Monday, December 11, 2006

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N. T. Wright

With a nod toward C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity N. T. Wright gives us what Anne Rice calls, "a classic." Since I'm not qualified to make such judgements, I'll settle for saying: This is an incredible explanation of what it means to be a Christ follower.

Dr. John Harrison, chair of Graduate Bible at Oklahoma Christian University, says: "What C. S. Lewis did for the modernist in Mere Christianity, Wright hopes he has done for the post-modernist who genuinely wants to know 'What is this Christianity thing really all about?'"

Wright begins by exploring four areas he describes as "echoes of a voice." These are : the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty. These themes form the foundation of the book.

The second part of the book is an exploration of the central Christian belief about God who called the people of Israel to be his agents in

"setting forward his plan to rescue and reshape his creation. We therefore spend a whole chapter in looking at the story and hopes of ancient Israel, before spending two chapters on Jesus and two on the Spirit. Gradualy, as this part unfolds, we discover that the voice whose echoes we began to listen for in the first part becomes recognizable, as we reflect on the creator God who longs to put his world to rights; on the human being called Jesus who announced God's kingdom, died on a cross, and rose again; and on the Spirit, who blows like a powerful wind through the world and through human lives."
In part three, Wright sets forth what it looks like to follow Jesus. He examines worship, prayer, and scripture. He then focuses on the "church" as the "company of all those who believe in the God we see in Jesus and who are struggling to follow him."

In this section he particularly explores the purpose and mission of these people we call "the church." It isn't the idea of following a list of arbitrary rules so that we can get to some place called "heaven" when we die. While our future is very important, the nature of living for Christ and the Christian hope focuses on the present life. Our calling right at this moment is to become instruments of God's new creation--to continue Jesus' mission to "put the world to rights."

While it isn't exactly an aria da capo, the themes of the first section find themselves coming back up in the last section more fully as justice, spirituality, relationships and beauty are described as part of the Christian vocation. He speaks of beliving, belonging, putting the world to rights, and a beautiful new creation.

What impresses me about N. T. Wright is his appeal to classic Christian belief which has fallen on hard times during the past 50-100 years; specifically the teachings of the Resurrection ("life after 'life after death'"), the nature of Jesus, and the renewed creation. He describes these complicated themes without ambiguity.

To get a flavor of his style here's an excerpt (one of my favorite passages) from chapter 13, The Book God Breathed:
"It's a big book, full of big stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not least about themselves) and make big mistakes. It's about God and greed and grace; about life, lust, laughter, and loneliness. It's about birth, beginnings, and betrayal; about siblings, squabbles, and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion.

And that's only Genesis."
Whether you are a Christ-follower or an inquirer, this is a book well worth reading! His style is easy-to-read for such huge themes. You may or may not agree with him, but he will make you think and ponder.

"Simply Christian goes beyond C.S. Lewis's great classic Mere Christianity. N.T. Wright is simply crucial; his writing can transform one's life. This will become a classic."

-Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire and Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

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