Book Review Wednesdays – Bradley Jersak – A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel – God’s Love and Goodness – Part I

A more beautiful gospel


I am getting married for the second time 6 weeks from now.  I am pretty excited since I believe that God is giving me a second chance at love.  In my first marriage, it ended badly due to my selfishness and my ex-wife’s adultery.  Two wrongs do not make something right.  I am excited to have a “do over” and see if what I learned in DivorceCare, and from the Lord will work in my second marriage.  God is giving me a chance to love as Christ has loved.  Just as Christ loves me, I can then love others the way he would want me to love them.

Example of Marriage and Parenting as Illustrations of God’s Love

This goes along with what I have been reading in Bradley Jersak’s book A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel.  He writes:

“Take up your cross? Lose your to life to save it? Die to live? Hate your life? Serve? Follow? Jesus’ words rebel against every instinct of self-will and worldly freedom I can imagine! Imagine saying this at a commencement speech for college graduates! And yet Jesus says it. To me. To you. Easier said than done, for sure, but also not totally unfamiliar. Isn’t this the basic principle in a marriage covenant? For marriage to work, partners must repeatedly put love ahead of their own interests. Every time we say no to our own whims and wants for the sake of husband or wife, self-will (my freedom to do as I please) bows to self-giving love. Self-centeredness dies another little death and yet, amazingly, unselfish love causes both spouses to flourish. Love, if primary, leads to the genuine freedom of abundant life together. But when willfulness has its way, partners start pining for what? For ‘freedom,’ especially if they experience their partner as self-centered and loveless. Clearly, healthy marriage occurs where mutual, self-giving love—not self-willing freedom—takes the lead.” (Jersak, pg. 57)

God will use marriage and parenting to reveal how selfish we are, or I am.  On the other hand, God gives us opportunities to truly love the way Christ did through the venue of marriage and parenting.  The dishes need to be washed, the laundry needs to be put away, the cars need to be serviced, the dogs need to be walked.  Even when I am tired and do not feel like it, I love my wife to be enough to sacrifice my own needs and wants for hers.  Her love language is quality time.  An example of quality time is if she wants me to spend quality time watching a TV show on Netflix that I am really not interested in, but most importantly, putting my smartphone away while we are watching her show.

Concerning parenting, he writes:

“Another example of the primacy of love is parenting. Talk about infringing on freedom! Women willingly go through great agony for the sake of childbirth. Parents learn that love makes great sacrifices. We sacrifice sleep, time, hobbies and even careers for the sake of our children. Love changes mountains of diapers, tidies up thousands of messes, supervises years of homework and sits through endless practices and performances. Love trades in the convertible for the mini-van and makes countless taxi runs! Freedom can ‘make babies,’ but only love raises them! On the other hand, love is meant to define the relationship and sexual intimacy of ‘making babies,’ just as it leads to the great sacrifices involved in birthing and then raising children. In fact, only two things can cause parents to forsake a child: the necessity of love for the child’s sake or the demands of freedom for the parents’ own sake.”  (Jersak, pgs. 57-58)

Just as Jersak says above, parenting is the best example of God’s sacrificial love for us. Many of us were raised in homes where we didn’t receive the proper love and care from our parents.  The loved us the best they could (Heb. 12:6) and is poor reflection of the perfect love that we can receive from our Heavenly Father.

Our Daddy’s Love for Us


I believe the beginning of love is being able to receive the father’s love.  Jesus tells his disciples during the Olivet Discourse to “abide in his love, just as he abides in his Father’s love” (John 15:9).  It is very difficult for people to love who have never been loved, or it is difficult for people to love who cannot receive love.  Jersak writes:

“A growing number of ‘prayer ministries’* are learning to help wounded people reconnect with God. One of their approaches is to ask God, “Would you show us the moment when this disconnect happened? Would you bring to mind a time when this person came to feel like an orphan?” As they pause in silent prayer, a specific memory or series of memories may bubble up. It could be a critical moment of abandonment or one example of many. The person receiving prayer is invited to express honestly what happened and how it felt. They may express hurt and anger, fear or grief, whatever. And then we (prayer ministers) simply ask God to come into that moment with His healing love. We ask God to draw close so the one receiving prayer can see, hear and feel the love he has for them. In essence, we pray Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians: 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 17 …And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19) I’m overjoyed to say that for almost twenty-five years, I’ve seen God faithfully answer this prayer, whether in an instant or through a process, for all who are willing to open themselves to God’s love. They come to know God as a continually present, intimately close Parent—neither silent nor distant, regardless of their performance.”  (Jersak, pgs. 38-40)

I believe the key to healing and recovery first starts with God’s love.  At the church I have been attending, they have been teaching that walking with God first starts with being intimate with God which then leads to dependency with God which results in obedience.  People who try to recover from life of addiction, childhood trauma, PTSD, depression or anything else cannot recover in their own strength.  As they build their relationship with God based upon his intimacy, their defenses are let go, and they become dependent upon Him and his grace to be able to repent from their habits, hurts, and hang-ups.  They are then free to love the way Jesus loved.  The truth of their relationship with Jesus sets them free (John 8:32).  They finally can taste and see the goodness of God as God becomes their refuge and safe place (Ps. 34:8).

I remember when my daughter was born, as I looked at her in the delivery room for the first time, I was overwhelmed at how much love I had for this precious child. I still feel that way today.  God used that image to show me how much he loves me as his son.  I finally understood through the incarnate gift of my daughter, how much God loves me.  Keith Giles writes about it as well here.

