Tom Wright for Everyone
Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into practice in the Local Church (SPCK £9.99)
by Stephen Kuhrt
So what caused me to write a book with the somewhat cheeky title Tom Wright for Everyone? My motivation was simple: to provide more people with access to the ground-breaking biblical scholarship of N.T. Wright. Over the last few years I have met numerous Christians, both lay and ordained, who have combined a great deal of attraction to what they have grasped of Wright’s thought with the desire to receive a greater amount of help in unpacking his work and understanding how it fits together. On a number of occasions, groups that knew that I had a keen interest in Wright’s scholarship would ask if I would come and explain his thought further and the summary of Wright’s theology in Chapter 3 of the book is a somewhat expanded version of what I would present on those occasions. Wright has a much easier writing style than most theologians and biblical scholars and it therefore became clear to me that, rather the problem being mainly one of complexity, it was Wright’s significantly different understanding of familiar biblical words and concepts was the primary factor that was preventing people from fully ‘getting’ his thought. The approach that I therefore take in Chapter 3 of the book is seeking to break down Wright’s thought into ‘bite sized chunks’ to make it more digestible. These are arranged under thirty eight headings most of which use key terms which play a crucial role in Wright’s theology such as ‘Story’, ‘Covenant’, ‘Exile’, ‘Eschatology’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Prophet’, ‘Victory’, ‘Righteousness’,‘Justification’ and ‘Lord’. The hope is that these sections will be clear and concise enough to enable readers to gain a helpful overall framework for Wright’s thought and one within which more detailed reading of his work can then be more easily located.
Two deeper convictions explain the nature of the rest of the book. One is my belief that Wright’s theology has provided really compelling answers to some of the biggest issues facing the western church today. The task of the church, therefore, and particularly church leaders like myself, is to find ways of implementing this theology in practical and meaningful ways in our ministry and mission. Equally strong, however, is my conviction that, as well as the factors already mentioned, a more wilful reluctance to engage with Wright’s theology is one of the factors preventing this occurring. Within Chapter 1 of the book, the case is made that both within the very different worlds of academic biblical scholarship and much evangelical Christianity, engagement with Wright’s theology is being avoided for remarkably similar reasons – chiefly a fear of what ‘foundational truths’ may need to be reviewed and possibly changed if this engagement takes place. To encourage such engagement, Chapter 2 takes a largely autobiographical approach as I outline a number of the theological and practical issues that I struggled with as I grew up within the evangelical tradition and which eventually found immense help and resolution through engaging with Wright’s scholarship. These issues include the nature of the Christian hope, the significance of the resurrection of Jesus, the lack of a convincing theological basis for holistic mission, evangelical treatments of sin, evil and the atonement, evangelical approaches to the Bible and biblical scholarship and evangelical ambivalence towards ‘the good things of creation’, the sacraments and the Church. Approaching these issues in an autobiographical way rather than a more abstract form is designed to make them more accessible and preparatory for Chapter 3’s role in showing how Wright’s theology addresses all of these areas as well as several others.
The three chapters that follow give rise to the second part of the book’s title – Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church. In these chapters I seek to show the immense difference that Wright’s theology has made to the practical life of the church of which I am vicar, Christ Church New Malden. Arguably the most important part of the book, these chapters largely tell stories of what has happened at the church as Wright’s theology has been allowed to change our approach to pastoral care, mission and church life more generally. Included among these areas are our approach to ministry surrounding death and bereavement, our development of a far more holistic mission agenda, the significant impact that Wright’s thought on justification has made on our ecclesiology and fellowship and the influence of his work on idolatry and dualism. Further sections also deal with the development of our approach to forgiveness and also the full ministry of women. The final chapter of the book then seeks to reflect more broadly on the challenge posed by Tom Wright’s theology to the Church today. It ends with a strong call to resist fear and make the engagement that is necessary for this theology to have the impact it should on how the Church can faithfully minister within its twenty-first century context.
My hope and my prayer is that Tom Wright for Everyone can play a small role in helping more Christians to play their part in the transformational mission and ministry to which God has called his Church.
Endorsements for Tom Wright for Everyone
‘What we believe has a huge impact on the way that we behave. Our theology determines our strategy. That’s what makes this book such great value. Not only does it provide an extraordinarily accessible and succinct overview of the challenge presented by Tom Wright’s ground-breaking work around the life and message of Jesus and the early church – it’s also a thought-provoking account of its practical outworking through a local church and in a local community.’
Steve Chalke MBE, Founder of Oasis Global and Leader of Church.co.uk, London. UN Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking
‘In this book Stephen Kuhrt offers us two very important things: not only has he pulled together the many different strands of N.T. (Tom) Wright's thinking into a thoughtful and readable whole, he also offers us the quite considerable reflections of someone who has, over the years, sought to put this theology into practice in his own ministry. It is thought-provoking, reflective, challenging and well worth reading.’
Paula Gooder, Writer and Lecturer in New Testament Studies
‘Stephen Kuhrt’s book makes a warm and convincing case that Tom Wright’s theology has the potential to transform the local church, the academy and contemporary evangelicalism. This is a timely and accessible introduction to the significance of a formidable thinker and brave servant of God.’
John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford
‘The best theology has to be able to go beyond the academy into the everyday life of Christians. It has to be transformative for what we think and what we do. Stephen Kuhrt shows in this excellent book that Tom Wright's theology is all of that. And through his insights and practical wisdom Stephen offers his own challenge to the church today.’
Elaine Storkey, Director of Education and Training Church Army, President of Tear Fund
‘Making good theology accessible and demonstrating its relevance for Christian life is an urgent need today. Stephen Kuhrt’s book will be a very valuable contribution in narrowing the gap between the academy and the church, a gap which has often yawned far too wide.’
Graham Tomlin, Dean, St Mellitus College
Tom Wright for Everyone: Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church is published by SPCK and available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Wright-Everyone-Kuhrt-Stephen/dp/0281063931/ref=sr_1_43?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296648642&sr=1-43
Stephen Kuhrt is Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden.