by Julie T.
The ideas in Brad Jersak’s book, “Can You Hear Me?” (I read the original 2003 edition) are enticing indeed. The thought that you could just directly ask God your questions and get answers right now sounds great. The thought that you could, when sharing Christ, simply invite the person to hold your hands, close their eyes, and start directly seeing and interacting with Christ in a vision, sounds amazing. (See Chapter 11). So why would I hesitate to jump into Jersak’s techniques and start seeing Jesus for myself? Here are some objections (not a complete list).
- Jersak’s teachings on prayer and ministry, which seem so amazing and revolutionary, are not what is taught in Scripture. I re-read much of the New Testament, looking for signs of “listening prayer” and related techniques, and there were none. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. He didn’t say, “Quiet your heart and wait for the swirling leaves to come to rest around you. Go to a meeting place in your heart, where God will meet with you and talk with you.” His teaching is in Matthew 6:1-15. “Pray, then in this way: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” When Peter preached, he told the facts of Christ’s resurrection and how it fulfilled prophecy, and he urged people to repent and be baptized. He did speak about the Holy Spirit, but nothing whatsoever about meeting up with the Spirit in your mind – the Spirit was doing a miracle that was completely obvious and outside their minds (the believers were speaking in languages they didn’t know, and the visiting foreigners heard them speak in their own languages.) When Paul preached in Acts 13 and 17, he gave historical and cultural information and proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection and the forgiveness of sins through Jesus. He did not invite people to close their eyes and interact with Jesus in their heads. Paul certainly had visions as part of his experience, but that was something God gave to him, not something he encouraged each person to imagine for themselves.
2. Jersak’s Bible verses used to support his techniques for hearing God are taken out of context. Jersak gives the following Bible quote: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. Yet you have never heard the voice of my Father, nor does his word dwell in you.” (John 5:36-40) But be careful — this is actually a conflation of verses, not the whole section noted. Here is a fuller chunk of Jesus’ teaching, John 5:33-47:
“You have sent men to John. And he has told you about the truth. But I don’t need a man to tell about me. I tell you this so that you can be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp. And you were happy to enjoy his light for a while. But I have a proof about myself that is greater than that of John. The things I do are my proof. These are the things my Father gave me to do. They show that the Father sent me. And the Father who sent me has given proof about me himself. You have never heard his voice. You have never seen what he looks like. His teaching does not live in you because you don’t believe in the One that the Father sent. You carefully study the Scriptures because you think that they give you eternal life. Those are the same Scriptures that tell about me! But you refuse to come to me to have that life. I don’t want praise from men. But I know you—I know that you don’t have God’s love in you. I have come from my Father—I speak for him. But you don’t accept me. But when another person comes, speaking only for himself, you will accept him. You like to have praise from each other. But you never try to get the praise that comes from the only God. So how can you believe? Don’t think that I will stand before the Father and say that you are wrong. Moses is the one who says that you are wrong. And he is the one that you hoped would save you. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me because Moses wrote about me. But you don’t believe what Moses wrote. So how can you believe what I say?”
This Scripture is referring to people who did not accept Jesus as the Christ, with his actions as proof, even though they knew the Scriptures foretelling his coming. This is NOT referring to people who fail to hear Jesus’s voice in their head. The primary passage used in support of “listening prayer” is John 10, but again, a few phrases such as “my sheep hear my voice” are taken out of context. Take time to look at a larger chunk, John 9:35-10:30:
John 10 is a section of Jesus’s teaching aimed at the Jews who didn’t believe in him based on his miracles and teaching. Jesus talks about his sheep (those who accept Jesus and his teaching), and teaches that the Gentiles too will become part of the flock (v. 16) when they ‘hear his voice.’ This refers to Gentiles who would later hear the gospel preached and respond, not imagine Jesus talking in their heads. Paul confirms that faith comes from hearing the truth preached (Romans 10:14-17), not tuning into inner voices. Going back to the John 10 passage, it is a parable about sheep hearing a literal voice, but the sheep and the voice are figurative – the passage directly says so in John 10:6 (“Jesus told the people this story, but they did not understand what it meant.”)
