Rethink : When healing in the New Testament diminshed

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It seems that in the early days of the Church, in its infancy and newness, miracles and other signs and wonders were plentiful. There was a need for authenticating signs to accompany the Apostles’ ministry, and we see a fair number of examples. Peter walked by people and his shadow healed them.  Stephen healed. Barnabas healed. Phillip healed. The other apostles healed.

And Paul healed as well. As one example.

“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Acts 19:12-13. 50-52 AD

But then there is a shift. Near the end of Paul’s ministry, some 15 years after the events of Acts 19 and over 30 years after Jesus had died- near the time when the Apostles had all but perished and the fledgling movement had become firmly established,  we see something else.

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus”. 2 Timothy 4:19-20. 65-66 AD

 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”) 1 Timothy 5:22-23. 62-64 AD

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Phillipians 2:26-27. 61-63 AD

We see that Paul, who possessed apostolic power to do signs and wonders and mighty deeds,  could not, or did not, in the course of that time, heal Timothy or Trophimus or Epaphroditus. Whereas in the first half of the scriptural timeline we see that everyone is getting healed, whether they were believers or unbelievers- faithful or faithless, in the later half we see several people who are not getting healed and this gift seemingly being withdrawn. We see illness, disease, and sickness becoming a permanent reality in the life of the Church and congregations as the Church had become established and the need to have authenticating messages subsided and eventually ceased. This fits in well with other bible verses and other arcs of the narrative.

I do believe in healings as a rare, uncommon occurrence, but I also believe that the early overflow of Apostles in the Bible were unique in the history of the church. Once their ministry was accomplished, the need for authenticating signs ceased to exist, and this wholesale, common and frequent signs and wonders has ended.

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again. Part 2 of [3!]

Part I here

The days passed and the months came. Those experiences had taken a spiritual toll on me and I began to withdraw myself from Church functions and other ecclesial events. I had become a youth leader at the Church I was attending. Whereas initially I had been  outwardly enthusiastic and committed, inside my mind was roiling. I began to grow non-committal and distant. I was the one guy who didn’t speak in tongues. I was the one guy who couldn’t get it together. I was singled out by the Lord as unworthy of his gift and unworthy to communicate with him in this manner. Hell, I probably wasn’t even saved. The impact that had on me was devastating, and it meant I had to live a lie for a long time.

During Church services we usually had people come up and give prophetic messages. They would say “Thus says the Lord our God…..” and then proceed to give a message in tongues. Sometimes we would leave it at that and the pastor would thank them and we would continue as normal. Other times he would tell us that God told him that someone here had the interpretation, and the service would grind to a halt until someone spoke it.  Oftentimes I thought I had the interpretation. I was taught that after someone gives a word, if you clear your mind and focus on the words, that a thought would pop into your head. That thoughts was almost always the interpretation, and that we should stand and give it. I had spiritual things mulling around in my head during those times, and one time I ventured a guess. I stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I love my people and I am pleased with their worship.” And then I sat down as fast as I could. The Pastor stared at me from across the room, and then said “That was good, but that was not the message that the Lord wanted to give us. Anybody else?”

I sat there with my ears red and my face burning, stewing in my own shame. After a few minutes one of the women elders in the Church, our go-to interpreter, stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I am coming to do a new thing. I am coming like a flood to wash away your impurities, so long as you walk in the new things. You cannot put new wine in old wine skins, and you can’t put old patches on a new shirt. So come to be and give me your hearts, humble yourselves and seek my face, and I will heal your land and bring prosperity.”

I was mortified that I had gotten the message wrong. Later during my midweek discipleship time with the pastor he told me that I was acting in the flesh when I stood up, because it didn’t make sense that someone who couldn’t speak in tongues could interpret those tongues, as only “spiritual could interpret spiritual.” I never ventured an interpretation again.

Then one day during Friday night youth group something happened. March of 2004., It was my practice that however long the youth service lasted, I would arrive early and pray for a corresponding length of time.  During the prayers I felt troubled and uneasy. Agitated and mentally wandering. Probably the best description would be “angst”. My heart felt like it would overflow and burst with angst and recreancy. The service began and I sat there, leaning with my back against the wall, listening to a few praise songs, then watching and brooding as the worship leader began to lead a song in tongues.  Disappointment and disillusionment welled up and broke the dam. Even my worship was defective. Deficient. Incomplete. Inadequate. Flawed. The hollow ache finally overcame me and I wept. Weeping and sobbing out of sheer frustration and futility. One of my friends came and put his hand on my shoulder, probably surmising that I was having an encounter with God, when the exact opposite was true. It was an awful, tortuous experience.

Then, in one last ditch effort, I bit my tongue as hard as I could, and blurted out something, anything.  In my mind it was my final effort to speak in tongues. Sheer desperation. I was tired of crying. tired of trying little speaking in tongue tricks. Tired of trying to make my mouth and lips do things they wouldn’t do. Tired of trying to force the issue. Tired of the constant awareness of inadequacy. So here it was- my final offering upon the altar of God’s  faithlessness and indifference.

