Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

A Review of Simply Christian by N.T. Wright (Section 4)

In the series: Considering N.T. Wright
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series
Wright-Simply-ChristianIn Part One of Simply Christian, N.T. Wright discusses four “echoes of a voice” that incline our hearts in God’s direction. These echoes are: the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty.
In Part Two of Simply Christian, Wright shows how these echoes are sounded in the true Christian story of God’s work in the world, a story that begins in Genesis with the first creation and concludes with the new creation of Revelation. Wright wraps up Part Two by speaking of Jesus and the Trinity:


     And it’s all because of Jesus. Once we glimpse the doctrine â?? or the fact! â?? of the Trinity, we dare not slide back into a generalized sense of a religion paying distant homage to a god who (though somewhat more complicated than we had previously realized) is merely a quasi-personal source of general benevolence. Christian faith is much more hard-edged, more craggy, than that. Jesus exploded into the life of ancient Israel â?? the life of the whole world, in fact â?? not as a teacher of timeless truths, nor as a great moral example, but as the one through whose life, death, and resurrection God’s rescue operation was put into effect, and the cosmos turned its great corner at last. . . . It’s all because of Jesus that we speak of God the way we do.
And it is all because of Jesus that we find ourselves called to live the way we do. More particularly, it is through Jesus that we are summoned to become more truly human, to reflect the image of God into the world. (p. 140)


Whew! When N.T. Wright gets on a rhetorical roll, he really preaches!
Part Three of Simply Christian picks up the idea of “reflecting the image of God into the world.” This reflection leads into a discussion of worship (ch. 11), prayer (ch. 12), the Bible (chs. 13 & 14), and Christian community/mission (chs. 15 & 16). I’m not going to try to summarize all that Wright says in these chapters. They are filled with biblically-inspired wisdom that reflects the life experience of a faithful Christian who is also a caring pastor.
Let me include a couple of excerpts from Wright’s discussion of the Bible so you can get a flavor of his writing in Part Three:

     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. (p. 173)
But the main things to recognize are that God intends that we should have this book and should read and study it, individually and corporately; and that this book, by the power of the Spirit, bears witness in a thousand ways to Jesus himself, and to what God has accomplished through him. To repeat a point I made earlier, but a vital one: the Bible isn’t simply a repository of true information about God, Jesus, and the hope of the world. It is, rather, part of the means by which, in the power of the Spirit, the living God rescues his people and his world, and takes them forward on the journey toward his new creation, and makes us agents of that new creation even as we travel. (p. 191)


What I so appreciate about these passages is, on the one hand, their rhetorical power (especially the first one). On the other hand, Wright is able to talk about what really matters in a way that is clear and compelling.
So it is with the last paragraph of Simply Christian, which circles back to the themes of Part One, picking up themes from Parts Two and Three:

     Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us. (p. 237)


When I come to the end of Simply Christian, I find myself extraordinarily grateful for N.T. Wright and his effort to communicate with non-Christian people in today’s world. Bookstores are flooded these days with sundry versions the atheistic “gospel,” which is hardly good news, after all. Christian responses to Hitchens, Dawkins, and the like are often logically coherent, but many times fail to move the hearts of unbelievers. We win the argument but lose the battle for people’s souls. N.T. Wright has attempted to do in our generation what C.S. Lewis attempted to do in his: to speak of Christianity in a simple and truthful way that touches the minds and hearst of contemporary people. In my view, the attempt itself deserves our thanks. Moreover, I think Wright’s attempt works, at least to a significant degree.
No doubt Wright’s critics will find problems with Simply Christian. And, no doubt, some problems exist. But as they try to tear apart what Wright has joined together, I hope they’ll try to do better in the positive task of communicating with secular people in today’s world. It’s one thing to win intramural Christian arguments, and quite another to hold up Christianity in a postmodern, multicultural, relativistic world. Wright has attempted what few Christians dare today, and I, for one, am both impressed and grateful.

  • Headlandyaw.Com » A Review of Simply Christian by NT Wright (Section 4)

  • A Review of Simply Christian by NT Wright (Section 4) | ok

  • christians

    It’s a wonderful review on Christianity by N.T. Wright he has explained how should be a Christian in his life its great.

  • Steve

    Mark, I read Simply Christian earlier this year and really appreciated it.
    You said that some problems exist with the book. Could you balance your review by sharing some of those concerns with us?
    In an earlier post, you mentioned Wright’s new perspective on Paul, but I don’t recall that topic even being mentioned in Simply Christian.

  • A Blog Review of NT Wrightâ??s â??Simply Christianâ? is coming. « Sets â??nâ?? Service

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Mark D. Roberts. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration ...

posted 2:09:11pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Conclusions
In this series on the death of Jesus, I have presented four different perspectives on why Jesus had to die: Roman, Jewish, Jesus’, and Early Christian. I believe that each of these points of view has merit, and that we cannot fully understand ...

posted 2:47:39am Apr. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Sunday Inspiration from the High Calling
Can We Find God in the City? Psalm 48:1-14 Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that ...

posted 2:05:51am Apr. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 3
An Act and Symbol of Love Perhaps one of the most startling of the early Christian interpretations of the cross was that it was all about love. It’s easy in our day, when crosses are religious symbols, attractive ornaments, and trendy ...

posted 2:41:47am Apr. 08, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 2
The Means of Reconciliation In my last post, I examined one of the very earliest Christian statements of the purpose of Jesus’ death. According to the tradition encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus died “for our sins in accordance with ...

posted 2:30:03am Apr. 07, 2011 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.