3. If the voice each person hears is truly God, why did Jersak’s church, Fresh Wind (he’s not a pastor there anymore), feel the need to put boundaries and rules on which ‘prophecies’ the people are allowed to share with each other? He wrote in his book, “Whenever we teach on this subject, we begin by asking our congregants to restrict their prophetic experiments to blessings and encouragement. … our church restricts itself to prophesying within these parameters: no direction, no correction; no dates, no mates; no births, no deaths.” (p. 64) The Biblical prophets were not restricted in this way. Births were predicted to Hagar, Sarah, Hannah, Mary, and more. Deaths were foretold as well – Jezebel, John, Jesus himself, and many others. Biblical prophets spoke many strong words of rebuke, not just “comfort and encouragement”! Jersak apparently realized that with everyone supposedly hearing God directly, church life could be utter chaos, and he tried to rein in the chaos. He must realize how often people would be proved wrong if they went around sharing dates and mates! (He uses the mates example as something that has turned many people off from believing supposed modern day prophecies.) If you have to put rules on passing on what “God told you,” it must not be legitimately from God.
4. Jersak’s teaching on how to contact God is the same teaching used by clairvoyants/new age teachers on how to contact your “spirit guide.” Jersak has certainly heard this objection and dismisses it in his book, but I don’t think it should be dismissed so easily. Here are a couple examples of web sites that offer similar advice to Jersak, but they are not Christian at all: http://guidingechoes.com/how-to-meet-your-spirit-guides/ and http://www.the-auras-expert.com/contacting-spirit-guide.html. (If these links end up broken, just do a web search for “How to meet with your spirit guide.”) Even Jersak acknowledges that fallen angels can pose as Christ. He shares an example of a friend who finally stopped listening to “God’s voice” because even though the experiences seemed wonderful and euphoric, they didn’t produce good fruit in his life. Jersak concludes it probably was not God talking (p. 87). Jersak assumes you can always tell the difference between a false Jesus and the real Jesus. He gives several examples of people who visualized fake Christs. He tells of false “gray” Jesus figures that appear to people. Doesn’t Satan masquerade as an angel of light? Perhaps some beings are more sophisticated in faking it than others? The Father of Lies is no amateur. He could use a pathetic, obvious fake to then pose more effectively as the “real deal.” Here is an account of a woman who was involved in the occult who asked her spirit guide if it was “of the light,” and it said it was – but she claims her spirit guide eventually turned against her. https://staciespielman.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/warning-spirit-guides-can-be-hazardous-to-your-health/
5. People who used to be into contacting the spirit world, who are now Christians, warn believers about listening prayer. Jersak again dismisses this as no big deal – he indicates that these people are just overly sensitive because they were deceived before, and again Jersak seems to be overconfident that Christians couldn’t be taken in. However, I think it’s wise to listen to these people’s experience. Here are two warnings from people with experience in the spirit world (there are plenty of others as well): https://carm.org/centering-prayer and http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer1.html (read all 3 pages of the article)
6. Some of the exercises that this book encourages you to do raise serious red flags. Jersak encourages you to write a prayer for someone – and then re-write the prayer in first person as if it’s from God, and give it to that person. If you take your own words and present them as a direct quote from God, you are acting as a false prophet. The OT consequence for this serious offense would be stoning. We already have a whole Bible full of actual words from God — If you need to encourage your friend, use His words from Scripture. Another exercise involves visualizing a steamy mirror and “watching” Jesus write a message on it for you. For me this evokes occult automatic writing techniques – letting your mind produce something that is not from you. Here’s another exercise which Jersak openly acknowledges as a common meditation practice from various faiths: “A classic meditation exercise used by mystics of all creeds is to picture God’s light giving you a shower. In the evening, I like to imagine the light of God shining on me, penetrating and cleansing my heart. I actively receive his healing light into my soul. As I picture this, I thank God for washing away shadows of stress or sin. I invite you to use this exercise as a means to embracing this Scriptural truth.” (p. 104)
7. I’m extremely uncomfortable with teaching children to visualize Jesus and go to him for answers, rather than teaching children the revealed truth of God. Jersak teaches people to create an inner meeting place to meet with Jesus (this concept is also mentioned in the non-Christian links above on how to find your spirit guide, plus at this link: https://malavikasuresh.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/how-to-meet-your-spirit-guides-through-meditation/). Jersak delights in the fact that a child he knows meets with Jesus on a giant lollipop, but I am very concerned by this. He shares in the book examples of adults who encounter false Christs – why would we encourage undiscerning preschoolers to open themselves up to the spirit world? Also, why would a child accept the authority of parents and the Word of God if they are taught that they can just take all their questions to their own internal Jesus?
8. It’s the outward, tangible truth of Jesus Christ and the Bible that sets Christianity apart from other religions. Jersak elevates the subjective, even as he introduces children and unbelievers to Christ. My husband and I spent many hours trying to reach out to some Mormon missionaries who came to our door. We understand from talking to them and seeing their videos that they have the experiences of hearing God and feeling the Holy Spirit, too. This has confirmed to them that the Mormon Church is the one true church. If we’re both feeling warm fuzzies about our differing religions, how do we discern which is correct? I also wanted to share Christ with a kind Buddhist friend, and I initially tried to share from my personal experience of times when Jesus had brought me peace. I do believe that Jesus is my source of peace, but found that this was useless when sharing with my friend. She simply said that she too had had amazing experiences of peace in her own religion. Buddhist meditation and Hindu prayer practices may bring some of the same experiences and emotions as Christians claim to have. So are all religions the same? If not, how do we tell truth from error? The Bible’s communication of objective, historical truth, and our objective, historical leader who rose from the dead, are what make Christianity different.
9. Jersak’s methods have drawn him away from orthodox doctrine. Jersak denies the concept of God’s wrath and reinterprets why Jesus died on the cross (that is, he did not die as a substitute for our sins). He published a book about it, A More Christ-like God. His straying from Scripture does not surprise me; if you believe God is talking directly to you, over time would you not place a greater emphasis on those pleasant experiences than on the Scriptures? Throughout Can You Hear Me Jersak quotes (in a positive light) people who use mystical methods to “hear God’s voice,” and these writers also have questionable theology, such as Evelyn Underhill and Jacob Boehme.
Here are two sample quotes from Jersak to help clarify that contemplative and inner healing practices have influenced Jersak’s theology.
A. Here’s a quote regarding his revised doctrine of hell:
Graham (interviewer): “With regards to your own doctrine of hell/final punishment, when did the process of questioning the eternal torment view begin, and what set that off, and how did it play out?”
Brad Jersak: “It came progressively through a combination of revelation of Father’s heart through certain Mennonite teaching, Vineyard worship, inner healing experiences and exposure to Orthodoxy. A key waypoint was the problem that the conventional view of hell was becoming such a deal-killer for believers (who were ready to renounce faith over it) and seekers (who would come to Christ except for that).”
B. Here’s a quote regarding his revised doctrine of the atonement and God’s wrath (he does not believe in God’s wrath):
Interviewer: “I just get from talking to you … that this ten to fifteen years with this community made up of the least of these [his ministry at Fresh Wind] did a number on your theology. Is that true?”
Brad: “Yeah, and even with the Mennonites, when I was with the Mennonites we started getting heavily into inner healing work. This is where rubbing shoulders with Vineyard folks who had some familiarity with that was helpful too, so basically I became more charismatic and contemplative in that I was open to experiences of direct encounter. And my primary doorway into that was watching how Jesus treated sexually broken people, especially like victims of sexual assault, that’s a big thing. So, we would do healing of memories work where we would see how He treated these people who are really, really broken and it was always like Isaiah 42 verse 2, ‘a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, a bruised reed he will not break.’ It was a supernatural tenderness. Then when we wanted to see even more healing we thought it’d be better to work with perpetrators, so you prevent 30 rapes. And no one was having success with this really, and we’re looking at it and saying, well why don’t we pray with them the same way, and then we did, and we saw it was the same God and the same approach. He was just so kind, and it was all about Romans 2. The kindness of God leads to repentance, and it’s gazing on this Christ is what leads you from glory to glory into the image of Christ, and you just begin to see that God is Love. And then with the orthodox guys, then they would come along and they would confirm this theologically after the fact. So they would say this theologically: ‘There is no retribution in God.’ And we’d say, ‘None? What do you mean? Not even a little?’ But then we’d look at our history with these broken people and we’d go, “No, He never once came to us in retribution.”
From “Gravity Leadership Podcast” number 35: “Brad Jersak on Learning to Trust that God is Love”
10. Providing easy techniques anyone can use to hear God’s voice puts the individual in charge of their communication with God, rather than God. In the Bible, I do see God appearing to people and speaking to them, sometimes after they have asked (Job asked for God to talk to him, for example) – but God is in charge of the means and timing. Jersak’s book teaches that you can use techniques to hear God any time, ask him any question, and take whatever comes to mind as the answer. I don’t see that as the pattern in Scripture, where his voice comes as a surprise, and is a real voice — to Samuel, to Mary, to Paul, and to many others. God does give visions at times, but again, God is the initiator, and the vision is clear, not something you try to bring on by imagination.
In conclusion, this book’s teaching is not Bible-based, and it has the potential to lure adults and children away from God’s truth and into deception.