Simply Christian: Introduction & Orientation

Some people like to jump straight into a book at the first chapter. Others prefer to read the introduction and gain an understanding of the general shape of the argument, and this allows them to grasp better the individual parts along the way. This post is for the latter folk – people like me.

Wright’s basic aim in the book was to describe what Christianity is all about, “both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain it to those inside.” (ix) He doesn’t remotely pretend to have covered everything, but has tried to give the subject a particular threefold shape.

In the first part, Wright explores four points of contact with today’s world which he suggests are the echoes of a voice: “the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationship, and the delight in beauty.” (ix) The echoes point beyond themselves to something deeper, more profound, and Wright wants us to keep them in mind as we progress through the book. Having raised important questions in this first part, he will gradually offer answers to them in Parts 2 and 3. All he asks is the patience to bear with him, to wait until everything gets tied together by the end of the book.

Part 2 focuses on the Christian belief about God, that: there is only one true and living God, and this God is to be known in the face of Jesus; this God called the Jewish people to be his special agents in advancing his plans to rescue and restore his good creation, and; this God acts now by his Spirit. Thus,  

Gradually, as this part unfolds, we discover that the voice whose echoes we began to listen for in the first place becomes recognizable, as we reflect on the creator God who longs to put his world to rights; on the human being called Jesus who announced God’s kingdom, died on a cross, and rose again; and on the Spirit, who blows like a powerful wind through the world and through human lives. (x)

Part 3 imagines what it looks like in practice to follow Jesus, be energized by the Spirit of God, and advance the plan of the creator God (i.e., worship, prayer, Scripture, mission, new creation etc.). This leads us to think about the “church”, not as a building or an institution, but as the community of believers who try to follow Jesus. Indeed, what is the church there for, because following Jesus isn’t simply about wanting to ensure a better afterlife. 

Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world-put-to-rights which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents. (x)

This gives us a new angle to approach prayer/Christian behaviour, and enables us “to find the “echoes” of the first part coming back again, not now as hints of a God we might learn to know for ourselves, but as key elements of the Christian calling to work for his kingdom within the world.” (x)

To buy: Simply Christian

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