Articles by Thaddeus John Williams



  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    The 16th century church was in dire need of a Reformation. What about today, a half millennium later? Is the 21st century church due for another Reformation, a Re-Reformation? Professor Williams shares his thoughts ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    Fifteen years ago in Paris, I had a conversation with a young existentialist who said something as unflattering as it was memorable: “Whatever the world does the church does ten years later and worse.” My new friend was talking about Christian music, describing a decade lag factor, a slowness to recognize and adapt to cultural changes that, in his estimation, rendered the church musically irrelevant ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    In Paul’s famous words, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile …” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Can we say the same for work that Paul says about faith? Without the resurrection of Jesus do our earthly endeavors amount to nothing in the grand scheme of existence? As Darrell Cosden asks in The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work, “Is there any real lasting or ‘eternal’ value in our work?” Cosden answers, “Our everyday work (whether paid or unpaid) actually matters and makes a difference—not just in the here and now, but also for eternity. Work, and the things that we produce through our work, can be transformed and carried over by God into heaven" ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    The Bible insists that everything exists for Jesus. He is the Telos, the Goal, the Final Point where all lines converge. ‘But isn’t that such a strange and invisible conclusion? Doesn’t such a view make Christianity fundamentally anti-science?’

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    When we say “He is risen. He is risen indeed!” we are not merely stating a remarkable historical fact, not merely expressing our shared doctrine, not merely standing in line with a long tradition of hope. We are doing all of that. But we are doing more. We are joining the great protest chant against all the dehumanization, death, and decay of the present age and heralding, here and now, the subversive breaking in of the glorious age to come in the resurrected Jesus.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    What happened on Good Friday is so scandalous and profound that the Bible does not limit itself to a single explanation. Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, explains, “[T]he work of Christ is so multifaceted that it cannot be captured in a single word nor summarized in a single formula." “Multifaceted” is exactly the right word for the cross. It brings to mind the image of a giant deep-cut diamond, a unity with a multiple facets, each refracting rays off and through the other. Let’s take one lap around this flawless wonder and look at six things to celebrate this Friday and every day...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    In our day, wherever it is found, the fruits of intellectual inquiry grow from the conviction that there is such a thing as truth out there to discover. Take an axe to the existence of truth and you no longer have education, you have propaganda. Ideologies that deny the very possibility of truth can be found in many (thankfully, not all) fields of education. In the quip of postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, truth is simply a matter of whatever your colleagues will let you get away with saying. With no truth to seek and discover, we are left with only social constructs to endlessly dream up and deconstruct. In the words of one lamenting Harvard graduate, “The freedom of our day is the freedom to devote ourselves to any values we please, on the mere condition that we do not believe them to be true." When the very idea of truth is considered so out-of-fashion, schools gradually turn from the pursuit of knowledge to the business of data transfer, indoctrination, and diploma-printing ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    In Part 1 we examined how a biblical concern for the poor can be syncretistically mixed with socialist economic ideology in a way that undermines a biblical view of people and thereby hurts image-bearers of God. In Part 2 I clarify three specific bad ideas about people that have had very bad effects on people in hopes of breaking the spell that socialist ideologies increasingly hold on younger evangelicals ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    Over the last year, as the Republican and Democratic voters sparred within and between their respective parties over the best candidate to lead our country from the White House, socialism became one of several hot button issues in our national dialogue (or national shouting match). It was the first time in our nation’s history that a candidate identifying as a “democratic socialist” garnered so much popular support, particularly among the college age demographic. Of course, this is not the first time that young Americans have been captivated by socialist ideals. With the 1960s and 70s came the Port Huron Statement according to which “students must consciously build a base for their assault upon the loci of power,” and free market capitalism became a favorite “loci” to assault. Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, a scathing indictment of all things capitalist, became something like inerrant sacred scripture to many budding ideologues. In the new millennium the socialist ethos has experienced new iterations as the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 99%, and, most recently, the widespread support for Bernie Sanders on university campuses around the country. Although Sanders did not procure the nomination of the Democratic Party, he succeeded in revealing a deep affinity with socialism among the millennial generation that will hold an increasing share of policy-shaping power over the decades to come ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    The summer of 2014 gave us the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on the side of religious liberty. The summer of 2015 witnessed another culturally controversial 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which carries potentially ominous implications for religious liberty (particularly according to the dissents of Justices Roberts and Alito). Meanwhile, some legal scholars are forecasting a massive public policy paradigm shift in coming years over another hotly contested issue—the right to life. Fordham University’s Charles Camosy, as a case-in-point, sees such a dramatic shift as not only possible but indeed inevitable ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    What gifts does God give us in the person and work of Christ? How can we unwrap and enjoy them every day with the wide-eyed wonder of a kid on Christmas morning? Dr. Williams offers some Christmas reflections.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    This series began by noting how we live in the Age of Feeling and Authenticity. We have come to see how Jesus can save us from it, how he can restore just sentiments like outrage, compassion, and joy. This leaves us with two hanging questions: First, how do we actually come to feel just sentiments the way Jesus did? Second, why Jesus’ feelings? Can’t we learn just sentiments from the emotional lives of Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Rosa Parks? Or from that friendly janitor, that magnanimous co-worker, or that self-giving mother? Or perhaps even from Homer’s Ulysses, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aragorn, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry? Aren’t there a billion admirable feelers, real and fictional, who show us what life can look like beyond the confines of the modern fact box and the postmodern feeling box?

