Friday, 31 October 2014

The Year in Books: October

This month's reading has been somewhat theological in nature; Surprised by Scripture by Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham, has particularly stood out.  It is a collection of essays based on talks he has given, mainly in America and makes an excellent introduction to his theology and thinking.  Wright has placed an emphasis on reading the Bible, especially the New Testament, within its own original context and then attempts to relate the Bible to today.  Consequently he looks at the thinking which has led us to see the Bible in a particular way, especially the Reformation and the 18th century Enlightenment and the "surprise" in the title refers to the difference between what we may think the Bible says on a subject and what it truly says.

Although it may sound like a very heavy read its original lecture format has made it more readable and means that each chapter is relatively short.  Wright takes on the enlightenment thinking, particularly the ideas of Epicureanism - that God created the world and then left it to itself for example - and takes these ideas back to the Bible to show that they have little or no biblical basis.  Throughout he does not shrink from taking on difficult subjects such as politics, the environment and the role of women in the church - a chapter I found very freeing as Wright went back into the biblical text and its original context.

One of the biggest surprises of the book so far for me was the chapter entitled, "Jesus is coming - plant a tree!", about heaven and earth, explaining how God is not going to be rescuing us from this wicked earth and spiriting us away to heaven, but that Jesus is coming again to renew the earth.  Therefore he argues that what we do here and now matters for the future, especially how we treat our planet, which is not all bad, although "subject to futility" (Romans 8.20).  At the centre of this chapter is a fresh look at Romans 8.

Durham Cathedral

I cannot recommend this book enough, indeed I have been going around telling everyone to read it!  It is not the quickest read, but worth going through and giving consideration.  Should you wish to try one or two of the chapters before committing to buying chapter six, "9/11, Tsunamis and the New Problem of Evil", is available here, more articles by Tom Wright are available here and there is an interesting interview with Tom Wright here.  Get reading, stretch your brain and be surprised!

You can see the other entries in this month's Year in Books here


  1. I have been looking forward to your book review for October, Stephanie, and this is most interesting. Not long ago I read a book (Simply Jesus) by Tom Wright and I must say that I found it a bit heavy going, albeit worthwhile. But as you say, sometimes it is really good to stretch one's brain, and take the time to get to grips with more complex ideas. Thanks very much for this review, I think I will be investigating this book further!

  2. Thank you, you could always try the sample chapter I liked to and see how you get on? It's the sort of book you can read slowly over time, a chapter here and a chapter there.