Lily and I

(Lily and I at the House of Flavors in Ludington, Michigan)


The beginning of walking with Jesus and growing in Christ is learning how to receive and walk in his love. Our vision and image of God is shaped by our reception of God’s love.  God wants to heal the distorted images of God that we have received either from our environment, our culture, and churches.  Next week, I will look at some of those distorted images that Brad discusses in his book.  I will also compare a God who is free that is expressed in the Calvinistic God compared to the God that is love that is personified in the “Cruciform God”. Both images are biblical and found in scripture.  One image leads to religion where the other image leads to relationship.

Lily and Sadie

(Lily and our family dog – Sadie)


Richard Rohr Tuesdays – God is Part of the Natural World


Colossians 1:15-20 CSB

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. 18 He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  From <>


When I was at The Ohio State University in the early 1990’s, I was a history major and an anthropology minor with an emphasis on archaeology.  One of the disciplines that I learned in anthropology was Darwinian Evolution, and Philosophical Naturalism (natural selection).  In one of the archaeology classes I took, the predominant theory used to examine the cultural past through the earth was Darwinian Evolution.  One of the great things about Darwinian Evolution and the survival of the fittest was it as a discipline transferable and applicable to other scientific disciplines especially in the social sciences.  It not only applied to Biology, Zoology, and Botany, but also to Sociology, History, Psychology, and Anthropology.  So much of the sciences back then were caught up in the modern era where humanism, technology, and industry were highlighted.  Empiricism based upon the five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting) were the means by which science and these academic disciplines were evaluated.

Fundamentalist view of Evolution

As a Christian, Darwinian Evolution was considered diabolical and evil.  Diabolical because it discredited God’s Word and brought to question many of the truths contained in scripture about God’s Creation that are taken at face value such as the six day creation account, the virgin birth, etc.  Thus questioning the authority of scripture. The class in college that most Christian Freshman dreaded was the Biology 101 class where Darwinian Evolution was taught.  For those College Freshman who were exploring the freedoms that they never had at home, Darwinian Evolution gave them an excuse to party without guilt.

Also as a Christian, we were taught that God is separate from his creation.  He is totally other (Holy), transcendent, immutable (not changing), omniscient, omnipresent, and ever powerful.  Darwinian Evolution from a philosophical perspective even questioned his existence.  Sartre’s question has always been does existence proceed essence or vice versa?  As a humanitarian, a person would say that we created God in our own image (anthropomorphized God) to explain things that are a mystery to humankind.  With the advances of science and technology, science has been able to explain things that humanity has attributed to God in the past.


Creation as part of God’s Essence not Separate from it

According to Richard Rohr, that is not the case, humanity and God are not separate, but one.  God isn’t a dualist God who creates the universe, and then leaves humanity to oversee his creation (Gen. 1:28).  God is ever present in his creation.  He explains:

Irenaeus (130-202) taught that the whole creation flows from the very substance of God.  All things carry within them the essence of the One.  Irenaeus signaled his concern about the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing.  This was to become the standard of Western  Christianity’s approach to creation.  Creation would be viewed not as coming forth from the substance of God, but as fashioned from afar by a distant Creator, made out of nothing from high.  Irenaeus intuited that this would be a disaster, that to neutralize matter, to teach that creation does not come from a holy substance would lead to abuse of creation… Matter was not holy.  It had not come forth from the womb of God’s Being.  Rather it was made from nothing.  It was essentially devoid of sacred energy. Religion had become the accomplice of the state’s subordination of the earth.  It had sanctioned the separation of spirit and matter.


I agree with Father Rohr, both Darwinian Evolution and a Biblical View of Creation fall short of what Irenaeus taught on the holiness of God’s creation.  Evolution teaches that all of creation came from the big bang and we had mutated from a single cell.  Biblical Creation teaches that God did create the universe in six literal days, but isn’t invested in the universe that he created.  They both fall short of Ireneaus intuition about God’s creation.  God IS actively involved in his creation since his essence is a part of creation.  We see this in nature religions such as Shamanism and what the Native American’s believe about the Great Spirit how God is actively involved with the natural world.  As a response, they respect the earth that God has given to them.  Same with the Druids and those that practice both Wicca and Druidry have a high respect for the earth.  For Irenaeus, and for the Druids and the Native Americans, God is both transcendent and immanent.

According to Rohr, God is above us all and in us all.  The Apostle Paul echoes these words when he spoke to the Athenians, “for in him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own poets have said, “For we are his offspring” (Acts 17:28 CSB).

Rohr continues and says that Jesus was not to save us from our nature, but to restore us to our nature and to bring us back into relationship with the deepest sound within creation.  Irenaeus describes Jesus as “recapitulating” the original work of the Creator, as articulating again what we have forgotten and what needs to be repeated, the sound from which all life has come.  Jesus re-sounds the beginning.   He resounds with what is deepest in the matter of the universe… The Christ story is the universe story.  The birth of the divine-human child is a revelation, a lifting of the veil to show us that all life has been conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the universe, that we are all divine-human creatures, that everything that has being in the universe carries within itself the sacredness of Spirit.  Thus we are God’s offspring, the Apostle Paul asks the Athenians a rhetorical question, “since we are God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver, or stone fashioned by human art and imagination.”  (Acts 17:29 CSB) 


Through Christ, God restores creation including ourselves.  He not only saves us from sin and deliver us from death, but he also reconciles us to himself including creation by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20).  All things are held together by God through Christ (Col. 1:17).  The essence of God resides in us and within his creation.  We can see his handiwork all around us.  God didn’t just create, he birthed creation.  God grows as his creation evolves and changes since he and his creation are one.

