Brad Jersak: Tough questions about faith

I’m re-reading A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak:

When I personally turned my gaze to the God who is completely Christlike, I was confronted with how un-Christlike the ‘church-God’ or even the ‘Bible-God’ can be. Setting Jesus as the standard for perfect theology, many of our current Christian beliefs and practices would obviously face indictment. Even significant swaths of biblical literature don’t line up well with the Christ of the Gospels. Claiming that God is revealed perfectly in Jesus triggers tough questions about the God I once conceived and preached. Jesus’ life and character challenges my religious clichés and standby slogans – especially the rhetoric of supreme power and irresistible force. Christ never reveals God that way in his teachings and especially not in his Passion (that is, Jesus’ arrest, trial, torture and death). Yes, he proves victorious, especially in his resurrection, but remember that Paul resolved to preach ‘Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2). You could resist him, you could mock him and beat him up. You could kill him. And we did. Our God is the cruciform Christ, the ‘weakness of God’ (1 Cor. 1:25) who is stronger than men. Why? Because he operates by overcoming love, not by overwhelming force.

Seeing God this way inevitably triggers a barrage of tough faith-questions—an unavoidable domino effect of objections we’re expected to ask with point-blank sincerity.
For example, if God is ‘in control,’ why the chaos in this world? If God is the loving Father Jesus proclaims, what about suffering and affliction? Why does God allow evil people to have their way? Why doesn’t God prevent or protect us from natural disasters? And
what’s the deal with Jesus’ death? Was God really punishing Jesus for our sins? And God’s wrath? Why does God seem to over-react and get so violent in the Bible? Then there are the wars and merciless acts of genocide committed by God and in God’s name! Didn’t God incite these atrocities? The Bible says he did. How is that Christlike? Didn’t Jesus condemn that kind of behaviour as immoral? Or is God beyond morality, unbound to his
own requirements of justice and righteousness? “Do not kill, except when I say so.” But lethal violence isn’t the worst of it. What about hell? “I love you, but if you don’t love me back, I will torture you with ire forever and ever!” Good and loving? What are we to think when the ‘God of the Bible’ seems so un-Christlike? Sometimes even Jesus seems to describe this kind of God. It’s not as simple as tossing out the Old Testament; God the vengeful king makes a cameo appearance in several of Jesus’ parables. Awkward!

For some, these are not genuine questions. They are rhetorical charges meant to destroy faith and kill conversation. And too often, Christians have not faced these dilemmas honestly—we’ve often been evasive, defensive or aggressive.  We’ve fired back at ‘the enemy’ (or at straw men), making ourselves look both mean and foolish. Lack of thoughtful engagement has let the church at large seriously shallow; it’s spurred an
exodus from our fellowships; and it’s preempted many ever from darkening faith’s door. We have also turned on our own, bullying those who wrestle sincerely with these hard questions. Are the questions themselves too dangerous? Does asking them warrant
accusations of heresy? Why are we so afraid?

What if Christ is up to the challenge? What if, instead of throwing up our hands and muttering platitudes, we risked undergoing the devastating strength of these problems? What if, after enduring the purging power of our own atheistic doubts, we discover we
have a firm foundation? If Christ is the Truth, then a relentless quest for truth will lead us right into his arms, won’t it?

And what if life itself offers us no choice anyway? The whole human pilgrimage through life, death and after-life is a refiner’s furnace through which all of us pass. Everything that is combustible will be consumed; anything that can be shaken will be shaken. And
what can’t be shaken? Jesus, the Living Rock on whom the true house of faith will stand.

From A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak.

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