It has taken me quite some time to realise that Wright provides more than just history and theology. Wright is actually presenting a new way (perhaps an old way revisited) of understanding the people of God and the Christian life. Wright is not as interested in old theological agendas. More than anything he is presenting the church with a new world view through which it might understand itself and the purposes of God.
Enter “Tom Wright for Everyone: Putting the theology of N.T. Wright into practice in the local church” Stephen Kurht, Rector of Christ Church, New Malden UK has written an accessible and practical introduction to the theology and ethics of Tom Wright’s work.
The book, recently released through SPCK, arrived on my doorstep yesterday morning (while I was trying to prepare a sermon!). Kurht provides an introduction to Wright’s works, a guide to understanding his method and approach as well as practical ways in which his own church has sought to implement Wright’s worldview into the way in which they approach ministry and mission.
The chapter headings are as follows:
Forward by N.T. Wright
- The career of Tom Wright: emergence, scholarship and non-engagement
- Theological questions awaiting answers
- A summary of the theology of N.T. Wright
- Tom Wright’s theology in a pastoral context
- Tom Wright’s theology in a mission context
- Tom Wright’s theology in church life
- The challenge of Tom Wright to the church
I know that many out there will think this book is utterly ridiculous. They are wrong. Tom Wright is a wonderful and committed Christian theologian and even if you disagree with (sadly I find many who do have never read him or simply won’t engage with him on his terms) surely we can admit how important his work has been at reinvigorating Pauline studies and studies of the historical Jesus. Furthermore, I am also excited with the theological vision Wright’s work might be able to provide the church today. Maybe Wright hasn’t been strong on writing the “So what” but perhaps Kurht can help us to “think after Wright”. I look forward to reading this book. I like Wright’s “Critical Realism” and I wonder what vision his theology provides for the church today!
It is self-evident from the amount of books he sells, the attendance of his lectures, and let’s not forget the fact that Wheaton College dedicated a whole conference to interacting with his work, that Wright is already relevant for the church. Yes, I can see how this book seems cheesy (I don’t know that I plan on reading it), but also it is inevitable and likely necessary.
One thing I’d like to know as you read through it is whether or not Kurht gives Wright’s theology any critical interaction. Is it merely a cheering on of his hero or do you see him as challenging certain points of Wright’s thought?
I’m a fan of Wright, his NTPG/JVG made a huge impact on me when I first read them as an undergrad. To be honest, can’t help feeling that some of the criticism he gets on the “so what” is due to laziness. We’re adults and have our own brains, so shouldn’t expect to be spoonfed the “so what”. Use a bit of initiative and work it out. Despite my criticism, I’m glad this type of book has been published though, which will hopefully make him more accessible to pastoral situations. No doubt shortage of time plays a factor in the life of a busy minister in the practical “so what”.
@Jonathan: I’m with you regarding the “so-what”. I’ve wrestled with Wright’s work and it seems to me that it always has practical implications. If his defense of the resurrection holds than we have to live life in light of the promise that we will see life again in bodily form. This has implications for how we live in the body and how we treat the physical world around us. If justification at belief will be matched by justification on judgement day than we should expect to see the Spirit’s role as more important than many Protestants realize and we should actually be able to observe “fruits of the Spirit” in our lives. I could go on and on.
@Brian, amen and amen. Even his NTPG which set out his hermeneutic of a five-act play invites us to consider the “so what”. I.e., if we’re living in Act 5, what does that mean “practically”? Mark nailed it with his observation that Wright is trying to get us to see the world differently, and to adopt the appropriate worldview. Ah well, I’ll have to get the book now I suppose 😛
@Jonathan: I forgot about that. Vanhoozer even adopted it to some extent for his The Drama of Doctrine. Yes, to say Wright’s theology is irrelevant for the church is to admit being lazy.
I don’t think it is cheesy at all. I think the title is apt. A play on the title of his commentary. I love the way people blame Weight for the title (not you). There is no real critical interaction and nor should there be. As I said, it is about taking Wright’s world view and seeing how it might work itself out in the local parish. Wheaton is a far better forum for critical engagement.
I wonder Jonathan, and I agree with you somewhat, if it is not laziness but rather his world view (critical realism) is so different that it is harder to come up with our own so what. Many of us have been conditioned by Calvin or Luther when it comes to the way we minister that we find it hard to escape the tradition. Just a thought.
@Mark, ack.. must you insist on being so reasonable, this is a blog after all 😉 I’m sure you’re also partially correct. The uni where I did my MTh had five theological colleges affiliated to it and I went to the Presbyterian college. Among the students, not the lecturers I might add, there was continual misunderstanding of Wright and often a failure to grasp what he was saying due to their entrenched systematic categories – especially around imputation/justification and all that. The number of times I heard ‘semi-Pelagian’, ‘on the road to Rome’ etc., was staggering. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons why the “so what” has been difficult at times.
Interesting comments. Hope you will read the book Brian!
Stephen, thanks for stopping by. How has the book been received in the UK?
Anecdotally, here in Australia, the book has been very welcome. A number of my colleagues are looking forward to reading it 🙂
Too early to really tell here but certainly lots of interest. The Wheaton lectures certainly engaged with Tom’s thought and in a fascinating and helpful manner but my book is quite different in trying to show how things might be done differently in church life when the effort is made to put Wright’s theology into practice. The summary of Wright’s thought it contains is to try and make it as accessible as possible to those many people I have met who really like what they have heard of Wright’s thought but want a bit more help unpacking it. And although the Wheaton lectures clearly engaged with Tom’s theology, much of evangelicalism (particularly conservative evangelicalism – certainly in the UK and USA and in your Sydney diocese) is still refusing to make this engagement chiefly, I believe, through fear of discovering that much evangelical practice might turn out to much less biblical than has previously been supposed. So the book is written with a major intent of showing how Wright’s theology (alongside others) can help evangelicalism to respond to its weaknesses, again particularly in practice. One of the things I feel quite strongly is that there are stacks of books with great theology within them but what we need are more of them telling stories of what has happened when the effort has been made to implement it ‘on the ground’. This is often the best way of making it accessible on a wider level as well as making sure it doesn’t simply stay theoretical. But have a read and see what you think! Grateful for your interest.
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