What if we worshiped Jesus? Not the imaginary Jesus invented by televangelism, consumerism, fundamentalism, mysticism, or some political ism, but the actual Jesus we meet in the New Testament? How can he, unlike any other object of worship, enlarge our intellects, our emotions, our actions, our relationships, our imaginations, our whole selves? Drawing from science, literature, art, theology, history, music, philosophy, pop culture, and more, REFLECT paints a fresh and inspiring vision of how we become most truly ourselves by mirroring Jesus Christ.
With the brand new personal and small group guide, REFLECT becomes the ideal resource for digging deeper into how we can better reflect Christ in every area of our lives. In this interview, we ask author Thaddeus Williams about REFLECT‘s origins and unique perspective.
Lexham Press: You approach the question of Christian identity from a unique perspective—drawing on culture, philosophy, history, and more to point readers towards Christ. What inspired you to write REFLECT from this perspective?
Thaddeus Williams: I’m very Kuyperian in my deep conviction that Jesus is Lord over every square inch of life. The first time I read Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism I walked away with a deep sense that Jesus is supremely relevant to politics, science, art, and, well, everything! It was the same inspiration that struck me in my early twenties reading Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There and thinking ‘Wow, I can think about philosophy, movies, music, and the history of ideas from a Christian perspective.’ Why aren’t more Christian thinkers writing like this? We tend to follow culture’s cues and compartmentalize knowledge into little stack of boxes. Let’s file Jesus away in the theology box, then here’s another box for history, for pop culture, for romance, for politics, and so on. No. If Jesus is truly Lord, then He claims it all. So I wrote REFLECT quoting Bob Dylan in one breath and analyzing Dostoyevsky in the next so that readers walk away with a deep sense that all truth is indeed Christ’s truth.
LP: Which part of Christ’s identity does the modern church need to reflect the most?
TW: That’s a hard question. As I argue in the book, Jesus isn’t a sum of parts. It’s not like you take reason, then add emotion, then add creativity, and so on, then do some theological arithmetic and end up with Jesus. He is a fully integrated being. He is graciously reasonable, reasonably holy, creatively gracious, etc. Where we often go wrong in the church is to focus on one attribute of Jesus while we downplay other. We want to model the mind of Christ! Well, we want to tap into the emotions of Jesus! Well, we’re going to show his grace to the world. More often than not, we are playing this kind of horizontal game of ‘we don’t want to be like those Christians over there who are neglecting this or that aspect of Christianity.’ This book is more vertical than horizontal. Instead of asking ‘How do we not be like those anti-intellectual or those anti-emotional Christians over there?’ I ask a vertical question: ‘How do we be more like Jesus who is simultaneously a thinking, feeling, doing, loving, gracing, creative Being?’ If we start there—vertically—then the church in the 21st century will showcase far more of the multifaceted glory of Jesus to the watching world.
LP: You drew all the illustrations found on the cover and inside the book. Were these drawings you had already done or were they created specifically for the book?
TW: The truth is, every time I had writer’s block I would sit down with a ball point pen and a piece of printer paper and draw one of the faces of someone I was interacting with in the book. So you can see from one look at the cover—with nearly 50 faces (and about 10 more that didn’t make the cover)—I had plenty of writer’s block putting REFLECT together.
LP: REFLECT is book two in a trilogy of books. What can we expect from the other two books and why take a page from Star Wars and start in the middle of the series?
TW: Yes, REFLECT has a tiny Roman numeral II on the spine. That’s because it was written to be part two of a theological trilogy. Volume 1, REVERE the Father is the prequel and is all about the unshared attributes of God. It is slated for release with Lexham Press in 2020 and hopefully will be a better prequel than the Star Wars prequels, Lord willing. Volume 3 will be RECEIVE on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. They are being written as a systematic theology trilogy so that you could read through the first chapter of each book and get a Trinitarian theology of the intellectual life, the second chapter and get a Trinitarian theology of the emotional life, and so on. It’s an attempt at finding a fresh way to express the timeless truths of the historic Christian faith. The big vision, again Lord willing, is to add a fourth and fifth volume so that eventually you would have REVERE the Father, REFLECT the Son, RECEIVE the Spirit, REVIVE the church, and REFORM the culture as a deeply biblical systematic theology for a new generation.
LP: Lexham Press is in the midst of bringing Abraham Kuyper’s theological writings into English. What can the modern church learn from Kuyper?
TW: One dimension of Kuyper’s brilliance was his uncanny ability to articulate Christianity not as a narrow set of doctrines for theologians to quibble over but as a fully orbed comprehensive “life-system” or worldview that speaks to everything. There’s a lot of fragmented Christianity these days, with believers who don’t draw connections between their faith and how they think about science, politics, marriage, sexuality, entertainment, or what have you. Kuyper brings to the contemporary church exactly what I’m trying to bring the contemporary church with REFLECT, an inspiring sense that the Lordship of Jesus brings truth, goodness, and beauty to the whole terrain of human existence.