Who is your Jesus? That may seem like an odd question, but so often we make Jesus into images that suit us rather than the Jesus we find in the Bible. Dan Darling has set out to help us think through our versions of Jesus and provides a helpful corrective in his new book, The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is.
What inspired your new book?
Darling: This book started with two inspirations, one negative, one positive. Negatively, I heard myself and other Christians saying things like, “The Jesus I know . . .” as if we can fashion and shape Jesus to our own preferences and biases. Positively, I was in class with Dr. D.A. Carson and heard him say, “The Bible doesn’t begin with epistemology, but theology.” What he meant by this is that Scripture doesn’t begin with “How can I know God or what do I think of God, but with a declaration of who God is.” I thought about that as we think about Jesus Christ. Christ is who the Scriptures declare him to be, who he says he is, not who we think he is. This started me on the path of thinking through various ideas of Jesus in the evangelical culture that are partial truths, but not true to the real Jesus of Scripture. I wanted to be able to help people think through their incomplete formulations of Christ and get to the real, original, beautiful Christ.
Why do you think we are tempted to make Jesus in our image or in the image we hope him to be?
I think we do this because in our falleness, we want to bring Christ down to our level. We want a Jesus who justifies our behavior, who affirms our beliefs and preferences, a mascot for our favorite causes. In some ways, it is a form of self-worship, where the Jesus we worship starts to look like the man in the mirror. Jesus came to do the exact opposite, to rescue us from sin and to sanctify us and mold us into His image. He is the potter and we are the clay.
What is your solution to this problem?
The solution is simple: confronting, acknowledging, and bowing in worship before the real Jesus of Scripture. Rather than trying to focus on one attribute of Christ, the attribute we most identify with, we should come to Jesus with humility, letting him shape us instead of us shaping him. Ultimately the real Jesus of Scripture is infinitely better than the pedestrian Jesus’ of our imagination.
How do envision readers using your book?
I envision them really thinking deeply about the deity of Christ and not using the book as a cudgel against their neighbor, but as an opportunity to look deep within their own hearts to find the ways that they have missed the real Jesus in pursuit of one that conforms to their preferences. There are chapters in this book that will really resonate with the reader. And there are chapters that will challenge and convict. This is what happened to me as I was writing it. I didn’t realize all the ways I’d reduced Jesus to my own imagination.
Watch Dan share more in this video:
More about Dan
Daniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A former pastor, Darling is the author of several books, as well as a speaker and blogger. He contributes to a weekly column for Leadership Journal and his work can be found in the Washington Post, Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, Relevant, Beliefnet.com, Homelife, The Gospel Coalition, Crosswalk.com, and many more print and online publications. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.