Simply Christian

Wright, Tom
SPCK (2006)
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The Bishop of Durham, under his populist "Tom Wright" and academic "N.T. Wright" designations is the most prolific of contemporary religious writers whose major concern is using the most modern scholarship to explain The New Testament. It is therefore extremely fortunate that he has distilled his scholarship into an over-arching, refreshingly brisk argument about the nature of God under the "Tom" banner.

The first Part describes our feelings of incompleteness and the "echoes" of fulfilment we hear through: our passion for justice in spite of setbacks; our craving for a spiritual life in a material world that fails to satisfy; our need for intimate relationships in spite of the mess we make of them; and our apprehension of beauty through art in spite of its (perhaps because of its) incompleteness.

In Part Two Wright discusses the relationship between God and Creation, identifying pantheism (merged space which has a problem with evil), Gnosticism (separate space which has a problem with intimation) and Judeo-Christianity (where God and creation are neither co-terminal nor radically divided). Wright's central theme is the connectivity between the two. For Judaism they met in the Temple and in Christianity they meet in the Incarnation. He says, in one of many telling images, that the Chosen People were sent out to rescue the world but then needed rescuing. Christianity is, therefore, "the belief that the living God accomplished the finding, saving and giving new life through Jesus. ... God's rescue plan has been put into effect once and for all". Jesus was showing the Pagans what God was really all about. The bulk of Part Two is taken up with an engaging and richly varied account of the Old Testament promise and its New Testament fulfilment. He is predictably lucid on the Resurrection and concludes with the necessity for the Holy Spirit.

Part Three deals with how we should live our Christian lives, covering worship, prayer, The Bible, Church and our collective and individual conduct. Readers who have not studied his weightier books on the Resurrection and the "after life" will be fascinated by his distinction between "Life after death" and "Life after life after death" which will only begin when the Creation is superseded by the "New Creation".

Everything about this book is wonderfully clear, like one of the clear dawns he describes. He is brisk with sloppy theology - of which he sees a great deal - and with both extreme conservative and liberal Biblical ideologists. Above all, he is fiercely opposed to dualist tendencies which have plagued the Church since its birth and which cause all kinds of distortions. An excellent introduction to the work of the most readable contemporary Biblical scholar.