No, it wasn’t Rob Bell (although I’d love to meet him too).
He is a Canadian, Orthodox theologian whom I had the privelege of meeting at a Methodist church in South Africa a few weeks ago. This man does not believe that Jesus died to appease us from God’s wrath and save us from God’s justice. In terms of divine judgement and the hell discussion he considers himself a “hopeful inclusivist” and has written a book about it. Despite growing up in and studying in an evangelical setting he is now a part of the Orthodox Christian community. These three things would give cause for many to label him a heretic in the first degree. In fact it didn’t take much online searching to find this quote from an admirer’s blog. “Stay away from Brad Jersak: he is one of the wolves that Jesus warned us about; he consistently attacks and condemns orthodox biblical Christianity in his writing and ‘ministry’ and he openly associates with enemies of the gospel as if they are brothers.”
Yet when I heard this man preach about the Cross of Christ I was ignited with fresh passion and admiration for the beauty of the good news of Jesus. As he touched my shoulders and looked into my eyes I felt and saw the Love of God. I saw a man who had given up some of his vacation time to minister to a few dozen people in a foreign country on a Sunday evening. He led us through a “listening prayer” exercise where many (including myself) were lifted of burdens we were never meant to carry. A 12 year old boy came up afterwards and testified as to how God had completely removed something he had been struggling with for almost half of his life! This man was full of joy that Jesus had set another person free. Brad has an extensive knowledge of the Bible and church history and went out of his way to speak to me and my friends about weighty matters when he could have just gone home.
Does that sound like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to you?
Why do we in the church continue to go on the “heresy hunt” and discredit each other? Surely it breaks God’s heart to see his children throwing around hurtful, personal insults at each other, instead of building one another up and sharpening each other with humble discussion. Perhaps it would be good for us to remember Jesus’ teaching that we will be “judged in the same way we judge others.” (Matthew 7:2).
My wife and I recently read an article which called the bestselling novel “The Shack” blatant idolatry and borderline heresy. The author urged people not to flock to their local cinema and watch the book’s film adaption. We couldn’t help but wonder how many people would heed this man’s advice and instead go and watch a movie like “Fifty Shades Darker” or something similar!
Perhaps we are putting our energy in the wrong place.
Yes, I know that there are people in the world doing questionable things in the name of Jesus. There are people who seem to be gaining a lot of money, power and recognition in the name of a God who celebrates servanthood and identifies with the poor and lowly. I’m not saying we should completely ignore calling others to accountability. However, if we say that everyone who doesn’t believe the basics of what we believe is a heretic we are actively detroying ourselves and the work of God in our world.
The great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that “Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.”
Amen to that.
Do you care more about defending truth or becoming love? Do you spend more time building others up or cutting others down? How do you interact with people of contrasting opinions, especially on social media and on the internet?
To reap the fruit of Brad Jersak’s ministry check out the following: