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.
Sermon Review. Brad Jersak. January 15, 2012. The Gospel in Chairs
Brad Jersak checks with archbishop Lazurte and Mirsolav Volf, who should be noted are not paradigms of fundamental christian orthodoxy. [In the case of Miroslav Volf, the man is a Post-Modern Moltmannian ] and says
“[I spoke about] …God violently torturing his own son to appease his own wrath, and what Volf said was this, he said ‘to say that the wrath of god needs to appeased by the sacrifice of Jesus would be heresy. This is because because it pits God against God the Father against God the Son and it shatters the Trinity in a way that they’re no longer one. And the fathers would have never allowed for that. Because in our creeds, in the ones we believe, God is forever indivisible, united, one God, three Persons. So along came the gospel in chairs. Let me show you another story, where I’m like, I need to upgrade my story.
An understanding of the way in which human and divine agency operates simultaneously in the events of history is critically missing at this point. Any description of the atoning work of Christ that portrays the death of Christ as anything less than God’s intention for the Son’s coming into the world is seriously flawed. Even as Jesus agonizes over the approach of his death he prays: “And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour” [John 12:27]
I spoke of this in the first post, but the death of Jesus was not simply a tragedy perpetrated through acts of human violence; it came about by God’s intention. There’s plenty of reasons why God intended Jesus to die but that he did so is unquestionable. In regard to that intention, its paramount that we always keep in mind the unbreakable harmony between the three persons of the Godhead. Some may complain that it was abusive for the Father to inflict such suffering upon the Son, but this completely misconstrues the mutual commitment on the part of Father, Son and Spirit to every aspect of the Son’s work.
Jesus came to die not simply out of a will to be obedient to the Father but because he was as committed to the redemption of a great host of human beings as was the Father and the Spirit. The Father loved Jesus because, as the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for the sheep, but Jesus did this of his own accord, no one took his life from him [John 10:17–18 . Brad Jersak clearly does not understand the Trinity, and so all his mention of Jesus being pitted against God is nonsense. We will delve into it a pit further later in the post when he makes a clarification of sorts.
He quotes a particularly gruesome quote from Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the hand of an angry God and says that Edwards was his hero and that this is what he believed, but then states we can do better in the 21st century and can go back to the early Church fathers and ask what did those men preach. [notice that he has appealed several times now to the" Church fathers" authority without mentioning any of them, or without elaborating on what they believed or how they would agree with him]
Whereas in the substitutionary gospel that the overwhelming majority of protestants preach we have the chairs pointed away from each other, Brad’s restored version of the atonement always has the chairs towards each other. He paints a picture of history by pointing out various biblical vignettes where God comes looking for people. He begins by speaking about Adam and Eve in the garden, then mentioning the woman with 5 husbands, and says that because Jesus is God in the flesh, that God comes and sits by her at the well. He says “we know from Church history that her name is Photina and she became an evangelist and a martyr.”
Note that this is a terrible use of “Church history.” What are the facts surrounding St Photina the Martyr? She is not mentioned in any early Christian writings. Augustine’s Treatise on the Gospel of John [Tract. 15, 10-12] doesn’t mention her name, neither does St. Chrysostom in his Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, [book 32, chapter 4.] I’ve read a handful of early Christian commentaries and not one mentions her. It would seem that Byzantine hagiographers developed the story of the Samaritan Woman, beginning where Saint John left off, and that the story and name of her was compiled during the 8th century, probably from local traditions, martyriologies or overzealous scribes and commentators. Why should we consider that to be historically accurate? We have no good reason to, and if that is what counts as “Church history” I would hate to consider who he believes the “Church fathers’ are.
He states that in both stories God came looking for these biblical characters because God is always towards them. He offers a few more examples such as Jesus seeking Zaccheus, the woman caught in adultery [Brad says that she was cornered as a way of tricking Jesus, because they couldn't stand the message of mercy he had. Where in the Bible does it say that that the reason they wanted him dead was because they couldn't stand his message of mercy?] The man possessed by the legion of demons that Jesus sets free, and the paralytic man who comes through the roof that Jesus heals and forgives his sins.
