Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reading “A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #3

JersakIn this post we begin looking at Part 2 of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. Part 2 of the book describes The Cruciform God. In this section Jersak shows that Christ crucified is the ultimate revelation of the nature of the Trinity and how God works in the world. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 6, Of Lions, Lambs and Donkeys Kenosis—Cruciform Power, Jersak's main point is that Jesus’ incarnation, kenosis (self-emptying) and crucifixion are a revelation of God's glory and nature and how he brings about His plan to judge, reconcile and remake the world. Instead of coming as a conquering king on a war-horse Jesus comes humbly on a donkey. Even in Revelation 5, when Jesus as a ruling lion is announced, John sees a pierced lamb and announces a victory won by the blood, not of the enemies, but the blood of the lamb. It is the nature of God to win and rule through self-giving love and this is how the church should advance His kingdom as well.

Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns. Thus, kenosis, which is to say love (!), is the heart of who God is. Not lording over, but always coming under; not triumphing through conquest, but through the Cross. 101

Jesus is a Lion because he is the king who has already overcome; he is a Lamb because that victory came, not someday through violence and conquest, but already, through kenosis— through sacrificial love. And this Lion-Lamb is worthy to rule, why?...Jesus’ global, universal and eternal kingship was established at the Cross and confirmed by his resurrection. His dominion over every people group will not be won through a someday-sword, but has already purchased by his blood. 106-107

The fact is, in John, Jesus virtually treats the Cross as the Final Judgment! The world is judged, Satan is defeated and Jesus is glorified. He is given all authority and reigns in a kingdom that advances in the same way it came: through the kenotic power of love...the crucified and glorified Christ—the apex of God’s kenotic power and ‘cruciform’ love—is our clearest image of God’s very nature from beginning to end! The Cross is the all-encompassing revelation of the Christlike God.  115-116

Chapter 7 is titled The Cross as Divine Consent. The main idea here is that God does not act in the universe, or interact with people, through coercion and control, but through consent and participation. God has created the universe in such a way that its forces (gravity etc) are permitted to operate freely. Human beings are created with personal freedom of choice. God desires a universe in which human beings are in relationship with him based on free response to his love. This creates the possibility of evil and disaster, for which God is not directly responsible, but is a "necessity" of a relational creation. But, God also actively limits Himself to participate in this universe, ultimately allowing human choice to nail him to a cross. He thus accomplishes what He has planned for the universe to be. Jersak says that God is "in charge," but has relinquished "control." Human beings must respond in the same way, relinquish power and submit to God, to become the image of God they were created to be.

The fullness (in Greek, the pleroma*) of God’s saving comes as God participates fully in the human condition—from birth to death—and consents to enduring temptations, trials and even the extreme humiliation of crucifixion. The fullness of our salvation comes as we participate in Christ’s death and as we fully consent—cooperate and surrender—to his grace. 121

So we say, in God’s good order, human agency and natural law (the secondary causes) are necessary conditions. Necessity is established by a good God for our good—thank God we are free to fall in love and able to stand upright on the ground—but necessity can also cause human affliction, from broken hearts to broken bones, from horrific to mundane. In short, God creates and then consents to necessity, for better or for worse, even while we invoke “deliverance from all danger and necessity.” 132

Satan offered a shortcut to power, bypassing kenosis and consent and a cross. But Christ saw through it, passed the test and truly fulfilled what humanity was destined for—the perfection of the divine image—by laying down power, yielding to the Father and mediating God’s redeeming love to the whole world. 138

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