Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Simply Jesus

To be completely truthful, N. T. Wright's book, Simply Jesus, did not rock my socks off. Nothing in it to really turn me off or make me give up reading it, but not the "breathtaking vision of Jesus that more than matches the needs and complexities of our time" that the dust jacket promised, either.

So, in preparing to sell my copy on craigslist, I was looking through it to see how many sentences/passages I had underlined...and was surprised at the number of statements I found to be noteworthy; a few of which I now share:

p 23-24.  So how can we go about the task of trying to understand Jesus himself? There is a whole other book to be written about the kind of evidence we have for Jesus and how we can use it responsibly. What are the gospels? What about those "other gospels"? What sources did these books use, and how can we evaluate them historically? ... There is no place where we can gain a "fixed point" from which to begin. The way you treat the sources will reflect the way you already understand Jesus, just as the way you understand Jesus will reflect the way you understand the sources.
p 58-59.  It may be time to be skeptical about skepticism itself. In Jesus' own day, there were plenty of people who didn't want to believe his message, because it would have upset their own agenda. For the last two hundred years that's been the mood in Western society, too. By all means, people think, let Jesus be a soul doctor, making people feel better inside. Let him be a rescuer, snatching people away from this world to "heaven." But don't let him tell us about a God who actually does things in the world. We might have to take that God seriously, just when we're discovering how to run the world our own way. Skepticism is no more "neutral" or "objective" than faith. It has thrived in the post-Enlightenment world, which didn't want God (or, in many cases, anyone else either) to be king. Saying this doesn't, of course, prove anything in itself. It just suggests that we keep an open mind and recognize that skepticism too comes with its own agenda.
p 70.  No point putting the world right if the people are still broken.
p 148.  [Jesus] wasn't teaching his followers how to rise above the mess of the world. He was training them to be kingdom bringers. ... In first-century Christianity, what mattered was not people going from earth into God's kingdom in heaven. What mattered, and what Jesus taught his followers to pray, was that God's kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.
p 173.  The disciples wanted a kingdom without a cross. Many would-be "orthodox" or "conservative" Christians in our world have wanted a cross without a kingdom, an abstract "atonement" that would have nothing to do with this world except to provide the means of escaping it.
p 184.  The point was not to rescue people from creation but to rescue creation itself.

Truth is...reading these snippets again makes me want to rethink my former evaluation of this book as not being breathtaking.


  1. Truth: "Surprised by Hope" was breathtaking. "Simply Jesus" was not 'breathtaking', but perhaps refreshing. I enjoyed it greatly, and recall the passages you highlighted. :-)

    1. Agreed. Breathtaking seems to be publisher-marketing-speak for "not particularly boring".