Transcript: Kenneth Padgett / Wolfbane Books - Flourish in Life with Biblical Imagination
Kenneth Padgett is Co-Founder of Wolfbane books and Co-Author of The Story of God with Us and The Forgotten King. Wolfbane books focuses on cultivating Biblical imagination in individuals and families through storytelling and parables.
[00:00:00] Taylor: Welcome to According to your Purpose, a podcast by Hope Mindfulness & Prayer. I'm Taylor McMahon. On today's episode, we have Kenneth Padgett. He is the co-founder of Wolfbane books and the co-author of The Story of God With Us and The Forgotten King. Wolfbane books is an independent publisher whose purpose is to tell stories that cultivate Biblical imagination. I was really excited to have him on the show. Here's my interview with Kenneth.
[00:00:25] Kenneth. I appreciate you coming on the show.
[00:00:28] Kenneth: Hey man. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.
[00:00:31] Taylor: Not a problem. We were excited to get you on. So I became aware of what Wolfbane was doing because I received an ad for one of your books and it was advertising itself as a parable. And that kind of spoke to me on a personal level because I really enjoy archetypal stories and the idea of a modern parable kind of spoke to me in a personal way. And I was like this is interesting. This is different than what I've seen. Other Christian writers do. But I guess, tell me a little bit about Wolfbane and then tell me a little bit about why write parables as opposed to two other types of stories?
[00:01:08] Kenneth: Yeah. Wolfbane books is myself and my good buddy, Shay Gregorie, and we met in seminary years back and we have between our two families. We have a lot of kids. And Shay especially. Shay has eight kids. Number nine on the way. But we found ourselves of course, reading to our children - obviously we're in the stage of life where we're discipling children.
[00:01:32] And so we're coming along like every other parents and we're grasping for resources to help us disciple our children and some of the stuff that we were learning in seminary we didn't see available at least, maybe bits and pieces here and there, in current children's literature or family discipleship resources.
[00:01:59] And we started, we would supplement that with our own storytelling. I made up stories for my daughters and Shay made up stories and poetry for his family. And we're encouraging one another in that for years and we decide, "Hey, listen. Maybe we're supposed to help families disciple their children. Maybe we're supposed to create resources for family discipleship." And so that's what Wolfbane books is. It's a stepping out in faith that God has perhaps called us to provide resources for family discipleship. And that's our heart. Our little tagline is to cultivate Biblical imagination for all ages and we're doing that by creating resources.
[00:02:48] Right now mainly resources that are accessible to children and focusing on the parent, grandparent, child relationship in discipleship - in home discipleship. And then you ask about the parable. Of course, one of our books that we've released is called The Forgotten King and we've been promoting it and pushing it as a parable, rather than an allegory or a short story, or just another children's picture book.
[00:03:22] One of the reasons for that - one reason is just because that's a Biblical category. When you read the Gospels with your kids, you're gonna see him. You're gonna hear him teaching in parable. You're gonna hear him all of a sudden break out into a story that he's intending to communicate something about his kingdom and he calls those parables. The Gospel writers call those parables.
[00:03:45] In the old Testament, you'll run into parables. The word parable, won't maybe a great way to understand it is just the word parable itself in Greek. 'Para' is the preposition that means alongside to be along. 'Bolḗ' is the word we're throwing for casting. And so a parable is a little story that's cast alongside - it's tossed alongside reality, the world that we live in, where it's cast alongside a teaching that you're trying to communicate.
[00:04:25] You're trying to speak into that with a story that comes alongside it. It could be "Suppose there was a king and he had a village" and you're able to communicate the realities of this world, the realities of God's kingdom through that little short story. And it's not just cast alongside anything.
[00:04:51] A parable is intentionally used to teach and to form and to shape. Jesus is a storyteller. God is a storyteller. The Bible is a story. And he does that because he created us and he created a storied people that live in a storied world and he revealed himself to us in a great grand story recorded in scripture.