“See, we take this very Jesus and we put him on the cross, and St. Stephen the Martyr says “God sent him but you murdered him. And we killed his one. We killed him. We tortured him. We abused him. We sent him down into death and the Father- the Father you know…gives Jesus access to death. This is important. Jesus goes down into the grave in what the early Church taught… that even [in] the grave, Jesus begins preaching the good news. Some of the early Church sermons says that he went down through death to conquer death and he went down into the very pits of hades and he found Adam and he took him by the hand and he walked him out and as he walks out of the grave as his father raises him up from the dead, a train of captives like a parade follow him out of the grave. And we see this in the epistles of Peter, we see it people who have been dead for a long time wandering around Jerusalem because Jesus had led them right out of the graves. And you know even, even when those of our friends and our loved ones, even when they enter the grave- when we…run into the penalty of sin which is death, and we all experience that still, what does the Psalmist say? Even in sheol I am there. He comes down and he makes himself one with humanity and he says “die with me so that you will rise with me”, and Jesus once said there’s coming a day when all who are dead will hear the voice of the Son of Man and be raised, and in that place those who return that love with hatred for as long as they want…have their backs turned on him, the torment of God’s love feels like hell. It’s his love. Have you ever resisted love to the point where it tormented you? Have you ever had your conscience punish you for rejecting perfect love? And for all eternity if we’re able to say no to that love we would experience the profound regret and the punishment of our conscience, but for those who turn to him and return that love with love it feels like heaven.
So the way we preached it in the past is almost like ‘well he’s got two places and you can go there or you can go there’. How the early Church taught it was that there is a river of fire, the glory of God, his perfect love that flows from the throne and to those who rejected it feels like hell, to those who receive it feels like heaven. It’s a lot like the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness. To the…to the…. Pharaoh and his armies, the very same cloud of glory that gave warmth and light and comfort to people of Israel felt like darkness and something fearful. So this is not about God threatening us, its about him welcoming us into his incredibly wide, deep, rich, long, wide, you know, love and saying you know, ‘who’s in?’ And he’ll say it for as long as he need sto say it. He says ‘I’m the ressurection and the life’, and he conquers death and I’m the one who lives and I was dead and behold I’m alive forevermore. And I hold the keys to death and hades.
Here’s a seed for you. If Jesus holds the keys to death and hades, and he is perfect love, what do you think he’ll do with them? And it just feels to me like there’s a wideness here that is just always wanting to push our boundaries about whos in and who’s out like we know. And what if..what if he loves you period.? So that’s a bit f the restorative version. Did you notice the direction of the chairs? The God chair is always towards you. On days when you’r being good he’s towards you. On days when you’re being really, really bad he’s towards you. Romans 5 says this “even when you were his enemy, Jesus made you god’s friends. “
There is much to be said about those three paragraphs. First notice that he is speaking on heaven, hell, eternal damnation, punishment, the rewards of heaven, salvation, justification, glorification, and there is no scripture to speak of. There’s nothing there. He is not exegeting scripture. He’s not examing Matthew 25:29-30, or verses 31-46. Or Mark 9:43-48, or Mathew 13:41-50, or Luke 16:19-31. He is merely tearing down the traditional, historical understanding of these things and asserting new definitions and understanding. None of this is biblical and at this point its evident, 35 minutes in, that he’s not even trying.
He makes more assertions about the early Church and what they supposedly taught. I’m guessing his idea of Church fathers are a few scattered 7th-9th century Eastern Orthodox mystics. That would make sense, especially after seeing his assertions about “St. Photina”. In any case, here is an extremely brief survey of some of the ante-nicene Church fathers and their views on hell and the eternal punishment. While you read these ask yourself; is what Brad Jersak’s saying about what the Church fathers believed true? Did the early Church really believe there was no eternal hell? Did the early Church really believe that even after death God was still calling people, and if they would only start to love him they would be free to go to heaven? That there is the possibility that eventually all will be saved? That “there is a river of fire, the glory of God, his perfect love that flows from the throne and to those who rejected it feels like hell, to those who receive it feels like heaven”?
Second Clement. If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]).
Justin Martyr. No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments (First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]).
[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons (ibid. 52).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]).
Irenaeus. The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . It is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,” they will be damned forever (Against Heresies 4:28:2 [A.D. 189]).
Hippolytus. Standing before [Christ's] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: “Just is your judgment!” And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).
Cyprian of Carthage. An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252]).
