Book Review: Simply Christian

I grew up in a home where music was part of the everyday routine of life. To his credit, my father never attended college after high school, but raised us with such a love and passion for the arts that two of his children pursued careers in music and obtained bachelor and graduate level degrees in music. Given the amount of time that was devoted to music and music related performances, often times we were less than enthusiastic about attending said performances. Even further, when the last note was played and the other concert attendees stood to their feet and applauded suggesting that the audience would like to hear an encore, I remember times when my siblings and I would refuse to join in simply because we were tired and wanted to go home. The thought of having to “endure” another piece seemed like too much for our impatient little bums to handle. We had other things to do! Other things that seemed much more fun than this!
Sadly, when it comes to a personal relationship with God, there are many who perceive the relationship to have a similar feel. It is almost as if there is a cosmic performance of some sort that humans as created beings have to show up for. One that we have to cheer and celebrate God at because if we don’t, or if we appear to be bored with the whole process, God can choose to make things worse for you. In Simply Christian, N.T. Wright picks up on this analogy and says: “If it has crossed your mind that worshiping the true God is like that, let me offer you a very different model. I have been in the audience for some great performances that moved me and fed me and satisfied me richly. But only two or three times my life I've been an audience which, the moment the conductor's baton came down for the last time, leaped to its feet in electrified excitement, unable to contain it's enthusiastic delight and wonder at what it had just experienced. That sort of response is pretty close to genuine worship of the living God.”
I find this illustration incredibly powerful. Perhaps, it is because of my own background, and the number of hours in which I have found myself seated in those funny spring-loaded chairs. Yet, I think there's more to it than that. I believe the author has captured the essence of what it means to connect with the God of the universe. To reflect back the glory He so perfectly deserves. Still, this is not where the book begins. Instead, N.T. Wright takes his readers through a journey of the grand story of Christian doctrine concerning God, Israel, and the coming of Jesus Christ to earth to rescue the world. The author’s purpose seems to be to write a primary source for explaining Christianity to skeptics and unbelievers. In the introduction Wright tells us "My aim has been to describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain to those inside.” He artfully weaves in and out of familiar Scriptural texts for those familiar with them, but does so in a way that brings the skeptic along for the ride. For example this is how Wright describes the exile. “Israel came back from Babylon; but, as some writers of the time put it, they were still slaves in their own land! Empire followed Empire: Persia, Egypt, Greece, Syria, finally Rome. Was this what it would look like when God rescued His people and put the world to rights?”

What would it look like? What would it look like when all that had been promised was brought to fruition? The author drives his readers to come to the conclusion that Christianity is not about a new moral teaching. “Christianity is about something that happened. Something that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Something that happened through Jesus of Nazareth.” Wright goes on to make a case for Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts. He talks about the church and its purpose, the idea of continuity between the family of Abraham and the worldwide family of the church. For me, his writing drives me to a similar response as to that he described after hearing an incredible musical performance. It pushes me to jump to my feet and applaud! Not for the author of this book however, but instead to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. That, and that alone is ultimately what I believe gives this book tremendous value. That is what it truly means to be “Simply Christian."


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