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Books


10/07/2015

SIMPLY GOOD NEWS — Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good by N.T. Wright. Harper Collins, ©2015. Hardcover, 189 pages, $31. Reviewed by Edwin Buettner

As a clearly written and highly accessible work in the tradition of Christian apologists such as C.S. Lewis, the publication of Simply Good News will indeed be good news. Not only for professed followers of Jesus of Nazareth but also for those beyond the traditional boundaries of Christendom. Drawing on his background as a former Anglican bishop and university professor, Wright presents solidly logical and historically grounded explications of the Gospel message, within the contexts of both personal faith and pastoral care. Though the title may suggest otherwise, Wright’s vision is broad and inclusive, serving well as a foil to religious fundamentalism.

Throughout the book, the author drills deeply into various aspects of what many would consider core Christian beliefs. In doing so, Wright leads the reader toward a consideration of the “cosmic” (universal) dimensions of the mission of Jesus, “(that) something has happened as a result of which the world is a different place.” In today’s parlance, it is as if the author is suggesting a “super-sizing” of the Gospel, a corrective for a common tendency to reduce the Gospel to a more domesticated version. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus proclaimed the greatest of truths: “God made this world of space, time, and matter, he loves it and he is going to renew it.” As for the “renewal,” Wright invites his readers to hope not only in personal redemption but also to imagine a transformed world that is “more solid, more permanent, more altogether glorious . . . than the present one.”

Wright’s reflections on the frequently preached tenet that “Jesus died for our sins” are illustrative. When understood too narrowly, the scope of Christ’s redemptive work — to say nothing of the nature of God — is severely limited. Wright does affirm a belief in Christ’s work of conversion within peoples’ lives. Nontheless, he invites readers to question what may be its underlying assumption: that the “problem” solved by Jesus was “an angry God who didn’t seem to want you to get (to heaven.)” For Wright, the fullness of redemption is about “heaven and earth coming together” and God’s “passing the sentence of death on evil itself.”

The final chapter is titled Praying the Good News, an in-depth reflection on the Lord’s prayer. Here Wright refocuses the discussion, shifting perspectives from “the big picture” of salvation history to the personal. He believes that often when people pray, it is to ask for God’s assistance with the trials of life, in effect beginning where the Our Father ends. Wright calls it the Help! stage. However, it does remain important that the pray-er make his/her way back to the beginning invocation, “Our Father who art in heaven.” In doing so, the believer acknowledges Jesus’ revelation of God as the universal Father of the human family. These are no longer just pious words or a faint hope, because as Wright puts it with elegant simplicity, “Jesus made it real. That is the good news.”