We’ve reached the conclusion of N.T. Wright’s brand new book, How God Became King. I must say, I’ve generally been impressed with Wright’s take on the gospels. Though this perspective is at times stretching, even for one who has read a lot of the Right Reverend’s other works. Nevertheless, his approach seems to match well the overall biblical narrative.
That said, this final chapter was the most disappointing. Wright has spent so much time throughout the project pulling apart various aspects of the gospel stories, that he now wishes to put them back together in a meaningful way, a way in which the average Christian can again use the gospels for healthy worship and kingdom living.
And yet, Wright instead returns to the creeds, to fill in each line of the Nicene Creed with the rich meaning he had parsed out earlier in the book. Admittedly, this gives the text a certain sense of resolution; Wright had begun his book bemoaning the fact that the ancient creeds seem to ignore the bulk of the gospel stories. But filling an ancient creed with fresh and rich meaning is different from offering perspective on how to fill one’s life with fresh and rich gospel meaning.
Nevertheless, this final chapter does a good job of summarizing the whole of Bishop Wright’s argument. And to utilize the familiar Nicene Creed as a frame on which to hang these new perspectives (no, not that new perspective) is a handy tool. Juxtaposing his approach with a common contemporary reading of the creed, as he does here, is also helpful for showing the reader just how far Wright has gone in expanding the common perspective without abolishing it (not all of it, anyway).
In the final analysis, this is a phenomenal volume. Wright’s big picture perspective (which is his MO) is exceptionally valuable and much needed for the Western church. It has been the bane of pastors and teachers within the church for years that the average Christian is more often than not biblically illiterate. That is, fewer and fewer believers actually know what’s in the Bible. Compounding the problem, we put the wrong or incomplete meanings on the parts we do know. Bishop Wright here places the gospels in their proper context and we’re the richer for it.
I’ve already begun reading Scot McKnight’s recent book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. I’m already riveted and we’ll start exploring it here next week. It will then be fun to compare and contrast that with Wright’s book.