fixing a big mistake
I remember a moment in my teens when I was struck by the simple verse in the Gospel of John: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). I started asking myself some questions: Why had I formed an image of God in which a very distant and vague “person” was occasionally loving or just as likely angry. Why didn’t Jesus and God look more alike? Thankfully, in large part due to that specific realization, I deliberately looked at God more and more through the lens of Jesus’ example.
It seems fair to me to wish that Brad Jersak’s new book, A More Christlike God – which begins with this verse – was unnecessary. We shouldn’t need to be reminded that a Christian understanding of God sees God’s character revealed in Jesus. We shouldn’t require careful argument that theology based on a wrathful, punishing God whose temper is somehow calmed down by killing his Son for us is missing the mark.
Unfortunately, much of what now passes for traditional Christian theology has lost its groundings in the actual teaching and example of Jesus. I would hazard to say that we have made a serious mistake. A More Christlike God, helps restore a theology that is truly Christian. At times pastoral, at times theological, and consistently grounded in the clarity of what should be common sense, Jersak’s book dives into the difficult questions and biblical material that have been poorly interpreted (and exploited?) by segments of the church. And did you catch that I said “restore a theology”? Contemporary reinterpretations based in psychology and postmodern thinking (both of which are fine with some of us) make some people afraid that important tradition is being “watered down.” But the beauty of this book is the strong argument that this reading of the Bible and resulting understanding of God have been at the heart of the Christian tradition from the beginning.
I’m sure that some of my friends would feel the book goes too far while others wonder if it has gone far enough, which sounds like it strikes the right note. Personally, I think if I had this book in one hand and Walter Wink’s The Human Being in the other, I would have balanced help in how I read my Bible. If you are frustrated with much of what you hear in churches – if something strikes you as being “out of tune” – but it’s important for you to be solidly grounded in tradition and a solid reading of the Bible, then this is a book that you will want to explore. You might just believe again that God really is trustworthy and loving.
Brad is a colleague and a friend who has earned the respect of my community on several visits teaching at our church or at St. Stephen’s University. A great introduction to him (while you’re waiting for your copy of his book to arrive), is to check out this eye-opening video on “The Gospel in Chairs.” It’s worth your while.
“God consents to our reluctance to consent, resulting in this painfully slow but inexorable transfiguration of our violent world.” – Brad Jersak, in A More Christlike God