There are a lot of similarities between Tom Wright and C.S. Lewis. Their writing style is quite similar, and they both have a delightful affection for...moreThere are a lot of similarities between Tom Wright and C.S. Lewis. Their writing style is quite similar, and they both have a delightful affection for parentheses (delightful, because I share that affection).
Also, it is hardly a surprise that the title of Wright's book "Simply Christian" is strikingly similar to Lewis' "Mere Christianity". In fact, as I was reading the first chapter of Wright's book (which talks about the sense of ethics that all people seem to share) I was constantly reminded of the first chapter of Lewis' book (which talks about the sense of ethics that all people seem to share). And, indeed, both books seek to do the same thing: explain the basics of Christianity to an intelligent, educated, but not necessarily Christian reader.
Wright's writing style is very fresh and enjoyable. He has a wonderful way of phrasing old truths using new words. Thus he avoids many of the pitfalls that are caused by the unfortunate connotations that Christian jargon often carries.
If I were to judge the book solely on its style, I would definitely give it five stars.
There are, however, a few things that force me to reduce that rating.
Firstly, Wright occasionally carries his rewriting of Christian terms so far that he runs the risk of being misunderstood. For example, seeing Jesus as God's son is added as an afterthought. Wright describes Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection in detail, but we do not encounter the concept of "God's son" until later, where it is presented as something that appeared when Christians talked about Jesus (p. 100). I have no doubt at all that Wright believes Jesus to be the son of God, but the casual reader could easily get the impression that this sonship was invented by Christians (when in fact Jesus' relation to God is clearly established in the gospels).
Secondly (and more seriously), Wright completely ignores the fundamental Christian notion of Jesus' death being payment for our sins. The prophet Isaiah, Jesus himself, Paul, the church fathers, and thousands of Christian theologians since then all agree that one of humanity's basic problems was a debt owed to God because of our evil actions. When he suffered and died, Jesus took those transgressions upon himself and paid the price. For some obscure reason, Wright does not mention this at all.
This has the very unfortunate consequence that Wright has to give another explanation for Jesus' death: "God's plan to rescue the world from evil would be put into effect by evil doing its worst to the Servant, to Jesus himself, and thereby exhausting its power" (p. 93). "[Jesus] would be the place where God's future arrived in the present, with the kingdom of God celebrating its triumph over the kingdoms of the world by refusing to join in their spiral of violence" (p. 94). Hardly a convincing explanation, in my opinion.
I have a strong suspicion that Wright actually does refer to the traditional view in a couple of places. For example, on p. 59 where he talks about certain people who believe in God "condemning his Son to a cruel fate to satisfy some obscure and rather arbitrary requirement." This is a very nonchalant (dare I say arrogant?) way to dismiss much of Paul's theology and indeed much of the theology of innumerable Christian thinkers since then.
Finally, I fear that Wright has not quite decided who his audience is. Despite Wright's fresh and delightful writing style, non-Christians and new Christians are bound to be put off by the often vague and difficult statements such as, "Christian prayer is at its most characteristic when we find ourselves caught in the overlap of the ages, part of the creation that aches for new birth" (p. 138). On the other hand, older Christians, who may understand the more obscure statements, will find little in this book that is actually new to them. They may pick up a thing here or there that they have not thought about before, but most of the book is merely a rewording of things already known.
So what is the verdict? The writing style is splendid; and except for the things mentioned above, I find the book a good and thorough introduction to Christianity. But if you are not used to reading non-fiction books with a philosophical theme, this book is probably not for you. (less)
I'm truly amazed at how well Colfer succeeds in mimicking Douglas Adams' style of writing. If I hadn't known better, I could have sworn this was the r...moreI'm truly amazed at how well Colfer succeeds in mimicking Douglas Adams' style of writing. If I hadn't known better, I could have sworn this was the real thing.
Unfortunately, what Colfer mimics is Adams' style in the last two Hitch Hiker's books, which are sadly lacking the incredibly sparkling, imaginative writing of the first three books.
John Grisham cannot write a bad book. He is simply too skilled a writer. This book is therefore not bad. It would, however, have been considerably bet...moreJohn Grisham cannot write a bad book. He is simply too skilled a writer. This book is therefore not bad. It would, however, have been considerably better if it had been considerably shorter.(less)