Wednesday 30 April 2008

Wright On

My wife is now one week overdue on the delivery of our third child which has left us in a rather peculiar time frame. The last few evenings have felt a bit like a reprieve from the inevitable shock of no sleep and precious little time to myself for the next few months. (The difference between waiting for this child and the first time around is initially I was anxious about the unknowns of parenthood. Now I am anxious about the knows!)

Anyway, it has given me a couple of opportunities to go out for coffee one last time - I may yet get one more last time. So I have been taking along a book which I started about a year ago, but didn't finish. I started from the beginning again.

I've been reading Simply Christian by Tom Wright and have now finished it. I found it a really good read. It's a clear, concise and easily accessible overview of what it means to be a Christian and has been compared by some as a contemporary version of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity - although Wright correctly suggests that the questions that people are asking today plus the context of Westernized Christianity is quite different than Lewis's time.

The book is divided into three main sections: First is the presentation that many people become aware of something in this life which is beyond themselves, although they would have a hard job particularly explaining what this means. It's an awareness of something just around the corner not quite in sight or reach. Tom Wright calls these echoes of a voice, and it is an echo which can be heard in the longing of people for justice; a sense of spirituality; the need for relationships; and the appreciation of beauty. Wright goes on to suggest that these echoes, these whispers come straight from the heart of God.

The second part of the book explores how these themes are expressed by God - ultimately in the person of Jesus. But in order to understand who Jesus was and why he did the things that he did (the stories he told, the miracles he performed, his challenges to authority, and his death and resurrection) we are first taken on a journey to discover the people group from which Jesus emerged. And in order to understand these people, Wright begins section two grappling with what we mean when we say 'God'. Here Wright presents three broad options of how people view God. Option one explores the view of understanding God to be present in all things - people, trees, clouds, poison ivy. Option two is to view him as a distant deity who very rarely, if ever, has any connection with his creation. The third view is what Tom Wright holds as a classic Jewish and New Testament view of God's space (heaven) and our space (earth) overlapping. Wright's conclusion is that in the person of Jesus is found the embodiment of that overlap. (For a more detailed understanding of heaven try Tom Wright's latest book Surprised by Hope. It will make you think again about little cherubs playing golden harps in the clouds as the common misconception of what heaven means. Wright says that heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world - you'll have to get the book to find out why!)

Part three of the book focuses on what the response of a person should be who recognizes the purposes of God being fulfilled in Jesus and wants to align themselves continuing that fulfilment. And so Wright talks about reflecting the image of God through worship, prayer, the Bible, getting involved in a local church, and participating in the renewal of creation. (If my reprieve continues I'll write a short reflection on the chapter about prayer.)

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who may be at the beginning stages of exploring the Christian faith or for those, like me, who have been following Jesus for a while now but feel like there is much more to know.


Ali said...

It's time you ate a hot curry and went for a drive along those windy country roads down there!

Cosmo said...

I'd love to go out for a curry or a drive in the countryside, but I think my wife would get upset if she went into labour while I was out galavanting.

Ali said...