Out it came.

I was saying the words “God forgive me, God forgive me” over and over again, and I could think myself saying them, but I heard other words come out of my mouth. It wasn’t English or a language that I knew, but something altogether different.  It bubbled forth and spilled out of me. It sounded like “Sundaya-kasho-run-daya sho-ko-tototo”. Even all this time later I can still repeat those words and feel the familiarity wash over me. I gasped. The music was blaring from the front and I could feel the fuzzy reverb bouncing inside my chest. I was hot and sweaty and exhausted,  but all of a sudden I felt alive. Given over to reckless abandon and joy. I stopped speaking, waited a few seconds, then tried to say something again. I tried to say “Is this for real?” but all I could say, in my state of exhilaration and rapturous wonder  was “shandya-ra-so-tototo-shun-da” .

OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod

To be continued…

The Lord’s Prayer in Old English

Old English” is version of English spoken from approximately AD 450 to about 1100, and was in use in much of England and southeast Scotland. It also known as “Anglo-Saxon”, and is a combination of the Germanic based languages of Old Norse and Old Frisian, and Latin.

Fæder ure

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;

Si þin nama gehalgod

to becume þin rice

gewurþe ðin willa

on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.

urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg

and forgyf us ure gyltas

swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum

and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge

ac alys us of yfele soþlice

*

*

Translation of Old English Text

Father our thou that art in heavens

be thy name hallowed

come thy kingdom

be-done thy will

on earth as in heavens

our daily bread give us today

and forgive us our sins

as we forgive those-who-have-sinned-against-us

and not lead thou us into temptation

but deliver us from evil. truly

Jesus didn’t die for those who make less than a dollar a day

Someone at my work recently left a bunch of booklets on my table for people to read. They were the Rhapsody of Realities, an 80 page daily devotional booklet based on the Ministry of Chris and Anita Oyakhilome, a married pastor and pastrix who are heavily involved in the African pentecostal movement. As I find anything to do with theology and religion intriguing, and being only nominally aware of who this man is, I took it home with me and gave it a read.  It didn’t take long to discover that this man is a word-faith, prosperity gospel heretic who essentially has created an empire of fleecing the flock.  To get some context, pastor Chris Oyakhilome makes his home base in Nigeria, a country of 170 million people and the 7th most populous country in the world. In Nigeria, over 100 million people live in crushing poverty, making less than 1 dollar a day. Conversely,  Pastor Chris himself is the second richest pastor in Nigeria and one of the richest pastors in the world, having  a personal net worth of over 50 million dollars. There are  many issues of finance that we could discuss, how he raises money off he poorest if the poor; trading coins for false hope, but I wanted to address something he said on page 40 of the December 2011 edition.

“The reason Jesus came is to give us another kind of life-eternal life, the God-life. When you’re born again, you become a partaker of this new and glorious life. This is the very life of God. It is the very essence of divinity. This is the life Jesus has given us in abundance. In 1 John 5:11, the Apostle John let us know that anyone who has received Jesus as Lord has this life. When you’re born again you have the same life that Jesus had in its fullness. This life is sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof. It is a life of glory, victory, success and excellence.

Religion would have us believe we can only receive this life when we get to heaven, but that’s not true. The Bible makes it clear that you received this life the moment you received Jesus as Lord of your life (John 1:12-13). Man in all his natural intelligence, goodness and kindness is nothing before the Lord, until he receives this glorious life in him. You can become a partaker of this glorious, supernatural life right now by asking Jesus to be the Lord of your life. When you receive this life, it doesn’t matter for how long you may have suffered with ulcers, cancer, paralysis, HIV or diabetes, you will be healed! Every wound in your body that has defied medication will close up! Nothing of the devil can stay in you once you embrace the transcendent life that’s in Christ Jesus”

There are a couple things of note here and a lot we could talk about, such as the elevation of mankind, the near deification of the saved, the distortion of man’s natural state, and the really bad use of scripture proof texts.  [go and read John 1;12-13, it is laughable how he uses it] But what I wanted to focus on is the equation of salvation with deliverance from physical travails. To be more precise, his conclusions which are  ‘If you are not wealthy and wealthy, you are not saved and your sins are not forgiven, as health and wealth is the evidence of true regeneration and faith.’

