Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: How God Became King

Book title: How God Became King
Author: Tom Wright
Publishing information (place, publisher, year): New York, HarperCollins, 2012
Number of pages: 278

When we talk about Jesus we leave out most of the story. We talk about the virgin birth. We mention that he had a ministry that lasted three years (but that isn’t really essential in most of our conversations). We talk about his death on a cross and, of course, the resurrection. He went to heaven and is coming back.

There you go. That’s all you really need to know to believe the right stuff and go to heaven. Is there anything else we need to talk about?

“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all seem to think it’s hugely important that they tell us a great deal about what Jesus did between the time of his birth and the time of his death,” writes author Tom Wright. So much of what we believe and shape our thought about Jesus are creeds. “The gospels were all about God becoming king, but creeds are focused on Jesus being God.”

This book focuses on Jesus inaugurating God’s kingdom. The public ministry of Jesus is told through four different narratives by four different voices all telling about the glory of God revealed in Jesus.

“When the church leaves out bits of its core teaching, it will inevitably overinflate other bits of it core teaching,” Wright says. How that plays out in practice and teaching is “churchgoers treat the gospels as the optional chips and dip” to snack on before a big plate of steak, potatoes and Pauline theology are served up. It’s as if the only nourishment a growing boy needs is a healthy diet of Paul. Our appetite for Jesus has been spoiled.

Here are some of of Wright’s main points:
  • Don’t look for theories about Jesus, pay attention to the story!
  • Live in the story of Jesus and allow it to shift the ground you’re standing on.
  • The church’s life and mission need to be rooted in the historical accomplishments of Jesus.
  • The gospels are far from “ordinary”.

Wright, as usual, makes a compelling argument. His style is respectful and tactful and forces the reader to think about the implications of Jesus being king here and now rather than some day way off in a hard-to-imagine future. He argues that we’ve mis-read the gospels. But even worse, we’ve made them “ordinary.”  That’s a trap that results in living an ordinary life. And that is a long way from what God intends for us as his image bearers.

This is definitely a book I’d recommend. Wright writes for audiences that range from academic to common (like me). This book is great for the regular church grower seeking to take their understanding of the mission of Jesus and the church to a deeper level. Wright helps you imagine that you can really live the life Jesus intended for you to live.

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