Again, both Darwinian Evolution (from a philosophical perspective, and Biblical creation fall short.  If we have mutated and exist by chance, then the strongest survive and might is right.  Those that hold power can use, abuse, and rape God’s creation.  Also, if we believe that God did literally create a biblical heiarchy of creation with humankind on top, it is a great responsibility to steward the earth, yet in our sin and brokenness, we also have used, abused, and raped God’s creation.  Thus both possibilities fall short.  However, evolution is observable and provable as a species can adapt and evolve within itself.  Also, God has given to us the responsibility to take care of his creation and steward it wisely.  To be life-giving to his creation rather than take from it.  Father Rohr takes us deeper into the nature of God by giving us a bird’s eye view of his essence being part of the natural world.  The result is deep respect, and love for the natural world.


Heretic (Belated) Fridays – Bradley Jersak – Her Gates Will Never Be Shut

Saturday, March 10, 2018
9:36 AM

Bradley Jersak grew up in an Evangelical church, became involved in the Anabaptist tradition of the Mennonites after meeting his wife later pastoring an Anabaptist church that was full of spiritual misfits like addicts, those with learning disabilities. From focusing on doctrine when in the Evangelical church which led him to practicing non-violence, loving others different than himself aka living the gospel within the Mennonite tradition ultimately led him to pursue God through the patristics in Eastern Orthodoxy. He stated in the “Nomad podcast” where Western Christianity viewed the arena of salvation more like a court room where one is “justified” or declared righteous, Eastern Christianity arena of salvation is more like a hospital where salvation is a process restorative which does not end in death.”He writes about God’s nature:

God is not angry with you and never has been. He loves you with an everlasting love. Salvation is not a question of “turn or burn.” We’re burning already, but we don’t have to be! Redemption! The life and death of Christ showed us how far God would go to extend forgiveness and invitation. His resurrection marked the death of death and the evacuation of Hades. My hope is in Christ, who rightfully earned his judgment seat and whose verdict is restorative justice, that is to say, mercy. Hope presumes nothing but is rooted in a deeper confidence: the love and mercy of an openhearted and relentlessly kind God. (Jersak, pg. 9)

According to both Brian Zahnd and Gregory Boyd, Bradley Jersak has written one of the most balanced books as it relates to the afterlife looking at all three perspectives of hell such as Eternal Conscious Torment (“ETC”), Annihilationism, and Universalism. The Bible supports all three perspectives yet each perspective cannot be reduced to a dogma. He writes:

“The stubborn fact is that Scripture is richly polyphonic on the topic of hell and judgment—as if by design. Thus, if we become dogmatic about any one position, we reduce ourselves to reading selectively or doing interpretive violence to those verses that don’t fit our chosen view. Our theological prejudgments blind us to passages we may have read many times but never really seen.” (Jersak pg. 6)

I agree, we are blind to the presuppositions of the paradigms how we as Christians view the cross and violence, salvation, the afterlife, sin and judgment. If one is an Armininan, that person focuses on man’s free will to choose and make their own choice whether or not Jesus death and resurrection was enough. Calvinists focus on God’s sovereignty and predestination, while progressives focus on God’s love. All three believe in a divine judgement. Yet both Armininan believers and Calvinistic believers do believe in a literal hell because if hell does not exist what is the point of evangelism and hellfire preaching? Progressives on the other hand dismiss a literal hell because how can we love others into the Kingdom if there is a fear of judgment.

In part one of this series of blog posts based upon Bradley Jersak’s “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem”, I will be looking at his thoughts on Apokatastasis.

Early Patristics

Acts 3:21 CSB
Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning.

1 Corinthians 15:28 CSB
When everything is subject to Christ, then the Son himself will also be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

My fiancee’s late husband passed away 3 years ago from cancer. God delivered him from his sickness and suffering. He was not a Christian as viewed by most Evangelicals believe and resonated with local ADF Druid group, and associated more with Odin than YHWH. Yet after his death, through a medium, my fiancee was assured that he went through “recovery” safely and was living with God in paradise. Recovery sounds similar of what the early patristics believed as “the lake of fire” or passing through the Red Sea. According to Jersak:

Ironically, given the charge of universalism , neither man denied the existence of hell or the necessity that some should enter its gates. In fact, unlike the infernalists , they saw that all who would enter paradise must pass through the river or lake of fire as the Israelites had to pass through the Red Sea. (Jersak, Pg. 120)

Concerning Gregory of Nyssa and Origen

Origen – Apokatastasis is a theological extrapolation of the final phrase in verse twenty-one (Acts 3:21). It is the doctrine of ultimate redemption that believes a time will come when all things (the whole cosmos) will be saved by grace. This includes creation, the lost, the fallen angels, and for some, even the devil. It is a question of how far God is willing to extend restitution to “all things.” The logic is simple and powerful: when God is finally “all in all” and everything is “summed up in Christ,” evil will cease to exist. Finally, all free creatures will enjoy truly free will because every deception, delusion, and denial; every wound and every resistance to the love of God will be swept away by the light of truth. Who then would not freely bow in worship and adoration? Before the unveiled revelation of the Lord Jesus, even Satan could no longer deceive himself. In that moment, would he repent? Would he be forgiven? (Jersak, pg. 123)

