Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Simply Christian

I've heard a lot about the former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, so I decided to read one of his books, Simply Christian.

Here are some of my favorite quotes (with commentary):

We are made for each other. Yet making relationships work, let alone making them flourish, is often remarkably difficult. . . We all know that justice matters, yet it slips through our fingers. We mostly know that there is such a thing as spirituality, that it's important, yet it's hard to refute the charge that it's all wishful thinking. In the same way, we all know that we belong in communities, that we were made to be social creatures. Yet there are many times when we are tempted to slam the door and stomp off into the night by ourselves, simultaneously making the statement that we don't belong anymore and that we want someone to take pity on us, to come to the rescue and comfort us. We all know we belong in relationships, but we can't quite work out how to get them right. The voice we hear echoing in our heads and our hearts keeps reminding us of both parts of this paradox, and it's worth pondering why.

This quote is a good summary of the main emphasis of the book. Wright discusses the echoes of a voice we hear in our longing for justice, beauty, relationships, and spirituality.

The closer we come to beauty, the more it baffles us. If we simply take the world as it is, with all its drama, delicacy, and majesty, we tend to be pulled either toward the sentimentality of pantheism or the brutalism of a world in which only power realy matters, a world from which God seems to have vanished. . . . The solution I proposed earlier was that the beauty we glimpse in creation can best be understood as one part of a larger whole, and that the larger whole is what will be accomplished when God renews heaven and earth.

I wonder how an nontheist reconciles the beauty (why do we even experience/appreciate beauty?) and brutality of the world?

The Bible is there to enable God's people to be equipped to do God's work in God's world, not to give them an exuse to sit back smugly, knowing they possess all God's truth

As one who doesn't buy into the inerrant/infallible/comprehensive textbook view of the Bible I find Wright's insights on this issue to be refreshing.

The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way. The present world is good, but broken and in any case incomplete; art of all kinds enables us to understand that paradox in its many dimensions. . . . Perhaps art can. . . glimpse the future possiblilities pregnant within the present time. It is like a chalice: again, beautiful to look at, pleasing to hold, but waiting to be filled with the wine which, itself full of sacramental possibilities, gives the chalice its fullest meaning. Perhaps art can help us to look beyond the immediate beauty with all its puzzles, and to glimpse that new creation which makes sense not only of beauty but of the world as a whole, and ourselves within it.

Overall, the emphasis of the book isn't apologetics, but, rather, a new way of understanding the Christian faith. I intend to read more books by this author in the future. His understanding of the Christian faith is one that more Christians should become acquainted with.

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