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Archive for N.T. Wright


N.T. Wright on Worship

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This week I posted a brief review of N.T. Wright’s latest release, titled Simply Jesus. In the concluding chapter of the book Wright made one of the best statements on worship that I’ve read in a long time. Check this out:

“All kingdom work is rooted in worship. Or, to put it the other way around, worshipping the God we see at work in Jesus is the most politically charged act we can ever perform. Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is. What’s more, it doesn’t just declare it as something to be believed, like the fact that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to allegiance, to following this Jesus, to being shaped and directed by him. Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists. It orients us instead to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom. and chastity (whether married or single) reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself. Acclaiming Jesus as Lord plants a flag that supersedes the flags of the nations, however ‘free’ or ‘democratic’ they may be. It challenges both the tyrants who think they are, in effect, divine and the ‘secular democracies’ that have effectively become, if not divine and at least ecclesial, that is, communities that are trying to do and be what the church is supposed to do and be, but without recourse to the one who sustains the church’s life. Worship creates–or should create, if it is allowed to be truly itself–a community that marches to a different beat, that keeps in step with a different Lord.”

What do you think of Wright’s words on worship? How do his words on worship compare or contrast with your weekly experience of corporate worship?

Categories : N.T. Wright, Worship
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Book Review: Simply Jesus

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My first exposure to N.T. Wright came through a graduate school class on the atonement. As we discussed the implications of the resurrection of Christ, Bert Dominy quoted a profound statement made by Wright in his book Jesus and the Victory of God. “The cross of Christ was not a defeat reversed by the resurrection,” Dominy said. “The cross of Christ is the victory of God revealed by the resurrection.”

A decade and a half have passed since that day, and throughout these years I have purchased and read most of Wright’s works. This habit has proved to be expensive, given the frequency of Wright’s publication releases, but I have yet to regret a single dollar spent.

This morning I concluded one of Wright’s recent releases, titled Simply Jesus. This is an outstanding book that makes three important contributions to one’s understanding of Jesus and his first century context. First, Wright explains with great clarity the environment and culture of the first century world where Jesus walked. He helps the reader understand the incarnational ministry of Jesus in a day when Roman rule flexed its muscles and Messianic expectation was at a fevered pitch. These insights help color and shape the words Jesus spoke and gives one an idea of how his words must have fallen upon the ears of the original hearers.

The second important contribution the book offers is a simplified version of his exodus motif. For years Wright has maintained that the best way to understand the gospels is to read them in parallel with the Old Testament story of the deliverance of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. It’s a helpful bit of insight that will give the Bible student a deeper appreciation of what the purposes of God in the world are all about.

Finally, I was impressed with Wright’s concluding assessment of what Jesus and the Kingdom of God means to today’s church. His final chapter details with great clarity what he believes to be Jesus vision for the church in the world. It is passionate, provocative, and compelling. I won’t go into further detail simply because I could never give justice to Wright’s words. Suffice it to say, this final chapter was the most inspiring (non biblical) text I read in 2011.

If you’re a fan of the life of Jesus and would like a challenging read, I recommend Simply Jesus. Don’t worry about being able to comprehend it. Rather, worry about being able to apprehend it. It could change your life.

Categories : Books, Jesus, N.T. Wright
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Scripture and the Authority of God

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This book came recommended to me by one of our members at Ashworth Road. Jason had finished the first edition, published under the title, The Last Word, and encouraged me to pick it up. Scripture and the Authority of God is the 2nd edition of that original title by N.T. Wright.

Scripture and the Authority of God is not a book about hermeneutics, but rather Wright’s suggestion as to how we should approach reading the Bible in our modern culture. Certainly the Bible is a hot button among evangelicals today, who often resort to using the Bible for the purpose of proof texting their own traditions and values. While many concur that the Bible is an authoritative document, opinions vary as to what kind of authority that conveys. What are the limits or extents of that authority? And what role does the Holy Spirit play in relationship to this authority? With those concerns in hand, Wright presents a balanced approach to the challenge.