[00:05:16] Taylor: Do you think there's something that is communicated in stories that can't be communicated otherwise? As opposed to let's say, Jesus, all the different modes of communication, if he was having more straight talk - "This is the way that you should be living". He does some of that, but is there something to storytelling or parables that can't be communicated in other forms of communication that might be more straightforward?
[00:05:45] Why do you think God chose the the method of storytelling and parables as his, I would say primary, vessel for truth?
[00:05:58] Kenneth: Sure. Yeah. You're gonna find all kinds of ways of communicating within the story of scripture. Within Jesus's own ministry, sometimes he'll tell stories and sometimes he'll do just straight up, ethical teaching that concords with his kingdom.
[00:06:19] But he is often storytelling. And of course God's book is a story in which you'll find different ways of communicating the truth. However, with that said I think I want to cite Andrew Peterson as saying "If you want a kid to know the truth, tell them the truth. If you want a kid to love the truth, then tell them a story."
[00:06:48] There's something about story. That reaches deeper into our marrow - into our bones. Stories have the capacity to reach beyond sheer intellect and down into our hearts. It has the capacity to form and shape us in significant ways. We can read bullet point realities. We can read boom, boom, boom. That's okay. I get it. Stories pull you. There's like a magnetism to story. And so that can be very awesome. It can be very dangerous. There's plenty of storytellers in our society and in our culture and in our world that are shaping and ways that are detrimental to society and culture and to humanity.
[00:07:39] Stories are powerful things but they do have that capacity to reach deep down inside the deepest depths of our being and start to form and shape and rearrange. Because that's true, it makes sense that Jesus would be telling stories when he came - when he was incarnate 2000 years ago. It's the reason that God has revealed himself to us in a grand story. He's pulling us in. He's calling us in - every fiber of us, into his great story that he's telling.
[00:08:15] Taylor: For a person to be a good storyteller? Do you think they have to communicate some level of truth? If they were, you were saying that maybe storytellers are have less than ideal virtues or maybe objectives for life. Do you think that you suffer as a storyteller when you aren't communicating the truth or do you think rather the story is a vessel that can be used for good or for evil?
[00:08:42] Kenneth: Definitely the story can be used as a vessel for good or for evil. I think a storyteller is not worth their salt if they're not plugging into reality in some way. And I think stories that are not grounded in reality. I think all humans intuitively know this is worthless for me. So you can be telling a story in a galaxy far, far away with laser swords and blasters, and you can be communicating some significantly true and real ideas that play in our world. So if being just and honorable and noble is seen as good, in this story that the storyteller is telling, and if being impatient and angry, or unjust anger is seen as bad, those concord with our reality - with the way God wove this world together.
[00:09:55] That's at least the beginnings of a good story. If those things are in place you have the bare bones of something that can really speak to us and shape us. Whether or not you're good at executing that is, obviously varies. But if in your story the Nazis are heroes. If in your story the evil empire is a hero and good and something that you want to promote. And you're shaping minds and imaginations in this world to believe that stealing, that impatience, that murder is good, and that patience and loving kindness is weak - and whatever. That doesn't concord with our reality. And so it's not - it's bad. You have the makings of a bad story.
[00:10:49] And the problem is in our culture, those kinds of things exist, but the story tellers, the crafting of the narrative, can be done with extreme excellence and can be very convincing. And so they become dangerous stories - because they are. Something that captivates you just as sheer entertainment, but it could be totally lying to you about reality.
[00:11:16] And it can start, we've seen in our culture, it starts to shapehow we even perceive the real world and it starts to turn things that are, that have been right side up for a long time upside down.
[00:11:28] Taylor: Do you think that everybody regardless of faith or religious background, do you think everybody shares the same truth? How do you define the truth?
[00:11:42] Kenneth: The truth is that which concords with reality. That would be a very simplistic answer. We all operate in the same reality. We all operate in God's world. We all live in God's world. And we're all God's creation - all people. That we don't all recognize that is a manifestation of our brokenness, of our fallenness of something being off in our world.
[00:12:13] I do think that people who don't recognize that reality still have to function in this world. And there's a common grace - if you wanna say it that way. There is a borrowing, most cultures know, no matter what their religion is, most cultures know that unjustified killing is wrong.
