Tuesday, January 03, 2012
In His New Book, “Simply Jesus,” N.T. Wright Suggests We May Miss the Essence of Christianity If We Don’t Understand the Implications of Who Jesus Is
I just finished reading Simply Jesus by Anglican theologian N.T. Wright over the holidays, and, once again, he has radically disturbed my very Western, Americanized perception of Christianity.
On the other hand, in doing so, he has offered a vision of Jesus that is much more compelling, and, which, according to the author, deals with the right questions and enables us to gain a fresh worldview – that of first century Christians.
Wright points out that the questions we ask about Jesus as 21st-century American Christians are very different from those asked by those in the first century. Our questions are generally quite direct: Do heaven and hell exist? How do I get to the first and avoid the second?
Back then, he suggests, the questions were very likely quite different. First century Palestinians had quite a different worldview than ours, and we need to understand their worldview in order to understand what it meant for Jesus to be born, live, die and be resurrected in that period of history. Only then can we understand enough to ask the right questions today.
And so for most of the book, Wright weaves an intricate thread consisting of the strands of history, culture and religion that formed the genre of first century Christianity.
What emerges is an understanding of Jesus that you or I likely did not learn in Sunday School. But it is a powerful and enlightening tapestry which is woven. We learn, according to Wright, that Jesus himself, by his death and resurrection, established the kingdom of God on earth which continues now and will be fully known at his second coming (in spite of the predicaments we find our world in today).
Of course there is considerable theological discussion on the whens and wherefores of the kingdom, but Wright weaves a tightknit and comprehensive brief for his views.
I found the book a fascinating read. But keep your mind open to fresh gleanings. The Jesus you meet in this book is one you’ve likely not seen quite this way before.