IN: Incarnation & Inclusion, Abba & Lamb by Bradley Jersak [Book Review]
Bradley Jersak’s book, IN: Incarnation & Inclusion, Abba & Lamb, Christ’s Unique Revelation of God’s All Inclusive Love brings humor, Scripture, critical thinking, and probing questions to ponder the idea of inclusion, a topic that challenges most of us in this world of late modernity. Eden Jersak sets the tone with a thoughtful forward that opens up tender places in the heart as she recalls memories of the simple welcome of black sheep, wayward sons, undesirables, and more, throughout her life. If we’re honest, we all yearn for that radically inclusive love.
So, inclusion. ::Inigo Montoya voice:: “You keep using that word but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
Indeed, often the word “inclusion” is used today to refer to who is allowed to belong and participate in the church. If we understand the love of our Abba God the way that Bradley Jersak does, the word allow should bring us some pause. When Jersak speaks of inclusion, he speaks of the God who is noticing all, seeking all, enticing all, is present to all, speaking to all, and is making God’s Self known to all, no matter what road they may be on. It’s possibly more accurate to say that God is doing this for those who are genuinely seeking him, but Jersak points out that God is pretty free and loose with what that means. A miniscule molecule of openness is enough. Any heart cry is enough. Any crack in the door. What inclusion means then, because God desires to make God’s Self known to all, is that one can experience and know God before actually “becoming” a Christian, or knowing the name of Christ.
Jersak carefully and honestly addresses all of the legitimate concerns and questions that are certain to arise, beginning with how the uniqueness of Christ fits with the inclusive love of Abba God. He addresses concerns of pluralism and syncretism, and the necessity of the cross as well as the necessity of evangelism. (And, he demonstrates some beautiful evangelism in this book as well, I’m just saying.) He uses Scripture, biblical persons, the wisdom of scholars and the Patristics, and most compellingly, many stories of those who have clearly heard the voice of God and know God, who later come to recognize the Christ as the One who has made God known.
What he is really doing is polishing our lenses and helping us to see more clearly. He’s helping to change our worldview. For Jersak, inclusion is rooted in Christ’s incarnation. He states, “When I speak of inclusion, I first mean Christ’s inclusion of all humanity in the hypostatic union. That is, when the Word became flesh, Jesus Christ united himself to the entire human race.”For those of us shaped by enlightenment thinking (which is all of us, sorry) we understand the cosmos to be devoid of sacramentality and made up of dead rocks, with the presence of God far away somewhere, except for the hearts of the faithful. But the early tradition that undergirds all of Christianity proclaims a Christ-soaked creation, and sees the incarnation as not merely one historical event, but something that involves all of us, and as Maximus the Confessor would note, all of the cosmos too. “Where can we go to flee from his presence?” the Psalmist implores. His presence is everywhere. All creation is immersed in the mercy of God.
Of course, the name of Jesus matters. The uniqueness of Christ matters, and Jersak makes that very clear. But what I hope people can take from this book is that the love of God is relentless and very present to all, that God is very near to us, and God does not divide us into the ins and outs, haves and have nots, worthy and unworthy. The Lamb has taken away the sin of the world. God holds us all and is available to us all, and all are loved and accepted. We can recognize God at play in others’ lives and honor it, and let them in on the whole Christ story, when appropriate.
Lastly, Jersak notes that inclusion is not universalism, but that is another topic for another day. The focus here is the magnanimous heart of our Abba God. I’ll leave the final word to the author: “I, for one, believe that God’s banqueting table is wide open because of Christ. The higher my Christology, the wider I see the reach of Abba’s love. The banquet metaphor is a way to think about both the uniqueness of Christ and the inclusivity of his Abba. The Master of the feast instructed his servants to invite, nay, to compel all to join in the feast. There’s a seat and setting reserved for every human in history.”
Jersak, Bradley. IN: Incarnation and Inclusion, Abba, and Lamb, Christ’s Unique Revelation of God’s All Inclusive Love. Abbotsford, BC: St. Macrina Press, 2019. 184 pages.
Bradley Jersak, IN Incarnation and Inclusion, Abba, and Lamb: Christ’s Unique Revelation of God’s All Inclusive Love(Abbotsford, BC: St. Macrina Press, 2019), 179.
Jersak, IN: Incarnation and Inclusion, Abba, and Lamb, 15.