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    As we learn emotions from Jesus, not only does our blood start to boil (see Part 2) and our stomachs turn (see Part 3), he also shows our hearts how to beat with real joy. There is a stereotype floating around which says that Jesus and the faith he represents are about cold-hearted duty, doing the right thing at the expense of our happiness. There are enough grim-faced moralistic systems out that brandish the name of “Christianity” to keep the stereotype alive. But they have more in common with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant than with the kingdom of Jesus. The day after he stormed the Temple, Jesus returns to the same Temple courts to announce that his kingdom is like a big party, and everyone is invited; not a boarding school, not a boot camp, not a prison chain gang, but a party.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    If we peer underneath Jesus’ table-flipping rage at the Temple (explored in Part 2), we find a still deeper emotion to reflect. Matthew’s account tells us that immediately after protesting the poor-oppressing, God-mocking Temple system, “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them" (Matthew 21:14). What a beautiful moment. In it we see that Jesus was outraged not in spite of His care for people but precisely because of it. The very people marginalized and trampled under the religious power structure are brought into the spotlight and elevated by Jesus. (He has a way of doing that.) He didn’t take anything from them or treat them like chumps in a captive market. He gave them vision and sound bodies. He treated them like the intrinsically valuable human beings they each were—and all for free.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    To see and experience something of Jesus’ emotions, let us join eighty to a hundred thousand religious pilgrims on their trek to the sacred city to worship at the Jewish Temple. It is Passover week. In order to participate in the traditional Temple offerings, people need doves or pigeons. Since worshippers need these birds, they were sold at the Temple at a premium price. You could get a more economical bird outside the Temple courts or lug one from home through the hot desert. However, every bird used in Temple rituals had to pass the rigid purity standards of the Temple’s in-house animal inspectors. Only inflated Temple-sold birds had the guaranteed certification of the scrupulous inspectors. In this way, the house of prayer had become a classic case of what economists call a “captive market.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    If Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and a mix of our ancestors from virtually any age of human history were crammed into a time machine and hurled into the twenty-first century, there is something normal to us that they would find totally bewildering. I am not referring to air and space travel, or the worldwide renown achieved by a cartoon mouse, or even technologies that put all human knowledge at our fingertips that we use to watch endless cat bloopers, bizarre as all of that would seem. I am referring instead to the sacred, unquestioned authority granted to feelings in our day. Western culture has been through a so-called ‘Age of Faith’ and an ‘Age of Reason.’ We live in what Princeton’s Robert George calls “the Age of Feeling.”[1] Canadian Philosopher, Charles Taylor, prefers the moniker, “The Age of Authenticity,” to describe how staying true to your feelings, whatever they may be, has become the highest virtue of our day (unlike historic virtues in which certain feelings could and should be chastened).

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    I used to think that worship songs where you could swap out all the God references, with “baby” were evidence that God had been trivialized by a sappy, spiritualized romanticism in the church. There may be truth to that. But perhaps the interchangeability of “God” and “baby” in worship songs says less about worship songs and more about love songs, less about how the church man-sizes God (which does happen) and more about a much broader tendency in the church and culture-at-large to God-size our romantic partners ...

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    I was raised in a church world in which “culture war” was a favorite metaphor of how the church relates to the nonchurch. We were God’s courageous moral infantry doing battle against those cunning cultists, those hateful homosexuals, those lying liberals, and those devilish Darwinists. If we listen with tuned ears to Christian radio, Christian literature, Christian blogs, and Christian conversations, it becomes clear: We Christians love the language of war. Over the last 30 years it has become our dominant metaphor for relating to culture; it saturates our vocabulary, shapes our politics, and soaks our worldview. But is culture war helpful? Is it biblical? Should we be jarheads for Jesus?

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    I recently watched a disturbing video. A camera caught the head of a certain political organization; we’ll call him Lucius, attempting to convince a packed auditorium about the reality of moral law. Specifically, Lucius appealed to a real moral law above and beyond culture to argue against a right to homosexual marriage. What struck me most was less of what he said and more how he said it. Lucius taunted the crowd relentlessly, hurling insults like hand grenades. People often argue against moral reality by appealing to moral reality (e.g., there can’t be absolutes because look at out how absolutely wrong the crusades and inquisitions were!). But there is an equal and opposite inconsistency, namely, arguing for moral reality while breaking the very morality we are defending (e.g., real morals like ‘love your neighbor’ exist, you ignoramus!). In other words, Lucius’ problem was that he did not argue his worldview as if his worldview were actually true. No matter what he said, the way in which he said it made it seem like morals like love and respect were not to be taken seriously after all. The medium refuted the message.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” This slogan, first broadcast by the United Negro College Fund in 1972, has become something of a John 3:16 for educators seeking to evangelistically rouse students out of intellectual slumber. If I could tailor this slogan for our Biola community as we embark on a new semester, it would become: “The mind of Christ is far too precious to not cultivate.” While lacking the elegant phrasing and bumper sticker quote-ability of the original, it does express something I hope we can pause to ponder as we enter our classrooms.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    Often times it seems that harder the church tries to be relevant, the more irrelevant we become. The Bible is full of this kind of upside down logic. The self-clingers lose themselves, the prideful end up humbled, those jostling to be first end last, and, now it seems, those trying the hardest to be relevant end up most irrelevant. Thaddeus Williams explores what happens when the church puts relevance to culture ahead of reverence to Christ.

  • The Good Book Blog

    Thaddeus John Williams — 

    Jesus prayed for His church to form a kind of angled mirror, bonded together with the kind of love that directs the world’s gaze upward to behold the Triune God of love (Jn. 17:11-24). Are we reflecting the Triune God clearly, or do our churches often form more of a cracked mirror, fragmented shards with animosities and apathies caked like mud, refracting little light from above? Dr. Williams explores one reason we may often fail to reflect the Trinity, namely, the lack of a robust doctrine of "the anti-Trinity."