Book Review – A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak
This book is a genuine gift of theology to the church, and to the world.
To get straight to the point — you need to read this!
Dr Brad Jersak, within the space of 300+ pages, has provided a concise theological panacea to our fragmented portraits of a God who is riddled with what some perceive as split personality issues.
Theology can do this. In our attempt to understand God, we divide the divine identity up into chunks. Using (and misunderstanding) the anthropomorphic language employed in scripture as markers of deity DNA, God gets separated up into a cast of characters, each constrained to a specific act or scene within the story; God the creator, God the destroyer, God the liberator, God the bully, God the bringer of miracles, God the bringer of slaughter… God the almighty, all-knowing, all-present but also extremely conflicted, apparently! A God of many faces. And then along comes Jesus, another cast member of the “divine comedy/tragedy”; one more “face” that God exhibits.
Yes, most of the church affirms, Jesus is more than *a* face, he is part of the God head. But in some circles, Jesus’ face also shape-shifts with time. In his past appearing (the story of the Gospels), he’s a dying, self-emptying servant on a cross — suffering for the world, saving, forgiving and showing love until his last breath. But then in the future appearing (his second-coming), this Jesus will arrive as some kind of apocalyptic hybrid of John Rambo and Genghis Khan. Usurping the claim that he is the same yesterday, today and forever, this idea of Jesus (the one who once welcomed and ate with sinners and cried “father, forgive them” about those who crucified him) is now out for the blood of anyone who didn’t respond to his invite.
Sadly, this obvious dichotomy is embraced.
Some voices in the church, would also describe Jesus as someone who “saves us from God” — which, very disturbingly, stretches the already gaping dichotomy all the more further.
Often this has come about in an attempt to avoid a dualistic idea of God. I.e. the Old Testament portrays an angry God, whilst the New gives us a newer and better (nicer and kinder) version — God 2.0. But this attempt has been tackled in a way that allows some to desperately maintain a grasp on their flawed Biblicist literal reading of scripture. As an attempt to avoid having two Gods, the literalistic result has given us a pantheon of personalities all contained within one apparent God. Making God, in turn, appear more like “legion” than Jesus of Nazareth.
But the truth of the gospel, the truth that Jersak explores throughout A More Christlike God (and a truth I also affirm), is that God is exactly like Christ; God has *always* been exactly like Jesus of Nazareth.
God isn’t like the “many-faced god” of A Game of Thrones fame; in Jesus, God has presented to us the eternal character of the unseen God.
A God whose very expression has consistently been (and always will be) marked by self-emptying, cruciform and kenotic love. A timeless trait, not a feature constrained with some “use-by-date”.
Of course, to say such things raises questions: “If God has always been like this, then what about all those stories of God commanding war and the killing of children? What’s all that stuff about hell and damnation and wrath and destruction? Why is their suffering, if God is truly loving and good?
Well, that’s why you should read A More Christlike God. It’s a theological tour de force that helps to tackle these big issues head-on. So think of this as a really accessible guidebook through some tough topics. It’s not a book that is full of clichés, anecdotes or shallow thinking — it’s deep and broad in its theological approach, but in a way that won’t burden you in abstractions and terminology. It’s clear, exegetically rich in scripture, honest and, most of all, understandable. Simply put, it’s brilliant!
Brad is not presenting some “new” idea that’s come about as a way of making Christianity palatable to today’s culture. Jersak delves into a host of historic voices, showing us that this picture of a more Christ-like God is an ancient one; this beautiful portrait is one that is being cleaned off and restored to its central place within our orthodoxy. In reality, the many-faced god is the man-made concoction — a self-projection into our time-bound cultures– one that God has been trying to get us to give-up for epochs.
With A More Christlike God, Brad Jersak performs much needed CPR on our hearts and minds in order to get us to vomit out our toxic and damaging images of God; enabling us to fill our lungs with a more life-giving, captivating and gospel centred air.
To repeat myself – you need to read this. Every Christian needs to read this! Every person who has ever been put-off by a god who seeks to destroy us unless we respond to his “love”, needs to read this.
Tristan Sherwin is the Author of Love: Expressed – Now Available!