Make no mistake, Brad Jersak, while not teaching full-fledged universalism, [or dogmatic universalism] does believe in a similar eschatology as Rob Bell does. He is a proponent of hopeful inclusivism, whereby death and hell is not the end. Even after death God still calls and woos people. He would posit that people still have the ability to freely deny the love of God in the afterlife, which seems like hell [thought it actually is not] or freely accept the love of God in the afterlife, at which point it would feel like heaven. This is the culmination of several ideas, such as God is a non-violent being who does not enact violence upon his creatures, mankind does not have original sin, God is never angry with people and has never been, God has no enemies, God is always facing people, and because God’s primary and overriding characteristic is love, he will always offer that love to people, in this world and in the next, at the expense of any judgements he might have.
Also, notice the false dichotomy he offers. In his restorative version of the atonement and God, his gospel in chairs, he points out that in his version God always seeks after people, and that his stories are proof positive of that. But doesn’t God do that in the former satisfaction view of the atonement? We too believe that God came to seek and save the lost. Him pointing out those few instances are not proof that his view is the correct one, and that ours is too small and needs and upgrade. He presents it as “In my view God seeks after people.” And as if ours doesn’t!? This is really bad argumentation. And so really, what arguments has he made that his new way is better and is the “real gospel”? He never used scripture, he made vague references to the “Church fathers”, he disparaged the other side using mindless caricatures… he ignored all the scriptures that directly contradicts him, and that’s about it? It doesn’t stand up to even the most basic examination and it would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.
After this, Brad offers a brief commentary. He says there are two really critical revelations from this message, from upgrading our gospel to the gospel of a God who never turns from us. 1. This message never pits god against Christ. God never changes, and God is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. in short; Jesus shows us perfectly what God is like.
“Christ did not come to change the Father. Christ did not come to appease the wrath of an angry judge. Christ came to reveal the Father and to show us exactly what God is like. Let me put it this way- “God is like Jesus ” You know, we’ve tried to say “Jesus is God” for a long time, and that’s completely true, but what our world needs to hear is ‘our God is like Jesus’. He’s exactly like Jesus, he’s always been like Jesus and he will always be exactly like Jesus.”
“Paul said on the cross, its not that he was punishing Jesus. Paul says God was in Christ on the cross. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. How? Through punishment? No, through forgiveness. I forgive you.” . Zacahariah 12 says “Yahweh, God says this “you will look at me the one you have pierced. That’s God on the cross and when we committed the worst sin in history, the worst sin in the universe to kill our own God who had come in the flesh just to show us his love …when we did that what was his response? Did he pour out his wrath? No, he poured out his love and his forgiveness. Its like “I forgive you.”
Brad says “Christ did not come to appease the wrath of an angry judge” and yet we see God revealed as an angry judge over and over through scriptures. See Ezekial 7:2-9
“And you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel, ‘An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land. Now the end is upon you, and I will send My anger against you; I will judge you according to your ways and bring all your abominations upon you. For My eye will have no pity on you, nor will I spare you, but I will bring your ways upon you, and your abominations will be among you; then you will know that I am the LORD!’
Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘A disaster, unique disaster, behold it is coming! An end is coming; the end has come! It has awakened against you; behold, it has come! Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come, the day is near—tumult rather than joyful shouting on the mountains. Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you and spend My anger against you; judge you according to your ways and bring on you all your abominations. My eye will show no pity nor will I spare. I will repay you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst; then you will know that I, the LORD, do the smiting.”
Furthermore, I mentioned this in the last post, but this is a really strange way to view the Trinity. Christians ought to differentiate betwee the terms being and person. There is one being of God which is unlimited and eternal and that that being is shared fully and completely by three divine persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is not one third of the being of God, the Son is not one third being of God, etc. Each shares fully the being of God, and we are able to distinguish between the persons because of particular actions that they take both in relationship to one another, and in relationship to creation. So in other words, when we talk about the Father begetting the Son, the Father begets, the Son is begotten, and the Father and the Son together send the Spirit. And so these are distinguishing actions by which we can recognize the differences between the persons. They also take different roles in redemption. Neither the Father nor the Spirit became flesh, but rather it was the Son. It’s the Spirit who indwells the people of God, not the Father or the Son. So it’s important to be able to distinguish between persons and beings [and the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinities, of which the three Cappadocian Fathers Basil, Gregory and Gregory were largely responsible for carving out ]
Its for that reason that you cannot say “God is exactly like Jesus.” He is in that he is the same being, but not that they are the same person and therefore are not exactly like each other. Furthermore, following Brad Jersaks line of thinking, would it then be appropriate to say that Jesus is exactly like God who was meting out punishment and judgement in the Old Testament? Was it Jesus telling the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child? To raze the Philistines and butcher the Amalekite priests? Was it Jesus talking in Ezekial 7? I would be curious to know how Brad reconciles those ideas, as that seems to create more problems for him than it solves.
