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N.T. Wright offers an interesting, simple and refreshing exploration of Christian theology in his book. The book consists of sixteen short chapters. The author gives an outline of the terrain of Christian faith throughout the book. This paper aims at presenting a review of the book from the first to the last part. In order to realize this objective, a critical yet objective analysis will be applied to enhance understanding of the author’s opinions and further create a clearer understanding and picture of what Christianity is really about.
Part One: Echoes of a Voice
Chapter One: The World of Rights
In chapter one, the author explores the world with a focus on the social organization and structures that govern human interaction and values. He espouses the fact that realization of a world governed by justice and rights for humanity is a dream. It is a dream that makes sense but essentially hard to actualize into an experience (Williams, 2011). Although the voice for a just, peaceful, and prosperous society continues to echo in the background, it cannot be clearly heard and therefore it reduces to mere experience of a fantasy. This is the nature of the human society (Wright, 2007).
I agree with the author’s perspective that the human society is crowded with a myriad of unfair, oppressive and exploitative experiences. It is a world with no recognition for human rights and justice for all (Bates, 2007). However, I disagree with the argument that the author posits by claiming that a just and fair society is a dream and perhaps an illusion that cannot be realized. In my opinion, this dream is achievable with the right leadership. Therefore, it is upon the members of the society to install transformative leadership structures that are founded on respect for human rights and justice.
Chapter 2: The Hidden Spring
In this chapter, the author uses imagery and symbolism to depict the evolving nature of spirituality. The dictator in this context is the secularized philosophy that has shaped and ruled the world in the past centuries (Bates, 2007). So dictatorial and discriminative is the philosophy that it has ended up making some people materialists by default.
I agree with the author in his observation that spirituality has been hidden like the hidden spring. However, as the secular philosophy continues to push spirituality into hiding, our own sense of spirituality must remain bubbling within our hearts. It is my opinion and observation that the force with which spirituality bubbles in the heart of the human society will soon burst into the open and sweep all the dictatorial philosophies downstream and create a society where people have equal opportunities as spirituality becomes the dominant ideology (Bates, 2007).
Chapter 3: Made for Each Other
In this chapter, the author explains the realities that unfold in romantic relationships. The author explains that relationships are full of new discoveries and dimensions that only unfold on the parties involved once they begin their relationship. Part of the unfolding realities is the challenges and storms that relating couples have to navigate through (Bates, 2007). The success of relationships is thus to be found in the ability of couples to walk together through the rough road in the journey towards a successful relationships as real and complementing partners.
Whereas the author focuses much on the negativities of relationships, I adopt a different perspective. The challenges in relationships are caused by the fact that the parties involved often have very different backgrounds, personalities and beliefs that come into play in relationships. These challenges can therefore be navigated through accommodation, tolerance and support for one another in the relationship.
Chapter 4: For the Beauty of the Earth
In this chapter, the author illustrates the nature of beauty using a musical manuscript that is picked. The manuscript is neither clear nor complete. Some parts are, however, very clear and beautifully play out in the piano (Wright, 2007).This is a true reflection of what beauty really is. What is perfectly beautiful in the evaluation of one person may not be necessarily worth appreciating according to another perceiver (Bates, 2007). I concur with the author in his submissions that beauty is like a transient echo of a voice that is judged absolutely by the evidence before us. However, the true features and reflection of beauty can only be realized if all facts and perspectives of presenting aspects were to be unveiled. Beauty in my opinion is therefore in the eyes of the beholder.
Part Two: Staring at the Sun
Chapter 5: God
In this chapter, the author illustrates the inexplicable nature of God. The mysteries of God are only made manifest through the things He has done. His true nature cannot however be explained by mere scientific approaches employed in the study of phenomena in the world. The existence of God cannot be questioned in any way. An attempt to investigate His presence ends up at nothing but the confirmation of His unfathomable nature that is reflected in His power (Bates, 2007). The author is therefore very accurate in his submission that questioning the existence and nature of God is like pointing a flashlight toward the sky to confirm really if the sun is shinning.
Chapter 6: Israel
The truest meaning of what Christianity is about can only be found in the examination of the background of Jesus Christ. This implies that nothing constructive can be understood without tracing the historical account of Israel. The Christian perspectives on the events that Jesus of Nazareth went through are found in the Old Testament (Williams, 2011). The betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus which is the foundation of Christianity is founded in the historical analysis of the Jews or simply put, Israel. The author is therefore very relevant, and accurately so, in his claim that what happened to Jesus was the peak of the lengthy story of Israel.
Chapter 7: Jesus and the Coming God’s Kingdom
This chapter is at the core of understanding of the nature of Christianity. The author refutes arguments that Christianity is a mere moral ideology that focuses on Jesus as a moral example. Instead, Christianity is about the real events that happened during the time of Jesus of Nazareth (Wright, 2006, 78-79). God’s future is brought to a fulfillment in the present. Therefore it is no longer an echo, but a real voice of rescue from evil and destruction and thus a new creation (Wright, 2006, 100). Christianity is therefore about exposing the world to a new teaching about the true nature of God Himself. The rescue of the world is thus fulfilled through Jesus of Nazareth. God’s kingdom is therefore fulfilled through Jesus of Nazareth and His redeeming power of the cross.
Chapter 8: Jesus: Rescue and Renewal
In this chapter the author focuses on the role of Jesus the Messiah. He asserts that the ministry and life of Jesus was a fulfillment of the scriptural prophecies in the Old Testament. This was to accomplish God’s divine plan of restoring man back to Himself. The ministry and life of Jesus was therefore all about God’s move to rescue His people, Israel and fulfill the establishment of a new kingdom; God’s kingdom on earth (Williams, 2011). This kingdom would rule through justice and not iron fist that ruled the world in the dark secular world. I therefore concur with the author in his assertion that the ministry of Jesus Christ brought a new dispensation where the world was snatched from evil rule and put under a renewed system characterized by justice before the one supreme judge; God Himself.
