A More Christlike God
By Brad Jersak
What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?
Believers and atheists alike typically carry and finally reject the toxic images of God in their own hearts and minds. Even the Christian gospel has repeatedly lapsed into a vision of God where the wrathful King must be appeased by his victim Son. How do such good cop/bad cop distortions of the divine arise and come to dominate churches and cultures?
Whether our notions of 'god' are personal projections or inherited traditions, author and theologian Brad Jersak proposes a radical reassessment, arguing for A More Christlike God: a More Beautiful Gospel. If Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God's glory and exact representation of God's likeness," what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike---the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? What if God has always been and forever will be cruciform (cross-shaped) in his character and actions?
A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed---a God who Jesus "unwrathed" from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.
A More Christlike God is a provocative book, one with a powerful impact when read with an open mind, and I found it quite fascinating. While scholarly, theological, and deep, Mr. Jersak writes with passion in a style that is easy to understand and follow. He clearly draws from the scriptures, with the addition of many quotes and definitions. The more I read of theology, the more I realize that the "experts" rarely agree and that I never buy 100% into what any human writer says, but much of what is shared in this book was eye opening and I want to spend more time delving into each chapter.
"A More Christlike God" . . . Isn't that a beautiful thought? Many people are easily drawn to Jesus as Savior, but to the seemingly wrathful, angry God of the Old Testament? Not so much. But Mr. Jersak puts forth a different interpretation - that God is exactly like Jesus, a Father of radical grace rather than a vengeful despot - and gives us much upon which to ponder. It would take a lot more time and study for me to form an opinion as to theological accuracy, but I love that he gives us much to dwell upon.
Part 1 of this book asks the question, "What is God like," and contrasts two competing images of God; namely, His will vs. love. Part 2, "The Cruciform God," explores the idea of God as love in light of the cross. I particularly want to study in depth the section where Mr. Jersak delves into the problems of "a two-faced God (love versus force) and an apparently two-faced Christ (Lamb versus Lion; the suffering Servant versus the bloody Warrior on the white horse)."
Part 3, "Unwrathing God," explores in depth our preconceived understanding of a wrathful deity. Chapter 14, entitled "The Beautiful Gospel," is alone worth the purchase price of this book, for in it he uses the visuals of two chairs to illustrate a God who, like Jesus, never turns away from us, who loves us and always comes looking.
Here are a few quotes that stood out to me . . .
- "How do we know what God is like? By recalling that God is 100% Christlike and by remembering how Christ humbly laid down his life."
- "Jesus' favorite image of God was Father.... Jesus showed us in the Gospels what fatherhood meant to him: extravagant love, affirmation, affection and belonging. It meant scandalous forgiveness and inclusion."
- "If God is in control - if he not only allowed, but also willed for tragedy and evil, natural and moral, to happen - he must certainly be all-powerful. But can he be said to be good?"
- "What if Jesus' humility, meekness and servant heart were never a departure from God's glory and power, but actually define it and demonstrate it?"
I loved how A More Christlike God delves into exactly what God is like by consistently pointing us toward Jesus Christ. I doubt I'll ever know how accurate theologically this book is, but I believe there is much to be gained from reading it. And with questions on which to reflect at the end of each chapter, this would be a great resource for personal or group study. Recommend.
Brad Jersak (PhD) is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He is on faculty at Westminster Theological Centre (Cheltenham, UK), where he teaches New Testament and Patristics. He also serves as adjunct faculty with St Stephen's University (St. Stephen, NB). He is also the senior editor of CWR (Christianity Without the Religion) Magazine, based in Pasadena, CA.
You can find Brad online at bradjersak.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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