Brad states that the second revelation is that
“It never pits God against you. God is always towards you. He comes not as your judge but as your great physician, as your doctor. And Jesus was not saving us from God, he’s saving us from satan, sin and death. God never turns away from humanity. God is perfectly revealed in Jesus. When did Jesus ever turn away from a sinful person? Did Jesus ever say “you know what, you’ve gone too far- I’m too holy to hang out with sinners. I can’t look on sin. ” You ever hear that, that God can’t look on sin? Really? Is Jesus God or not? And who did he eat with all the time?
Right? so….the idea of somebody who would turn their back cause they’re too holy to look on sin- that’s not God, that’s the Pharisees. Let me make it really clear, this [two chairs facing away from each other]is not the gospel. This [chairs facing towards each other] is the gospel. The God that turns towards us calls us to turn towards him as forever and ever he says his mercy endures how long? Forever. Alright, so we made our two critical sort of…statements about theology. God is not pitted against Jesus, God is not pitted against you. This idea that he can’t look on sin, I’m like “where did we get that from”? And I found out in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk comes to God and he says this. “You are a holy God and you cannot look on sin,so why do you?” That’s what it says. And we like took half a verse and made a giant theology about so that people feel like garbage. They feel like God has turned from them, [that] he can’t look at them. “I’m too bad” and even some in this room maybe felt like you’re too bad or some part of your life is like disgusting and deplorable to him. And he cannot look at you and he’s like [I'm not sure who the "he's like" is in this sentence. Habakkuk? That wouldn't make sense as he said nothing about Jesus]“he’s not like that.” He’s like Jesus.”
Brad Jersak asks “When did Jesus ever turn away from a sinful person?” Using his logic of how Jesus is exactly like God, and God is exactly like Jesus, and his propensity to mesh and distort the uniqueness and distinctness of the persons of the trinity, couldn’t I say that Jesus turned away from a sinful person when he first struck the Sodomites with blindness, then send fire from hell to destroy them? Or how about in Genesis 38:7 when we read “And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD killed him.” Again in our Ezekial 7 verse? Or does executing wicked and sinful people not count as turning away? See the problems this results in? It’s not the penal substitutionary view that pits God against Jesus, but it is Brad’s restorative view which first distorts them pits them against each other. I do give him credit because I agree that God can look on sin, but he instantly takes that understanding and abuses it.
He states that Jesus did not save me from God, and yet Christ’s death on the cross had to exist precisely because God is against me. Romans 5:8-10 says
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! “
This tells us a few things
1. God has great love for us and demonstrated it in a particular way.
2. Being sinners necessarily means that we were God’s enemies. God is supremely holy and righteous and our sins are a great offence to him, and those sins result in us being his enemy and being against me. God can see me, clearly, in all my muck and mire and sin, and its because God can see me that I am condemned. ie “while we were God’s enemies”. If we remain as his enemies, his wrath would be upon us. This is echoed in John 3:36 “Whoever puts his faith in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see that life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
3. His wrath is terrible and we need to be saved from it. “we be saved from God’s wrath“ We see this throughout the arc of scriptures, and also in Romans 2, where we see that the wrath will involved tribulation and distress and that humanity, due to their sins and being God’s enemies, is storing up wrath to be unleashed upon themselves. Hebrews 10 says “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “
4. We are saved from God the wrath “through him” . That is, in our present state we were unreconciled enemies of God, our our reconciliation occurred when Christ “died for us” /”through the death of his Son” We see this also in Ephesians 2 “And we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, though we were dead in trespasses and sins, made us alive together with Christ.”