Chapter 9: God’s Breath of Life
God’s breath of life is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, a Christian cannot lead a Godly life. It is the Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus Christ and granted Him power over evil and even death. The author, in this chapter, accurately puts his assertion that without the breath of God, Jesus could have not resurrected (Bates, 2007). The Holy Spirit gives power, authority and life. This can be traced back to the book of Genesis when God breathed into man’s nostrils after his creation to give him life. It means that without the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, a Christian is lifeless. The Holy Spirit is therefore the engine that drives Christianity and empowers one to live for Christ (Wright, 2007).
Chapter 10: Living by the Spirit
In this chapter, the author clearly states the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. The author correctly refers to the letters of Paul that de-emphasized the enslaving nature of the Law. Instead, the Holy Spirit replaced the Law so as to empower a Christian to forbid the things that are unlawful (Williams, 2011). In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is therefore the teacher, guider and counselor who replaced the mind of flesh with a spiritual mind that can discern the will of God and walk in obedience to God’s commandments or laws. The truest meaning of Christianity is founded on the ability of a believer to sustain the Christian life and grow in it. This spiritual growth is only possible when one lives by the Holy Spirit.
Part Three: Reflecting the Image
Chapter 11: Worship
This chapter highlights the author’s attempt to expound on the meaning and the place of worship in Christian faith. Wright focuses on St. John’s Revelation to explain the true meaning of worship in the perspective of Christian faith. According to the author, worship is a way of acknowledging the sovereignty, authority, power and the worth of God (Wright 2006, 145). However, the true meaning of worship is hidden and can only be understood by one joining and finding out what it actually entails. This is because different people have different ways of worshipping God. In my opinion, worship is a way through which a Christian connects with God in His divinity out of recognition of the power, authority and supremacy of God.
Chapter 12: Prayer
The chapter on prayer is a summary of Christ’s teaching to the disciples on the nature of prayer that connects one to God. In prayer, the glory of God takes pre-eminence in the life of a Christian. The author posits that prayer is about bread and for meeting of the needs of everyday life. The wordings in the prayer include prayer for deliverance from evil (Wright 2006, 160-161). Prayer invites the Kingdom of God to the earth and perfects the will of God that is the same both on the earth below and in the heavens above (Wright 2006, 160).
In my opinion, Jesus taught this prayer in recognition of the fact that He was about to be persecuted and this would be the best way for the disciples to connect with Him in His glory. The author thus clearly puts it that through prayer, a Christian is able to put his wants, fears and needs to God in recognition that God has the final authority or will to execute the requests of man (Wright 2006, 164). Christianity is thus founded on prayer as a pillar that connects man to God and enhances communication thus building the relationship between a Christian and God.
Chapter 13: The Book God Breathed
In this chapter, the author covers the inexplicable power of God that is manifested in the Bible. This power is demonstrated by the inspiration under which the Bible was written (Wright 2006, 174-175). Reading of the Bible is thus a fundamental and central element of Christian faith and life. So central is the Bible as an inspired word of God that a Christian cannot do without it (Wright 2006, 173).
In my opinion, the Bible becomes a central book in the life of a Christian because it contains God’s own power that is revealed in a Christian relationship with God through the reading of God’s own words in the Bible (Bates, 2007). It is this power that transforms the life of a Christian, empowering one to live under the inspiration of the word of God. So powerful is the inspired word of God in the Bible that it affects the life of individuals, communities and even the world in its entirety.
Chapter 14: The Story and the Task
This chapter captures the role of scripture reading in Christianity. The author posits, and rightfully so, that reading of the scripture should be a lifestyle activity in the life of a Christian (Williams, 2011). However, Christians should be careful to avoid falling victims to the polarization that exist between the literal and the metaphorical meaning of the scripture. So important is the need for a Christian to understand the scripture. Therefore while the Bible gives a collection of Christian stories, the reader must be up to the task of seeking the accurate interpretation of what is read. This will help in enhancing an understanding that is so important for every Christian reader of Bible stories.
Chapter15: Believing and Belonging
In this chapter, Wright, N.T stresses the fact that after one has believed in Jesus, he/she joins the family of Christ and therefore belongs to the same body of Christ. This unity is not shown only by the gathering and membership in the same church (building) but by faith in Jesus who is the head of the Christian family. Christianity is therefore about believing in Jesus and belonging to one family in the body of Christ (Wright, 2007). The author concludes this chapter by highlighting how baptism ushers one into the inner circle of the community of faith. In my opinion, baptism is a great act of faith that joins one into membership in the body of Christ. This is because it unites a Christian with other Christians in their identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 16: New Creation, Starting Now
The author concludes his writing in this book by explaining the destiny of Christians. It is not about living hopelessly on earth but about faith and hope of the awaiting glory, joy, celebration and happiness that eventually comes with the New Jerusalem where we shall live eternally (Wright, 2007). However, this is only for the saved souls, those who accepted Jesus as the savior. In my opinion this will not only start in heaven but here on earth as the kingdom of God gets established in the hearts of a Christian faithful.
Christianity is a lifestyle that a believer has to live and be set apart for. The foundation of Christianity is the connection with God in a holy worship and relationship that begins with recognition of God as the savior and the manifestation of His grace through Jesus the savior of the world. Manifestation of God is thus possible by commitment to God through prayer, worship, and the filling of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God.