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A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher living in Abbotsford, BC. He teaches New Testament and Patristics on the faculty of the Westminster Theological Centre in Cheltenham, UK. Additionally, he teaches at the St Stephen’s University as a adjunct professor and is the senior editor of Christianity Without the Religion, a publication based in Pasadena, CA.

I received a complimentary copy of Brad’s book “A More Christlike God” as a part of the “Speakeasy” blogging network. I am not required to write a positive review, but only to express my own honest opinions. (This information is being disclosed in accordance with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission.)

You  can order a copy from Amazon.Com, details and link located below.

  A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
by: Bradley Jersak
publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, published: 2015-04-21
ASIN: 1508528373
EAN: 9781508528371
sales rank: 71838
price: $14.00 (new), $18.46 (used)

Brad Jersak’s primary aim writing “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel” is to answer the central question of theological inquiry:  “What is God like?”  His goal in this theological exploration was to write a book easily accessible to for the average reader.  Brad’s writing style, side notes to define terms, as well as the self-revelation of his own struggles with the central question, certainly helped him achieve this goal.  The book feels less systematic and more confessional.  That said, book’s flow is logical and reasonable, well-researched and thoughtful, moving through its topics in a systematic fashion.

So, then, what is God like?  The author spends several pages questioning the many and varied images we have about God.  The god pictures examined are brought by both religious critics and adherents, from people of faith and avowed atheists. What is God like?  Is God a doting grandfather?  …a punishing judge? …a deadbeat dad? …a vengeful warrior? …a wrathful king?  …a pseudo Santa Claus who assumes little bits and pieces of each of the previous images for the Divine?

Jersak’s suggestion is that we need a  reassessment of the very nature of God.  For some, this might sound like a rather audacious.  But as he explores many of the most well accepted expressions of the Divine, Jersak’s suggestion is far less bold than it might otherwise sound, and absolutely necessary.

The author unashamedly holds to a extremely high Christology, believing that the most “superior” (referencing Hebrews 1)  image we have of the Divine must come via the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  Jersak’s thesis is that we should see God as completely Christlike.  With the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, Jersak believes that Christ Jesus (the Son) “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature” (Hebrews 1:3)  If we want to know what God is like, we must examine the actions, teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. “God is, was and always will be exactly like Jesus.”  Jersak’s book is the attempt to answer the question: “What is God like?” by saying, “God is like Jesus!”

In part one, Jersak explores:  “What is God? Competing Images of Will and Love”  He explores the chief metaphors for God in theological thought throughout history.   Most fall into two categories.  First, there are those based on philosophical concepts such as  power, strength, and omnipotence.  Broadly stated, these are rooted in the idea of the “will.”  Secondly, there are images for God which are more tender (my word).  These images are rooted in pure love.

In the next section, Jersak explores the “The Cruciform God.”  A “Cruciform God” paints a theological portrait of God which is seen in the cross.  (For deeper reflection, I would recommend Jürgen Moltmann “The Crucified God.”  A cruciform God “would be the God whose nature (love) is revealed through Christ ;and him crucified’” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  In most simple terms, the nature of God is perfectly revealed not only in Christ Jesus, but in Jesus at the cross.

In this section (specifically chapter 7 and 8), Jersak bravely dives right into a discussion of theodicy (exploring the issue of evil and suffering in the light of a God of pure love).  Many treatments of this topic are either too lofty in philosophical and theological terminology to be grasped by the average reader.  Other treatments are sadly more pablum, aimed toward audiences that want easy answers and quick fixes, and who usually react unfavorably to an honest discussion of pain and suffering.

Jersak meets head-on the pain and suffering of life while maintaining his overarching thesis that God is likes Jesus.  God is not absent from our plights.  Nor is God simply kind and compassionate about those things in life that ail us.  No, the “Cruciform God” revealed in Christ Jesus is with us in our suffering in intimate fashions.  He is acquainted with our pain and suffers with us in our grief.

The third section of Jersak’s book is in a work, remarkable.  He speaks of  “Unwrathing God.”  Here he begins to reconstructed an approach to theology that is rooted in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Jersak refuses to ignore those scriptures and images of God, evident in the Bible, which attach onto God a notion of wrath.  To do so would be intellectually dishonest, as the word and/or concept is employed on several occasions within scripture.  How does one rectify the “pure love” image of God reveal in Christ Jesus (and him crucified) with those words and idea of a wrathful, vengeful God ready to dish out punishment, even to the point of sending somebody to eternal torment in a place called hell? As with the issue of theodicy, Jersak holds onto the reality of wrath as mentioned often in scripture, without sacrificing the truth that God is ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ.

Jersak points out that the “Cruciform God,” the God revealed in Jesus Christ, makes the loving decision to submit to humanity’s wrath (at the cross).  In the face of God, humanity’s wrath, the Christlike God reveals that the core attribute of the Divine life is love. I am not sure if Jersak’s theological treatment of the scripture at this point will placate those who insist that God is angry and vengeful.  Especially those who interpret Divine wrath more in terms of their own feelings than the character of the Divine.  Yet those with an open and thoughtful mind will find Jersak’s thoughts here a challenging reflection.

The most intriguing this about this book is how it might be used in evangelistic circles.  Christianity is populated by significant numbers of people who want to declare the good news of God’s love and grace – and who want to do so in a way that is “unwrathed” from unchristlike images of God and their accompanying ungodly theologies of atonement.

Jersak argues (and I would agree) that the Christian message repeatedly falls (and fails) into a image of God who is a angry and vengeful diety who must be appeased through the victimization of his son.   With this mindset, God’s nature is distorted into a duel  “good cop/bad cop” deity.  Jersak contends that such views of God are inherited religious traditions which become personal projections which we attach to God.  In turn (I think Jersak would concur), these images of God inform our ethics, ecclesiology, evangelism, and even eschatology.

The subtitle to Jersak’s book is “A More Beautiful Gospel.”   That’s what Jersak wants.  He wants a gospel that is freed from a literalistic reading of scripture (yet without simply sacrificing those parts of scripture which make us uncomfortable, as some are prone to do).  He wants a gospel that is “unwrathed” from the toxic images of God.  He wants a God who is able to stand up under the assault of human pain and suffering, without resorting to trite and simplistic answers.  Jersak wants a more beautiful Gospel than the typical “gospel tract” mentality, often evident in much of contemporary evangelical witnessing and preaching.

To that end, Chapter 14 along is worth the price of the book.  In this chapter, Jersak offers a more Christlike message (a more beautiful gospel).  In thoughtful and practical ways, Jersak explores ways that the love and grace of God can be shared in transforming and healing ways, while maintaining the core thesis that God is exactly like Jesus.  Heck, it even comes with visual aids, narrative examples, and points and poems as well.

I strongly recommend Brad Jersak’s  A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

——-

A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
by: Bradley Jersak
publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, published: 2015-04-21
ASIN: 1508528373
EAN: 9781508528371
sales rank: 71838
price: $14.00 (new), $18.46 (used)

What is God like? Toxic images abound: God the punishing judge, the deadbeat dad, the genie in a bottle–false gods that need to be challenged. But what if, instead, God truly is completely Christlike? What if His love is more generous, his Cross more powerful, and his gospel more beautiful than we’ve dared to imagine? What if our clearest image of God is the self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering Love revealed on the Cross? What if we had ‘A More Christlike God’?

 

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