Gregory of Nyssa – Gregory foresaw judgment as a potentially lengthy cleansing process, taking seriously the kolasin aiōnion of Matt 25, not as eternal punishment but something more like “age-lasting correction,” culminating in the ultimate salvation of all. Nor was he shy about his universalism. When death, and corruption, and darkness, and every other offshoot of evil had grown into the nature of the author of evil, the approach of the Divine power, acting like fire and making that unnatural accretion to disappear, thus by purgation of the evil becomes a blessing to that nature, though the separation is agonizing. For it is now as with those who for their cure are subjected to the knife and the cautery; they are angry with the doctors, and wince with the pain of the incision; but if recovery of health be the result of this treatment, and the pain of the cautery passes away, they will feel grateful to those who have wrought this cure upon them. In like manner, when, after long periods of time, the evil of our nature, which now is mixed up with it and has grown with its growth, has been expelled, and when there has been a restoration of those who are now lying in Sin to their primal state, a harmony of thanksgiving will arise from all creation, as well from those who in the process of the purgation have suffered chastisement, as from those who needed not any purgation at all. 16 (Jersak, pg. 125)


Like Brad, I hope that everyone will eventually be with God eternally, in God, united in Christ after death. No one will be annihilated, have to go thru eternal conscious torment and be with Jesus in the New Jerusalem forever. Next week I will look at what the Eastern Orthodox Church believes about the “fire of cleansing”.

Theology Thursdays – Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy – Spiritual Formation – Part I



Orthodoxy is defined as right doctrine or right beliefs. Orthopraxy is defined as right practices. Brian McClaren has this to say about right practices:

“I think it’s because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief. So I would want to get Christian ministers thinking about how to rediscover their own faith as a way of life, because that’s what people are searching for today. That’s what they need most.” (Brian McLaren – Finding Our Way, pg. 3)

Many people today try to distance themselves from empty religion and the traditions they were raised with whether it was as an Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, or United Methodist since religion is associated with rules, regulations, and procedures. On Facebook, and many other Social Media outlets, people would rather pick spiritual, but not religious as their catch all phrase summing up their beliefs.

In the past year, the church has struggled with maintaining any sort of integrity since 81% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald J. Trump. 81% voted for someone who would not even be considered a qualified candidate for elder-ship in their churches. Many Evangelical leaders had either distanced themselves from the brand of Evangelicalism that is being supported by right wing politics and prosperity preaching, or had try to redefine Evangelicalism based upon David Bebbington’s model (Biblicism, Crucifism, Conversionism, and Activism). I have written extensively about that here and here. Evangelicals focus on right beliefs and the main question they try to answer is “what does it mean to be saved?” (John 3:16-17; John 17:3). Yet, even though this question is being answered, many Christians in Evangelical churches feel empty.

On the other hand, Progressive Christians focus on right practices which include feeding the poor, visiting the sick in hospitals, visiting those that are incarcerated, giving shelter to the homeless, welcoming the immigrant, spending time in prayer, doing the spiritual disciplines, etc. (Matt. 25; James 2:14-17). Yet even by doing the right thing, it can still leave someone empty.

When I was in seminary at TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), my discipleship professor used to work with the Navigators which is a parachurch organization that is on college campuses whose sole purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. They are famous for their bridge diagram and emphasis on scripture memory. My professor was at Bowling Green State University as the Navigator Representative, and he groomed leaders within his ministry to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19) after graduation. One woman whom he and his wife discipled was doing everything right. She was involved and serving within the local church. She was part of small group, facilitating bible studies, praying regularly, and memorizing and studying scripture. She confessed to him despite doing all of the good things to grow in Christ, she still felt empty. Through this encounter, my professor had one of those “aha” moments. The secret to Christian growth and being a Christ follower, is learning how to abide in Christ (John 15:9). This would be called Spiritual Formation. The Late Dallas Willard defines Spiritual Formation as:

Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. Its goal is an obedience or conformity to Christ that arises out of an inner transformation accomplished through purposive interaction with the grace of God in Christ. Obedience is an essential outcome of Christian spiritual formation (John 13: 34-35; 14: 21). (Dallas Willard – Renovation of the Heart)

The late Henri Nauwen defines spiritual formation as:

Spiritual formation, I have come to believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection. It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves…Spiritual formation requires taking an inward journey to the heart. Although this journey takes place in community and leads to service, the first task in to look within, reflect on our daily life, and seek God and God’s activity right there. People who dare to look inward are faced with a new and often dramatic challenge: they must come to terms with the inner mysterium tremendum—the overwhelming nature of the inner life. (Henri Nauwen)

Thus, most of us need a heart change. The process of having our heart changed is inner transformation being formed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

Liturgy of the Ordinary

I believe Christians are beginning to understand that to experience God daily and to not be left wanting or empty, spiritual practices or habits need to be part of a Christian’s daily life. Christianity Today’s book of the year is precisely about making “sacred space for God” in our daily ordinary activities. It is called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. She writes:

But God has loved us and sought us—not only as individuals, but corporately as a people over millennia. As we learn the words, practices, and rhythms of faith hewn by our brothers and sisters throughout history, we learn to live our days in worship. (Warren, pg. 31).

