — “Us”, humankind, moving, both individually and collectively, closer to or further away from the Kingdom of God and his promised shalom.
We often talk about the need to reach the lost with the message of Jesus. This is, indeed a task worthy of lots of energy, passion and creativity. However, we also need to reach those who are his followers already. The church is full of people who are in love with Jesus but yet still searching for a little fuller purpose to their life. They get frustrated because they know they are supposed to rescue the lost from hell, but somehow lack the motivation to carry that out in their daily life. How would they respond if we showed them more? How would they respond if we showed them that Jesus isn’t just showing what life will look later, but what life can look like now? What if they understood that they weren’t here only to rescue their friends from hell, but to model for them what it looks like to truly be human, and to invite those friends to join them on that journey?