David knew the weight of his own desperate failures and the public crucifixion of his reputation as a man supposedly "after God's own heart." His confession in Psalm 51 would become part of the national public hymnal, repeated regularly not only by the Levitical worshipers, but also later in the weekly chants of Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy. The original lyrical process would no doubt have sounded much more guttural, when David groans,
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
I imagine Paul, too, preaching in his early years to congregations that included widows and orphans of his own persecution, would have found that his 'sin was ever before him,' staring him in the face through grieving eyes not yet ready to forgive or trust.
Eventually, though, he comes to this:
6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
The first weekend showings of Noah (the movie) starring Russell Crowe and Emma Watson were accompanied by some surprises and an utter lack thereof. I'll start with the latter to get it out of the way.
No surprise: Evangelical panic
I don't think anyone should be surprised at the usual course of Evangelical reactions decrying the movie for its 'biblical inaccuracies.' (Though I confess to wondering if the Westboro Baptists picketed anywhere). Of course, citing inaccuracies implies that the measure of faithfulness to Scripture is somehow photocopying Genesis 6-9 into the screenplay in a sort of word for word depiction. It's this paint by numbers mentality that keeps many an Evangelical trapped within the lines of their own assumptions -- as if taking the text literally was remotely akin to taking it seriously. Not so!
Confession(s) of Faith - Brad Jersak
As requested, what follows is a confession of faith that clarifies the doctrines to which I subscribe.
The difficulty of such confessions is four-fold.
1. The very idea of a personal doctrinal statement seems to me oxymoronic, in that the Christian faith was ‘once for all delivered’ (Jude 1:3) – a particular Gospel received by and passed on to the Church (1 Cor. 15:3). The best we can do is to identify the heart of that faith and consent to it, rather than composing our own private or even denominational belief systems.
2. The idea of a single confessional statement is also problematic in that both the Bible and the early Church orbit around several summary hymns and creeds, which comprise a constellation of affirmations that all orthodox believers agreed on for the first three centuries of Christianity.
3. The apostles and their successors did not always agree and were willing to speculate freely and broadly about theology. But to maintain unity, they kept dogma (what one must believe) to a bare minimum … just eight sentences after three centuries! To venture beyond the brief historic creeds led to the schisms that fractured unity.
4. Finally, various confessions answer different sets of questions, sort of like asking what suit is ‘trump’ in a game of blackjack or how many points a ‘free throw’ gets in a hockey game. So please forgive me if the following confession answers different sets of questions than the reader might be asking.
Published on 25 Feb 2014
Frank Schaeffer discusses growing up with his Father and Mother, Francis and Edith Schaeffer and the lasting impact they made on the Evangelical Right in America. He carefully traces Francis Schaeffer's engagement with Christianity arguing that, rather than turning away from his parent's legacy, he has instead carried it on through his journey to Orthodoxy.
Becoming Orthodox: From Foxhole to Harbor
By now, most of my social networks and some of my readership have heard of my move into the Eastern Orthodox Church. I was ‘chrismated’ at the end of June this year (2013) and ordained as a ‘reader’ for the All Saints Monastery in Dewdney in October. You might wonder why I—an evangelical / charismatic / Anabaptist—would don a cassock and take up incense and chanting. If you’re curious, here’s the short version.
Why did I become an Orthodox Christian?
First, because in my theology, I already was Orthodox for over ten years. When I say ‘theology,’ don’t think of stuffy, religious hair-splitting. I’m referring to the basic questions of who God is, what God is like, why Jesus came and died, what salvation is and how that happens. On these questions, I feel most at home in the Orthodox tradition, and I finally decided to make it official.
I experienced this as a move from my foxhole to a harbor. Allow me to summarize:
The ancient Orthodox vision as I know it proclaims the saving power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and the ever-enduring mercies of the Father—the same Gospel I have always believed, but came to understand more clearly and preach more overtly a decade ago. To me, it’s the same Good News, but now even more so. I have experienced Orthodox theology as more evangelical—i.e. better news—than what I had known and taught in the context of popular Evangelical-ism.
Of course, there are growing enclaves and popular movements among Evangelicals where theologians of hope are hunkering down and discovering what other Christians have taught all along. But they also endure a barrage of hostilities from members of their own tribe, those who marginalize them with hateful labels and even believe God has called them to the attack. So on the one hand, Evangelicalism continues to morph and mature, while on the other, some of her popular streams still cling to a retributive image of God -- and its most zealous gatekeepers are quick to brand those who don’t as false teachers and heretics. Lord, have mercy.