5. Even though I was a sinner and enemy of God, and fully deserving his anger and wrath, he demonstrated his love for me by saving me. This is wonderful, precious news. Brad Jersak opines that its a bad to feel that some part of my life is disgusting and deplorable to God, and yet we see that parts of my life ARE deplorable to him. Isn’t all sin deplorable to him? I would not be a sinner and an enemy of God if this were not true. But the glory of his mercy is revealed here, and lets me know that even when I am at my worst and most rebellious, God still seeks people and draws them to him and saves them. That is a warm blanket to my soul. I get to have a legitimate awareness of my sin and the horrific way that it offends a being who is perfectly holy, and I get to live with the beautiful awareness that even then, Christ took it upon himself, and that as 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” and Galatians 3;13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
In any case, there is a lot more that could be said. I wish I had delved more into his bizarre view of propitiation and the way he framed the concept, as well as the relationship between Old Testament sacrifices and how that corresponds to Jesus, the lamb that was sacrificed and slain, and the types and shadows we see in Hebrews 10:1-19. but that will have to be all for now. I hope I am demonstrated somewhat reasonably that this sermon was rife with strange, unorthodox and heterodox beliefs about heaven, hell, the trinity, salvation, the atonement, god’s disposition and view of sin, wrath and judgement, the gospel, and so forth. I hope that we also saw how he used “church history” and “the Church fathers”- which was in a supremely superficial way which gets them vaguely referenced as evidence for his beliefs and yet never once discussed or brought to bear. Also note that Brad Jersak deconstructed many major theological themes and introduced his own unique spin on them without an appeal to the scriptures or to the word of God. Lastly, it should be noted that Brad’s view of these issues is internally inconsistent, and his non-violent hermeneutic falls apart as soon as the Old Testament is brought to bear.
The purpose of this review is not to make personal attacks against Brad Jersak, who I’m sure is a very nice man and is loved by his family and friends. Rather it is to be a careful examination of what is being said in the name of God to the word of God. I really do mean that this is intended to be a gift to the Alliance Church and to others, that they may come to grow in their discernment and be challenged and edified to be Bereans and examine what is said from the pulpit. I hope this offers concrete examples of how Brad Jersak actively preached false ideas about God, how he spun theological tales and tried to buttress it with human words and ideas instead of the holy scriptures.
This was the worst sermon I have ever heard in Fort McMurray, and I’ve listened to hundreds. I consider it poison; theological cyanide which was fed to the flock. That leads us to our last part of this review, which will be how then should we view the Alliance Church in light of them hosting this man and then supporting the content of the sermon itself. I will be posting that final response on Saturday evening.
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.
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 saved] In 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 throughthe lens of a peace-loving, anti-violent God, but from what canon is that lens derived as the essentialhermeneutical 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 greata price has been paid and the Trinity itself may be at risk, for YHWH of the Old Testament comes to look veryunlike the Jesus portrayed in these nonviolent constructions. Certainly, Jesus is the supreme self-revelation ofGod 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.
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 22 “lest 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.”
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. Penalsubstitution 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 readActs 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 53:10we read “Yet 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 had the oppertunity to head down to Interplay for the Kaos World Stage this weekend. I had gone to the interdenominational service last year, which was pretty hit or miss for me, and so I was pretty much expecting more or the same. To that end, I found myself pleasently surprised at the time I had.
I’m of the mind that interdenominational/ecumenical services can be either wonderful or wretched. Wonderful because I love when the visible church gathers and can glorify God across denominational lines and despite important [or unimportant] doctrinal distinctives. Wretched because oftentimes it forces you to gear your message to the lowest common denominator- and Christ invariably gets lost in that.
I didn’t get that sense from this one though. As far as I can tell there was no real “message”. Last year Rick Kirchner gave an 8 minute talk geared towards evangelism, which had its strenghts and weaknesses. This year it was primarily a two hour long mixed worship session, showcasing talents from multiple churches and from multiple people. And I really, really enjoyed it.
I’m of the mind that not only was this thing not about me, but it also wasn’t for me. It was about worshipping God. To that end I think they were very successful.
*note, the video screen drops because i was momentarily distracted talking to someone.
I was listening to the July 3rd sermon at the Fort McMurray Alliance Church, and right at the end they included the song “Beautiful Savior”. It is a simple and beautiful song with phenomenal lyrics. I believe it is sung by Lucas Welsh, and I was deeply and personally blessed by listening to it and worshiping with it.
Your nail-scarred hands are beautiful.
Your nail-scarred feet are beautiful.
And by Your wounds, my wounds are healed.
Your crown of thorns is beautiful.
Your cross of scorn is beautiful.
For by Your wounds, our wounds are healed.
Beautiful Savior. Jesus, we believe.
Despised and rejected. Jesus, we receive You.
Scourged for our atonement. You endured it all.
For the glory of the Father.
We were among the ones You saw?
I hope to be able to include more worships songs from different local area churches in the future, and this is a great one to start it off.