As it were, we are left to wonder, If “Nothing of the devil can stay in you once you embrace the transcendent life that’s in Christ Jesus”, and the things of the devil are defined as cancer, AIDS and poverty, is not the only logical, rational conclusion that those who are in poverty [all 100 million in Nigeria], anyone who is is HIV positive [3.4 million also in Nigeria] plus untold millions of people with other illness, have not embraced the life in Christ? Chris says “When you’re born again you have the same life that Jesus had in its fullness. This life is sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof. ” Is not the only logical, rational conclusion that can be reached is that if you are not sickness-proof or poverty-proof,  you are not born again? What a damnable thing to say! Poverty and disease have ravaged the southern continent, with some countries having up to 80% of their populations living in poverty [Burundi] or having a fifth of their population HIV positive [South Africa]. In the midst of this comes a man who preys on people’s fears, hope and emotions by directly connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ with their very will to live and and tells them “If you get saved you will have the God-life and will be rich and healthy.”

I don’t see any other way to understand what he is saying, and of course that naturally leads me to wonder how then should we view the apostles of Jesus who were martyred? How about Paul, who endured  hardships, sickness, thorns in the flesh, stonings, imprisonment, abandonment,  beatings, shipwrecks, and eventually had his head cut off? Is this the life Paul lived? Was Paul’s life one that was  “sickness-proof, disease-proof, poverty-proof and failure-proof”? Seeing as how Paul’s life was not one of health and wealth, aren’t we forced to conclude that he did not receive Jesus as Lord of his life?

And so what happens to those who hear this message, believe it, and then come to the tragic understanding that its not true? What happens to those who believe the message of the Gospel and then watch fellow believers around them die of their diseases? Instead of finding contentment and peace in their salvation and eternal security they are left to conclude that they were never saved, as they did not incur those blessings. What of the people struggling to scrape together enough to survive? The ones who are forced to conclude that their faith is not real- that  it is nothing but an illusion because Jesus didn’t die for those who make less than a dollar a day? How many people walk away from the faith because this man abused Christ and his gospel and whored him out to the highest bidder?

How can you be saved by grace and faith alone if your salvation is contingent on your accumulation of prosperity? On your body’s ability to produce immunities? With such a perversion of regeneration, justification and sanctification, how can this not be a land rife with hopelessness, disillusionment and despair for anyone believing this message? How can this be anything other than the careful, purposeful, systematic annihilation of the faith of millions of people?

That is not Christianity. That is not the Gospel.  This man is not a Pastor. This man is not a Christian.

And I say all that truth, in love.

How then should we view the Fort McMurray Alliance Church? Part III of III.

The last few weeks I have been working through Brad Jersak’s January 15th sermon at the Alliance Church. As has already been documented in the prior two posts, [Part I and Part II]Brad introduces and argues several heterodox and anti-biblical positions to the congregation, and every indication seems to be that he was able to do so without correction or reproof. I contacted the Alliance Church with a few questions about the sermon. I’ve been listening to their podcasts for several years now and there was no indication that the Church believed or taught these things, and I wanted to ask whether or not they agreed with Brad Jersak and were in the process of advancing these theologies and biblical hermeneutic. They chose not to respond back and as they don’t believe there can be such thing as a godly critic, they don’t intend to ever.

In light of this, the last part of these posts is some points to ponder, as well as the thought of how should we treat the Alliance Church in light of them giving a platform and a voice to what I would consider an extremely toxic and poisonous sermon.

1. I still don’t know how the Alliance Church views this sermon and whether or not they agree with the content. The Alliance Church kept the sermon posted for over a month. It was only in the last week or so, after I posted part II of my review, that they took it down. It you go and look for it you’ll see it missing from their website. This suggests to me that either they do not ultimately support it, or that they do support it and removed it to minimize the controversy. If something is false teaching and heresy, you don’t leave it up for a month. If you don’t agree with it, you don’t post it in the first place! This demonstrates a severe lack of wisdom.

I also note that even though the sermon was preached and posted publicly, that there is no public confession of error. There is no accompanying sermon, message, blog post, or update indicating why they removed it or whether or not they are against it. Have they apologized to their congregation after the fact? Did they take the time the next Sunday to do the research I have done, and set the congregation straight on the Trinity, Church fathers, view of heaven, hell, the character of God and the atonement of Christ? Did they teach on this as a rebuttal to Brad Jersak? It does not seem so, and this is a problem. If you post something publicly, you should denounce it publicly. The fact is that they have not done so, which may lead many conclude that they do indeed support this message and the theological content.

2. The Alliance Church leadership showed a lack of wisdom in inviting Brad Jersak to speak in the first place. Assuming they do not agree with it, they should have done better research on this individual to see what he teaches and confesses. The preaching of the word of God is a sacred duty, and it must be done correctly. It took me only an hour or two to do some preliminary research on the man and the red flags were coming fast and furious. The fact that they exposed the flock to this false teacher without knowing his theological proclivities and idiosyncrasies is extremely troubling and suggests a lack of care for the pulpit and the sermon.

3. The fact that no one stood up and said something is a damning indictment. The Alliance Church still has Brad’s weekend seminars up, and listening to them should have been an adequate precursor to let them know that the sermon wasn’t going to be good. I have not reviewed them, and will not do so unless specifically asked, but when you have 45 minutes of a man teaching about mystical, esoteric spirituality with lots of stories and no bible verses, that’s a problem. But as bad as that was, it was no match for the sermon which was theological cyanide.

