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Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“N.T. Wright is the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation. Some say he is the most important apologist since C. S. Lewis. . . . Perhaps the most significant praise of all: When Wright speaks, preaches, or writes, folks say they see Jesus, and lives are transformed.” (Christianity Today)

“Pithy prose and compassionate and serious biblical interpretation. . . . To reveal some of Wright’s conclusions would be like leaking cinematic spoilers; such is the inventive and surprising way that Wright brings the Bible to bear on current, and vexatious, affairs.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Reading anew for new times and exploring how the Bible might illuminate issues of contemporary concern is at the heart of N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Scripture.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

Bishop, Bible scholar, and bestselling author N. T. Wright here provides a series of case studies on how to apply the Bible to the pressing issues of today. Among the topics Wright addresses are the intersection of religion and science, why women should be allowed to be ordained, what we get wrong and how we can do better when Christians engage in politics, why the Christian belief in heaven means we should be at the forefront of the environmental movement, and many more.

Wright fearlessly wades through the difficult issues facing us. Readers will find new models for understanding how to affirm the Bible in today's world as well as encouragement and renewed energy for deepening our faith and engaging with the culture around us.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062230530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062230539
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Adam Shields VINE VOICE on June 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am an unabashed fan of NT Wright. I have read most of his popular level books (except the commentary series) and a few of his more academic oriented books. I appreciate his focus on calling people to a fresh look at scripture and his ability to take scripture seriously while maintaining real academic quality.

But on the whole I was disappointed by this book. It is a re-working of articles that have previously appeared elsewhere. Most of them were commissioned by US journals or from chapters in books that were for US audiences, or written forms of lectures, so as a Brit, he is most of the time consciously writing for the North American Evangelical audience.

His basic arguments, like most of Wright, is that given historical realities of the original writers and audience, we modern readers tend to be missing the intended point of the original writers.

As with most Wright he needs to go through a fairly long narrative to be able to help the reader understand his point. And I think that is why his full length book treatments are better than these shorter issue based chapters.

The problem is not so much the individual chapters, but that in almost every case, he has a better response in a full length books (and he frequently tells the reader that there is more to the story if you want to pick up another one of his books.) So his first three chapters on science and religion, the historical Adam and the resurrection were all better handled by his book Scripture and the Authority of God.

The fourth chapter, The Biblical Case for Ordaining Women, is actually one of the two issues in the book that was new to me (although he says he has brought up several of the issues before in his commentary series.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Henry T Imler on June 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of N. T. Wright and his writings. His style is very engaging, holding one's attention while dealing with scholarly topics. He can engage so many topics, ranging from historical Jesus to Pauline theology to studying the Psalms to discussing the Bible itself. So when I heard about this book I was ecstatic because it's not a traditional book but rather a collection of essays that seem rather unrelated.
I say they seem unrelated because there is a thread in this book that comes around again and again: Epicurean philosophy. This book represents, more than anything, Wright's critique of the post-Enlightenment worldview that is centered upon the foundation of the ancient philosophy first espoused by the Greek Epicurus. He taught that if God or the gods even exist they are a long way away and have nothing to do with the earth. The earth sustains itself with no help from God or the gods.
The Roman poet Lucretius popularized this philosophy, and his poetry was rediscovered in the Middle Ages and helped spark the Enlightenment. This kicked God and Jesus upstairs into heaven, separating them from the earth and humanity. Therefore theories like evolution sprang up in a way to fill in the void that was previous filled by God. Christianity joined in with the Enlightenment in espousing this kind of dualistic worldview, saying heaven is a place a long way away and that Jesus has come to take us away from this evil world back to heaven with him.
Thus Wright is saying that the Western Church has colluded with the enemy by affirm his worldview and then trying to reaffirm God from within it. That's why people like Al Mohler of Southern Seminary says that we must either believe the Bible or what science teaches.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By revtcr on July 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
An Overview

Surprised by Scripture is a collection of papers and addresses given by N.T. Wright in noted places both in the US and Europe, ranging from 2004 to 2013. While Wright addresses the contemporary Western world in general terms, the reader can’t help but notice the many specific references to the US. Wright’s reason: because of the powerful influence that the American culture in the rest of the world. Two important elements through the book is Wright’s repeated attention to the philosophies of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism in a modern guise, on the other.

The book is comprised of twelve essays, which really are showcase of one of today’s most brilliant biblical scholars engaging contemporary issues, per its subtitle. The reader must also keep in mind that N.T. Wright is not only a biblical scholar but a historian as well. As the reader moves through each chapter, he or she encounters both the theologian and historian on each page. The book is engaging, witty, and often focuses the reader to rethink held positions. And what is central to the book, the one constant, is the author’s modus operandi: how God is putting the world to rights through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and thereby launching the new creation.

A Critique

Above I mentioned Wright’s modus operandi (so much more can be said). Readers of Wright’s works would know what I mean. It is this Wright uses to engage the contemporary issues addressed in this work. Now what ultimately determines the usefulness of Surprised by Scripture is this: Is Wright’s reading of Scripture correct?

But not all the essays in Surprised by Scripture are engaging and useful.
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