2 Cor. 5:21 – Andrew Klager,Michael Hardin, and Brad Jersak
Andrew Klager is an Orthodox historian and theologian who teaches at a number of schools in British Columbia, including the University of the Fraser Valley and Trinity Western University. Among his many other contributions to current scholarship, he offered an article to Stricken by God? Non-violent Atonement and the Victory of Christ (Eerdmans, 2007) entitled “Retaining and Reclaiming the Divine: Identification and the Recapitulation of Peace in St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ Atonement Narrative.”
Michael Hardin and his wife Lorri—Anabaptist teachers par excellence—lead a ministry called Preaching Peace (www.preachingpeace.org). Hardin is a Girardian scholar who co-edited Stricken by God? and whose seminal work, The Jesus Driven Life, has just been released in an expanded 2nd edition.
Brad Jersak teaches New Testament and Patristics at Westminster Theological Centre (Cheltenham) and serves as Associate Editor of The Plain Truth and CWR Journal with PTM.org. Brad is also general editor of Clarion.
* * * * *
Brad Jersak: I frequently field questions about the meaning of 2 Cor. 5:21, especially from those who, like me, initially inherited a particular penal substitutionary lens through which to read it. The text reads as follows:
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (NASB).
In the popular Calvinist interpretation, on the Cross, God the Father imputes the sins of the world onto Christ, such that in bearing our guilt, Jesus literally ‘becomes sin,’ or ‘became a curse’ (Gal. 3:13) on our behalf. Since a holy God cannot look on sin, the Father must turn his face away, forsaking his Son and pouring out all the wrath of God against sin upon him. Sin is thus punished in Christ in our place. Thus the wrath and justice of God are satisfied and God can justly forgive all those for whom Jesus died (i.e., the elect, given Calvin’s limited atonement). I believe this is a fair summary of the traditional Reformed position. Indeed, I once held this precise position (as a careful five-point Calvinist) in my MA thesis, “The Nature of Christ’s Suffering and Substitution” (BBC, 1988).
Of course, penal substitution does not offer the only understanding of this passage. The dominant Eastern Orthodox view, for example, holds to a more restorative view of justice and therapeutic vision of the Cross. In that scenario, the Father is seen in Christ (Zech. 12:10)revealing his love and mercy through the Son (1 John 3:16). Rather than satisfying his wrath through punishment, we see God-in-Christ pouring out forgiveness on the world (the whole world) for our salvation.
Abridged excerpts from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way (with commentary questions on using images in prayer by Brad Jersak)
The following is an abridged excerpt from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s classic work, The Orthodox Way (1979). Kallistos (Timothy) Ware is an English bishop within the Eastern Orthodox Church and one of the best-known contemporary Orthodox theologians.
His book includes an outstanding and accessible summary of Orthodox theology and practice, including a clear presentation on Orthodox contemplation. This excerpt is abridged from portions of chapter six.
Following the excerpt, Brad Jersak responds with some commentary / questions regarding the use of the imagination in Orthodox contemplation.
Excerpt from chapter 6 “God as Prayer”
It is customary to divide the spiritual Way into three stages. For St Dionysius the Areopagite these are purification, illumination and union—a scheme adopted in the West. St Gregory of Nyssa, taking as his model the life of Moses, speaks of light, cloud and darkness. But in this chapter (The Orthodox Way, ch. 6) we shall follow the somewhat different threefold scheme devised by Origen, rendered more precise by Evagrius, and fully developed by St Maximus the Confessor. The first stage here is praktiki or the practice of the virtues; the second stage is physiki or the contemplation of nature; the third and final stage, our journey’s end, is theologia or “theology” in the strict sense of the word, that is, the contemplation of God himself.
The following interview took place over several days via email and in person. In it, Brad Jersak queries Archbishop Lazar Puhalo on the role of women and the Orthodox tradition. The conversation was triggered by a statement from blogger and theologian, Derek Flood (www.therebelgod.com), who observed, “So often, even where women are not acknowledged, they are the real spiritual backbone of the church.”
Interestingly, several women are classed as "Equal of the Apostles" in the Orthodox Church. All of them publicly preached the Gospel; most of them were martyred for preaching the Gospel. One of these Equals of the Apostles was St Nina, a slave girl who converted the Kingdom of Georgia (Iveron) to Christianity, and the nation remains to this day the oldest of the Orthodox Catholic Christian nations.