[00:12:43] Most people get that all across the world. And so in stories all across the world, all across history, usually unjustified killing is something that the bad guy does. And stopping bad guys is something that the good guy does. Promoting virtues, such as honesty. Honesty just works. It's with the grain of human existence. But we all fall short. We all don't hit that mark. And so sometimes we don't live our lives or tell our stories in such a way that, that reflects that reality of honesty.
[00:13:31] Taylor: Yeah. I tend to think that way as well. It's interesting, so much of our current culture and elite thinking is this idea that it's all relative. But when I think about the idea of God or the idea of like capital T truth, in the world, it makes sense in my own life.
[00:13:57] I see it in the way, kindness. I see it in love, in a family. If these things aren't backed up by something more foundational on a spiritual, on a biological level. It makes sense to me that we are something beyond animals and you, and if you feel that, and so it's if you take that away, it's a pretty dark world. It's a pretty scary world. And I think the truth is you see the truth in honesty and in kindness and all these different things. And it's this has to be a reflection of God because surely we would have no affinity for these things. If we were just here by accident.
[00:14:41] Kenneth: Ultimately truth is that which concords to reality. And it's something that, that we - It's an objective reality. It's something that, that we experience. It's not something that we necessarily create or that we get to. - We're not the arbiters of what is true. We can relay what is true, but we can't invent it.
[00:15:11] Taylor: The tagline on Wolfbane books - so y'all's tagline on Wolfbane books is to cultivate Biblical imagination. What exactly is that?
[00:15:20] Kenneth: Imagination is the ability to cast an image forward, in your mind, about the way things could be or the way things ought to be, or just the way - you have the ability to form a picture. There's one sense of imagination where we think negatively, as a grown up, 'pretending' as a child. Something that you're making up something what would it look like if I could fly around the world and I can picture that in my head.
[00:16:01] That's using your imagination in a way. But the imagination is the reason we have it, the way that we use it, all people use it - is we throw up a picture in front of us, into the future of the way things should be, could be or ought to be and we then it, it then connects to our actions here.
[00:16:31] When you and I were thinking about doing this interview, I thought maybe I'll just do it in my kitchen kitchen table, and I started to imagine. And that affected, this is a super simplistic way of saying this, that affected where I would situate my computer and where I would sit, this kinds of thing.
[00:16:56] So we use it like in minute details of our life and how we plan our life and then act accordingly. And then we use it in big imagine where you're gonna be in five years. Have you ever heard that? Imagine - what's your 10 year plan or whatever. Those kinds of things. The reason that we get compelled to do that, use our imagination, is so that we can start to shape our actions so that they get us to a destination. That's a one way to think about it as well.
[00:17:24] So with all that said imagination is a thing that every human exercises every day in the simplest tasks, and even in our planning of our life and careers and families and all that. A Biblical imagination is - Kevin Vanhooser, who's a a theologian, he talks about discipling your imagination. He talks about a sanctified imagination. And what your imagination is sometimes it's capacity to image forward is directly connected to your world view. To the way that you see reality. And since we all have imaginations and we're all moving into the future. And so we're always using it to direct our actions and where we could potentially be and go, it's tapped into our worldview. It's tapped into the way that we see the world and experience reality and perceive reality. A Biblical imagination is an imagination that is tapping into a vision of the world, a perception of the world, that is Biblical. That is Godly. That concords with the way God has arranged the world.
[00:18:54] And so when I'm imagining, when I'm making a decision, when I'm moving into the future, is that calculation there? Is it connected to, is it faithful to, the reality as God has ordained it? And has how God has set it all up?
[00:19:19] So a Biblical imagination is something that reflects it. It allows me to see what faithfulness to God's - what God has designed and done here in the world and what he's doing in my life. Biblical imagination projects what would a faithful presentation look like? What would a faithful image of what could be and what ought to be and what should be and then that just that normal sense of imagination is it compels me to then act.