Wright devotes the first chapters of the book to a historical survey of how the Scriptures have been handled since the Old Testament. The author reminds the reader that not all generations through history have treated the Scriptures the way we presently treat them. Does the manner in which the Bible has been read in history inform us in any way as to how we should read the Bible today? That, in part, is Wright’s point.

So what purpose does the Bible serve in history and our present day? According to Wright, to understand the purpose of the Scripture we have to think macro and not micro. The Bible was written to bear the gospel of Jesus and to serve as the missional document of the Church. The story of the Bible is chiefly the account of God’s involvement in human history and His redemptive plan that is unveiled through Jesus Christ. As the church emerges in the first century, she becomes the standard bearer, proclaiming the gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. We live to day as a continuance of the plot that was inaugurated through the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost.

How then shall we read the Bible? Wright proposes five ways that will assist and empower us to read the Bible in today’s culture. The list is provided as follows:

1. A totally contextual reading of Scripture.
Meaning, we must renew our commitment to understanding the words of Scripture in their proper contexts, including the verses, chapters, and books of the Bible, and past that into the historical and cultural settings. The words of the Bible meant something then as well as now.

2. A liturgical grounded reading of Scripture.
In other words, Scripture must be read in community. In the first century, public reading of Scripture may have been the only way that people heard the Scripture. Bible reading was not primarily an individual exercise. First and foremost came community. With this being said, Wright presents a powerful argument for the systematic reading of the Bible in corporate worship today.

3. A privately studied reading of Scripture.
While the primary hearing of Scripture may be conducted through the worship of the people, private reading and study is to be encouraged. Private Bible reading is both the privilege and responsibility of each Christian.

4. A reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship.
Wright views scholarship as “a great gift of God to the church, aiding it in its task of going ever deeper into the meaning of Scripture and so being refreshed and energized for the tasks to which we are called in and for the world (134-135).”

5. A reading of Scripture taught by the church’s accredited leaders.
Years ago the pastoral leaders of congregations had “studies,” whereas today they have “offices.” This significant shift over the past four decades has impacted the church. Wright recognizes that pastoral leaders have to deal with the management and operation of congregational ministry, however, the preaching and teaching of Scripture remains the heart of ministry.

Scripture and the Authority of God is a simple, yet helpful treatment of how to read the Bible in the 21st century. I recommend this book to you, especially if you’re weary of petty arguments about biblical interpretation over things that, by and large, just don’t matter.

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After You Believe

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“Virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices have become ‘second nature’.” So begins N.T. Wright’s monograph titled After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. After You Believe is the third part of Bishop Wright’s trilogy, which includes Simply Christian and Surprised By Hope.

Spiritual formation is a trendy topic these days among evangelicals, and Wright’s work could easily fit into that category. But his approach is not taken from the normal course of action which centers on the classical spiritual disciplines. Rather, Wright approaches spiritual formation from the perspective of character development, primarily concerning what it takes to develop virtue in life.

Wright’s writing style is enjoyable. He’s the master of using metaphor to explain difficult concepts and principles. This volume is no different in that regard. He spends a good portion of the introductory pages explaining Aristotle’s pathway to virtue as the backdrop against which Jesus came into the world and proclaimed his message of the kingdom. This historical background gives the reader more clarity in interpreting Jesus’ message about what constitutes the good life and what it actually takes to become a good person.

Wright not only explains virtue and character development from the teachings of Christ, he expands the conversation to include helpful interactions with the Pauline materials concerning virtue, namely “faith, hope, and love,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.”

He concludes with what he calls the “Virtuous Cycle,” and demonstrates how Scripture, story, example, community and praxis all work together to help us develop and apply Christian character in the 21st century.

I am a tremendous fan of the works of N.T. Wright, and highly recommend this work. Wright has a deep comprehension of the New Testament and a perspective on American Christianity that is refreshing. His writing is thoughtful and articulate and provides clear ways to appropriately apply his suggestions.

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