Among the others, Mary of Magdala and Photini (the Samaritan woman at the well) were martyred. St Helen the Empress (mother of Constantine) and Saint Olga of Russia are also "Equals of the Apostles." Both had a great deal of authority over men, and both taught the faith publicly. Both had much to do with their sons’ conversions.
 Church tradition also acknowledges the sisters Mary and Martha, along with Junia (Rom. 16:7) as apostles and fellow-prisoners with Paul. Junia and Andronicus were apparently a couple and are regarded as ‘of the seventy’ whom Jesus sent out as evangelists. Andronicus became bishop of Pannonia, but the two took the Gospel far beyond that diocese.
The following podcast was preached at Fresh Wind, June 23, 2013:
Re: Background research for authorship, dating, and occasion I did my best to let go of both evangelical assumptions about what must be and liberal assumptions about what mustn't be. In the end, the research I found most thorough and arguments I found most compelling did point to Johannine authorship (John the evangelist or possibly a protege steward of his tradition, if John the elder were in fact a separate figure).
Internal evidence, tradition and external evidence, including archaeology and early allusions, led me to lean toward the majority conservative view of a mid 90's composition, probably occasioned by and directed toward disputes connected to the synagogues (Pharisee party Jews vs. Christian Jews--cf. David Rensberger, Johannine Faith and Liberating Community) in Asia Minor (though with possible roots in Judean vs. Galileen communities). Relevance to Christian struggles with Gnostic heresies were more likely much later applications of Johannine theology.
In terms of those whose research I found most meticulous and current--and less speculative--I leaned tooward Craig Keener (Gospel of John, 2 Vols.) and Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses and The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple. Because of the brevity of the message, I briefly dismissed the radical skepticism of Spong as passe, but did not have the time to deliberate on the strength of other views, most notably John Meier in his marvelous series, A Marginal Jew (4 Vols.).
For a sample of Keener's approach, click: Assumptions-in-Historical-Jesus-Research.
P.S. Sadly, at the last moment, I grabbed a different Bible than I had prepared with--the quite readable NET translation--but didn't notice until too late that 3 of the verses in the Scripture reading were in highlighted boxes but not in the main text! And they are obviously important enough to have been highlighted, so I provide them here in that translation, if only to entice readers further:
v. 5 "And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it." (NET)
v. 23 "John said, 'I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, Make straight the way for the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said." (NET)
v. 39 "Jesus said, 'Come and you will see.'"
I find it uncanny how often the so-called 'cleansing of the temple' incident (Mk. 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Mt. 21:12–17, 21:23–27, Lk. 19:45–48, 20:1–8 and Jn. 2:13–16) is cited as an example of Jesus' use 'violence' and then employed as a precedent and endorsement for the Christian use of violence.
It seems bizarre to equate Jesus' prophetic act as 'violent' at all, if our definition of violence has anything to do with 'doing harm to others.' Sure, the temple incident was 'violent' in the broader sense that it was a show of force or an intervention. But that's not how the Bible uses the term: throughout the Bible, the word 'violence' is associated with injustice, bloodshed and death. There's a galaxy of distance between what Jesus did in the temple and killing one's enemies -- something Jesus spoke directly against. This is especially so when just days later he rebukes Peter with the command, "Put down your sword. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword" -- an injunction the early church canonized and understood as a universal instruction for all Christians (cf. John Driver, How Christians Made Peace With War).
Even for readers who believe in some forms of 'just violence' in lawful ways (e.g., police action), the temple incident is not the place to start or end. As we'll see, it has nothing to do with justifying the Christian use of violence. So then, what do we make of Jesus' seemingly out-of-character actions? Here are some thoughts:
Throughout the ‘hell debates’ of recent years, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) has repeatedly begged our attention, especially in Q&A times following the documentary, Hellbound? The dialogue has urged me towards a sharper focus on the layered functions of the parable than I offered in my contemplative read in Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. Herein, I will introduce an outline that I hope invites fuller treatment.
First, we ought to dismiss the false functions of the parable as assigned by traditional (but sloppy) literalism. Readers often imagine that Jesus’ intent is to describe the nature of divine judgment and the state of the damned—or ‘hell’ (lit. hades), defined as an inescapable place of fiery judgment. The symbolic nature of parables is frequently negated and the passage treated as a revelation of the afterlife.
