I want to start off by saying that YC has been responsible for many kind memories. I first attended in 1997, back when they were only a few thousand people in Red Deer. I remember being dismayed when Reality Check had to cancel their show, but then you guys brought the house worship band in and they were tremendous and was probably my favorite and most impactful worship experience I ever had. I remember when you released the YC Shine CD. I wore it out listening to it so much. [And in fact if anyone has a copy of it, I would do near anything to have it] I remember going for almost 7 years as a youth, and then later on supervising a Church group there as a Youth leader. I had many, many wonderful memories of attending hearing the speakers, particularly Miles McPherson, as well as jumping on people in my sumo wrestler suit and watching early morning Veggie Tales. In short, I was deeply impacted by the ministry and wish it to be used as a way to shape the hearts and souls of Christians kids so that they can be bold, authentic and faithful believers.
Understanding this, it was for this reason that I was deeply troubled to read that Brad Jersak will be attending YC and doing a workshop there. I first became aware of Brad Jersak through his Listening Prayer series, and later on when he came to my city and did a weeklong workshop at one of the Churches here. The more I heard him and the more I became aware of him, the more I realized how many unorthodox positions he holds. Even though I know that YC is a non-denominational Christian gathering, many of Brad Jersaks beliefs go far outside the realm of Biblical orthodoxy and I think this may be cause for concern.
Among some of his unorthodox beliefs is that he does not believe in an eternal hell. Instead, much like the view Rob Bell promulgated in his book “Love Wins”, Brad Jersak teaches a variation of ‘Hopeful inclusivism” and believes that because a loving God would never send people to eternal hell, we should be hopeful and trust that all will be saved eventually. He believes that people still have the ability to freely deny the love of God in the afterlife, or freely accept the love of God in the afterlife, and that many will choose God after they die.
He categorically denies penal substitutionary atonement, or actually any form of substitutionary atonement and considers the idea evil. He finds the notion that “Christ took on the wrath of God for our sins on the cross” to be wrong and in fact, considers that notion a form of “cosmic child abuse.” Brad Jersak has an illustration called “The gospel in chairs” where he contrasts the “traditional view” which he believes to be outdated, erroneous and harmful, and his new version which he calls the “restorative” version.
Quoting Brad Jersak directly where he tells us what the “traditional view” of the gospel is.
“They [Adam and Eve] are expelled for all time because God is holy and pure and righteous and cannot look on sin and he turns away from man. In this state, man cannot work his way out of sin. All our efforts to please God and justify ourselves and make ourselves righteous are filthy rags, we’re totally depraved and desperately wicked. But God in his love sent his Son to stand on behalf of humanity, who turned toward God himself and walked in perfect fellowship with his Father, preached good news, healed the sick and was perfectly obedient to the father. At the end of his life Jesus is put to death and the father puts all the sins of the world on his Son and he who knew no sin became sin, [on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of Christ] he became a curse, And while he was on the cross God poured out all his wrath on his son in our place. He appeased the father’s wrath and anger. Jesus then rises from the dead, and those that believe in him can have a relationship with the father. At that point the chairs are again facing each other.”
Whereas I would say that’s a decent summary of the arc of scripture and what Christians have historically taught and what the Bible teaches, Brad Jersak does not. He completely disagrees with his above summation and does not believe it to be the gospel. Continuing in this vein, he says
” There’s this idea that if we don’t believe in Jesus and what he’s done for us we remain in our sin and God must remain at enmity with us and we’re alienated from God. And if we die in that state, of course we experience the eternal conscious torment of the wrath of God for all times as sinners condemned to hell… This is not the gospel.”