[00:19:59] And to move into it. Here's an example. The kingdom of God, right? The kingdom of God is broadly where God reigns as king. It's where Jesus is king. It's where he's obeyed - practically speaking. So if I'm trying to imagine the kingdom of God and walking in faithfulness to Jesus and walking in accordance with his kingdom in a way that honors him and glorifies him, I can start to image forth. What does it look like for Jesus to be king in my kitchen? What does it look like for Jesus to be king in my house? In my family? And I start to imagine.
[00:20:52] These are the kinds of things that would manifest in my family. We'd be marked by patience and we'd be marked by loving kindness. We'd be marked by lovers of the truth. We would be a people who regularly spend time together in God's word. So all these things I can start to picture and imagine what it would be like. And then I start to detail that imagination "perhaps we should, every morning we should gather around the table before we do, we homeschool in our house, and so before we homeschool". I sit down and we go through the story of the Bible. And when that is happening that we're being obedient to God's word - we're meditating on God's word - and we're praying together. We're learning together. Here is the kingdom of God. Here is where Jesus is being obeyed. To the extent that we that we are faithful in all that. What does it look like for the kingdom of God, for Jesus, to reign over my marriage? So all that to say, that's a long way of saying a biblical imagination is imaging something forward and connecting that to our actions to get there. That's where we're going with it.
[00:22:15] Taylor: Have you ever read The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale?
[00:22:20] Kenneth: I have not.
[00:22:21] Taylor: It's an older book. It's an older book, but it's part religious book. He's a pastor in New York, but it's part kind of positive thinking. And his whole, the kind of the summary of the book is "You think positive about the future and you trust in the promises of God." That's the gist of his whole worldview.
[00:22:43] Is this different than let's say "trusting in the promises of God for your future?" I love God. God loves me. I trust that he's working all things for the good of his people. Is it different than like faith in God on that level? Or is it functionally different than just faith and positivity thinking about God in a future scenario? Is it functionally different?
[00:23:09] Kenneth: I think functionally, yes. So N.T. Wright has this great quote or this great way of thinking about -he paints a picture, a biblical picture, of the eschatological future of the world, of humanity where there are no poor. There is no murder. There are no tears. These kinds of things. This state that we'll be in when we are with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth. You can have that vision and you can have that eschatological view of humanity in the world and be like, wow, that's really great. I can't wait to get there - type of situation. But N.T. Wright talks about well, we're called - Jesus says for his kingdom to come... for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And so the way that he - N.T. Wright articulates that is "How do we usher - we're called to usher that future reality into the present." I love that language. And I think here is where it - because that's action.
[00:24:24] That's doing that's being.
[00:24:26] Taylor: Okay.
[00:24:28] Kenneth: Yeah. Where I'm not negating trusting God. God is good. All these truths and realities and all this positive stuff that is fantastic for us to think about and dwell on, but where the rubber meets the road is manifesting that reality.
[00:24:48] So it's one thing for me to say, oh, I trust God. He's good to me. He's working things out for me. But if I'm simultaneously wrecking my life, trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps - People could say, do you really trust God? Are I hear your mouth, but then I see your life. It doesn't work.
[00:25:12] Biblical imagination - and the way this works, is that process. It's the kind of the first step to beginning to be and live and act imaging forward. What does it look like for that future reality to be here and to be here and to this sphere of my life and this sphere of my life and this relationship, what does it look like for me to be an agent of God's goodness? An ambassador for Jesus' kingship? What does it actually look like for me to do that on the ground here in this life? In this world that God has placed me in?
[00:25:57] So yeah, so there's definitely more of a "the beginnings of an action". And so since we're doing family discipleship and we're involving children in what we're doing. We're gearing towards them a little bit. We're trying to be accessible to children. We're base floor. Like"Hey. Here's the world. God made. Here's the reality." So in The Forgotten King - we have two books, The Story of God with Us and The Forgotten King. Both those books cast the same reality forward. That God wants to dwell with you. He wants to be with you. That's a base reality. That is something that you need to always process for the rest of your life. That God is here. That God wants to be with you. He's moving obstacles out of the way so that you and he can dwell together so that we, his family, can dwell together in his presence with him in our midst.