Briefly, interpreting the story of Dives (Lat. ‘rich man’ in the Vulgate) and Lazarus as descriptive of ‘hell’ ignores the difference between hades and paradise vis-à-vis heaven and hell, both biblically and theologically, even by literalist standards. The text says the rich man is in hades, borrowed from Greek language and mythology to correspond with the Hebrew Sheol—the place of the dead or the grave prior to the final Day of Judgment. This is confirmed by the rich man’s desire to send a warning to his brothers before it is too late. Thus, whatever the rich man is suffering, it is a precursor to the Day of the Lord and distinct from the infernalist’s typical everlasting ‘lake of fire.’
Moreover, aspects of the story make a crass literalism awkward: how does the rich man communicate with Abraham across the chasm? Does everyone there have a direct line to the patriarch? Does someone being incinerated in a furnace care about thirst? Are these literal flames? And since hades precedes the resurrection of the body, do we have literal tongues with which to feel thirst? Is this also the literal Abraham? Do the millions in his care take turns snuggling with him? Or is his bosom big enough to contain us all at once? How big he must be! And so on into implausibility.
Taking the parable seriously means we mustn’t take it so literally. Rather than text-mining for the architecture of the underworld, we ought to be digging for the intended message of Jesus. He is using the afterlife to illuminate some truth about this life. If we read carefully, we begin to see hints of the rich strata of meaning that beckon us deeper beneath the surface. I will propose three such layers here.
 Brad Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem (Wipf & Stock, 2009), Excursus 1: The Rich Man and Lazarus.
"The time has come," Jesus said.
"The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the Good News."
Sequence of Repenting: "He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather then repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the Gospel of grace."
- Brennan Manning, Abba's Child.
And Can It Be - Charles Wesley
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
George Grant on Oman’s theologia crucis
George P. Grant’s PhD dissertation focused on John Oman. And Grant’s theology of the Cross actually bears many of the marks of Oman’s theologia crucis. Both men held the Cross as central to all Christian theology, that faith (not reason) is essential to one’s knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness, and that God’s providence must ultimately remain a mystery. Both believed redemption was accomplished—consummated1—in Gethsemane and Golgotha. They believed that Christ is risen, but that Easter Sunday did not reverse a Good Friday defeat. The Resurrection was not a fulfillment, but a consequence of the Cross.2 Sheila illustrates Oman’s lingering impact on Grant by comparing an analogy common to each.
Oman: “The theologia gloriae sees on the cross ‘the King in rags, who will soon tear off his disguise and show himself in triumph.”
Grant (1976 lectures at McMasters): “There is a ghastly way of speaking about the Resurrection in the modern world which I call the fairy-tale way. A prince is dressed in rags, and everybody scorns him. Suddenly the clothes are pulled off and he appears in his prince’s costume, and everybody treats him well.”3
But Grant also critiques Oman’s theology as insufficient—too simple, triumphant, and voluntaristic for moderns whose faith is shattered by despair. Oman’s vision is beautiful as far as it goes: Grant acknowledges Oman’s Cross as a prophetic revelation of the Father’s love, the Son’s forgiveness, and the call to “find joy in the world by the knowledge that all can be redeemed.”4 It also reveals God’s call to an ethic of forgiveness: “Oman’s faith is that Our Lord on the Cross reveals the Father as Love, Who demands from men that they take up their crosses in forgiveness. The Father’s Love and man’s freedom to partake of it are the essence of Christianity.”5 But something is missing. By resisting Oman, Grant tells us his own story—how this simplicity is marred by the reality of doubt and despair that comes with extreme affliction.
To read the rest of this article: Download Grant Oman Dostoevsky
O dearest word, the very Word indeed,
Breathes on our striving, for the cross is done;
All fate forgotten and from judgement freed,
Call Him then less - Who shows us this - Your Son?
Look it is here, at death, not three days later,
The love that binds the granite into being.
Here the sea's blueness finds its true creator,
His glance on Golgotha our sun for seeing.
Nor say the choice is ours, what choice is left?
Forgiveness shows God's Will most fully done.
There on the cross the myth of hell is cleft,
And the black garden blazes with the sun.
Hold close the crown of thorns, the scourge, the rod,
For in His sweat, full front, the face of God.
These new publications on George Grant and Red Toryism are now available in paperback and kindle. They include essays in political theology, political science and philosophy, exploring Grant's engagement with Nietzsche, Heidegger, Weil and much more.
