N.T. Wright, Simply Christian; Why Christianity Makes Sense (San Francisco: Harper, 2006), 240pp.
"My aim," writes N.T. Wright, "has been to describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain it to those inside." To do this he adopts a three-part structure. In part one, which if this were a technical book would be called natural theology, Wright examines human experience and argues that most all people experience four "echoes of a voice." He devotes one chapter to each of these four echoes—the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty. These voices, he believes, "point beyond themselves," and of course he argues that they point to (but by no means prove) a Creator. In the second part Wright introduces the "central Christian belief about God," with two chapters each on the Father, Son, and Spirit. Part three then "describes what it looks like in practice to follow this Jesus," with treatments of worship, prayer, the Bible, and church.
Throughout his book Wright emphasizes that the Gospel is the kingdom of God, where heaven comes down to earth, and God's future invades our present. God invites us to receive this free grace and gift, and also sends us into the world to make it a reality. Thus, we are "not simply beneficiaries but also agents." Wright has written a simple book that avoids technical jargon. There are no footnotes at all, relatively few Scripture quotations, no mention of figures from church history, and the avoidance of controversial subjects like universalism or the claims of other religions. Nor does he try to refute objections or contrary positions (except for an extended use of pantheism and deism as alternate world views). You will not find a defense of miracles or a response to the problem of evil. I read Wright's book as more of a confession than a rational apologetic. In that sense it reminded me of Philip's words to Nathaniel in John 1:46, "come and see." For the heavy lifting of a lifetime of discipleship you will need to read other, more critical treatments of the faith, but for an uncluttered and winsome introduction, Simply Christian is a good beginning by a trustworthy guide.