The above sermon was preached by [pastrix?] Bonnie Hodge of the Alliance Church. The central text used is 1 Kings 19, with the main purpose of the sermon being to laud the presence of God and teach the importance of being in the presence of God, which is accomplished by listening to God.
To this end, a fair amount of time is spent emphasizing the import of being solitary in the presence of God. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and amusements and therefore we need to begin the habit of taking time to excise those things from our life and spend time alone with God, apart from our kids, music, spouse, etc. She says “There are times in our lives when God has called us to be in his presence, and in those times we have a choice to make; we can brush it off and say “oh, I don’t have time” or “there’s too many things to do” ,or we can actually step up to a mountain, or step to a valley, or step to a desert place, and say “Ok God, I’m in your presence. What is it you would like me to hear, how is my relationship with you?” [Note. I have no idea what any of that means.]
Bonnie gives us a bit of context for her bible verse, and then quotes 1 Kings 19:8-13a “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.”
I should point out that I think its fascinating that she only quotes the first half of verse 13, and not the second half. I have a theory of why this is, but I will get into that later. In any case, there are three things she wishes to communicate. 1] Being in the presence of God when he calls you. 2] Hearing God’s voice. 3] Once you hear his voice, what you ought to do.
She makes the case that God wants to spend time with us, and that “We talk about Jesus being in our heart, Jesus being in our spirit. That’s a way to describe how close that relationship with God should be. It should be so intertwined that there is no point of our lives that we walk out of the presence of God. It should be so engaged that every part of our decision making prioritizing process should be intertwined with God, that we continually walk in his presence.” I don’t mean to be critical at this point, but am I the only one who is distressed and dismayed at the command to always walk in the presence of God in the way it is being described? It sounds exhausting. Perhaps being in the presence of God is a matter of degrees, but I will straight up say that I cannot bear the weight of that load- not even for a minute. I’m not even sure it is achievable, or that such a situation as described is desireable.
She says that being alone with God is the key to not being burned out, and that when you get bored/ not excited with life- then that is a sign that you need to get into the presence of God. She continues to tell some of the back-story of Elijah, and says that Elijah was depressed because he wasn’t walking in the presence of God. She offers Jesus as an example of someone who stepped back and sought isolation and time with God. [Time in desert, after his cousin John had been killed, after feeding the 20,000, after the sermon on the mount, etc] She builds her case quite well that Jesus did spend time by himself- and then she says that to follow Jesus’ example we need to be in the presence of God, to look upon the face of the Father [historically a very dangerous thing] and allow him to look upon our heart. [I don't know what that means]
Bonnie says that “We are created by God in His image and there is something in the very depths of our spirit that yearns to be connected with our creator God. It yearns. It isn’t just a little thing, especially once you become a Christian, especially once you are connected to that throne of God, that very throne of God to be in his presence.” I would suggest that it is a myth that we have a God shaped hole, and that there is something in the very depths of our spirit that yearns to be connected with our creator God. That is not true. Instead we see a wealth of biblical evidence to show that unregenerate people are hostile to God and are not seeking him, but rather are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. [Romans 1:18-20] Furthermore we see that
Romans 3:10-11: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 8:7-8: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
She says that “We cannot separate our own thoughts, when we are in the presence of God, with what Gods thoughts are.” [Again, I have no idea what the means, especially in context.] But her Bible verses comes to a head when they are tied in with her thesis. At this point I must say that her use of 1 Kings 19, quite frankly, is inexcusable. She says that God spoke to people in earthquakes, wind, fires and audibly, but it’s in the quietness and silence where we REALLY hear from God. Really? Does that make any sort of sense? What biblical passages support this? She says that the only way to hear that quiet voice is if you yourself are being quiet, which is consistent, I suppose, with her previous comments. I can see it now. Rid yourself of the distractions so you can hear God. He’s going to whisper, hiss, cluck his tongue and mutter to us only when our spirits are as quiet as mice, so make sure there’s no faucets dripping or clocks ticking, or else you might miss it.
Here’s the deal. In the context of that very verse, both before and after, God is speaking to Elijah in a very loud, audible voice. Right? All throughout this chapter God is speaking to Elijah as a man would speak a friend- in a direct, audible way. We see in the later part of verse 13b she didn’t quote that God was doing that very thing. And yet there’s no one saying that that is how God speaks to us today- that we should wait and be silent so we can hear an audible voice out of nowhere start talking to us. No, rather they ignore all the verses which are directly before and directly after with God speaking to the man out loud, and focus in on the still small voice.