Simone Weil and George P. Grant were among the 20th century's top political theologians. Weil, a philosopher-activist-mystic from France, was the Christian mystic who refused to join the Church but nevertheless, influenced the Vatican II popes with her radical openness. George Grant, one of Canada's top three thinkers, once said that next to the four Gospels, Weil was his highest authority. This book is a series of essays in political theology, exploring some of their key themes and how their work inter-relates. This book explores in depth, for the first time, how their 'theology of consent' informs their political philosophy and a public ethic of the Cross.
Table of Contents Preface / 1 Part 1 – SIMONE WEIL: RED VIRGIN 1. Simone Weil: George Grant’s Diotima / 5 2. Stages of Weil’s Mystical Ascent / 19 3. Competing Conceptions of God in Biblical Religion / 49 Part 2 – GEORGE GRANT: RED TORY 4. Grant and the Matrix: Complex of Ideologies / 71 5. Grant and the Matrix: Dialogue Partners / 75 6. Finding His Voice: Conversion to Lament / 83 Part 3 – DIVINE CONSENT 7. Wrath and Love as Divine Consent / 109 Abbreviations / 123 Bibliography of Sources Consulted / 127
George P. Grant (1918-88) was one of Canada's premier political philosophers and stands as the benchmark for the Red Tory Tradition. He can also be credited with introducing the thought of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Simone Weil to Canada, critically analyzing their work seriously for the first time. Grant's Red Toryism has been revived and modified in the UK, but for a look at the essential thought of its chief architect, this book is a must read. Included in this work are essays in political theology, along with previously unpublished letters and classnotes that are critical to an understanding of Grant's 'primacy of the Good' vis-a-vis the 'primacy of freedom-as-mastery.' Especially important is the analysis of his theological relationship to Simone Weil and an appropriation of his work to rise above the culture wars of left and right.
Table of Contents Preface / 1 Part 1 – CONVERSION 1. George Grant’s Conversion Accounts / 5 2. Simone Weil’s Encounter with Christ in Marseilles / 13 3. Grant’s McMaster Sermon / 17 Part 2 – THE RISE OF MODERNITY 4. Sprouts of Modernity in Medieval Theology / 23 5. Blooms of Modernity in the Reformation and Calvinist Puritanism / 37 6. The Autonomous Subject: Knowing as Willing in Descartes, Bacon and Kant / 49 Part 3 – MYSTICAL EPISTEMOLOGY 7. Etymology of Nous / 65 8. Heidegger’s Eckart / 81 9. Weil’s Mystical Ascent / 85 Part 4 – GRANTEAN THEOLOGY 10. God the All-Powerful, All-Powerless / 111 11. Consent as Coercion / 123 Part 5 – GRANTEAN JUSTICE 12. Grant’s Rhetorical Method / 131 13. Christ at the Checkpoint / 141 Part 6 – PRIMARY SOURCES 14. Previously Unpublished Letters and Journal Entries / 151 15. Reading Simone Weil: Unpublished Excerpt / 199 16. Dalhousie Classnotes on Plato / 201 17. Robin Mathews: The Wave of the Future / 211 18. Grant’s References to Martin Luther’s Thesis 21 / 213 APPENDICES 19. Grant’s Readings in Weil: French and English / 219 20. Beyond Dualism: Correspondence with Radical Orthodoxy / 221 Abbreviations / 227 Bibliography of Sources Consulted / 231
At long last, the hard copy of my Brad Jersak's new translation of Simone Weil's 'Awaiting God' is now available for purchase at the following link: https://www.createspace.com/4183960
On that page there is also a description. Why get the book?
1. Sylvie Weil (Simone's niece) has included a 13-page introductory essay entitled 'Simone Weil and the Rabbis: Compassion and Tsedekah.'
2. It's the best primer available for those who want to start reading Weil, in that it combines her famous 'Waiting for God' with her 'Letter to a Priest' in a single, freshly translated volume.
There are those who hold Simone Weil as high, almost, as the Holy Eucharist.
There are others who place Weil, almost, in Hades.
Then, there are those who sift wheat from chaff in the life and writings of
Simone Weil -- such is the judicious approach of Brad
Jersak's Simone Weil: Awaiting God. The Introduction by Sylvie Weil
(Simone's niece) adds a tender touch, also.
Department of Political Studies/Philosophy/Religious Studies
University of the Fraser Valley