N.T. Wright has generated some controversy over the last several years. That’s putting it mildly. His views concerning the so-called new perspective on Paul have drawn the attention and criticism of well-known authors like John Piper. But his book Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense jettisons that whole debate. I found the book to be thought-provoking and helpful on many levels.
Wright explores what he calls the “echoes of a voice,” a yearning for justice, spirituality, relationships, and beauty. Each one of these quests, while basic to the human condition eludes us and appears to be just beyond our grasp, yet each will be attainable one day as Christ makes all things new. This is the essence of Part One. He takes each theme and likens them to the “opening movements of a symphony” which alert readers to echoes that are still to come.
Part Two seeks to set forth the basic theological framework about God and the revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ and his plan to rescue sinners from their sin and renew or reshape creation. Wright explores themes the relate to the kingdom of Christ and living by the Spirit.
Part Three explores what it means to follow Jesus, lean into the Holy Spirit and ultimately “advance the plan of this creator God.” Wright dispels the notion that the main purpose of the Christian faith is to live, die, and then go to heaven. Rather, we are called to be “instruments of God’s new creation, the world-put-to-rights which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’s followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents.”
One of the things I appreciate most about Wright’s work is his interaction with other worldviews. In Schaeffer-like fashion, he contrasts historic Christianity with deism, pantheism, and panentheism – to name a few. He sorts through various options and shows how the Christian faith is the only viable option. In many ways, Simply Christian is an introduction to biblical theology with strong apologetic arguments along the way. In other ways, it is an introduction to spiritual formation – alerting readers to the riches found in Christ and the power of his resurrection and beckoning them to find their satisfaction in Christ.
The author concludes by challenging readers: “We are called to be part of God’s new creation, called to be agents of that new creation here and now. We are called to model and display that new creation in symphonies and family life, in restorative justice and poetry, in holiness and service to the poor, in politics and painting … 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, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning.” This is a book that deserves careful attention. Like a child who longs to explore the countryside, I plan to return for another visit — for there is more to explore and understand.