“What bothers me about this version is how fickle God is. He is the God who turns from us and turns towards us and turns from and turns toward us and also he’s a little bit like…. you know…. the one who has to torture his own Son in order to get his anger off his chest. I shared this with Archbishop Lazaure of the Eastern Orthodox Church.. and he goes “that’s not Yahweh, that’s Molech. Molech was the god who [the] Israelites would try to appease, they would try to suck up to him and try to get his blessing by sacrificing their own children so that his wrath would not come against them. And when in the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah says ” that’s not ok”. He says this; ” God would never even think of such a thing. It would never even enter his mind.”
Furthermore, because he believes that God is exactly like Jesus in every respect, he believes that God never exhibits any wrath or anger towards anyone. He does not believe that God has ever directly and purposefully visited punishment, judgement, or wrath upon the Israelities or any of Israel’s enemies. From his perspective, God would never, ever purposefully kill a human being in the scriptures and all allusions to God’s wrath are strictly metaphorical. From his perspective, Jesus is all loving, and so the God of the Old Testament and New can only be all loving, and did not do anything of the righteous and holy judgements that he is accused of doing in the writings of the prophets. He also denies the notion that humans are born with original sin, which ties in close with his denial of an eternal hell. There is also some question about his view of scripture and whether or not he believes scripture to be innerant and infalliable.
From what I can tell he does not, and in fact in a recent interview at beyondtheboxpodcast.com, he agreed with his guests that we need to get over our fundamentalist, evangelical belief in the innerancy of scripture, and even plugged the book that elaborates on this. For example, at one point they stated
“If I could redo the New Testament, I would put Revelation as the first book in the New testament, as it’s an abortive attempt to talk about Christ. It’s still locked into the vengeful God stuff, so I see it as an abortive attempt. I would put Matthew after Revelation, as another attempt that tries to get there, but doesn’t succeed. And then I would put Mark, Luke, John, Paul etc…we need to have a complete re-understanding from the old, worn out evangelical idea of innerancy and infallibility and really look at the text the way we say it was written”
Brad also spoke of his belief that Satan is not a creation of God- that is to say that Satan is not an angel, spirit, person or entity, but rather is mental construct that humans have conceived. Satan is “real” in a post-modern sense, but he has never actually existed as a creature that interacts in a meaningful way with Jesus or mankind. For example, it is said that Jesus never literally cast out Legion from the herd of pigs. Instead, that story is metaphorical and represents an allusion to throwing off the shackles of the Roman empire. Satan never spoke to and tempted Jesus in the wilderness either. It is said that is a inner metaphor for the potential evil that Jesus could have been accomplished had he given in to temptation, and in fact that whole conversation was only happening in Jesus’ mind between two factions of his thoughts.
I’ve written a bit about some of these issues at my blog, linked below. Please read and reconsider what this man teaches and preaches and read my biblical, exegetical critique Here and Here. Brad Jersak also is one of a few writers who blog on http://www.clarion-journal.com/ They are all close-knit and very similar in theology, and I would encourage you to read his writings there to get an idea of what else Brad Jersak believes.
Ultimately it’s your decision to bring in who you will. I see some excellent artists and speakers attending, specifically Francis Chan and Propaganda, both whom I personally love and would love to hear speak in person and whose ministries have shaped my life. YC is and has always been a nondenominational gathering, which I think is part of its strength and appeal. People from all walks of life and possessing all different understandings of Christianity can go there and be fed and uplifted. This is a good thing. Not everyone is going to agree, and I believe it is a testament to the unity of the Body that we can all attend an event like this as brothers and sisters, holding the gospel to be central, and not having unimportant areas divide us.
But these issues that Brad Jersak believes are not unimportant. They are supremely important, and I believe there is a limit many unorthodox beliefs one man can espouse before we ask ourselves whether it is wise to include him in the teachings of our youth. Even if he is not speaking on these subjects specifically, we need to guard them from false and destructive doctrines, which I believe these to be. The culmination of heresies and false teaching is broad and expansive, and I believe it is detrimental to our goal of unity to have someone who lies so far outside of historical biblical orthodoxy speak at your conference. I don’t believe I am unique and alone in my concern, and I wonder how many Pastors and parents would have equally grave concerns and would think twice about entrusting their children’s spiritual care in your hands if they knew the extent of Brad Jersak’s beliefs. From the pastors and parents of Churches I know sending their kids to YC, such revelations would be like a bucket of cold water thrown in their faces.
