Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: After You Believe by N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham (UK) in the Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. He has been a guest on Dateline NBC as well as NPR’s program Fresh Air and has taught New Testament studies at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. He is also a prolific author, his most recent publication being Surprised By Hope which is an excellent overview of the importance and meaning of Jesus’ resurrection for the Church today.

After You Believe is a follow up to Surprised by Hope. Here, Wright argues forcefully for the necessity of Christian character, i.e. living the virtuous life. It is one thing to do good once in a while but to be good is a different story altogether! The book is divided into eight chapters with a section for further reading:

  1. What Am I Here For?
  2. The Transformation of Character
  3. Priests and Rulers

4. The Kingdom Coming and the People Prepared

5. Transformed by the Renewal of the Mind

6. Three Virtues, Nine Varieties of Fruit, and One Body

7. Virtue in Action: The Royal Priesthood

8. The Virtuous Circle

Wright advocates for Christians to live a virtuous life not because we are trying to get into heaven or get some award now, but because Jesus died and rose from the dead he made us priests and rulers over creation. We were created for good works, to share the life of the kingdom in the here and now. This main theme is woven throughout the book in various ways. He uses some personal anecdotes along the way to drive home his point. Although I thought he could have used more personal examples from his many years of parish ministry as examples of his main thesis.

After You Believe is not a book for a neophyte or beginner. His writing style is also not the easiest to read, sometimes you feel like you are sitting in a lecture hall rather than listening to a conversation. Furthermore, the book includes too many parenthetical statements and Wright tends to meander through side commentary from time to time, which I found a bit distracting. However, this being said, After You Believe does provide readers with a sound scriptural and theological commentary for the necessity to lead a life worth living, a life focused on Christ and the kingdom of God.

Click here for more information about After You Believe by N.T. Wright