She compares the rhythms of faith as making the bed. She says:

The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of Christian faith – making the bed, doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small-that God’s transformation takes root and grows. (Warren, pg. 35-36)

Even popular Christian author John Eldredge is catching on to what Tish has written above. He calls this “doing the dailies”. According to Eldredge, doing the dailies creates a sacred space for God in our busy, crazy, fast paced lives. Eldredge gives some practical ideas how to connect with God daily. They are:

1) Unplug – Turn off computer, smart phone and tablet. Social media, emails, Netflix are distractions away from God and demand our time. Part of unplugging is turning off the radio while driving to work in the morning. Sometimes, this part of the day is the only part where we are truly alone with God. We can practice silence as we listen to God’s voice while driving, and talk to him about our concerns (prayer).

2) Get outside and enjoy God’s Creation and get some sunshine. Getting our daily vitamin D, even for a moment can lighten our moods and break up some of the monotony of the daily pressures and grinds that the computer and social media bring in our daily lives.

3) Pray – talk to God and listen to God. Give our day to God. Thank God for the day before bed.

4) Read, meditate, memorize and reflect on God’s Word. Affirming God’s truth in our lives combats any negativity or lies that Satan spews in our direction. It strengthens our position in Christ Jesus. Speaking God’s truth over us and each other brings intimacy with God (John 8:32)

5) Listen or play worship music – Another way to receive God’s Word and truth throughout the day

6) Exercise


I believe, the above is probably going to be the theme of John Eldredge’s next book. Over the next eleven weeks, I will explore Tish Harrison Warren’s book Liturgy of the Ordinary in more detail. I do believe that the sacred practices that she raises within her book are lacking in the church today. These practices will put all of us in the path of the Holy Spirit, and draw us into a deeper relationship with God.

Book Review Wednesdays – Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – Brian Zahnd – Zahnd’s Eschatology – Part III

Sinners in the hands of a loving God


In 1991 the wall fell in Berlin.  The wall separated East Berlin which was part of East Germany (Communist) and West Berlin (Non-Communist).  The wall was a symbol that stood for the division between the Eastern Bloc nations headed by the USSR and the Western Bloc Nations headed by the United States.  After the wall fell all of the Eastern Bloc nations became independent of the USSR.  The USSR crumbled and left standing was an independent Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, etc.  In the walls place rose the Pax Americana – the American peace.  In the power vacuum was left with a fight between the West symbolized by secularism (North America and Europe, Russia, China and the East) and the East (the Middle East, Africa, South America) symbolized by religion (Catholicism and Islam).  The fastest growing regions of the world towards Christianity is in Africa and Latin America.

On September 11, 2001, two planes intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City by Islamic terrorists.  The World Trade Center and New York City itself symbolized commerce and the economic power of the west.  The Religious East has declared war on the Secularized West.  Dictatorships in the religious east began falling and left a power vacuum between the regimes of the old guard and the radical Islam led by religious clerics inspired by Sharia law.    The Armageddon the conflict between East and West is in Syria.  150,000 people have died to date.  Both the United States and Russia have been drawn into this conflict.

In 2008, the first African American President, Barak Obama was elected as President of the United States.  It was a first, and many minorities celebrated the victory.  However, many white, conservative Evangelical rural Americans were threatened by his policies especially since the new President was an avid supporter of same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood.  They saw their religious freedom being threatened by his policies.  In addition, many rural Americans saw their jobs being eliminated by globalism and immigration from Latin America.  As a backlash, they made a deal with the devil to elect a person that would not even qualify for the office of elder in most of their own churches.   Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States who promised to “Make America Great Again” by supporting isolationist policies as it relates to global commerce and foreign policy, and putting a conservative strict Constitutionalist on the Supreme Court who will protect religious freedom, and allow them to keep their guns supported by the second amendment of the Constitution.  Thus, instead of focusing on the Kingdom of God, white Evangelicals supported a hybrid form of Christianity that looks more like Nazi Germany, Imperialist Russia, and Constantine’s Church than the Kingdom of God supported by Jesus and the Apostles.  Keith Giles says this about nationalism:

Even worse, the Christian Church, once entangled with the State, would cease to carry the cross of Christ and begin to wield the sword of Rome. The oppressed would become the oppressor, not only of the weak and the marginalized, but even of other Christians.  (Giles, Keith. Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb (Kindle Locations 898-900). Quoir. Kindle Edition)

Brian Zahnd

Brian Zahnd would agree with Keith that the cross and the state should always be separate.  Neither should influence the other, and that real change happens not in the public square, but on the grassroots level person to person, house to house as we as Christians share God’s love with our families, co-workers, neighbors, and those that we are in community with.  Zahnd writes:

John wants his readers, who he fears are slipping into a complacent complicity with Rome, to remember that Rome isn’t evil only when it persecutes Christians; rather, Rome is always evil because of its idolatry and injustice. Empire is always a direct challenge to the kingdom of God. To be faithful to Christ and his kingdom means that the believers in the seven cities of Asia Minor must resist the temptation to accommodate Christian faith to Roman civil religion. (Zahnd  pg. 152)

Revelator shows us how Jesus’s lamb-like kingdom is the saving alternative to the beast-like empires of the world. Through his masterful use of drama and symbol, those who read John’s theatrical play are shown that the way of the Beast leads only to the hellish lake of fire, while the way of the Lamb leads to the heavenly city. Revelation isn’t about the violent end of the world; it’s about the end of the evil of violence. The book of Revelation doesn’t anticipate the end of God’s good creation; it anticipates the end of death-wielding empire.  (Zahnd pgs. 153-154)

