Friday, 5 June 2015

A More Christlike God

Someone once said that God made man in His image and then we returned the favor. Meaning that the god we worship usually (and rather conveniently) looks a lot like we ourselves do. He tends to be on our side and hate the same people as us; he most certainly shares our doctrinal views! We even project these perceptions onto the way that we read the bible by highlighting certain verses and skipping over others. So even though we are all reading the same book, some people end up with an image of an angry deity sitting over us with lightning bolts in his hand ready to strike us down at any moment while others see him as being super laid back and chilled out so you can pretty much do whatever you want and he is cool with it. Still there are others who see the disciplinarian who dishes out the rules and is interested in nothing more than our outward conformity to the letter of the law.

 Alarmingly, you can ask almost anyone what God is like or to list some of His attributes and then you can ask them the same question about Jesus and you will end up with two completely different lists describing each of them. Why is that? Jesus once said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). Likewise, the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus is the exact image of the Father. Thankfully, some people have picked up on this and are helping to change our perceptions; men like Greg Boyd, Brian Zahnd, Jeremy Myers and Derek Flood have all being advocating for a God that looks more like Jesus. And while this list is far from complete one would have to add Brad Jersak’s name to it as well. I have being following Brad’s work for a few years now, his essay in Stricken by God? was a real game changer for me. I appreciate how he tackles the tough questions head on and all of the research that he obviously puts into all of his work. These qualities are evident once again in his latest book, A More Christlike God which is the subject of this post.

A More Christlike God makes the case that God does not look like the Greek god Zeus or the Roman god Mars; He is not a police officer who is only concerned with ones outward behavior. Neither is He someone who is indifferent to His creations decisions and the consequences of our actions. And because Jesus did not come as a mighty conqueror like Alexander the Great but as one who would rather lay down His own life for His enemies, it would be inconsistent of us to assume that God looks like a King who rules by force and coercion as well. And Brad does not stop there, building on key passages such as John 14:9 and Philippians 2:6-13 he takes a holistic approach to the question of what God is like and addresses many of the seemingly unChristlike images that we find in the Old Testament. Much attention is given in the second section of the book to the idea of a Cruciform God, that is to say, that the crucifixion of Jesus is the climax of God’s self revelation to us.

When expounded on some very interesting things come up, one of the most powerful insights in the book I believe is in how the Cross reveals how God participates in the world and how it reveals how He responds to suffering and tragedy. One of the toughest questions that people ponder in life is where God is when evil and suffering happen, why doesn’t He stop it? Some would say that even in a world of free-will beings an all-knowing God is still partly responsible if He foresaw everything that would transpire later on. Brad’s response to the charges of control, passivity and responsibility when bad things start to happen is incredibly powerful.      

Some of the other things that stood out for me were the concept of kenosis, God’s self emptying love and an interesting section on ‘unwrathing God’ which I am still chewing on. I also really appreciated looking at the cross from outside of the usual atonement theories and the simplified manner in which the book approached it. Then of course, ‘The Beautiful Gospel’ presentation which is illustrated by using two chairs (which you can also watch on Youtube by clicking here). My only real gripe with ‘A More Christlike God’ is that I wish it had spent more time on the life and character of Jesus. It is probably not a fair comment to make because a good few chapters were devoted to just that and the book had to cover a lot of other ground if it was going to be well rounded and complete. Nevertheless, I would have loved to see some more of the difficult passages like Revelation 2:22-23 addressed as well. So even though I wholeheartedly agree that God looks exactly like Jesus, with those kinds of scriptures in the back of my mind, it is hard for me personally to jump 100 percent behind something like the concept of ‘unwrathing God’ and maybe I am not the only one.  

Yet even with that minor gripe, it is still a fantastic book with plenty of fresh, original, freeing and thought provoking material in it. I am extremely glad that I read it.

                                                   5 out of 5 bacon strips!

You can find A More Christlike God on Amazon by clicking over here.

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