Nomad favourite Brad Jersak was in town recently, so we seized on the opportunity to hang out, and quiz him about his faith journey. And it’s a very interesting faith journey, taking in charismatic evangelicalism, anabaptism, church planting among the poor and marginalised, and landing in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Despite many Western Christians being only vaguely aware of this ancient Christian tradition, the Eastern Orthodox Church is increasingly influencing our beliefs. So we asked Brad whether the Orthodox Church could be a home for spiritual nomads?

Image provided by Westminster Theological College. Used with permission.


A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

A More Christlike Way: A More Beautiful Faith

The Orthodox Way


“By the time you get to the Nicene Creed being finalized in the 380s, they’re saying: ‘We are not trying to develop doctrine anymore. We are communicating a creed that is our memory of what was given to us.’ So, the Nicene Creed represents ‘the faith once delivered.’ That’s going to slow you down from deviations in your doctrine. And in that sense, they really have a solid claim, at least to say ‘the faith once delivered, as remembered in the fourth century.’ That’s a very, very deep well. From an Orthodox point of view, you would look at these evangelical denominations creating themselves, writing their own faith statements. What’s that? If you think you’re a deep well, what that looks like is digging puddles in the backyard.”

“Is it possible that one who has previously rejected God when [they see] Christ face to face and [they experience] the fire of God’s love, could that love be effectual? In other words, could that love purge [them] like a refiner’s fire of all our resistances to love, such that you could have a post-mortem repentance? The Orthodox Church seems to say that’s possible. In fact, some of the Fathers say that’s definitely what’s going to happen – as long as you preserve free will. Maybe a summary statement of that: Because of Christ’s conquest of death, we would say this: ‘If Christ went to such lengths to preserve our right to say “no” to him – that is the cross – having defeated death, why would the event of death be allowed to prevent us from saying ‘yes’ to him later?’” 

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  1. I’m fairly new to your podcast, and know even little about Orthodox Christianity, so I may be missing something. But my observation in listening to this is how male-dominant the conversation is. I left wondering if Orthodox Christianity elevates female voices, and in particular, voices in the lgbtq community.

    When I googled my local Orthodox church, leadership was entirely male. When I googled women in leadership in the Orthodox church in general, one of the first quotes I came upon said “Fortunately our Orthodox Christian Churches have experienced and preserved some rational theological reasons why only men can be ordained to the Sacred Ministry.”

    For those of us seeking beauty in a God away from a Church that actively rejects us, why would promoting yet another vein of a religion that silences female (and I can only assume queer) voices be a beautiful thing? Am I missing something here?

    • Hi Rosemary,

      Really great to hear from you. Thanks for your question, it’s a really important one.

      I don’t know enough about the Orthodox church to be able to comment too much on their attitude towards women. But certainly from the outside it looks like you’re correct, as leadership appears to be exclusively male. I don’t know anything about their attitude towards the LGBT community.

      We talk on the podcast about ‘looking for signs of hope’. And I see a lot of hopeful signs in the Orthodox church. For example, I love their commitment to the idea of a loving, forgiving God. And I love how this is reflected in their understanding of reconciliation and the cross. That’s why we interviewed Brad. But like you, I don’t agree with their understanding of women in leadership.

      So here’s the thing. If we waited to find a church or individual that we entirely agreed with or felt was entirely hopeful, then we’d never interview anyone. So instead we look for small signs of hope in all people and traditions. I think that’s one of the great privileges of our generation, that we aren’t stuck with the faith we inherited, we aren’t stuck in just one tradition. We can take the best from all traditions.

      So we have explored the idea of women in leadership in other episodes – like the one with Jenni Williams – and we’ve explored signs of hope in the relationship between the church and the LGBT community – most recently with Liz Edman. But I don’t think it’d be appropriate in every interview to conclude by trying to determine whether the interviewee or Church tradition is on the same page as us on a wide range of issues.

      Does that make sense? Maybe we’ve got this wrong, and need to rethink things, but this is where we’re at right now.

      Thanks again for your post, we really appreciate it.


      • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Tim! I know as a bisexual woman, my experience in church (on and off for almost 40 years) has been less than hopeful when I take my lenses into account and don’t just settle for the straight white male perspective. I’ve had conversations with those close to me recently about the beauty of the Orthodox faith and this episode was recommended. I’ll be seeking out the other episodes you mentioned! Like I said, I’m new to your podcast, so wasn’t sure if that was something that is usually touched upon or not. I think you’re right – we’re in an era of hopefully questioning what we’ve inherited and taking the best of all traditions, while working for a more just and fulfilling worship experience for those who are too often silenced.

  2. Mark Tynan Feb 28, 2018

    Thank you for the discussion with Brad. I thought I might comment that it is possible to stay connected with rich ritual and worship as well as embrace “relevant” worship. It is also possible to become aware of the various different ways to “cut the theological cake” as N.T.Wright (particularly around soteriology) puts it and not necessarily have to make denominational changes. I’ve been a charismatic Catholic since 1986, In the ecumenical, charismatic community I am a member of we have Mass in the morning (the other members worship in their own denomination in the morning) and we come together for what I like to call “big C” charismatic worship in the afternoon. I became aware of Orthodox theological perspectives through listening to Fr Thomas Hopko podcasts since 2010 (he passed away in early 2015). Even as a Catholic I thought penal substitution was “The Gospel” like Brad did! (Who knows what Catholic soteriology is exactly anyway?) I have since been very influenced by the Eastern thinking. Doing a Masters of Theology (and in the middle of doing a PhD now in Theology) I’ve become aware of theological history and it has relativised the basically evangelical (with a bit of ill informed Catholic theology)/charismatic theology I have imbibed over the years. I deeply respect Brad’s spirit and can see where he is coming from. However for all the richness of 3 plus hours of St John Chrysostym’s divine liturgy, youth are not flocking to be a part of it. In our community (and at Hillsong which about 6 kms from where we meet) we find youth are experiencing and coming into relationship with Jesus through “relevant” worship. Through this they are open to the traditional in a way they might not be otherwise. In our context we are intentionally seeking to stay connected with the traditional while being vigilant to stay away from the “religious”. I think your question to Brad about this is a real problem for Orthodox practice. Anyway I appreciate what you guys do and thanks for the interview with Brad.

    • Thanks Mark, some really interesting points there to reflect on!
      Glad you’re finding the podcast helpful.

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