Brian Zahnd’s Interpretation of Revelation

In chapters seven and eight in his book Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd interprets the book of Revelation in a cosmic symbolic theatrical portrayal of the Kingdom of God in conflict and at war with the Empire of Rome.   In Zahnd’s eschatology, he discusses how John the Revelator wrote a subversive book as an encouragement to the churches in Asia to persevere and hold true to the Kingdom of God and not be conjured and entangled with seductive power of Rome.  Ultimately God will destroy and overcome Rome and win in the end.  Zahnd writes about symbol and this cosmic struggle:

The only way to consistently interpret the book of Revelation is to acknowledge that everything is communicated by symbol. While everything in Revelation is symbol, these are not empty symbols. Whether it’s a river of blood flowing as high as a horse’s bridle for two hundred miles or a tree bearing twelve kinds of fruit with leaves that heal the nations, these are symbols that point to terrible and glorious realities. Both Armageddon and New Jerusalem are symbols, but they are true symbols of very real alternative fates. The way of the Beast leads to Armageddon, while the way of the Lamb leads to the New Jerusalem.  (Zahnd, pg. 153)

Zahnd’s Contrasts

Zahnd also discusses the contrasts that John the Revelator uses in his apocalypse.  They are the Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) vs. the Unholy Trinity of Dragon, Beast, and false prophet.  The other contrast is the fields of Armageddon symbolized by war and violence vs. the New Jerusalem.  Concerning the Unholy Trinity, Zahnd writes:

In Revelation the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet are a kind of unholy trinity symbolizing satan, Rome, and imperial propaganda. The frogs that crawl out of the mouths of the unholy trinity are the demons of accusation, empire, and propaganda. These demonic frogs exert a powerful influence over world political leaders. Under the spell of the frogs croaking out accusation, empire, and propaganda, politicians are seduced into leading the world to Armageddon…or Waterloo, Gettysburg, Flanders Field, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima…and so it goes. (Zahnd, pg. 169)

Concerning the conflict between New Jerusalem and Armageddon, Zahnd writes:

But most of all Revelation is a prophetic critique of the Roman Empire. Revelation is a daring proclamation that Jesus Christ, not Julius Caesar or any other emperor, is the world’s true emperor and Savior. It’s the empire of Christ, not the empire of Rome, that is the eternal city. It’s the Pax Christi, not the Pax Romana, that brings true peace to the world. Revelation captures the conflict between competing claims on how the world is to be ruled and saved. Revelation is a wild and creative portrayal of the clash between the beastly empire of Rome and the peaceable reign of the Lamb of God. What Revelation portrays in powerful symbol is the triumph of Christ and his kingdom. John the Revelator, as a Holy Spirit–inspired playwright, employs a genre of macabre comedy in his prophetic play: hideous monsters are finally conquered by a little Lamb, a slaughtered Lamb who lives again. This is how John describes the triumph of Jesus over the Roman Empire and all beastly empires.  (Zanhnd, pg. 153)

Concerning New Jerusalem which symbolizes heaven on earth and the Kingdom of God, Zahnd states:

John borrows Ezekiel’s vision of a mystical temple, a river of life, and healing trees as he paints a picture of a new Jerusalem, the new society formed around the Lamb. It’s Jesus who has emerged from the center of the Jewish world to heal the nations. And where do we find New Jerusalem? Wherever we find people banding together with the intention of following the Lamb in the new way of being human. New Jerusalem is found in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, London, Los Angeles, Lagos, and Beijing. Wherever churches enact a healing presence in broken communities, New Jerusalem is there. New Jerusalem is both a symbolic prophetic vision and a tangible present reality. New Jerusalem is a marriage—the marriage of God and humankind, the marriage of heaven and earth, the marriage of garden and city. Adam’s lost garden and Abraham’s longed-for city are united in holy matrimony in New Jerusalem. As a garden city, New Jerusalem brings well-being to both people and planet. In our hurting world every city needs communities of Jesus followers committed, now more than ever, to bringing this healing. With nations raging and warring, with a planet melting and burning, it’s time to live as citizens of New Jerusalem. Today humanity stands at a crossroads. The way of the beast points to the lake of fire. The way of the Lamb points to New Jerusalem. Those who choose the peaceable way of the Lamb become citizens of New Jerusalem. The bride of the Lamb as the citizenry of New Jerusalem is to be an agent of healing for both people and planet. As the church eventually learned that followers of Jesus cannot treat people as their slaves, we now have to learn that we cannot treat the planet as our slave. As God’s image-bearing creatures we are to exercise dominion over the earth as healing caretakers, not as rapacious profiteers. (Zahnd, pg. 153)


Banquet of the lamb

As citizens of Heaven, it is our role as Christ followers to bring God’s Kingdom symbolized by the New Jerusalem to every city, region, and countryside in our world.  It is the way of peace, not violence.  It is anti-war and brings healing and restoration.  It’s doors are never shut, and there is an open invitation to all peoples and nations at the Lamb’s Banquet.  Isaiah writes:

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, y the sheet that covers all nations; 8he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.  (Isaiah 25: 6-7) (Zondervan. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 155523-155537). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5) (Zondervan. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 294178-294193). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. )

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  (Zondervan. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Kindle Locations 294240-294243). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.) (Rev. 22:17)

Luke 14:12–24

The Parable of the Great Banquet

[12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers(1) or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. [13] But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, [14] and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

[15] When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” [16] But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. [17] And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant(2) to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ [18] But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ [19] And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ [20] And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ [21] So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ [22] And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ [23] And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. [24] For I tell you,(3) none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”


(1) 14:12 Or *your brothers and sisters*

(2) 14:17 Or *bondservant*; also verses 21 (twice), 22, 23

(3) 14:24 The Greek word for *you* here is plural

Zahnd’s eschatology and interpretation of Revelation highlighted the conflict of a loving God that desires to establish his Kingdom on the earth, end violence and war as we know it, and bring healing and restoration to all peoples and the nations.  The banquet table is prepared and ready, are you willing to come join the feast of the lamb?