So why didn’t the pastor stand up and say something? Why didn’t the elders stand up and say something? What a horrific abdication of their duties to their flock and their responsibility towards Christ. They should have interrupted him 5 minutes in, publicly rebuked him, asked him to leave, apologize to the congregation, and used this as a teachable moment to display humility, confession, and discernment. It’s not rude, it’s their job! That would have been extremely commendable. Instead they demonstrated their tolerance for wolves and we get 50 minutes of slaughtering the sheep while the pastors, elders, deacons and even laypeople stayed silent and shut up. This is a complete failure and breakdown on their part and suggests a systematic cowardice that is not in line with their call to be shepherds and watchmen.

In any case, this mess leaves us with two possibilities and one hope. The first is that the Alliance Church and their leadership Terry, Bonnie, and Val support this man, message and new theological direction. If this is the case, then I cannot recommend the Fort McMurray Alliance Church as a good and safe Church to attend, and would desire that everyone attending get out as fast as they can.

The second possibility is that they don’t support the man, message and theological direction. If this is the case then the lack of discernment that they have demonstrated in their handling of this whole affair is so great that it has penetrated and tainted the very ethos of the leadership team and the fabric of the congregation. For this reason I don’t believe they can be trusted to soberly bring the word and rightly divide the word of truth; that they cannot be counted on to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” in a way that befits a congregation supposedly dedicated to Christ and his truth. In light of this, I believe it would be best for Church members look elsewhere for spiritual instruction, as I cannot recommend them.

And lastly is my hope. I would hope that the Alliance Church repents of this little stunt and would return to faithful, biblical preaching. I would hope that they would publicly confess that having Brad Jersak speak was a mistake, that the beliefs he eschewed were dangerous and unorthodox, that he was guilty of just being factually wrong and having poor logic in many of his arguments, and that they failed in their duty to protect the flock.  If this were to happen,  I would reconsider my conclusions that people should cease going, and would suggest that they would be restored as a congregation in which people ought to attend.

Rescuing ‘the lamb that was slain’ from Brad Jersak. Part I of III


Fort McMurray Alliance Church

Sermon Review. Brad Jersak. January 15, 2012. The Gospel in Chairs

I’ve been aware of the ministry promulgations of Brad Jersak for a while now. I first came across it when I read his book “Can you hear me? Tuning into the God who speaks” and then later on when I was looking into all the speakers who would be at Breakforth 2011, I became familiar with and eventually read  “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hell, Hope, and the New Jerusalem” and “Stricken by God?: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ”.  I hadn’t thought much about him in the last few years, but then I saw that he had delivered a series of lectures and sermons at the Alliance Church. After listening to the sermon and all of the lectures, I became profoundly disturbed at what I heard. For this reason I have devoted a great amount of time ferociously reading all that I can about him in order to understand him better and attain a better grasp of his theology and the implications of his theology. This includes the entire six years of his blog, a dozen sermons, most of what he has written at the Clarion Journal [including several articles he had written that the site had purged and deleted] , as well as the writings and youtube videos of his close acquaintances and ideological partners  Brian Zahnd and Archbishop Lazurte.

For that reason, this will not serve simply as an isolated sermon review, but hopefully may be a resource to serve the greater body of Christ for anyone interested in this man and the progressive missives that he is promoting. Because of the length of it and the copious amounts of verbatim quotations I have done, I will be splitting this up into three parts. The first two parts will be a sermon evaluation of the message itself,  and the last part will be an assessment of how we should now view and treat the Alliance Church in light of their choice to give a platform to this man and promote the theology of his sermon.

INTRO.

Brad Jersak begins the sermon by sharing his desire to speak on the dimensions of God’s love. He commences by offering a translation of the biblical text that he has done, with the hope that it will be “fresh”. In analysing this particular verse, He states that Paul’s point is that we can’t comprehend how big God’s love is for us, that even as we can’t understand it- we need to. And so Paul prays for supernatural power to receive the good news.

“I’m on my knees, praying to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose family in heaven and earth is named after. I’m asking Father to make a withdrawal from his heavenly bank account and to make a deposit of supernatural power of his spirit into your spirit. Why? So that by faith you would find the living Christ filling your heart with his love. And I’m praying God would sink your roots deeply into the rich soil of  capital “L”  love. Then you’ll have the capacity of saints to know in your knower that Jesus’ love is wider, longer, deeper, and higher than you ever imagined. If you only knew the dimensions of Jesus’ love, the fullness of God would fill every corner of your life. So lets raise a toast to the name of Jesus, the one who hears what we ask for and sees what we imagine and then massively exceeds those expectations. And you won’t believe this part. He does this work through human partners, so let’s be the radiation glory of Jesus who shines through us evermore brightly year after year, and for all time with no end in sight. ” Ephesians 3:14-21.

