Takeaway: A modern classic of what it means to be a Christian
I am on an NT Wright kick. I was given a copy of Jesus, Paul and the People of God for review (a book of papers from Wheaton College Theology Conference). The whole conference was a conversation with and about NT Wright. I started reading it and realized that while I have read some of the more popular of NT Wright’s books, I have not read some of his more important academic books.
I have read Simply Christian before, but I read it quickly right after it came out and other than the main themes I really did not remember much about it. So I decided to revisit the book. I am violating my rule of reading a book in a different format because I am trying to save a bit of money right now (so I am re-reading on audio instead of re-reading in paper or Kindle format.) The main complaint that I have seen is about Wright’s prose. He can occasionally write the half page sentence or the slightly too obtuse argument. But I tend to listen to Wright first, get the structure of the arguement and then read him more carefully later in a print format.
In spite of difficult points, I think this is one of the best short books on what it means to be a Christian. It is structured in three parts. The first section is a broad view of what theology (and in particular the theology of Christianity) is all about. My favorite part of this section is his discussion on what Christ has done and then the second section about God drawing near to us. These sections are a bit philisophical, but are quite lucid and at times verge on the beautiful.
The second section is various methods of talking about God. The main weakness here is that I wish he spent more time on the Holy Spirit. But this is a very orthodox section about the role of God in the world and in the life of the church. There is occasionally a complaint from someone that has not read much of Wright about his theology, but Wright is one of the freshest (and most important) voices breathing new life into modern theology. In many ways, I think he is performing a similar role as Karl Barth did in the early 20th century. (I have not read enough Barth to compare their theology, but I am aware that they would disagree on many points, but they both brought orthodox Christianity back to the academy, made real academic research into Christianity something that was again important for orthodox Christians, took scripture very seriously and they both had a pastoral heart for the church.)
The final section is about points of action within the faith; worship, prayer, scripture reading, role of the church within the world, etc. This is practical and pastoral section and is a bit focused on newer Christians. I still found it encouraging, even if it was a bit elementary at times.
Overall, I would highly recommend this to any academic leaning Christians, especially those that are newer Christians. For those that do not have an academic leaning, there are probably better books to introduce you to Christianity. But Simply Christian plays an important role of speaking about Christianity to a post modern audience, while clearly keeping an eye both on historic orthodox Christianity and the need to speak in a fresh way about faith in a 21st century world.