I loved reading Zahnd’s Sinner in the Hands of a Loving God, and look forward to reading Water into Wine  about when and how God changed his perspective and worldview as a Pastor.  I recommend this book for all believers and to those outside the church who have been abused by the church by those that had a misunderstanding of who God is, and for those that are curious about who Jesus is.

Tuesdays with Richard Rohr – The Light and the Cloud – February 27, 2018 Homily


Mark 9 The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Transfiguration of Jesus

9 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here now who won’t experience death until they see God’s kingdom realm manifest with power!”[a]

2 After six days, Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, Jacob and John, and hiked up a high mountain to be alone. And Jesus’ appearance was dramatically altered, for he was transfigured before their very eyes! 3 His clothing sparkled and became glistening white—whiter than any bleach in the world could make them. 4 Then suddenly, right in front of them, Moses and Elijah appeared,[b] and they spoke with Jesus.

5 Peter blurted out, “Beautiful Teacher,[c] this is so amazing to see the three of you together! Why don’t we stay here and set up three shelters:[d] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?” 6 (For all of the disciples were in total fear, and Peter didn’t have a clue what to say.) 7 Just then, a radiant cloud began to spread over them, enveloping them all. And God’s voice suddenly spoke from the cloud, saying, “This is my most dearly loved Son—always listen to him!”[e]

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, the disciples saw only Jesus, for Moses and Elijah had faded away.[f]

9 As they all hiked down the mountain together, Jesus ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone of what you just witnessed. Wait until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 So they kept it to themselves, puzzled over what Jesus meant about rising from the dead. From <>

Two weeks ago, Mark 9:1-10 was the passage that Father Richard Rohr preached from. The main theme of the text is the transfiguration where Jesus is transfigured in the full Shikinah glory of what he will be like when we are with him at the end of the age. He took James (or Jacob) and John and Peter up a mountain to pray. As they were praying Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus who was transformed with a radiant white light shining through him. Peter, James and John’s mind was blown as they were seeing the pillars of Judaism with Jesus on this mountain. Not knowing what to think of all of this, Peter wanted to have built three shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. A cloud was spread over them and God’s voice spoke to them saying “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.” When the cloud disappated, only Jesus was with them on this mountain. Jesus warned them not to say anything until he was raised from the dead.

From this text, Father Richard made the following points:

  1. We need mountain top experiences with God to help build our faith, and give us the big picture of our relationship with God;
  2. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the prophets and Jesus was a mixture of both. Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. The Old Testament was a foreshadowing and prequel of the main event which was Jesus incarnation, life and ministry, death and resurrection, and finally his ascension. Jesus also represented the unity within diversity
  3. The Disciples were terrified and part of growing in their faith is knowing in part, and not knowing.
  4. The cloud represented the mystery of our faith and intimacy with God
  5. The message of the mountain top experience is that we are all beloved by God as his children.

I love when I listen to Father Richard that he can totally have a profound deep homily which is only about 10 minutes long. To me, most of my Christian growth and transformation has happened surrounding the message of this homily. The message is I am deeply loved by God, and that I am his son.

I feel this way about my daughter. I remember when she was born, and I was in awe of this little person coming out of the womb. She was frail, innocent, beautiful, and perfect. I was a part of her (my genes), and she was a part of me. The deep love I felt for her was beyond words. I am sure every parent feels this way about their children. That is how I felt about my Lily. This is also how God felt about his Son Jesus, and also how he feels about humanity. Jesus being part of God (his essence) reveals to us that we are his child because Jesus is also human like we are (Heb. 2:18).

Because of how f8&cked up this world is, it can be difficult to hear God’s voice and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved. Sometimes all that there is, is a cloud that surrounds us. We need faith and assurance of who we are when we are communing with God. There are a lot of different voices that compete for our attention. None of which is God’s voice who says, you are my beloved son or daughter.
Also, God’s voice dispels fear. When we know we are deeply loved by Father God, neither life nor death, nor anything can come between that love.


Monday Morning Sermon Recap – Lion of Judah as the Barrier Breaker – Neil Gaiser – Kirkersville United Methodist Church

asafe aslan

My family and I visited Kirkersville United Methodist Church yesterday where my friend Neil Gaiser is the Pastor. We met with him on Saturday night at O’Charleys since he is presiding over my upcoming marriage to Jayne Davis next month.

Joh 2:13-22 CEV Not long before the Jewish festival of Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem. (14) There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. (15) So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. (16) Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace.” (17) The disciples then remembered that the Scriptures say, “My love for your house burns in me like a fire.” (18) The Jewish leaders asked Jesus, “What miracle will you work to show us why you have done this?” (19) “Destroy this temple,” Jesus answered, “and in three days I will build it again!” (20) The leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple. What makes you think you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But Jesus was talking about his body as a temple. (22) And when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered what he had told them. Then they believed the Scriptures and the words of Jesus.