This segment is the only thing resembling scripture we will hear for the next 25 minutes. In this case we can see it is a poor paraphrase of the actual verse, which reads from the NASB

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen”

I don’t understand the purpose of offering his own paraphrase there. Its certainly not a translation as he has claimed, as no actual translation of the original text is apparent. He also changes and tweak much of the meaning, to the point that it does not actually resemble what Paul has said, but rather a self-interested paraphrase.  Why is this a good thing? This sort of thing was satirized in a post called “I‘m writing my own bible version“, but the reality is that you are not getting our best scholarly approximation or exactations of what  Paul said, rather you are getting one man’s “fresh” understanding of the “gist” of what Paul said. Which one is better to have? If its the former, why is the latter so readily accepted?

But despite that, he states that the purpose of this sermon is to speak on  how we can’t comprehend the love of God- that God’s love has been misunderstood and hijacked, and so the intent of this sermon is is that we have a new perspective on that love.  Brad states

“My understanding is that all of your real problems…. come from not knowing how wide and long and high and deep is his love for you. If you knew, you’d  never sin. All my sinful behaviors, all my struggles inside- the suffering of my soul that causes me to stumble, all of that would be solved forever, eternally if I just knew how much he loved me. So we’re working on it, right? It will not help me to try harder, and to put more religious hoops up to jump through, and to grit my teeth and scrunch my forehead. What will help me is that he loves me.  Period. Because it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And this is not a new message, obviously. Paul preached it “

Where in the bible is that taught? Is is neither a biblical concept or category that our flesh would stop sinning and that we would be walking in perfect obedience to the father if only we could grasp the extent of his love for us. Where does Paul preach it, as he alleges? Is it really obvious that all desire to sin would dissipate and we would stop sinning if we understood God’s love? Using this line of thinking, our problem is not that we have a sinful nature, but rather we don’t have enough knowledge, and that our sin problem would disappear if that knowledge could ever be acquired.

Second of all, what is the purpose of squeezing half of Romans 2:4 into that at the very end “Because it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance”. Romans 2:3-5 reads Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.  It’s to note that he is not using his bible snippet in a contextually accurate way. Realistically, a proper exegesis would show that on multiple occasions the Jews had experienced God’s patience and  forbearance. They supposed that such blessings showed that they were right with God and had no need to trust in Christ, but Paul says the opposite is true: God’s blessings should have led them to repent of their sins. Nowhere does Paul teach that it would enable them to stop sinning if they just understood his love. That is a concept utterly and completely foreign to that verse and to the scriptures.

Brad Jersak then reads the hymn “There is a wideness in God’s mercy”  and says that the love of God is deeper and wider than we thought “Longer, think it terms of time, and how his love can outlast anything , even death.” [Its to note that this is an allusion to his belief as a hopeful inclusivist, and the idea that even after we die God will still call people to him and it should be our eschatology hope that they can and will still be savedIn essence, we’ve made the love of God for this universe way too small.

He lays out his reasoning for using the gospel in chairs,

“Because it’s going to demonstrate what I think has been an anointed gospel message that we’ve taught since the 1500’s or so,  and that many people have come to Christ through it, and its too small and we need an upgrade. Way too small. So I’m going to contrast that with a second version, I think more powerful, more deep, but also more ancient. 500 years is too young for the gospel message because our gospel came through Jesus Christ. And so what I want to do is contrast what I call the  the legal version of the gospel with the more ancient biblical version that I think we could call the restorative version.”

He states that the modern legal understanding of the atonement  was established by John Calvin in 1536, who was an angry young man.

“His version pictures God as an angry judge and that he actually said God’s primary disposition towards you is that you’re his enemy and as an angry judge his wrath must be appeased by a violent sacrifice. And we used to use the word propitiation for that. When I learned that word, its a bible word, when I learned that word I was told its sort or like when the pagan religions would take and throw a virgin into a volcano to appease an angry god.”  

Its to note that he disparages Calvin’s charcater as an angry young man, for no reason and without any evidence. Furthermore, the modern legal understanding of the atonement may have been laid out systematically by Calvin, but it is far more ancient than that, with its roots in the early centuries of the faith.

“The idea is that Jesus saved you from God. Now like I said, there’s an anointing in that preaching. I preached it….I saw people come to Christ and I saw the Spirit honor the message, so I don’t want to be too quick to slam it, but I am saying maybe we’re due for an upgrade.”

Interestingly enough, that’s twice he’s said this modern view of the gospel is either anointed or that preaching that message is anointed, and that the Spirit honored it, and yet later on he emphatically states that its a false gospel. This is patently dishonest. If he truly believe its a false gospel, how can he believe that it is anointed? Why play coy in this manner and give lip service while despising it?  Paul states that those who bring another gospel are to be anathematized, so why say that it is anointed while at the same time seeking to demolish it and casting it as a modern, fanciful, unbiblical postulation?

