A review of Brad Jersak’s “A More Christlike God”.
I do not have anything against Brad Jersak or people of his kind (and by that, I’m referring to people who have a theology that could be summarized as “God is like Jesus”). One of the things that I really appreciated about this book was that he tried to take a pastoral tone. I say tried because it almost felt a little condescending. I say that because he wrote this book to feel like we are having a conversation in a coffee shop, so he doesn’t use a lot of technical language nor does he enter too heavily into debate with other theologians. It almost feels like an affront on the intelligence of the readers, but that could honestly come from a different expected audience. I expect that anybody reading this book is already interested in theology and already walking with God, but Brad seems to expect that this book will be given to people who are new in their faith or maybe not even Christians. This is a serious disappointment to me: it seems to me that if you’re building up a “new” theology (or a theology you assume is new to your readers), I would love to see technical language. If you’re trying to get me to reframe my entire thought-structure, feel free to put me through rigorous readings. If I am incapable of thinking these types of thoughts on my own, I need a guide who can take me through this new land. I don’t want a guide who treats me like a child: I want one who will bring me into the woods and know which plants to eat and which not to eat and why. Rethinking God is not a minor thing: if the way I think of God is supposed to reframe everything, and you are supposedly one of the few pushing this theology, I would think it’s on you to supply me with the new tools I need.
Instead, I feel like Brad assumes a lot of things and expects us to take them at face value because “that’s what Jesus is like”. Early in the book, he tells a teenager that Hell isn’t real but doesn’t explains his thought (at that point) except to say that “Jesus isn’t like that”. I’m not sure what exactly my problem is here. Do I need to know Brad before I come into this book? How much of his theology does he assume?
I won’t pick on the theology of God being exactly like Jesus much because many have already done so wonderfully, and a lot of my critiques devolve into “it’s pseudo-Marcionism and that’s a problem”.
Here’s the thing: this isn’t for conservative Christians. He won’t deal with you faithfully and you’ll probably end up being more mad at his book than happy about his new picture of God. He doesn’t deal with conservative theologians with much grace, mostly quoting them when he disagrees. But here’s the thing: he pits Scripture against other Scripture. At one point, in the personal reflection section, he asks us to think if God is more like I Corinthians 13 or Revelation 21? Considering neither came from a Gospel (remember, the source of what we know about God) it seemed odd that either would take precedence over the other.
What did I like? Even though Brad didn’t provide us with technical tools to change the way we think, he included personal prayers and thought questions that would help form us in his new theology. There are people who feel a lot more pastoral in their work, and they are very technical (Sam Storms, NT Wright), but I appreciated the personal formation questions. It’s long, too, and Brad covers a variety of topics. But I’d love to see this book address the whole of Scripture seriously with some later theologians. I think Brad is onto something here with his ideas about God: we see him as way too vindictive and we forget to look at the cruciform aspect of his character.
But, if you’re interested in cruciform theology, I love Michael J. Gorman’s The Cruciform God.