Book Review:

"Simply Christian" (N.T. Wright)

by Joel Ramshaw

This report will examine the book Simply Christian. Simply Christian was designed primarily for new Christians, or non-Christians. It does not focus on deep and detailed arguments, and avoids the use of Christian idioms unknown to the general populace. The aim of the book is to gradually explain the message and meaning of Christianity to a reader that is interested, but ignorant of what it really is.

            Experienced Christians would benefit somewhat from reading Simply Christian, but would end up skipping large portions of it since they already know many of the concepts it presents.

            Upon opening Simply Christian the reader is presented with four of humanity’s inner longings, which the book calls “echoes of a voice.” These longings are for justice, relationships, spirituality, and beauty. They are presented as things which mankind desires, and tries to obtain, but can never fully attain.

            The author first talks about our human, natural sense for justice. He tells of how throughout the past millennia, we have always wanted a just world, but we have never been able to create it. There have been several improvements throughout the last century, such as the large reduction of apartheid. There have been many problems nonetheless, that spring up. The Nazi, and Rwandan genocides for example.

            The next voice is “the hidden spring,” mankind’s desire for spirituality. The author likens the spiritual situation in North America, to a fictional land in which the springs of water (representing spirituality), have been paved over, and the water has been sent into a piping system (formal/highly structured religion). The water has been building up pressure though, and has burst through the pavement providing mass amounts of natural, yet muddy, water. This is representative of how modern people have become fed up with the system of the past, and are moving into new, radical types of spirituality such as new age, Celtic religion, Kabbalah, etc.

            The third voice is the voice of relationships. The author points out the paradox that humans know they are made for relationships, but often fail in them. This is because humans have rejected their relationship with God, thus the relationships with others, and with creation are disintegrating.

            The fourth voice is the voice of beauty. Humanity has always been attracted to things that are beautiful. The author points out how beauty seems to call out to something beyond itself. Christians have known what this is. Beauty represents a fraction of what the restored universe will be like.

            These voices are written so that the reader will understand some of the mysteries of life, that Christianity offers the solution to. The next section is Part 2: Staring at the Sun. It brings the focus of the book off of the four voices, and onto Christianity as the solution. It deals with the major aspects of Christianity: God, Jesus, the holy Spirit, and Israel.

            Basically, this section focuses on showing how God influences our lives. The divine realm is shown to interlock with the physical one. The author shows the basics of Christianity to the reader. He also comments on Christianity’s answer to the world’s problems, and the “voices.”

            The third section deals with what it looks like to live out the Christian life. Much of it is focused on how Christians are trying to bring this world into alignment with the spiritual realm. The author writes mostly on the practical aspects of Christianity, and less on doctrine. The chapters are on prayer, worship, the Bible, Christians’ mission, the church, and the kingdom of heaven.           

Readers of Simply Christian will gain an awareness of how Christianity is not just a set of statements waiting to be believed, but rather a practical outline of a lifestyle-based religion. Much of this section focuses on action, and what Christians actively do to create a better world. The four problems found in the beginning of the book, find solutions at the end. Christianity is the way to solve them. It would create a world with justice, true spirituality, relationships of love, and with a heightened sense of beauty.
The reader of Simply Christian should come to realize that God’s kingdom is not entirely something that awaits the return of Christ. It is the duty of Christians to bring about the non-physical aspects of the kingdom of heaven. Christ will bring the physical kingdom of heaven, but Christians should always be at work bringing about the spiritual side.

            Personally reflecting on this, this author sees a fair amount of things to be implemented in his own life. This author already knew the core knowledge of Christianity, but he appreciates the practical/action-based teaching of Simply Christian. This author sees that he is not only an inhabitant, but is with the construction crew of the kingdom of God.

            Another point that caught the attention of this author was the insightful illustration in chapter two, of spirituality. Too many people in modern Christianity are accepting piped spirituality, where our ways of relating to God have been predetermined for us. It is time to destroy the piping system, and see new paradigms of prayer, worship, and church.

            This author concludes the review by saying that Simply Christian will help non-Christians, new Christians, and Christians that have followed God all their lives. The new and non Christians will benefit the most, because they will learn the basics, both doctrinal and practical, of Christianity. Many Christians have been Christians for some time already, and will not benefit from the basic doctrinal teaching. They will instead benefit from the chapters on how Christians should be people of action, actively bringing the kingdom of heaven into reality.

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