I would encourage you to read what I wrote, do some research at his own blog [the clarion] , and contact him directly and ask him about these things. I am confident he will confirm them, though please be mindful that Brad Jersak has a propensity for post-modern semantical word games, and so you may have to be firm and really nail him down on what specifically he believes and what he repudiates.
In the case of the Church where I first heard him speak at and which they invited him to, they have taken down their recording of him speaking, and have chosen to have his message not be propagated further. For all the reasons I stated, I would appeal you to reconsider inviting him to your conference, or having him as a speaker. There are many faithful pastors and ministers in the Alberta and Edmonton area who could step in and offer a robust, Christ-centered, Biblically faithful presentation to our Youth, and I would encourage you to contact them to fill in.
Thank you for reading.
There is a saying in Christendom that goes something like this “God will never give you more than you can handle”. This is a mantra that is repeated over and over as a way of building up the willpower to overcome an especially difficult situation. As it were, there is a struggle and a weight that exists inside people as the burdens of this world begin to accumulate. It might be anything- the loss of a loved one, the loss of employment. Broken relationships. Divorce. Death. Desertion. The consequences for private sins and the harping of the devil. For those suffering, whatever it is- physical, emotional or spiritual- heartache rips at them. Sorrow fills them. Uncertainty bids them. Stress cripples the mind and things once firm and decided begin to shudder and crumble. In those moments of personal pain, people with good intentions might offer the reassurance to the one hurting “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.”
That might seem reassuring and spiritual sounding, but more often than not it is unhelpful at best and biblically suspect at worst. Why? Because this is not a legitimate promise of God. It is a promise that many people believe is there, but sadly are mistaken as the word of God offers us no such false condolences.
What the scripture does say in context, is “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
[1 Corinthians 10:7-14 ESV]
The aforementioned verse is a legitimate promise of God that we can stand firm in, but that promise does not say that God will never give us more than we can handle in this life. Instead this word is speaking about temptations, speaking specifically about our innate ability to turn everything good that God has made into an idol which we then bow down to in though, word and deed. We have a propensity to idolize things that we ought not to. We misuse sex, food, sport, music and pleasure and make those things our gods. We are by nature idolaters, and so we need to be on guard and take great care that we do not inavertedly walk in this. We must take care to ensure that we are not lulled into complacency by our own prideful assessment of our ability to resist and fall prey. These verses are not about situational hardships that we go through in life, but rather they are about being tempted from sin and the flesh.
So that verse isn’t saying what people like it to say, so what then do we make of this quote? When we find ourselves unable to live up to the expectation that we must endure hardships because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t surmountable on our own, we either grow bitter or we despair. The bitter man is the Christian who believes there is a promise from God that says they will never have to endure anything beyond their ability to handle. And yet when he has an event happen in his life that he can’t handle, from that moment they quit trusting God and grow disillusioned and disappointed. The rationale is this- if God lied about this and broke this promise, how can I ever trust anything He says? That’s one possibility. The second possibility is despair- “God will never give me more than I can handle, and yet I can’t handle this.” What must that say to the person about their relationship with God? That they are a failure who isn’t spiritual or strong enough. That their fragility is weakness and their inability is insufficiency. There is a sense of “What is wrong with me that I can’t endure, that I can’t handle these trials that I’m supposed to be able to handle”? which leads to despondence.
