Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Review: "How God Became King" by NT Wright

Last spring I purchased NT Wright’s latest book and had the great aspirations of reading it and reviewing it in 2012. I was able to do the former in 2012, but barely. In fact, it was New Year’s Eve, sitting in the Morgantown Starbucks that I was able to pour through the latter two thirds of the book.  In some ways, the reading and review of this book typified 2012. There were goals that just got away from me and so these goals need to be carried into the new year.

That being said, at last, I have been able to sit down and write a brief review of Wright’s book. The book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels is a highly accessible book for people who have committed their vocations to the teaching of the Bible as well as to those who have committed their lives to being ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

The book is divided into four sections with the fourth being a response to understanding Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection as not only in terms of atonement for sin, but as the beginnings of God putting all things to right (including our own relationship with Him).

In the first section of the book, he deals with two extremes that currently exist with regard to the life and teachings of Jesus. One is to so fully focus on His divinity and His birth, death, and resurrection that one misses His life. The other is to so focus on His life, that one misses the meaning and significance of his birth, death, and resurrection. He also gives some proposals as to how this split has happened as well as the incomplete image both offer.

In the second section, Wright speaks of four areas of emphasis within the gospels as four speakers in a sound system that need to be brought into harmony. Two of the speakers are turned up really loud and play distortedly, and in many ways drown out the remaining two speakers. Wright proposes that what needs to happen for us to hear all of the fullness of the message of the gospels is that we need to adjust the balance and volume of these stories.

In the third section, he proposes what happens as the four speakers are properly balanced. A story emerges that is the story of Israel coming to it’s climax as well as the story of Israel’s God becoming king and making his presence with humanity. In this story, everything doesn’t quite look the way one would expect it to look, but part of the reason for this is the linkage with the establishment of God’s Kingdom through suffering, service, and taking up of one’s cross.

Wright further builds a case that in much of our modern readings of the Gospels, we have uncoupled the Kingdom of God from being anything of this world or having any place in this world, and as a result we miss some of the very real and tangible opportunities for learning not only from the life of Jesus, but also seeking to live life as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in the here and now.

Unfortunately a review this brief simply does not do the book justice, so rather than try to write lots more, I will simply encourage you to purchase a copy and give it a read, along with Wright’s other writings.

And regardless of whether you read the book or not, I invite you to take a moment, and reflect on what life might look like in your neighborhood, in your job, and in this world, if God’s rule was reflected there? And what might it look like for you to be an ambassador of what it would look like?

Just a little food for thought for 2013.

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