A More Christlike God – Understanding Atonement – Part2
I was recently quite happy to receive in the mail a new book just published by Bradley Jersak, “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel“. I was happy because by choosing to read it would give me the opportunity to further the Atonement question on the blog. It did take me a month to read it but that is not the book’s fault; I was moving across the world (India to U.S.A.) and then again between States (OR to CA). Well, now I’m settled here in San Diego. I just arrived last night and decided this review is overdue! This review will serve as the second entry towards the “Seeking and understanding of Atonement” series of posts. You can read part one here.
The book is foreworded by Brian Zahnd and endorsed by another author I have appreciated greatly, Eugene Peterson.
“God is like Jesus”
Truncated certainly, but none the less, this is the essence of the book; God is like Jesus.
Not, Jesus is like God, but rather, God is like Jesus.
Bradley begins his book by talking about how Jesus has revealed to us a God who is “cruciform” by nature:
“The Christian fatih, at its core, is the gospel announcement that God–the eternal Spirit who created, fills and sustains the universe–has shown us who he is and what he’s like–exactly what he’s like–in the flesh and blood human we sometimes call Emmanual (‘God with us’). Conversely, we believe Jesus has shown us the face and heart of God through the fullness of his life on earth: revealed through eyewitness accounts of his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. We regard this life as the decisive revelation and act of God in time and space. That’s still a faith statement, but for Christians, it is our starting point. To look at Jesus–especially on the Cross, says 1 John–is to behold the clearest depiction of the God who is love (1 John 4:8). I’ve come to believe that Jesus alone is perfect theology.”
He also discusses apparent conflicting biblical portrayals of God often deliniated and contrasted between old and new testament. He comments that, “God didn’t evolve; our conception of him did, in greatest part because Jesus came to show and tell us exactly who God is in ways no prophet had the capacity to anticipate– not Moses, David or even Isaiah.”
And further along Jersak says, “Jesus is the decisive revelation of who God is and the radical re-definition of what God is like. If so, then understand: God is entirely Christ-like!”
I really appreciated how Bradley focuses in on the complicity of humanity as the causing agents of the death of Jesus. I feel like this point doesn’t find it’s proper expression within the P.S.A and one of the critical truths that needs to be understood.
He breaks down the death of Jesus into two terms that describe his death; crucifixion & cross. He says that the Crucifixion refers “to the sinful act of evil men who tortured and murdered the Son of God.”
He says that the Cross refers to the “self-giving, servant-love of Christ, in which his blood symbolizes his mercy and forgiveness poured out onto the world.”
Contrasted a bit further, “the crucifixion is what we did to him–we took his life. The Cross is what Christ did for us–he gave his life.”
He strongly declares that
“God the Father is not a co-conspirator in the crucifixion of his own Son, nor does he get any pleasure of of betrayal, punishment or killing. Rather, the significance of the Cross is that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself..”
How? By Graciously, mercifully “not counting our sins against us” (2 Cor. 5:19). And by powerfully, victoriously conquering Satan, sin and death on our behalf.”
Again, I greatly appreciated reading these words.
Kingdom & Cross
Further along in a section titled, Christ’s cruciform reign, Jersak pulls together two topics which for many people are merely two isolated and exclusive concepts; The Kingdom & The Cross. Many folks interpret the Christ’s death on the Cross within a framework that doesn’t see any connection with Christ’s Kingdom message. Making the connection will open up the meaning for ‘Atonement’ as well as Kingdom. The two need not be pitted against each other, rather the two benefit the meaning and reason for the other.
Jersak asks, “Is the cross how he reigns?” He goes on to declare, “God does not ‘do control,’ so the kingdom of God is without coercion.”
And, “God wins through love, so the kingdom of God persuades by witness, rhetoric, compassion, Spirit and , if need be, martyrdom, but never by force.”
This point of Jersak’s of Kingdom & Cross was a nice fit within the book’s overall topic, and he doesn’t go into it deeply here, I would imagine, it is to make room for his other talking points. This is by no means a critique of his message at this point, but if you are interested to further explore the Kingdom/Cross relationship, both Scot McKnight and N.T. Wright have books exploring this in greater detail. “The King Jesus Gospel” and “How God Became King” respectively.
Unwrathing the Cross
More snippits from the book,
“How did the reconciliation or atonement work? How did the life, death, and resurrection of Christ save us and reconcile us to God? Was the wrath of God somehow satisfied through the punishment of Christ? Or was the Cross God’s grand rejection of wrath as a solution to sin?”
“The gospel is not an atonement theory, or four spiritual laws, or five steps or any doctrine of man. It is the good news about what Christ actually did in history to initiate the restoration of all things.”
“God did not need to be reconciled to us–he was never our enemy. It is we who had fled and were lost, we who were hostile and rebellious, we who needed reconciliation and atonement. God did not need a sacrificial Lamb, we did.”
There were many great points in the book! I do recommend it! That is of course why I am discussing it!