US Catholic Faith in Real Life

N.T. Wright: After You Believe

By Becky Garrison | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
After You Believe
By N.T. Wright
(HarperOne, 2010)

In the preface to After You Believe, New Testament scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham N. T. Wright, states that his book can be read as a sequel to his earlier works Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope. In these works Wright argues that God the creator intends to bring heaven and earth together at last, and that this plan has been decisively inaugurated in Jesus Christ. After You Believe explores how Christian character and virtue become shaped in response to this plan.

At the outset, Wright makes it clear that he will not focus on specific debates that have erupted into a series of battles in the culture wars. Rather than setting the book up as a how-to manual about how to behave, Wright selects commonly misunderstood New Testament passages to explore how one’s character becomes formed once one becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). He develops “a Christian answer—Jesus’ own answer, in fact—to the tradition of moral thinking that goes back to Aristotle.”

Wright argues that, despite the current understanding of conversion through which a believer immediately reflects the character of Christ, moral transformation entails a “long, slow change of deep, heart-level habits.” Furthermore, Wright claims that individuals do not change so they can become sin-free and thus ready to receive the sacraments and secure their salvation. Instead, by mirroring the teachings of Christ, Christians become vessels for worship and mission through which the living Christ becomes exemplified.

Like his previous works, Wright aims to make his writing accessible to an educated laity. While he presents credible arguments backed by solid scholarship, the ongoing repetition of his overarching themes might remind readers more of a parent disciplining a wayward child than two consenting adults exploring the nature of Christian character. Still, for those who feel the church has lost its way, Wright offers a roadmap to help guide its followers home.