And yet God’s word is clear that we will have trials that we cannot handle- that we will brush right up against the agonies that result from this contorted, fallen world. St Paul writes “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. [2 Corinthians. 1:8-9 ]
And so what is the answer? When we walk through the hardships of this world. When we suffer loss and become at a loss ourselves. When we are tormented and attacked and when we can hardly breath or think straight because we are overwhelmed by our circumstances and by the stains of our sins and the sins of others in our life, we read the rest of the verses. “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death…..But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
God gives us more than we can handle so that we will rely on him. All things direct us to him and his work. The promise is not a perpetual conquering based on our own abilities and fortitude. We are not told to grimace and through sheer force of will bear the burdens on our own- that will only produce pride in ourselves for our ability to endure. Rather, our inability to endure shows that only Christ Jesus is able to sustain us. It might be paralleled to the work and function of the law, which in our inability to perfectly keep it we see our need for a saviour who has kept it for us. For this reason, a more accurate statement might be that “God will never give us more than He can handle for us”
We need to know that in the face of hardships and burdens that it is ok to feel crushed, desperate and helpless. It is ok to feel weak and poor and unable. It is ok to have to swallow back a sob and feel that embarrassed aloneness when you realize that this is not something that you can do on your own. Because that points us to Christ. That drives us to Him who is always strong, always powerful, always unfailing full of grace. To quote Greg Lucas
“My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him. “My power is made perfect in your weakness,” He says, as we strain under our burden. Whatever the burden, it might indeed get worse, but I know this–God is faithful. And while we change and get old, He does not. When we get weaker, He remains strong. And in our weakness and humility, He offers us true, lasting, transforming and undeserved grace.”
Repost from . January 7, 2011
There is something out there that is terrifying. It is the scourge of your soul, and is what keeps you up at night. It leaves you continually unfulfilled and restless. It leaves you disappointed and damaged. It slowly eats away at you, as the years of discouragement embitter you until you become a shell of who God made you to be. It is the biggest obstacle you’ll ever face, and is the one thing that will make or break the joy you may or may not ever experience. It will leave you hollow, empty and unsastified. It is a terrible affliction that can and will ruin your life if you let it. What is it?
Its not achieving your impossible dream.
You’d think it was en epidemic in the Christian world, simply by the number of blogs, sermons, conferences, and messages given about this subject, especially by seeker-sensitive Pastors. You’d think it was the most pressing issue facing Christians today and one which demanded our attention, least we all perish in a flaming fireball of insignificance. Why did God send Jesus to die on a cross? Not to save us from our sins, but rather to save us from a life of mediocrity. To save us from a life of purposelessness. To save us from failing to live up to our full-potential. To save us from our dead and dying dreams.
Its a very western, materialistic, self centered problem, which says that the worst thing that can happen to you in live is failing to birth your impossible dream. That’s another part of it. It goes something like this.
“Are you a maid making 7 dollars an hour whose been cleaning hotel rooms for the last 15 years, and you once had a dream to do something, to be somebody, but over the years that dream has died? And now you’re stuck here and you’ve resigned yourself to a life of mundaneness and commonness? Well Jesus wants to resurrect your dead dream.” or “Are you stuck in a dead end job- working in a cubicle for a boss you hate, with three kids at home and a mortgage to pay, and you know that you were made for something bigger- that you made to be a leader and to be somebody? And God put an impossible dream on your heart, but everyone around you keeps you down and tell you that you’ll never accomplish it, that its simply too big? Well, God wants you to see your dream fulfilled.
You see, when God created you, he put a dream inside of you, and over the years that dream may have died a little bit, but God wants you to start dreaming a vision again. Without big dreams, we wither and die. The Bible says that “without vision, the people perish.” What is God’s vision for your life? What impossible dream do you have? God wants to birth in you impossible dreams. Did God gave you a destiny? God wants to fulfill the desires of your heart. He wants you to imagine the unimaginable, and then He will take you even further.”