In fact, Brad Jersak edited a book called “Stricken by God” where he assembled the essays of an ecclectic mix of Christians and pagans and offered their articles as a counterpoint to the idea that God’s wrath was being poured out on Christ at the cross, and that a violent sacrifice was taking place. This is important to note. I would argue that its clear from even a basic lexical understading  that “violence” can refer to the use of great physical force even as  its legal sense is “the unlawful exercise of physical force.” From the standpoint of  Brad Jersak there appears to be no lawful exercise of force.

And yet here’s the reality of the situation. If violence is, by definition, always negative, it is obviously inappropriate for God. However, it is extraordinarily difficult to understand the biblical narrative if such is the case. To use “violence” to describe any exercise of force [lawful or unlawful] leads to unfortunate hermeneutical hoop jumping. How one uses the Bible is a key as to how one will understand the atonement, and it is precisely here that the consequences of making nonviolence the primary hermeneutical lens for reading Scripture become problematic, particularly when “violence” is defined as intrinsically evil.

The place of the Old Testament and its depiction of God in the construction of Christian theology is a very important issue. When you listen to Brad Jersak’s sermon you should be struck by how little the narrative of the Old Testament informed the reflections on the life and death of Jesus, especially as it pertains to justice, wrath, and anger at sin.  Jesus pursued his mission as one who fulfilled the promises of the old covenant [being a prophet greater than Moses, a priest greater than Aaron and a king greater than David], it is cause for concern that a pre-commitment to God as nonviolent produces such disjunction between the Old Testament scriptures which were Jesus’ own Bible and the New Testament scriptures, which unpack for us how God’s old covenant promises were realized in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus

Brad Jersak views this as “too small” and considers it our responsibility to reinterpret the character and heart of God, from that of violent to anti-violent. But from where does this “responsibility” arise and how will we tell when such
reinterpretations become invalid? The goal can be to upgrade our atonement belief by reading scripture through the lens of a peace-loving, anti-violent God, but from what canon is that lens derived as the essential hermeneutical criterion for the bible and its interpretations? It’s not. 

If preserving the absoluteness of nonviolence requires us to ignore the old covenant context of Jesus, too great a price has been paid and the Trinity itself may be at risk, for YHWH of the Old Testament comes to look very unlike the Jesus portrayed in these nonviolent constructions. Certainly, Jesus is the supreme self-revelation of God but the God he reveals to us is essentially continuous with the God who revealed himself to Israel in his great acts of deliverance from Egypt and later through judges and kings and by powerful direct acts, such as interventions of the Angel of the Lord in Isaiah 37:36.

THE BODY

As it were, Brad Jersak continues by saying he wants to upgrade this small idea of God we have into what what he considers the more ancient, biblical version that the Church fathers taught and believed. He says that the Church fathers were the disciples of John, and their disciples, and their disciples that occurred with the first few centuries of the church, which he calls the restorative version.

“God comes not as an angry judge to be appeased, but he comes as a great physician who wants to heal us at the very root of our problem- who can see even beneath our sin into the sorrows that cause our sin. And he comes there, and he treats sin not as lawbreaking that needs a spanking, he treats sin as a disease that needs to be healed. Sort of like meningitis. What if its not just about getting babies to stop crying, what if its about healing them at the root of their problem and what if that’s how Jesus sees us? “

If one starts with the presupposition that violence is always wrong, strange and obtuse readings of Scripture are often necessary in order to absolve God of any involvement in the use of force. Such an approach, for instance, leaves no room for the wrath of God which is viewed as antithetical to divine love. Coupled with the contention that divine justice is always restorative and never retributive, these commitments to nonviolence require us to reject much biblical teaching concerning God’s attitude and action toward sin, which we see Brad Jersak doing. In his case, sin is a disease like meningitis, or maybe like herpes,  and the cure is understanding God’s love. That is an extremely sub-biblical proposition. It furthermore removes the possibility of any divine punishment of sin, particularly of the eternal divine punishment that is generally understood by Christians to be at work in the assignment of unrepentant sinners to hell, and so it could lead to complete universalism , or in Brad’s case, hopeful inclusivism. 

Notice how he claims that this is an ancient belief that the Church fathers taught, emphasizing how it is old and biblical and that these disciples of John and Peter taught this, and yet gives NO evidence for it. He talks it up and goes nowhere with it, and in fact never once offers any evidence or attestation that his understanding is more ancient or even that it was believed by any church fathers, which is extremely deceptive.

