About the Book
Author: Bradley Jersak
Genre: Biblical Studies
Release date: June 29, 2021
The Scriptures are an essential aspect of the Christian faith. But we have often equated them with the living Word Himself, even elevating them above the One to whom they point. In doing so, we have distorted their central message—and our view of God. Tragically, this has caused multitudes of people unnecessary doubt, confusion, and pain in their encounters with the Scriptures. Author and theologian Bradley Jersak has wrestled deeply with such passages over many years. He has experienced the same questions, doubt, and pain. In A More Christlike Word, he offers a clarifying and freeing path forward, whether you consider yourself a believer, a doubter, or a skeptic, inviting you to a better and more ancient way to read the Scriptures. He calls this path the “Emmaus Way” because it focuses on Jesus Christ as the final Word on God. It demonstrates how all Scripture, by design, points to Jesus, revealing the true nature of the Father. Your journey on the Emmaus Way will open up to you the fullness of the Scriptures, and, most important, lead you to the God who deeply loves and welcomes you.
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Having read Jersak's book, here is my assessment of his strategy.
Principle 1: God is Love – period. (293/5776) God is love only. (968/5776) All other attributes are subservient. “There is no divine anger, judgment, or wrath as over against God's love.” (968/5776)
Principle 2: Jesus is the full revelation of the Father. “...Jesus revealed the fullness of God in the incarnation and, thus, he – not the Bible – is the only divine Word and our final authority for theology, faith, and Christian practice.” (4321/5776) “Everything said in the Bible about God submits to his revelation of the Father.” ((304/5776)
Principle 3: When reading the Bible, passages that portray God in a different way than as love and as revealed by Jesus must be understood as really something else, such as an allegory or an expression of anthropomorphism or just the rant of a cranky prophet.
I see some problems with Jersak's strategy. Regarding principle 1, who defines what the love God is looks like? If it is a human, such as Jersak, then other descriptions of God and records of His acts are being submitted to a human view. As Jersak writes, if God's essential nature is love (Jersak's definition of love), then the necessity of eternal torment, the wrath of God, etc., fall. (927/5776 )
Regarding principle 2, yes, Jesus fully embodied God. Does that mean there is nothing we can learn about God outside of Jesus' life? Is Jesus' revelation about God the same as all we can know about God or is Jesus' revelation a subset of all that can be known about God? And, how can we know what is said about Jesus in the gospels is accurate? If what Old Testament historians and prophets wrote can be designated as allegories or anthropomorphisms by Jersak, then how do we know what the gospel writers said aren't really made up stories and dialogue to promote their agenda? How do I know that when Jesus said He and the Father were one He was not speaking allegorically?
Regarding principle 3, what prevents me from arguing the reverse? Suppose I argue that God as portrayed in the Old Testament is a superior revelation to the gospel accounts and that the gospels must be read in that light? If I am encouraged to reconsider reading the Bible (specifically the Old Testament), shouldn't I also reconsider the gospels and what they say about Jesus? Jersak references rabbi Philo of Alexandria teaching that brutal descriptions of God, anywhere God is not described as good and merciful, must be anthropomorphic. (1840/5776) But who defines what is good and what is merciful? Me? Jersak? Also, in Luke 24, Jesus explained what was said in all the Scriptures about Himself. (2268/5776) He did not say He was all the Scriptures talked about. (I could say I explained what is said in all the books concerning weather. That does not mean all books written are about weather.) And there is no consistency in Jersak saying the resurrection is fact because it reflects eye witness testimony (2541/5776) yet discounting Old Testament historical accounts not to his liking as “fictitious history” even though recorded by eye witnesses like Isaiah. (2650/5776) That Jersak would absolutely trust the gospel writers to accurately portray Jesus yet question the accuracy of the rest of the Scripture writers is mind boggling.
Jersak has some ideas that are worth considering. One is our devotion to the Bible to the extent that it displaces Jesus and becomes our authority rather than Jesus. Jersak is critical of penal substitutionary atonement. While I did not find his argument compelling, it is worth reading. He also has an insightful exploration of translators and translations and what it means to read the Bible in its literary form.
Jersak admits that we all read the Bible with our own predispositions. (2382/5776) He just wants to convince you his predispositions are the best. I suggest reading the Bible will always be a fallible task as we are humans with limited intellect trying to understand communication from God with infinite intellect.
This is a good book for readers who desire the Bible portray God as a God with whom we can feel comfortable: kind, loving, good, gentle, etc. Readers who are willing to live with the Bible portraying God in all His wild, holy, consuming fire, non human understanding majesty, may find this book less than satisfying.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
You can read my review of his earlier book, A More Christlike God.
About the Author
More from Bradley
The book acknowledges and addresses people’s real struggle to harmonize hard passages of Scripture with their view of a loving God.
Have you ever felt that seemingly “toxic” texts in the Bible suffocate rather than strengthen faith? If so, then this book will help you find a way to hear the life-giving Word speaking through Scripture—even the tough parts. Bradley Jersak faces difficult passages head-on with honest, provocative, wise, and stimulating insights. Here is an accessible and informed guide to Christ-centered biblical interpretation.
—Rev. Dr. Robin Parry
Author, The Evangelical Universalist and The Biblical Cosmos
If you find the Bible heavy lifting rather than finding yourself carried by Jesus, the incarnate Word himself, and his indescribably good gospel of love, A More Christlike Word is for you. It will invite you to move from simply reading verses through an unexamined lens to always listening for the revelation of Christ, by Christ, who reveals what is true concerning the relentless, renewing love of God our Father, and, thus, what is true about us as his beloved ones.
—Dr. Cherith Nordling
Sessional Lecturer, Regent College, Vancouver
Author, Knowing God by Name
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To celebrate his tour, Bradley is giving away the grand prize package of a $20 Starbucks card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.