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.