Contrary to his assertion, I would suggest that substitutionary atonement was the basis for all of the major models of atonement theory in the early church, including the ransom theory, moral influence theory, deification and recapitulation theory, the atonement from the perspective of the mimetic anthropology theory, the satisfaction theory and penal substitution theory. For this reason almost all patristic literature speaks of some form of substitution, [the majority holding to a ransom theory with substitutionary overtones and underpinnings] with Anselm and later Calvin really centering in on the penal aspect of it, using the exegesis of the scriptures for their basis. I would suggest and argue that an author can be held to teach the Penal doctrine if he plainly states that the punishment deserved by sin from God was borne by Jesus Christ in his death on the Cross, which I would argue that even Justin Martyr did in one of his Letters to Trypho.

It’s clear that his restorative theory is another name for the “Christ as example” theory. [more on that later] But the point ultimately is not what the “Church fathers” wrote- many of them writing several hundred years and a dozen generations after the disciples, but rather what the most careful, best systematic exegesis of the scriptures reveals. Its to note that Brad Jersak doesn’t even attempt to back up his claims biblically, and instead resorts to emotional appeals with a decidedly lack of scriptural basis. In any case, the fact  is that he makes a point about saying its biblical and ancient and that the early church believe it, and yet doesn’t back it up.

The main illustration he uses is the gospel in chairs illustration, where he has two chairs that face each other. In the modern legal version, when Adam sins, God turns [his chair] away from them and kicks them out of the garden.

“They are expelled for all time because he 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 fathers 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. “

Where does it say in the Bible that the reason God kicked them out is because he could not look upon sin? It doesn’t. God states in Genesis 3:17  that he was kicking them out  “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ and in verse 22lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken”. There’s nothing about God kicking them out because he couldn’t look upon sin.

He quotes Martin Luther who he says said “When God looks at you he doesn’t see you. You are a snow covered dung” That’s not true. None who have made this claim have been able to document precisely who originated the phrase, or where it occurs in Luther’s voluminous writings. I would ask for a primary source but he would not be able to provide one, as it does not exist He says that its the idea that God doesn’t really see you, because you’re a mess, but in Christ he sees Jesus.

“For me that’s small comfort. If he could see what I’m really like he would still reject me, he would still turn from me, but lucky me he sees only Jesus,  and the other side of it is 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

“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 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.”  That’s odd. what would enter his mind?”

All right. Lets do some comparative biblical work. First of all notice how there is absolutely no exposition of the Bible, and he has been preaching for twenty minutes and making some radical claims. He has not provided any scriptural or textual evidence for what he has said. Its also important to note that neither Brad Jersak nor the Archbishop believe in a literal hell that unbelievers ultimate go to. He will develop this a little bit later, but he has a visceral hatred for the idea that God punishes people in hell for their unbelief, and so the idea of God pouring out wrath on his son is not just an issue of soteriology, but rather effects and affects his hamartology, eschatology,  theology, christology, his view of the afterlife, etc.

That is why he is so against the belief 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” for Brad that is a blasphemous false gospel that must be undone.

Brad Jersak also believes that “God is not angry with you and has never been”  That is not limited to Christians, but to humanity as a whole. Let that sink in. God has never been angry with you.  Which is strange, because we hear mention of the wrath of God and the anger of God all the time in the scriptures, particularly in Jeremiah and Ezekial. To offer a brief survey;

Nahum 1:2:  A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.

Leviticus 26:27-30. Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me,  then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.

Ezra 5:12 But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.

Jeremiah 7:20  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched.”

New Testament?

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 

Romans 5:8-10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

So how can he say that God has never been angry at humanity? You can’t, and you must question the hermeneutic he is using to say that he hasn’t. Furthermore, who is painting this idea of a God who is constantly turning back and forth as if he were some bi-polar deity? It is a caricature that Brad Jersak is propping up so that he can tear it down. I don’t know anyone who believes that, and in fact no significant believer in penal substitution would portray the Father’s act as done for selfish satisfaction to get his anger of his chest. The description falls into the common error of ignoring the Trinitarian unity in the willing and execution of the Son’s atoning work. Father, Son and Spirit purposed to bring about salvation and no one imposed or demanded anything of another in this or any other work of the Trinue God. 

Rejection of penal substitution is sometimes put in terms of a choice between either/or when those who affirm penal substitution characteristically affirm both/and. Brad Jersak might say that the cross was a manifestation of God’s love rather than his wrath, but this is a false disjunction from the standpoint of penal substitution, which sees God’s work of appeasing his own wrath against sinners as the supreme demonstration of his love. In responding to caricatures such as these, it’s important not to assume that punishment presupposes an emotionally unstable deity who flies into fits of rage. Penal substitution does not require such caricatures.

There is also a category error in his comparison of Yahweh to Molech and saying that it would never enter God’s mind to kill Jesus. And yet what do we see in the scriptures? Acts 2;22-23. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—  this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men “

In his sermon Peter combines a clear affirmation of God’s sovereignty over world events and human responsibility for evil deeds. Although Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, showing that God had both foreknown and foreordained that Jesus would be crucified, that it was planned, that still did not absolve of responsibility those who contributed to his death, for Peter goes on to say, “you crucified and killed” him.  Notice how he also includes the phrase “by the hands of lawless men.” Peter also places responsibility on the Gentile officials and soldiers who actually crucified Jesus.

