Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Simply Christian begins by listing reasons to believe in God: the longing for justice in a world where there is much injustice, the search for spirituality in a culture that beckons us to a wholly material world, our craving for permanence in relationships that no matter how great will end in death, and those fleeting experiences of beauty in a world where there is so much ugliness. These are “echoes of a voice” that point to a Creator. Though N. T. Wright is clear that these echoes are neither proofs that compel belief nor unambiguous pointers to the Christian God, they may open the minds of the honest to look for something more than the flat scientific materialism and drab consumerism of modern Western culture.
Not all truth is the result of observation and experiment, Wright notes. We observe the moral chaos around us but we know the world was made for justice; and we know that our thirst for spirituality, relationships, and beauty are real. Such knowledge requires resources beyond those available to the scientist and engineer. Philosophy, then, is an appropriate place to begin, but the god to whom philosophy points is ill-defined and virtually unknowable. Whatever or whoever is ultimately responsible for these echoes is not simply another element or part of this universe. So what is “God”? There are three basic options.
The first option is pantheism. Here God and the universe are one. God is everything and everything is God. (A slight variation is panentheism, where everything is God, but God is more than everything in what is called the universe.) The fundamental difficulty with this option is its inability to deal with evil. If we are all one with God, then what we call evil and tragedy must not really be bad since they are themselves divine.
The second option is that God and the universe are utterly distinct: God created the universe but now allows it to run on its own. This is the Deist position that became popular in the eighteenth century...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Sources for Further Study
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1952. A major influence on Simply Christian in its presentation of Christianity to the thoughtful reader. Bishop Wright, though, brings an insider’s view in addressing problems of the contemporary church. Wright is a corrective for the times; Lewis is timeless.
Ostling, Richard N. “Modern Book Is Counterpart of C. S. Lewis Classic.” Beaumont Enterprise, March 25, 2006, p. B1. Review of Wright’s book discusses its similarities to Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
Wells, Samuel. “Straight Talk.” Review of Simply Christian and The Last Word. The Christian Century 123, no. 24 (November 28, 2006): 42-45. Discusses Wright’s rejection of dualism and deals with the concepts included in his work.
Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1992. The first volume in the series Christian Origins and the Question of God, it lays the groundwork for Wright’s study of what can be known historically about Jesus of Nazareth as reported in the Gospels.
Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1996. The second volume in the series Christian Origins and the Question of God, this book presents Wright’s analysis of the so-called quest for the historical Jesus and argues for Jesus’ self-understanding of his vocation as acting in Israel’s place as the suffering servant who is vindicated by God.
Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2003. The third in the series Christian Origins and the Question of God, this book examines the meaning of “resurrection” in classical, Jewish, and Christian contexts and argues that the best explanation of the empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus to the disciples afterward is bodily resurrection.