As it relates to God speaking and communicating to us, if you want to hijack a principle or whatever from this chapter, why on earth isn’t the takeaway that God speaks to us out loud? That’s what’s God’s doing here. In the verse before, and the verse afterward, God is talking to him and straight up asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?” You can’t get any clearer than that. If you’re trying to peg some spiritual act as normative, why go for the obscure line in an obscure passage that was spoken to a single, unique man thousands of years ago? And why use the “still small voice” as the main way God speaks to us, when throughout this chapter and the next God is speaking to the prophet clearly and directly in an audible voice, which leaves no room for error or confusion?
These very facts betray the problem with this sermon. Bonnie builds the sermon around that idea, with the key words being “I think…” There are these mystical overtones which suggest this idea that you can be alone with God and there is this whole interaction where the presence of God is somehow communicating all these things absent the word of God or absent any real prayer to God to reveal the application in life of the Word. Rather it’s all about “just being connected, just reveling in the presence.” It’s an ethereal, unfathomable, unattainable, misty idea without any concrete foundation, but rather relies on subjective, emotional, mystical state of mind. I’m not suggesting that God cannot speak to us at all, but rather that Bonnie hasn’t even come close to providing us with a biblical and logically orthodox foundation as to how this might come about and how it might transpire.
Listen, how about an alternative? Why not say something like, “My beloved brothers and sisters. Christ is real and he has revealed himself in his sacred scriptures. Because of his wonderful grace he saved us while we were yet sinners, and out of abundance of love and gratitude at his mercy, we ought to seek to know Him. [The more you impress upon their hearts how good God is, the more they will be drawn and driven to know him as a response to their recognition of the glory and of God in salvation, not because we don't want to be bored or have bad days] For this reason- let us pursue him. Let us learn everything we can about him. You don’t need to speak any magic incantations to hear from him. You don’t need to follow any prearranged formula or engage in any mystical mind-centering. Rather, because he has revealed himself in his word, and that word is trustworthy, let us read about him there, and pray that he might bind our consciences to scripture. Because the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, we are always in the presence of God, and let us recognize, appreciate, and celebrate that. Let us seek after his righteousness. Take some time to get away from the distractions so that you can quiet your heart and can reflect on the mercies of God, and so that armed with a bible you can partner with Christ in sanctification and cull away the evil thoughts and deeds inside of you as revealed by Scripture, and ask that the fruits of the spirit may be developed within you with greater consistency as you confess your sins and ask Christ to reveal himself to you more in the word”? Why not say something like that, instead of basing your sermon on a really poor understanding and misapplication of 1 Kings 19?
All in all, not impressed, and to be frank a little bit angry. I believe that connecting people with God with a greater consistency, and I think it’s evident that Bonnie believes this too. That passion and zealousness to have people know God better and understand spiritual things deeper is evident, but the way she tried to do this was through mangling the scriptures and failing to rightly handle God’s word. It was inexcusable. It didn’t have to happen, and I am very disappointed.
Alliance Church Sermon Review. March 6. Communication. Pastor Phil.
Pastor Phil begins the sermon by telling the story of going on a cruise to Hawaii. He uses different aspects of his trip as a metaphor for relationships and conflict, such as going through storms, not letting the boat idle in 20 foot swells, that the journey won’t be easy, that you need to trust the captain at the helm, etc.
He spends some time dispensing with the belief that if we serve God that at some point “we’ll make it” and everything will be good. The reality is that if there’s life, there’s going to be problems, and that the Lord would have us develop an ability to walk through the problems. He then reads a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called “Tis the set of the sail” which is about how in life will have problems, and that its up to each person to get through those problems.
We are not born with conflict resolution skills, and we need to have the proper perspective, so that we don’t get in trouble. A captain would never put his boat in peril on purpose, and yet if problems arise, there is no choice but to go through. Our society runs when that happens though. People run when they get hurt, which is detrimental. For this reason our attitude cannot be “oh no, a storm”, because if that’s the case we’re done. If you put your confidence in God the captain, you’ll be able to get through anything, especially in regards to relationships and communication. Conflict resolution can usually best be seen in the context of a marriage. He then gives us several steps in conflict resolution.
