Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A Review in Life and Work

In the September Life and Work my review of Stephen Kuhrt's book 'Tom Wright for Everyone' was published. I know that there are constraints of space in L&W, however some of the editorial changes left the review making less than obvious sense. Here is a copy of my review as submitted. (see my earlier post here)

Tom Wright for Everyone:
Putting the theology of N. T. Wright into practice in the local Church
Stephen Kuhrt
SPCK: 2011
xiv+108 pages
Biblography 20 pages; Notes 11 pages; Indices 7 pages

It is surely too soon for a thorough review of the theology of NT Wright, not least since we still await some crucial elements of that theology to be published. However, Stephen Kuhrt does great service both to NT Wright, and to the church in this brief volume.

An opening chapter helpfully reviews the career of NT Wright as scholar, theologian and Churchman. This is followed by a chapter outlining Kuhrt’s own story and his interest in NT Wright. In this chapter Kuhrt, writing from an evangelical Anglican tradition Kuhrt poses some thoughtful questions to that evangelical tradition which still await an answer. Of course, he goes on to suggest the NT Wright does begin to offer an answer to these questions. This chapter should not be passed over by readers of Life and Work, as the questions raised by Kuhrt reflect questions that need to be asked and answered by an evangelical reformed/Presbyterian tradition just as much as by evangelicals within the Anglican tradition.

The central chapter of the book somewhat optimistically offers ‘A summary of the theology of N. T. Wright’. A seemingly impossible task which is well attempted by Kuhrt, using the device of taking 39 words or phrases around which key elements of Wright’s theology can be gathered. As good as this chapter is it should not be a substitute for reading Wright, his work on Christian hope, Jesus and the Kingdom, Paul and Gospel especially. In Kuhrt’s brief concluding summary we read of Wright’s proposal that,
In its reading of the New Testament, the Christian Church needs to shed the dualist lens introduced by the Gnostics … the recovery of a properly Jewish theology of creation that will enable us to understand Jesus as coming to inaugurate that new creation and renew the world rather than destroy it. … the Church’s role is to live within the story of Scripture, demonstrating, by word and deed, radical and Spirit-filled signs of the resurrection life that Jesus Christ has come to bring. (page 64)

Stephen Kuhrt has been vicar at a Church of England congregation in New Malden since 2007. The exciting conclusion to this volume is his account of the impact of Wright’s theology upon the life and ministry of this congregation. In three chapters Kuhrt gives accounts of changes in pastoral work, mission activity, worship and sacramental ministry, development of Christian character and the involvement of the people of God in active service. While some parts of this will be familiar to readers of Life and Work, using Wright, Kuhrt gives a deep biblical and theological foundation for these revisions of the life and ministry of a congregation. In his concluding chapters Kuhrt writes wisely and sensitively about both the ministry of women and responding to the challenge of homosexuality and these passages I hope will prove very helpful within our present situation.

Kuhrt writes well, this is a short and easily read book. Writing as an evangelical Kuhrt brings a great challenge from the theology of NT Wright to all evangelicals. If you don’t like his answers you at least have to answer his questions. For non evangelicals I think Kuhrt’s book demonstrates the vitality of evangelical theology and practice when it is radically committed to being biblical rather than entrenched in a nineteenth century form of a sixteenth century tradition! While commending this book most warmly I would nevertheless more warmly commend a long and detailed engagement with Tom Wright (and am sure that Stephen Kuhrt would agree with this).

1 comment:

Biker Mike said...

I've looked at Kuhrt's book in the bookshop - now I know I want to read it. Working my way through NT's 'Hope' just now. Excellent stuff.