Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 183

Simply Christian by N.T. Wright focuses on proving the existence of God. The author uses several themes such as injustice, materialism, and the longing for eternal relationships to convince the reader that God exists. He argues that the perfections and imperfections in the world prove that there is a God....

(The entire section contains 1767 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Simply Christian by N.T. Wright focuses on proving the existence of God. The author uses several themes such as injustice, materialism, and the longing for eternal relationships to convince the reader that God exists. He argues that the perfections and imperfections in the world prove that there is a God. Wright writes about Christianity for different audiences, including those who are not familiar with the Christian faith. The author challenges cynics by providing justifications for the many dilemmas in the world.

Wright bases his arguments on the Bible, explaining the connection between the Old and New Testaments, which tends to be a contentious topic. Furthermore, he discusses the different denominations in Christianity. He addresses the dissimilarities between Catholics and Protestants by discussing issues such as liturgical versus impromptu prayers. The author also discusses the issues that cause arguments between Christian denominations, such as communion and the right way of worshiping.

Wright argues that Christians should have an attitude that overlooks the differences brought about by denominations. He notes that these differences should not divide Christians, as they all worship the same God.

Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 159

Simply Christian by N.T. Wright begins with an overview of the history of Christianity and goes on to discuss the textual importance of the Old and New Testaments. Wright contends that humans have an innate desire not only to connect with others but also to be a part of something bigger. Wright speculates that when we grapple with such meaningful questions, we are experiencing "echoes" of voice; it is her belief that these echoes reflect Christianity's story, and that by hearing the story we “recognize the voice whose echoes we have heard.”

Wright argues that Christianity is an immediate and present practice, even though the death of Jesus Christ occurred centuries ago. Since Christianity is based on the simple truth of Christ's death and resurrection, Wright believes, the faithful are not obligated to follow a specific list of rules and regulations: “It is about practising, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world.”

Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1425

First published: San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006

Genre(s): Nonfiction

Subgenre(s): Critical analysis; spiritual treatise; theology

Core issue(s): Beauty; church; God; Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ; justice

Overview

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 Enlightenment. Only slightly different is an “interventionist” God who spends most of his time in the supernatural realm and only occasionally intervenes. Wright fears that many Christians assume this picture. However, a god whose only connection with the universe is an occasional miracle is not a fully Christian God, nor can such a God account for the ongoing “echoes of voices.”

The third option is one where God and the material universe overlap. Though the created realm is not God (contrary to option one), there are places where God’s presence is continually knowable. The entire created realm is in a “close, dynamic and intimate relationship” with its loving God (contrary to option two). Wright says this is the best explanation for the echoes we continually hear.

It is the same conception of God that is produced when we listen carefully and patiently to the grand story of Scripture, Wright argues. This story begins with human rebellion and consequent corruption of God’s good creation. God responds by choosing Abraham to father a nation, the Jews, to announce God’s forgiveness and restoration for all nations. However, God’s chosen people rebel and are sent into exile. Finally, a prophet is sent, Israel’s messiah, whose vocation is to look directly into the depths of evil and become the very meeting place of heaven and earth—a place where God’s beauty shows clearly, an obedient servant where the widows and orphans are given justice, a temple where the presence of God dwells palpably, and a suffering servant who seeks not his own victory through military might but prayerfully awaits the work of God. When God’s prophet, Jesus the Messiah, is crucified on Friday, he suffers; when he is bodily raised on Sunday, he is vindicated.

The story gives rise to many questions. Why this story? Wright’s short answer is that unless the Christian story is essentially true, it is historically impossible to account for the meteoric rise of the Church.

Why is that important? Western modernity locates history’s pinnacle between 1650 and 1800, when science began to claim supremacy over philosophy and theology as the best source of knowledge, and democracy trumped monarchy as the best form of government. However, the true pinnacle came a millennium and a half earlier, Wright says. By conquering evil with love, and death by resurrection, Jesus did what Israel could not do—inaugurate God’s kingdom or rule here on earth.

Finally, Wright asks: If God’s kingdom has already come to earth, then what should Christians do? First, they should worship and pray. Second, they should read and study the Bible—not as a list of rules and formulas, but as a five-act drama whose first four and a half acts have been written. Christians should finish the play by working to restore justice, rediscovering relationships, and giving new birth to beauty.

Christian Themes

Wright begins with the theme of general revelation, asking, How much do we know about God through common human experience? In our desire for justice, spirituality, relationships, and beauty, we hear echoes of God’s voice calling us.

Wright demonstrates his greatest strength in addressing the theme of God’s specific revelation in Jesus Christ. Here his immense scholarship as a historian of Jesus offers significant payoff for grasping Jesus’ message and his religious and cultural context. Jesus is best understood as a first century Jew who proclaimed the Kingdom of God and himself as the fulfillment of God’s work with Israel.

On a related theme, Wright tackles the nature of the Bible. Its pages contain God’s story of salvation in the history of Israel, in the ministry of Jesus, and in forming the Church as a response to Jesus’ message, all of which demonstrate God’s love for the world. Most important, we are called to respond to the message of the Bible. As a bishop, Wright is deeply concerned with the Christian community and exhorts it to live in the light of Jesus’ message and to offer hope to a despairing world. The church’s calling (or vocation) is found in God’s sending it into the world for “restorative justice.”

Toward the end, Wright sketches the theme of eschatology, or the final chapter of God’s purpose for creation. The Creator will not give up on the world by destroying it and popping Christians into heaven, or “life after death.” Instead God will renew the created world and his people, who will live eternally in the new heavens and new earth, a promise Wright calls “life after ’life after death.’”

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.
Illustration of PDF document

Download Simply Christian Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Next

Themes