1. Call on God and say “God, we need your help”
13 minutes into the sermon we get our first crack at scripture, which is Psalms 145:18 “ The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. “ We are then told in no uncertain terms that “You are the righteousness of God in Christ. Not cause you’re in church, but because of what Christ has done for you”
2. Realize the person you’re dealing with isn’t your enemy.
Ephesians 6:1-18. There is no posturing or favoritism in God. Talks about how we ought to put on the armor of God and have that battle-ready mindset. He says that the number one tactic that the enemy wants us to do is fight each other. He points out the truth of the matter that if people are fighting each other, nothing happens. And yet our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and how do you rectify the two?
“The first thing you can do is say look, in your own mind first, my struggle is not against- we’ll I’ll use my wife as my example. My struggle is not against Linda. And there are times in our heat, and in our marriage, where I’ve had to look at her or she’s looked at me and said “I am not fighting with you. My fight is not with you”. And we’ve had to deliberately position ourselves in our thoughts, as to what it is that we’ve doing. And that was one of the first steps after calling out to God, I’ve looked at Linda and I said “You know what, I’m not fighting you. This isn’t between you and me, this is an assault of the enemy trying to get in and divide us, and make us go against each other.”
Phil says that knowing where the battle is key to your success. Its 85% of the battle. We must not fight against people, because our fight is against something else and someone else. Its not easy to do that, but we must. “You see that’s where we have to… the bible says cast down every vain imagination and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ. What’s the knowledge of Christ? My fight is not against you. That’s the knowledge of Christ. Anything else that comes against that I have to cast down. I have to throw it away, because that’s not an accurate thought.”
3. Show up and be fully present.
This is the hard part. If we’re in a struggle, the last thing people tend to want to do is be together. They want their space or they want to walk out of the room or go into silent mode, Ignoring or letting someone landlord your life. We can’t do that. Conflict is not fun, but it’s necessary
4. Take ownership for actions that you’re responsible for and repent.
This is not saying something like “sorry you got hurt” or “sorry you were offended” but rather “I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I offended you.”
5. Agree with the other person
6. Use submissive language.
This involves your tone and the words that you speak. You don’t want to take the accusatory role of “you disrespect me!”, but rather should be something akin to “when this happens, I feel disrespected’.” Don’t listen to the enemy who gets you riled up and makes suggestive thought, listen to the person.
7. Repent and forgive and ask God for your help.
The balance of the sermon involves telling a story of a counselling session, how he pushed a young man’s buttons to help him get the truth out, and how we need to forgive. He says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. If we cry out and ask him for his help he will be there for us.
This sermon had its strengths and weaknesses. I think it was at its strongest in the middle section, when he used large portions of scripture to back up his assertions of how we don’t fight against flesh and blood. That we’re not fighting people, but rather are fighting against something altogether different. I found it quite instructive, because oftentimes this can get hyper-spiritualized and relegated to the realm of spiritual warfare for prayer warriors and other such things. But this is a great, real world application that we are not fighting our spouses, employers, families, friends, or even enemies. Even stopping in the middle of an argument and saying “Love, I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m not fighting with you.” That makes sense, and it was rooted in a strong scriptural foundation. I can only hope that next time I’m embroiled in an argument with my wife or family, that I can recall these words and bring it to bear. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” Ephesians 6:12-13.
The rest of it though… I’m not sure it was as successful. Not because it wasn’t instructive, because it was, but rather because this sort of relational/non-theological topical sermon is not my cup of tea. Well- that’s not really fair. It was theological, just…loosely, if that makes sense. It’s probably good advice, but that’s not what I personally come to church to hear, or what I’m looking for in a sermon. I think he spoke true things about God, and I like that the whole thing had a very loving and pastoral tone. But but with little biblical support used to buttress each point, it seemed more like a lesson in spiritualized psychology than biblical theology. Its probably all completely true with the right application, but I was hoping for more and found myself wanting.
Two points I did want to comment on, was when he said the #1 tactic of the enemy is to have us fight each other. I’m not sure where it says this in the bible- that its the main tactic. I think its something that Satan utilities, sure, but I don’t see a basis for saying it is the number one of anything.
The second was that he said “but the Bible commands us to forgive [people]. And you know why the Bible commands us to forgive? Because if you don’t forgive you’re hooked to them for the rest of your life. And they don’t care that you’re hooked to them because they don’t care about you cause that’s why they hurt you in the first place” I would like to know what scriptures he bases that on. Where does the bible tell us to forgive, because if not were hooked to people for the rest of our lives? That may be a truism and a legitimate inference, but I’m unfamiliar where we see that that’s why the bible commands us to do it, and so if anyone could provide that reference it would be much appreciated.