Christian Polytheism – Brad Jersak

This article is an excerpt from A More Christlike Way (CWR press, 2019).

It was risky business for early Christians to hold up Christ as the image of the one true God. Their gospel confession demanded a rejection of Rome’s pantheon of pagan gods and the emperors’ demand for worship. And that meant persecution. But at least the choice was straightforward: Jesus is Lord and Jupiter is not. Jesus is Lord and Diana is not. Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.

But today, how are we to navigate the problem of polytheism (the belief in many gods) within Christianity? Let’s say there’s still a militaristic god of war, a patriotic god of nationalism, a puritan god of moralism, a partisan god of politics, an erotic god of promiscuity, a charismatic god of power, a prosperity god of consumerism, etc. Have these gods somehow survived and thrived, masquerading under the Christian brand? How might these gods inhabit and even direct the accredited Christian establishment? Do we see them lurking in the multitude of Christian sects, promising unwarranted immunity from the corruption of Christendom? All they needed to do was co-opt the name of Jesus. Talk about identity theft! Is it possible for the church to worship idols under a thin veneer of Christianese without even knowing it?

The second problem concerns how Christians can become libelous, defaming Christ through our own corruption and misbehavior. Christ had declared, “This is how everybody will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other” (John 13:35). Yes, early Christianity could be very messy and divisive. Remember the Corinthians? Yet Tertullian (155-240 AD) noted how bewildered pagans said of us, “See how they love one another!” Or even just, “See how they love!”

In other words, folks not only knew that Abba is love by looking at the person of Jesus. They knew that Abba is love (and that Christ is alive) by looking at Christians. Christians were the new and living testament to Abba’s love revealed in Christ well before a collection of New Testament books were written, collected and circulated. How would people know what Trinity is like? An outrageous claim but there it is: look at Jesus’ people and you will know John is right: “God is love.” – (Brad Jersak pgs. 17-18)

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