I’ve been dabbling in amateur theology for a few years now. One of the main reasons I find theology a worthwhile pursuit – beyond the pure intellectual joy of contemplating and wrestling with some of life’s biggest questions – is that our theology inescapably affects how we inhabit and move through the world. Our actions mostly flow out of our attitudes, which in turn are strongly influenced by what we believe about ultimate reality – which, after all, is what theology is all about.
My own theological journey has been one of significant change over the past decade or so. My perspective on key issues like the character of God, the nature of Jesus, the atonement, forgiveness, sin, salvation, and so on is very different now from what it was not so long ago. And I’m not alone: largely through the magic of the internet, I’m fortunate to have gained a great many friends who’ve been on or are still on similar journeys. Perhaps now more than ever before, people all over the world are challenging stale orthodoxies and discovering healthier, more life-giving ways to think about God and faith.
However, remodelling your long-held beliefs is not for the faint of heart: when seeming certainties you’ve been taking for granted for decades are suddenly thrown open to question, it can be a challenging and sometimes bewildering process. Adding to the difficulty, those in the midst of theological reorientation can often find themselves feeling quite isolated as the people with whom they’ve shared their faith experience thus far prove unable (and/or unwilling) to provide answers to their questions or even to sympathise with their plight.
In the midst of such a potentially disconcerting and confusing time, wouldn’t it be great to have a guide who was both theologically learned and pastorally sensitive, someone who could shed light on our big theological conundrums at the same time as empathising with our very real and personal struggles along the way?
Brad Jersak is one such guide. His long years of pastoral service in the Protestant charismatic world combined with his deep and erudite knowledge of theology right back to the church’s earliest years (Brad is a both a professor of New Testament and an ordained reader in the Eastern Orthodox church in his native Canada) mean he is uniquely equipped to help us navigate the theological path that leads to a fuller, richer and deeper understanding of God. Those who have read his last book, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, know this already. Now, in his follow-up book A More Christlike Way: A More Beautiful Faith, Brad sets out to answer the question, “How then should we live?”
Brad begins A More Christlike Way by helpfully recapping on the main themes of A More Christlike God before exploring the now popular idea of “deconstruction” and suggesting a number of potentially more helpful analogies to help us conceptualise and make sense of our shifting theological journey. After a chapter introducing the idea of the “Jesus Way”, he then takes a brief detour to review four “unChristlike ways” and the ugly gospel that flows from them before leading us through an in-depth exploration of seven facets of “a more beautiful faith”. With churches and teachers often placing so much emphasis on “things you must believe” and so little on real, practical discipleship, there’s a real shortage of solid, Christ-shaped material in this area. What does it mean to be a “follower” of a first-century Palestinian Jew in the twenty-first century? How do we take our example from Christ in the messy reality of our day-to-day lives? To what kinds of practices does Christ call us when it comes to matters like forgiveness, hospitality, justice, compassion and peacemaking? These are just some of the questions to which Brad seeks to help us find answers through this final section of the book, which is really where most of the juiciest meat is to be found.
Brad has a unique gift for communicating profound spiritual truths in an engaging, down-to-earth way. His gentle and informal style is such that you often don’t realise that life-changing truth bombs are quietly being smuggled into your soul as you read. He often uses stories from his own life and ministry – some of them deeply personal – to help us see the practical outworkings of the foundational truth that God is like Jesus, and to encourage us to think about how we can creatively try to walk out the Jesus Way in our own life and circumstances.
It also occurred to me early in my reading of A More Christlike Way that it would make a great discussion/study companion for groups looking to explore together the challenges of discipleship. Thankfully, Brad ends each chapter with a “thoughts” section offering a handful of questions that would make great group discussion starters.
A More Christlike Way is highly recommended for anyone seeking to be an authentic Jesus-follower. For those who’ve already read A More Christlike God, this book is the perfect follow-up; for those who haven’t… what are you waiting for? In any event, A More Christlike Way will stretch your mind, feed your heart and inspire you in your journey as you seek to follow the One who, while fully God, shows us what it means to be fully human. I warmly commend it to you.
[A More Christlike Way is published by Plain Truth Ministries. I was kindly provided with a review copy by the author. I was not required to write a positive review.]