Thursday, 11 August 2011

If Wright is right . . .

I've read a lot of N. T. (Tom) Wright over the past number of years, and he's certainly worthy of extended and serious reading by all evangelicals. That's not to say he's always easy, or that I always agree with him; indeed over the years I've become increasingly worried at the extent to which much of his writing marks a quite dramatic shift from some historic evangelical positions. Indeed, Wright himself seems to be consciously forcing evangelicals, especially those of a more Reformed hue, to get over the Reformation, and read the New Testament through eyes other than Calvin's, or especially Luther's. This leads him into some quite dramatic reformulations of core doctrines, especially justification by faith, and a questioning of received understandings of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

All this by way preamble to Stephen J. Khurt's, Tom Wright for Everyone: Putting the Theology of N. T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church (London: SPCK, 2011). Khurt has written a superb introduction/overview to Wright's theology, especially useful to those who've never read any Wright, or for those who've tried and not got very far. The key chapter, and one you can read without really reading the rest of the book, is the third, in which Khurt, with some skill, describes the main features of Wright's, often dramatic recasting of evangelical theology.

One of the other good features of this book is Khurt's description of how Wright's theology has impacted Khurt's church in practical terms. Yet its here also that I found most to sigh at. Khurt at times idolizes Wright - there a recurring theme here that, despite being brought within evangelical Anglicanism, Khurt never really understood the gospel until he encountered the theology of Wright - really? Wright appears in these pages as a kind of guru-like figure, delivering simplisitc evangelicals from their inherited readings of Jesus, and especially Paul!

Then there's Khurt's description of the impact of Wright's theology on his local church practice in his parish in Surrey. This seems to be reduced down to things that many churches take for granted. His innovation of the Sssh-free church - basically family services designed to be all-age inclusive - is surely something that is pretty common these days. Do they really need Wright's reworking of evangelical theology to make them possible?

So this is an excellent book in its more theological sections. I got a bit tired of the guru-like presentation of Wright, and a little tired of Khurt - but its a great introduction to Wright and his work!

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