We also read Acts 4:27-28: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”

We are able to affirm both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. The term Whatever” includes all of the evil rejection, false accusation, miscarriage of justice, wrongful beatings, mockery, and crucifixion that both Jews and Gentiles poured out against Jesus. These things were predestined by God. They were part of his and Jesus’ sovereign decree from before the foundation of the world.  And yet the human beings who did them were morally “lawless” and were responsible for their evil deeds for which they needed to “repent” . This prayer reflects both a deep acknowledgement of human responsibility and a deep trust in God’s wisdom in his sovereign direction of the detailed events of history.

In Isaiah 53:10 we readYet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;  he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,  he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Again, we see that it was the purposeful intent of the Lord to crush his son. Some versions read “It pleased the Lord to crush him”. “Pleased” does not connote joy or pleasure or happiness, but rather it was the deferential desire and will of the Lord to do so.  We further see that servant’s sacrificial death compensated for human sin by setting sinners free from their guilt before God, and in fact the Septuagint translates “offering for guilt” as “offering for sin,” which explains why Paul could say that Christ’s death “for our sins” was “in accordance with the Scriptures”

In any case, I hope to not be so verbose next time, but I imagine the next post which will go up Wednesday will be similar in length and scope. This post functions primarily as a primer for more truly horrific theology and beliefs which we will review shortly, but for now I would welcome any feedback that you guys might have.

I’m Writing My Own Bible Version. Which Church In Fort McMurray Will Use It?

Hey all. Just wanted to give everyone an update on a project I’m working on.  I’ve started the process of creating my own Bible version of the New Testament. I’ve tentatively titled it the Dustin Germain Standard Bible, [or DGSB] and am about halfway through writing out the book of Collosians, which will be available as a free downloadable PDF in the near future.  The purposes for writing this has been multifaceted. For one thing, I decided that the Bibles I typically use, the ESV, the NASB and the NRSV aren’t dynamic or relevant enough. The language is a bit too exact and precise for my liking.  I thought of using the Message Bible, but to be honest I’m not entirely satisfied with the Message Bible. It was a good attempt, but I think my translation can serve as a better medium for finding that common ground between the two. For example, in Collosians 2:8-10, the “original Greek” says this :

βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κοσμοῦ καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας.

The ESV, which is a formal equivalent literal translation,  renders it as:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”

Whereas the Message Bible, a pseudo-dynamic equivalent  translations reads:

“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”

That’s a big difference in word count alone- the Message gets 110 and the ESV gets 57. My translation is not as flamboyant or creative as the Message Bible, but I think it does a good job in offering a readable, contemporary alternative which people might appreciate. The Dustin Germain Standard Bible reads:

“Take care to ensure that no one seizes you captive through empty deception and philosophies- which rely on human traditions and are according to the elemental spiritual forces of the world and don’t rely on Christ. For in Christ the entire fullness of deity lives bodily, and you have been filled up in Him, who is the head of all authority and rule”

My translation has only 64 words, and while similar word count alone does not mean its a good or accurate translation or Bible version, it does suggest less interpolations. Furthermore, while it may not have the addition of all the friendly little flourishes [or jots and tittles, as some might call them] that Eugene Peterson liberally peppered his text with, I think it still does a good job at conveying the thrust of the point.

For that reason I’ll also be looking for some Churches and pastors to partner with to help promote my translation. There are at least two Churches in the city who have made it a habit to utilize the Message Bible as one of their main translations, and have even had services where the preaches have exegeted it. I think those two are my best bet for furthering and developing this project. I’m not sure the exact timetable for when this will be launched, or if they are willing to commit to my project, but I hope they would. In fact, I  can’t think of a single good reasons why they might be adverse to using it.

Some well meaning friends have suggested that there might be a bit of push back. They have said that when people see the Bible verse on the powerpoint slide, replete with a mountain scene in the background and a “Dustin Germain Standard Bible” tacked on to the end, that after the congregants puzzlingly try to comprehend what a DGSB is,  they will grow upset and resentful. I’ve anticipated that critique and having given it some thought, am quite frankly not concerned at all. I don’t think anyone will voice those objections or think that. No one is going to care that they are reading my translation when I laud and promote it as a fresh new way to read the scriptures. They don’t do it to the Message Bible, so why on earth would they do it to mine?

So can I count on the pastors and preachers of Fort Murray to help me with this endeavor? Will you start using it from your pulpits? I will be contacting you all shortly to get your support and endorsements for this project. I  hope to see the DGSB quoted in your sermons very soon, and based on your already existing usage of the Message Bible, I am confident that I will receive it your hearty endorsements of my version with a “yea” and “amen”.