Three Charges – The Cross, Hell, and the Word of God – Brad Jersak
Three Charges – The Cross, Hell, and the Word of God:
It seems as much as we at PTM and I specifically have addressed the issues of the Cross, Hell and the Word of God, we continue to be asked where we stand on these issues.
Those of good faith are truly interested in diving deep into the truth on each of these issues, and for good reason! How we respond to these issues speaks loudly of how we see God, humanity, and the world we live in. They deserve all the attention they’ve received.
Others seem to ask the questions in the edgy tones of an interrogation or accusation, as if we’re being summoned to a heresy trial, despite our public record on these weighty matters.
I believe it’s important for us to give a clear account of the gospel we preach and the hope we have in Jesus Christ, while doing our best to avoid defensiveness or counterpoints that mirror our harsher-sounding challengers because we ought not to assume we know the motives of others or what deeper concerns lay beneath what’s presenting.
It may also be of some service to those who sincerely want clear and concise statements about what we actually believe if I can gather some responses by way of (1) a quick summary in a line or two, (2) a blog-length example of our perspective, and (3) a referral to more comprehensive, book-length treatments. This is certainly preferable to reading third-party opinions that are frequently mis-representative. Note: the charges below were cited verbatim.
The Cross of Christ
Challenge: “Brad believes in a non-violent view of Christ’s death, so he believes Jesus did not need to die for our sins.”
Response: As a life-long “theologian of the Cross,” I can’t imagine a more erroneous charge. Briefly, the Cross of Christ (which, in Paul, includes both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus) is utterly necessary for our salvation. In the Cross, we see Jesus’ definitive revelation of God as self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering Love, and we have Jesus’ definitive victory over Satan, sin, and death.
What we do NOT believe is that this was accomplished through the violent punishment of God the Son by God the Father to satisfy his own wrath. Rather, we believe Paul’s assessment that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting our sins against us.” That is, in the death of Christ, God forgives our sins rather than punishing them.
The Nature of Hell
Challenge: “Brad is a universalist and hell is not a real place.”
Response: While I believe Jesus’ promise that he will draw all people to himself; the Samaritans’ confession that Jesus Christ is Savior of the world; Paul’s prophecy that every knee will bow and tongue confess the Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God will ultimately be “all in all,” I have repeatedly refused to identify as a “universalist.”
The reality is that so many who use that label deny the problem of sin, the need for a Redeemer, the efficacy of the Cross, the importance of a faith response, or the reality of a final judgment. I regard all of these as the crucial means by which Christ fulfills these promises.
What we do NOT believe is that hell is a literal lake of fire where God will supernaturally inflict retributive punishment on the people he’s created for all eternity. The judgments of God, according to Hebrews 12, are restorative… and the divine Judge is a merciful Father whose heart is to redeem through Christ all who fell through Adam.
The Word of God
Challenge: “Brad does not believe the Bible is the Word of God. He thinks any verse that doesn’t line up with what you feel in your heart reveals Jesus can be rejected.”
Response: On many, many occasions, we have affirmed the biblical proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Word of God and that the Scriptures are an inspired witness faithfully pointing to him. Further, any Scripture that claims to reveal God must bow to the living God when he came in the flesh. But Scripture also speaks about the ‘word of God’ in a secondary but related sense: the word of God can refer to the promises of God (i.e., “you have my word”) and to the gospel of Jesus Christ (“the word spread quickly”).
While Scripture contains many authors and their time- or culture- or theologically-bound perspectives, the Word of God (Jesus Christ) enters this great drama of redemption to bring us the final Word (see Hebrews 1:1-4), including corrections, such as, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.”
We don’t reject any Scripture, but we do subordinate them to the living Word of God, whose Spirit illuminates the ways they prefigure Christ OR service as cautionary tales (1 Corinthians 10:1-10). What we do NOT believe is that the Bible is a flat text that can be proof-texted to usurp or negate the authority of Christ. Rather, it must be read “the Emmaus way” that Jesus taught his disciples after the resurrection.
Greg Albrecht: https://www.ptm.org/the-word-of-god-and-the-word-of-god