[00:27:03] Taylor: Our users on the meditation app are - they tend to be kind of health oriented people, goal oriented people. How would you, in an actionable way, tell people if they wanted to pursue this, how would they go about pursuing a Biblical imagination and then what would that bring to their life in a functional sense?
[00:27:28] Kenneth: Yeah, that's great. People who are health oriented, whether physically or emotionally, spiritually, or all of those together, are a people who are interested in thriving and flourishing - at least at a base level. And I'm gonna go back to Psalm 1 again. Meditate on the instruction of Yahweh day and night. And do not walk in the ways of the world and you will be like a tree planted by streams of water that produce fruit.
[00:28:13] And that's - that's God's - that's a baseline. Do you wanna flourish? Do you wanna thrive as a human being? Do you wanna be fully human? Then meditate on my instruction. Yahweh says. And where is that? So the word that I'm using for instruction in your English Bible will probably be law because the word is Torah. But it represents much more than law, as we conceive of it in English, so it's probably not a great translation to gloss that word that way, but as long as you understand that the instruction of Yahweh that's revealed in scripture. Meditating on it, like serious meditation on it. Tuning your mind and your heart towards it. Orienting your being towards God's instruction in scripture.
[00:29:18] And that instruction again, it can come very didactic. It can be a sentence of instruction or it can be revealed in a grand story. It can be revealed in the story of Ruth. You can be shaped and instructed by the story of Ruth, as an example. By the teachings of Jesus, of course, obviously by the teachings of Paul, of course, obviously. So an entry point into flourishing and thriving towards true health, in the most meaningful ways, is to engage with the Bible.
[00:30:06] But I'm a firm believer in Psalm 1. That if you start meditating on the instruction of God, in scripture, day and night, you will stop walking in the ways of the world. You will start flourishing and bear fruit, which is a blessing to you and a blessing to the world around you.
[00:30:27] Taylor: I imagine given that humans are uniquely capable of imagination, that there's a very specific reason for that - as it relates to God. Do you have any ideas as to why God would give us the ability to imagine at all? Given that it's uniquely human. It's a uniquely human trait.
[00:30:52] Kenneth: It does seem to be a distinctly human capability. I think with Genesis 1, we would be prompted to tie that to being in the image of God. Michael Heiser, who's another great scholar. He glosses the images of the image of God generally has imagers of God that, that humanity images God. We reflect...
[00:31:23] Taylor: What's the distinction?
[00:31:25] Kenneth: So sometimes that we think like being in the images of God, or being in the image of God, we start to just think about what differentiates us from things that are not images of God. Like what makes me different from a tree? What makes me different from a dog? What makes me different from an orangutan? And these are those capacities, and so it ends up being this kind of neat little idea about "oh, I can talk" or "I can what whatever we have", "the ability to reason"," I have the ability to invent and build". And so this is what it means. I don't wanna say those things. Those things are, there are a lot of things that are distinctly human but that and the Hebrew word אֱלִיל - it's an idol. It's an image. That, so when you built a temple in the ancient world, you put an image of the God, in the temple, as a representation of that God in that temple.
[00:32:41] If you're not aware of that, then you don't know, but it, but if you are aware of that, you can see clearly that Genesis 1 is playing on those ideas and that image represents God. So being an imager of God, as someone who images forth God in the world, versus someone who is just distinct in these ways or a kind of species that is distinct in these ways.
[00:33:07] Even if you compile all these distinctions you, it's still for a purpose still for a reason. It's so that you can image forth God into the world. When we're fruitful and we multiply, we're expanding our reach and our capacity to image God into the world. And so you can see in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, this is like a great thing. That what's being set up is just like massive potential to carry to image forth God, into creation - ever expanding way. And then of course, is a train wreck in Genesis 3.
[00:33:52] We still have the capacity to image forth God. We still have these distinguishing markers, if you want, think about it that way. But to be truly human, to be fully human is to image forth God faithfully. Not only will God be glorified, you will be flourishing and thriving as human being. Even in the midst of trials. There will be a source under maybe under the ground that is feeding your joy in God, in Jesus.
