Tom Wright, SPCK, 2006, 204pp., £8.99, ISBN 0-281-05481-9
At last - the book we have been looking for! Only recently written, this book is one I am looking forward to giving to friends and contacts who may be thinking seriously about the Christian faith and are prepared to read 200 pages that give a pretty well
jargon free explanation of the Christian faith for the 21st century. In the past, we gave or lent books like CS Lewis’ "Mere Christianity", John Stott’s "Basic Christianity" or Michael Green’s "Man Alive, Runaway World" and others.
The author writes clearly about life as we find it at the start of the 21st century. The first four chapters highlight key contemporary issues that show something of our humanity and what we long for: there is a passion for justice that starts in the playground; Wright argues we are in a post-secular age as people look for some ‘spiritual’ aspect to life; issues three and four highlight the desire for meaningful relationships and beauty. Wright calls these ‘echoes’ that reveal something humanity hungers for.
The second section is entitled ‘Staring at the sun’. Here we read of God, the story of Israel, Jesus and basic Christianity or, as the book is entitled, what it is to be ‘simply Christian’. In these chapters we encounter a broad treatment of the human and God story, which Wright links with his first four chapters. He demonstrates how, when properly understood, the work of God the Holy Spirit provides answers to the questions raised by the ‘echoes’. Some may feel these chapters could have been edited down as, at times, there are signs of rambling. Bishop Tom Wright has quite a busy life and the publishers could have done more to help here.
In section three, entitled ‘Reflecting the image’, we read of subjects like worship, prayer and the Bible in a refreshing and helpful way, so that they are understood in relation to the big story of section two. And yes, church is tackled as well, in a way that explains how different models contribute to our understanding of its origin and purpose.
In an age where some types of ‘spirituality’ are accepted without much discernment, this book gives a helpful critique from time to time thus helping us discern between the spirits.
Who should read this book? Many Christians will find this a book that thrills them deep within, as it resonates with the story we think we know and live in as Christians. It was a great blessing to me. But, having read it, I believe that those thinking friends, colleagues and family members with whom we talk about life, death, history and Jesus can be handed a copy. You could perhaps ask them to review it for you as you think it explains what is ‘simply Christian’. I think they will be helped in their own thinking and spiritual journey and, you never know, they might even become committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, reading it my help you share your own faith relevantly too.
Reviewed by Andrew J M Barker, a free lance Preacher and teacher based in Nottingham.
Headline Winter 2006/7 pp27-28.