Ministry Today Magazine has an article about dreaming dreams. I think it nicely encapsulates and articulates the sentiment regarding this issue . The thrust of the article is that we are to dream dreams so big, that only God can fulfill them. In the section about how to know if your dream is from God, we read :
“The first test you can apply to your dream is: “Is it too big for me to fulfill without God’s help?” If you can do it without His help, you are not dreaming big enough. If it’s much bigger than you, you are on the right track. The Bible promises that all things are possible with God. Is your dream impossible enough? Does it go beyond you enough to qualify for God’s help? Your dream should be so big that it takes your breath away, makes you temporarily weak in the knees, and makes you cry out to God for help and guidance.”
But here’s the thing; I don’t have any big, impossible dreams that leave me unfulfilled. I think all this talk of how we’re so empty and unfulfilled and that our current life isn’t good enough is, simply frankly, nefarious. It doesn’t just appeal to ones desire for the American Dream, but it appeals to the disappointment we feel at not having achieved it. I find myself surrounded by a Christian culture that tells me that the life I desire is not good enough, and that if I’m not dreaming big, impossible dreams that I’m somehow lacking and missing out on what God intends for me. That there is an innate deficiency associated with it. I don’t see where in the scriptures I’m told that I need to do this, and that this has to happen to me, and yet I’m being told this is the case nontheless.
Here is my vision for my life. Its found in the Bible, and I am told that it is a good thing.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.
Love other people. Live a quiet life, mind my own affairs, and do honest work, whatever that may be. When I do this, I am serving God and serving my neighbour in my vocation. I am in God’s will and doing exactly what he wants me to do. Whether I am a waitor serving food in a restaurant, or an accountant doing taxes, or a father changing my child’s diaper- that is a wonderful, beautiful, satisfying thing, and the Lord is not dissapointed with me for doing this. You see, when you take someone like me, and tell them that they need to birth impossible dreams to fulfill my destiny with the vision so that I’m not living a dreamless unfulfilled life- that’s destructive. Its essentially saying that living a 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 life is insufficient and possibly even sinful. That being a guy who lives in the suburbs who serves his neighbor and his bosses as he goes through the daily grind, who loves his children and his wife as best he can, and who loves the Lord as best he can, is missing out on some cosmically defined purpose which is shattered by a failure to be in God’s will and discover the impossible dream that I was destined to achieve.
I don’t want to have an impossible dream for my life, nor do I want to birth vision, nor so I want to be told that I need something more in my life. I simply want to serve God and my neighbor in my vocation, which is a holy thing.
I’ve often heard the mantra “abortion should be safe, legal and rare” from both pro-choice and pro-life alike, and it’s not something I’ve particularly understood. If abortion is the intentional killing of a child there is no defense for it being legal. If it is not the intentional killing of a child, then there is no need for it to be rare. What possible justification could there be for wanting to be abortion rare? If this helps women and it empowers them, why should it be rare? If it gets them out of bad situations, why should be want to make it rare? Why are we trying to limit it? And if it really is a constitutional or chartered right we should be celebrating it, not trying to make it rare. No one says free speech or freedom of religion should be rare, so why apply this irrational standard to abortion?
When people say “I think abortion should be safe, legal and rare,” the term “rare” suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur. This is an inconsistent worldview for the pro-choice fundamentalist. The honest person would say that they believe abortion should be safe and legal, but that no one should ever try to make it rare or limit in any way the number of abortions that people are having. In fact, seeing how it frees, empowers, and helps women, they should be saying “abortion should be safe, legal and plentiful”, and it should be celebrated as a means that liberates women, much like access to birth control is celebrated.
When it comes down to it, saying “abortion should be rare” is a cowards move. It’s something that people say either so they don’t come across as an extreme pro-choice advocate, which the majority of people find distasteful, or to hide their own inconsistency when faced with the question of whether or not its the intentional killing of a human being. If you’re truly pro-life, you don’t want it rare, you want it abolished. If you’re truly pro-choice, you’ll be honest and stop using the language of “rarity” and instead say that it should be “safe, legal, and should happen whenever it needs to.” Rarity is for cowards, and it doesn’t make sense in this context.