[00:34:31] What I mean by under the ground is just not seen. A subterranean stream from the spirit that allows us to flourish, even in the midst of trials and the tragedy and war and things like that. So we can see people in deep persecution going to their graves with utter trust in their hearts. And we can read stories about that all over the world and all through history willing to make sacrifices for the greater good, because that's who God is. That's what God does. And we image that forward into the world. And us being obedient to him and us being faithful to him, we start to - people start to encounter God in our lives.
[00:35:23] I want to be faithful at that. And so I need to know the God of the Bible. I need to know his story. I need to know that I'm living in his story, that I have a role to play in his story, and that he is calling me to be a faithful image that he is calling me to be a faithful witness ambassador in this, on his stage. That he's our world and in his story, that we're living in.
[00:35:53] Taylor: I think that just about gets it. I appreciate you coming on the show. And so I guess, tell me a little bit, I have your book here, The Forgotten King this is the newest book.
[00:36:03] Kenneth: Yep.
[00:36:03] Taylor: It's awesome. I really enjoyed it.
[00:36:06] Kenneth: Thank you.
[00:36:06] Taylor: It's a beautiful book.
[00:36:07] Kenneth: Thank you.
[00:36:07] Taylor: It's well done.
[00:36:10] Kenneth: Yeah.
[00:36:10] Taylor: Honestly, I think everybody should go get the book. I really am a big fan of what you guys are doing. And I think everybody's gonna enjoy this. I think it speaks on a different level.
[00:36:23] But tell me what's next for Wolfbane books and then I guess, how can people support what you guys are doing? Get the books? What where's the website? The socials. How do people get in touch with you?
[00:36:34] Kenneth: Yeah. Great. Well, first of all, thank you so much for the super kind words about The Forgotten King. It is our latest release. It released late spring, early summer in 2022. So just a couple months back. And we had before that, The Story of God With Us, which I showed earlier. That's another book that works a little bit differently. It's more like just Biblical teaching and experiencing the Bible as story.
[00:37:03] We have another book coming out this fall called The Story of God Our King. So it's the second in the series of we're calling The Story of God series. And so it's same size illustrated by Aiden Peterson, mind blowing illustrations of biblical scenes, and accessible to kids. But it also traces the theme of God's kingship through the story of scripture, the royal nature of his people. We talk about the triumph over the great antagonist in scripture and the role of Jesus and it all lands on Jesus. And it all ends like the Bible ends with a vision of the future. What God is going to do with this world and how he's moving that forward. So that book is coming this fall.
[00:37:57] And if you wanna know about it or follow us or see what we're up to or support us in any way, buy our books. Share about the book if you have them and love them. But yeah, we're @wolfbanebooks everywhere. We're even on Twitter and Instagram, Facebook, the normal social media avenues. Our website is wolfbanebooks.com, which is pretty straightforward. If you wanna know what Wolfbane books means - why we chose Wolfbane, that we have a nice little video on that, that you can find on our website and on our YouTube page, you can find us on YouTube as well. And we have a contact email there if you wanna contact us. And, we'll probably respond in a pretty quick fashion. Yeah, we're just getting started. We have high hopes. We're trying to do everything with excellence and we're greatly anticipating what God may do through Wolfbane books.
[00:39:01] And we really want to - Let me take this time right now to encourage you with Hope and the app.
[00:39:09] Taylor: Ahh thank you.
[00:39:10] Kenneth: The podcast and you know cultivating yourself. Just a ministry where people can engage with God and maybe slow down and clear out some clutter. And yeah, we're grateful for what you guys are doing too. So it's been a blessing appreciate and an honor for me. Yeah. It's been a blessing and honor for me to be on the podcast.
[00:39:41] Taylor: Awesome. Thank you. I won't spoil, I know what Wolfbane is from and I appreciate the name. So if you want to know where the name came from, go visit Kenneth on YouTube @wolfbanebooks or you can go check out his books at wolfbanebooks.com.
[00:39:57] Thanks again, Kenneth.
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