This school year I have been privileged to have facilitated an online class of high-school students using NT Wright’s recent book, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. As many who know me can attest, NT Wright is my favorite theologian. He has the ability to discuss the details without losing a grasp on the Big Picture, and I freely admit that his thinking has influenced my own thinking on a number of issues. In Simply Christian, Wright’s goal was “to describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain it to those inside.” My Wright’s own admission, this is a “massive task.” While no one book can hope to address all of the issues of Christianity, in 237 pages NT Wright has covered a lot of essential ground.
The book also has a very unique structure, starting with a general, philosophical backdrop by which to evaluate religion in general, and Christianity in particular. This first section deal with what he terms “echoes of a voice” – those things that compel all humans, justice, spirituality, community and beauty. Perhaps an odd way to begin a “primer” on Christianity, but brilliant. Without giving in to the traps that many would fall into such as logical proofs for God, Wright gets right to the heart of the matter, the universal intangibles that really define who we are as humans.
The next section deals with the “nuts and bolts” of Christianity, but again starting in perhaps an unusual place: Israel. Again, his approach is brilliant, using the same backdrop that God provided for Jesus to come. As he points out, without an understanding of God’s dealings with Israel, any discussion of Christianity is deficient, or perhaps nonexistent. In very concise chapters, Wright discusses the nature and identity of God (the Father), Jesus, the Gospel, the Kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit.
Part three narrows the focus, exploring the practical meaning of Christianity, what it means for us personally and what the mission of the Church is. Those who are hoping for a quick “cash out” at the rapture will be at the very least disappointed, as he shows how the mission of the church is, now that it has heard the voice itself, to act on those very themes that the “echoes” spoke of.
I think Wright succeeded in writing a book that would be of interest to those wanting to understand what Christianity is actually about, and which is also helpful to many who are Christians who don’t really have a clue what they believe, or why (there are huge numbers of these folks out there). It will not (or should not) answer all of your questions, but it is certainly a great start.
If you are interested, now that our class is finishing up, for a limited time you can take a look at our class blog. You won’t (or shouldn’t, if I set it up correctly) be able to comment, but you are free to peruse the posts and discussion.