“between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles’ eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb.

“Come and have breakfast,” said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice.

Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted.

“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?”

“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world.”

“What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world too?”

“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.”

From <>

Neil preached out of John 2:13-22 and it was about one of the instances where Jesus cleansed the temple. In his introduction he was talking about C.S. Lewis and his children’s fantasy series “The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe” about the allegory and metaphors in this series for some of the literary themes contained in the bible. One of the characters is Aslan, the Christ like figure who is the ruler of Narnia, the mythical kingdom that he rules. The scene that he described was taken from one of his other books, about a field where Edmund and Lucy see a lamb lying in a green pasture. Yet when they come close to the lamb, in its place is Aslan with all of his golden glory. In this image, Jesus is both the lamb of God who is approachable, meek and mild, transforms into the lion who is holy, radiant, and majestic. The lion represents God’s authority.

The title of Neil’s message was the Lion that Breaks Barriers. Jesus came from the line of Judah, and their symbol was the lion. Just as Aslan was the rightful king, who broke the barriers between the worlds, Jesus did the same when he cleansed the temple.

The Temple Complex

First, the temple represented to the Jews where heaven and earth meet. This is where God resides within his temple in Jerusalem. In order to approach God in his holiness, a person had to offer sacrifices prescribed by the Law of Moses. In the court of Gentiles were money changers that provided animals that were to be used in the offerings to God. In addition there was money exchangers who would exchange Roman currency for Jewish currency to purchase animals for sacrifice. The money exchangers would exchange money with compounded interest up to quadruple the amount that was being exchanged. The animals to be purchased for sacrifice were also marked up at an alarming rate as well. The court of gentiles looked more like a Roman/Greek Agora than a place of worship. The Sadducees were the political party that ran the temple complex and all of Jerusalem. The temple was even more crowded than usual since it was during Passover when Jesus cleansed the temple (John 2:13). Many pilgrims from all over the Roman world would be making their way to Jerusalem for Passover.

Jesus Breaks Down Barriers

Many of those that came to Jerusalem to worship God during Passover were God-fearers. God fearers were Gentile believers that were not circumcised and were not the children of Abraham by blood. By making the court of Gentiles into a market place, it prohibited Gentiles from having a place of worship. In the other gospels who give this account. Jesus angrily says:

Mar 11:17-18 CEV Then he taught the people and said, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house should be called a place of worship for all nations.’ But you have made it a place where robbers hide!” (18) The chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses heard what Jesus said, and they started looking for a way to kill him. They were afraid of him, because the crowds were completely amazed at his teaching.

Part of this reference refers back to Isaiah 56 where the prophet foretells that the temple will be a place where foreigners and eunuchs can come and worship. Eunuchs were mutilated or had birth defects and were not clean either by birth or what was done for them so they were excluded from worship, as also was foreigners. Yet Isaiah says:

Isa 56:7 CEV I will bring them to my holy mountain, where they will celebrate in my house of worship. Their sacrifices and offerings will always be welcome on my altar. Then my house will be known as a house of worship for all nations.

Jesus also quoted Jeremiah when he called the temple a den of robbers (Jer. 7:11). Instead of being a place were people can meet and worship God, the ones that ran the temple excluded those that they deemed unworthy to worship God. They were the foreigner, the eunuchs, the maim, the poor and oppressed, and the unclean. According to the Zondervan Study Bible:

2:15-16 Jesus is not condemning the merchants for dishonest business practices but for being in the temple area at all and thus excluding the Gentiles from praying there (see note on v. 14). They transformed what should have been a place for worshipful prayer into a noisy market. Jesus may be fulfilling the Messianic expectations of Zech 14:21, where “Canaanite” could be translated “merchant” (see NIV text note there), and Mal 3:1,3.

This happens today in churches where churches discriminate based upon race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity. Instead of being an inclusive place that embodies the gospel, churches have become complex, corrupt, bureaucratic discriminatory organizations that do the very thing that Jesus condemned. We need a barrier breaker like Aslan to come and cleanse our houses of worship.

The Temple Destroyed

Jesus also refers to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD by the Romans. The temple became the symbol of Judaism and a false idol. When the Jews talked about how long it took to build such a massive complex by Herod, they were idolizing the temple. Even after its destruction by the Romans, the Jews in the later half of the first century were praying for purer version of Herod’s temple. Jesus is also referring to his death and resurrection. The final barrier that will be destroyed is death itself. Jesus will bring God’s presence to all people when he is resurrected. God’s presence will reside in all people who believe and call on his name. There will be no more exclusivity. God will dwell with his people. The Apostle Paul says this in Galatians:

Gal 4:6-7 CEV Now that we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. And his Spirit tells us that God is our Father. (7) You are no longer slaves. You are God’s children, and you will be given what he has promised.

Literally, the word “into” in verse 6 means to dwell or pitch his tent. God’s Spirit now resides in all of us because of what Jesus had done.


It was a lot of fun seeing Neil preside over his church and have a proper liturgy, celebrate holy communion, see and hear him preach, and also fellowship with those in his congregation after the service for their chili cook-off. Neil, like myself believes that God is inclusive and invites all to his table regardless of race, gender, sexual identity and ethnicity. Like me, he sees how the church has wrongly discriminated against those that are not white, not male, and not heterosexual. Like me he believes in the equality of all humankind under God’s Spirit.