Book Review: Simply Good News by N.T. Wright

  • SGNNTHardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (January 6, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062334344
  • Amazon.com
  • HarperOne

Many thanks to HarperOne for a review copy of N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good.

An Overview

In many ways, Simply Good News is a continuation of N.T. Wright’s to challenge Western Christians to rethink how they read the Bible, in general, and the Gospels and the writings of the Apostle Paul, in particular.  It is written at a rather popular level.  The work contains eight chapters, with each chapter building on the previous, beginning with the first chapter, “What’s the News?”  In vintage style Wright asks, “What is the good news that Jesus himself announced and told his followers to announce as well?”  Wright, then, explores what is meant by “news,” “good news,” “its backstory,” and how because of news “everything will now be different”: “The gospel of Jesus Christ comes as news within a larger story.  It points to a wonderful new future.  And it introduces a new period of waiting that changes our expectations.”  According to Wright, “Over many centuries, Western churches have got the story wrong.  They have forgotten what the backstory is (the larger story that gives meaning and context to the good news.”  As a result, “in many churches, the good news has subtly changed into good advice: Here’s how to live, they.  Here’s how to pray.  here are the techniques for helping you become a better Christian, a better person, a better wife or husband.  And in particular, here’s how to make sure you’re on the right tack for what happens after death.”  Wright continues, “Take this advice: say this prayer and you’ll be saved. You won’t go to hell: you’ll go to heaven.  Here’s how to do it.  This is advice, now news.” With an interaction with “Roman Good News,” Wright, then, moves to the backstory (the larger story) of what was meant by “good news,” and drawing the conclusion: “Something has happened; something therefore will happen.  And the way things are right now is different as a result.”  It is this conclusion that frames Wright’s Simply Good News and is then developed in the subsequent chapters, “Foolish, Scandalous, or Good,” “Surprised by King Jesus,” “Distorted and Competing Gospels,” “Rethinking Heaven,” “Wrong Future, Wrong Present,” “Surprised by God,” and “Praying the Good News.”  And along the way, Wright revisits a theme that he has addressed in some of his other works: that split-level philosophy that has come out of the eighteen-century Enlightenment and how it has negatively affected our reading of the Bible, especially the NT.  To illustrate, “On the one hand, we have fundamentalist dispensationalists awaiting a rapture in which Jesus will return to snatch them up to heaven.  On the other hand, we have the liberal mainstream churches, especially in America, who, perhaps in reaction, often seem to have given up talk of any future, person or corporate, other than that which can be achieved through social policies in the present age” (p.124).

Conclusion

As I conclude this review, I have a confession to make.  As noted above, Simply Good News is another one of Wright’s challenges to Western Christians on how to rethink the way the read the Bible.  So I thought, “How fresh could this work be?”  I was wrong.  I was in for a surprise, not least with the last chapter, “Praying the Good News,” and how it fits into the larger story (the backstory).  “He was announcing a new reality breaking in upon a surprised and unready world.  And in this prayer, he was inviting his followers to explore this new reality and make it their own” (p. 168).  With the above in mind, I invite you to challenge what you believe about the Gospel by reading N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good.

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