Simply Christian, Surprised By Hope, After You Believe by N.T. Wright

Simply Christian, Surprised By Hope, After You Believe by N.T. Wright       *** out of ****

N.T. Wright has become a well-known writer and thinker in evangelicalism. Some have called him the modern day C.S. Lewis. Though his work falls short of Lewis, he still manages to write an interesting series of books asking some great questions about life in our day. The trilogy of books by Wright, Simply Christian, Surprised By Hope, and After You Believe, are good books that deserve a wide reading.

The greatest strengths of the 3 books are simple: They ask the best questions. Wright is incredibly skilled in figuring out what really matters and then seeking to explain it.

At its heart, Simply Christian is an update of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Some of the material adds to Mere Christianity’s ideas. It asks the question: What is the essence of the Christian message? The early chapters are the best part of the book as he looks into the hints of God in our world.

Surprised By Hope is a book about why the resurrection is central to life here and life later. This book answers the question: How does the resurrection change everything? He spends a great deal of time correcting the misconceptions Christians have about the afterlife. He makes it clear that we will not be disembodied spirits floating around on clouds. He shows us that the Christian version of Heaven is much more compelling than what many of us grew up on.

After You Believe is a book about living the virtuous life. This book answers the question: How do we live after we come to faith? This is probably the weakest of the three books but it still holds up as a nice meditation on life as a Christ follower. He is not as practical as he could have been and I think it hurts the books, especially considering the practicality of the other two books.      

The greatest weakness of the 3 books is that Wright takes to many detours. We probably will never be the C.S. Lewis of our day because it takes him too long to get there he is going. He sets up a great topic and then takes too long to address it. He even has the habit of telling us what is happening outside of the window where he is writing. In Surprised By Hope, he spends too much time looking at Third World Debt and digresses into other political and economic points that seem like tangents rather than part of the main question.   

This may sound trivial but it is Wright’s central problem. He includes too much information that does not keep the central point. He is trying to address so many small points that sometimes the bigger points get lost.

In Simply Christian and After You Believe, he spends too much time defending liturgy and not enough time talking about Christian worship. I found it strange that a book called Simply Christian would address issues like public Scripture reading during the service. Are we to conclude that public Scripture reading is part of being Simply Christian?  

Wright’s books remind me of the classic scene from the Academy Award winning movie Amadeus. Emperor Joseph II attends a Mozart performance and afterward gives this critique: “Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”   

All of his digressions aside, the books are thoughtful and thought provoking. They at least try to tackle the issues on an intelligent level, unlike many popular Christian books.

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