Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review How God Became King

I was excited when hearing that that N.T Wright's new book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels (NY: Harper One, 2012) was being published. I had read his previous book Surprised by Hope (NY: Harper One, 2010) which focused on Jesus' death and resurrection and enjoyed that very much. I was looking forward to his new book too.

Wright was the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and currently serves as the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at St. Andrews University. His training in the academy and his ministry as a bishop and teacher provide Wright the perfect balance for a book of this caliber; How God Became King is both solidly Scriptural yet very practical and pastoral.

When reading the title one may ask: do we need yet another book on Jesus and the Gospels? Just peruse the local bookstore, especially the larger chains, and you will find shelves upon shelves of books about Jesus, the early Christians, and the four gospels. Do we need another one?

Wrights' answer is YES!

Why? Because many modern Christians have either very little knowledge of the Scriptural story (from Eden to Revelation) or have encountered a very limited or narrow view of Jesus and his ministry (i.e the many "reductions" of Jesus that one finds in modern theological scholarship) and have missed the large picture. The academic study of the gospels have dissected, analyzed, and focused on various components Jesus and the gospels that they have forgotten the larger framework or context, i.e the rest of the Scriptures! It's like Humpty Dumpty fell but no one bothered to put him back together again!

How God Became King is divided into four sections:

1. The Empty Cloak
2. Adjusting the Volume
3. The Kingdom and the Cross
4. Creed, Canon, and Gospel

Wright has a easy to read writing style which is akin to listening to him speak, and as a matter of fact if feels like Wright is along side you guiding you through the Scriptural story itself, pointing out things along the way.

I found the last part the most stimulating since Wright sketches out how Christians can read and recite the Creed in a more scriptural fashion, going through the major sections. I found this part of the book to be the most practical. Every Sunday Sunday Christians recite the Creed (usually the Nicene or Apostles Creed) but probably do not fully understand what they are saying. I hope that one day Wright would write a book focusing on the Scriptural background of the Creed as well as how Christians today could use the Creed as our mission statement in terms as how the Church lives and conducts it's business in terms of pastoral ministry, vocation, mission, and life.

How God Became King would make an excellent book for a book club or parish adult study. As a pastor I always seek ways of bringing the Scriptural Jesus to life for my congregation, and this book is a perfect resource for clergy and lay leaders.