Christ: filter or lens? Is Steve Chalke’s hermeneutic right?

Steve Chalke argues that because Jesus is the infallible Word of God and the one to whom Scripture points, we must read Scripture in the light of his life and teaching. So far, so good except that for Chalke, this means that he looks at Scriptures which he struggles with and if he finds that they don’t fit with his understanding of Christ’s life and teaching then he does not have to agree with them.

Chalke uses Christ as a filter to assess the rest of Scripture. This suggests a disconnect. For him, Jesus is the Word of God whereas Scripture is something a little different. I suppse you could say that it contains God’s Words as understood by fallible men. Those words get filtered through Christ so that the human errors are strained out.

However, when Christ shows us that all Scripture points to him, I want to suggest this requires something completely different. Scripture is applied through Christ not as the filter through which we strain out the good from the bad but as the lens which helps us to fully understand and grasp what it is saying.

Let me go back to an earlier example to show how. I can read the Deuteronomy passages about fathers, daughters and marriage and think “That all sounds patriarchal” then I may be tempted to try snd filter it through Christ and of course my view of Christ will itself be shaped by my culture. So it all sounds a long way from the Christ I think I know. Earlier I suggested a different way. Once I remember that Jesus is the Son who points me to the perfect father then I can think about what it means to live in The Father’s Word. The problem is not whether or not we are a patriocentric people but whether we are centred on the right Father. Applying the difficult Deuteronomy passages through Christ helps me to see this.

In Deuteronomy, a rebellous son is to be taken to the elders at the gate and stones. A “Christ filter” means I say that doesn’t sound very loving so I treat it as a culturally limited concept. A “Christ lens” reminds me of the rebellous son in Luke 15 who deserves atoning but receives a welcome, mercy and a party. In fact, I only really get how amazing the grace shown in Luke is when I see the OT counterpart. Why can the disobedient son find grace? Well I read the passage through Christ and realise that it is because the obedient Son has stood in his place and received his punishment so that he can receive mercy. I can see that disobedient sons are made righteous as they are united to and in Christ and treated as obedient.

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