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After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters Paperback – March 13, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
How do you develop a character suited for God's Kingdom? Practice, practice, practice. That, in a nutshell, is the message of this volume on building Christian character by Wright, a prodigiously prolific Bible scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. In arguing for this new vision of virtue, which is a vision of Jesus Christ himself, Wright carefully explores such classical exponents of character as Aristotle. He also acknowledges the existence of other notions of encouraging behavior-based rules, duty, or being true to oneself. Drawing on scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, Wright asserts that true transformation comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and through worship, mission, and following Jesus. As the habits of virtue grow, the church community will become the royal priesthood it is meant to be, anticipating (one of the author's favorite words) God's coming new world. A follow-up to Wright's Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Bishop Wright, with his usual wisdom and erudition, shows how an account of the virtues is not only compatible but required by the New Testament understanding of what it means to be a Christian. This important book hopefully will be read by theologian and non-theologian alike.” (Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School)
“A follow-up to Wright’s Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue.” (Publishers Weekly)
“In his new book, Wright,…one of the most prolific and influential theologians of the 20th Century,…posits that the development of virtue -- by the church and in broader society -- could help lead the Western world out of the sea of despondency in which it currently finds itself languishing.” (Religion News Service)
“[N.T. Wright is a] master at straight-forward, street-level writing about what makes our religious lives truly matter in the world. …Wright’s...powerful new book... is a clarion call to mature Christians to take seriously some of Jesus’ messages we’ve long ignored.” (Read the Spirit)
“A book that carefully examines Christian character, Christian virtues and the Christian life . . . needs serious attention.” (The Louisville Courier-Journal)
“An excellent book . . . Wright’s fine theological reflections here shed much light.” (Englewood Review of Books)
“For those who feel the church has lost its way, Wright offers a roadmap to help guide its followers home.” (U.S. Catholic)
“Beautifully written, rich with insights and lined with thought-provoking material .. . . Sometimes compared to a modern-day C.S. Lewis, N. T. Wright is an author not to be missed.... Highly recommended.” (Faithful Reader)
“One of the world’s best published Scripture scholars and an Anglican bishop, N. T. Wright’s latest book blends biblical competence and pastoral experience. This is a book for a general audience with evangelical leanings about how a Christian goes about developing virtue, character or habits of thinking, feeling and acting.” (America—The National Catholic Weekly)
“After You Believe by N. T. Wright offers yet another clarion call for believers and their communities to see that their actions in everyday life are evidence of the faith within.” (Spirituality and Practice)
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I am intrigued by it because I have thought that this might be true of what Paul is trying to say as well. Though now I am not so sure. If one reads Psalm 119 one sees that one should seek for God’s salvation and keep his commands. Verse 166 – “I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I fulfill your commandments” (NRSV). 1 Corinthians 7:19 says that keeping the commandments of God is everything! But key to what is happening with Paul I believe is that 1 Cor. 7:19a says that circumcision is nothing! So obviously Paul is not here referring people back to the OT law. What is true of all believers is that we are “bought with a price”. Psalm 119:166 applies no matter what covenant we are under. It is the apostles who have authority and keys of the kingdom.
Wright underplays the authority of the apostles in this instance. The commandments of God are now, apostolic teaching. We can find in many places where obedience is a theme. “Romans begins and ends with the theme of ‘the obedience of faith’…Paul’s message has to do with obedience from the heart (Romans 6:17) to the truth (Rom 2:8, Gal 5:7), the gospel (Rom 10:16, 2 Thess. 1:8), or Christ (2 Cor 10:5,6)” (Rosner 129).
Wright does not need to talk about the idea of the commands in the NT being only guidelines, because for Paul if the “obedience under the old covenant was meant to lead to life, obedience under the new is the fruit of new life in Christ” (Ibid 130). All Wright needed to say about the difference between the old and new was what he said earlier on pages 46 and 47. The OT law was “designed to be restrictive”. It is just the opposite for the NT law. It is designed to be freeing. Gal 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free”. Paul says this because some in the church wanted to run back to being slaves under the OT law. In fact Paul uses “obedience” to describe what they were doing right. Gal 5:7 – “You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?” (NRSV).
The OT law is summed up by loving God and loving neighbor as well as the new, but the difference comes in the new maturity wrought by Christ. This new teaching has transformed the thinking. The Spirit is on all God’s people. So it is not “guidelines” versus “rules”, it is “liberating rules” vs “restrictive rules”. Romans 14:17 – “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace…”(NRSV).
Rosner, Brian S. Paul and the Law, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press 2013).
In this book Wright explores the process of getting from the stage of consciously making right choices in day-to-day life situations to that of appropriate behavior that has become second-nature, for which he uses the ancient term "virtue" more or less synonymously with "character"; but he also compares and contrasts Christian virtue with the pagan virtues praised by Aristotle. Wright, a renowned Pauline scholar, reminds me of the Apostle Paul in the way he presents his arguments, beginning at a point already familiar to his readers, carefully building his case from there in small steps and from various angles, and recapping often along the way. Wright delves deeply into his subjects, often referring to the original Greek terms used in scripture, and tends to write in long, complex sentences. In light of that, I found his repetitive style helpful, so that I never got lost in the details... well, hardly ever.
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