Exploring Divinity with N.T. Wright

There are sixty six books in the Protestant Bible — and hundreds more books written about that original set. How’s a truth-seeker supposed to keep track? We’ve asked Mike, a reader, teacher, writer, and sometimes preacher, to guide us through the shelves and sort the secular from the sacred.


On a recent flight from Turkey to Kazakhstan, a young Kazakh couple returning from a business trip saw me reading N.T. Wright’s How God Became King.  I ignorantly presumed that they did not speak English, so I didn’t worry about offending them with a book bearing such a bold title.  But one of them pointed to the book and asked (in perfect English), “May we speak to you about that?”


Our conversation went on for five hours. This writer from England wrote a book that I purchased from a (locally owned) U.S. bookstore, which then ignited a conversation that took place flying over the Middle East, the land where all of what he was writing about originated — talk about coming full circle.


N.T. Wright is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world’s most prolific Bible scholars. I’ve read a few of his books already (Simply ChristianSurprised by HopeThe Challenge of JesusSimply Jesus), and I’ll continue to read his work because it blends historical scholarship with humble provocation to thinking and conversation.


Warning: Reading Wright’s works requires a working knowledge of the Bible. He certainly challenges our Western brand of Christianity. But if you engage with his writing, you’ll find yourself involved and engrossed in a much larger periphery of reality.


In How God Became King, Wright poses the challenge to grow in our recognition and understanding of the historical Jesus within the Palestinian world of the first century, and to follow Him more intelligently into our own post-modern world. The Jesus we might discover if we really looked is much larger, more disturbing, and more urgent than we could ever imagine. He states, “We have lived for years with ‘kingdom Christians’ and ‘cross Christians’ in opposite corners of the room, anxious that those on the other side are missing the point, the one group with its social-gospel agenda and the other with its saving-souls-for-heaven agenda.  The four Gospels bring these two viewpoints together into a unity that is much greater than the sum of its parts.  Jesus Christ was inaugurated as king on the cross and we are in the process of seeing the reign of God progressively implemented.”


For more on Wright, check out one of his appearances on ABC News, The Colbert Report, Dateline, or Fresh Air. For more on How God Became King, click here to purchase a copy. Who knows? It could be a handy conversation piece on your next trip to Kazakhstan.


Michael Rollwagen holds a Masters of Divinity and has thirty years experience as a pastor and teacher. He strives to forget most of that, though, and concentrate on helping people. He writes a weekly blog, More Undignified, and runs a faith-based non-profit,WordWalk, in Pensacola, Florida.

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