Jesus, Paul and the People of God publishes the papers presented at the nineteenth annual Wheaton Theology Conference, hosted by Wheaton College on April 16-17, 2010. It doubles as a Festschrift of sorts for N. T. "Tom" Wright, whose books--whether academic or popular--alternatively influence and infuriate their readers, especially their evangelical readers. Its authors, though sometimes critical of Wright's theology, are also personal friends.
The book, like the conference, examined Wright's theology of Jesus (Part One) and his theology of Paul (Part Two). Following each chapter, Wright offers a short response to the author of the chapter. At the end of each part, Wright outlines the evolution to date of his thinking, using a "whence and whither" formula. The book includes a "Subject Index" and a "Scripture Index," both of which are helpful for academic readers. A select bibliography of Wright's books and articles would have been helpful, but it is not included.
For me, Wright's two "whence and whither" essays were worth the price of the book. Wright is a prolific author. His three-volume series, Christian Origins and the Question of God, contains 2,016 pages of densely argued prose. The "whence and whither" essays helped me understand the gist of Wright's portrait of Jesus, how he reached his conclusions, and how those conclusions apply to the life of the church today.
Of the other essays, two stood out to me in particular: "`Outside of a Small Circle of Friends': Jesus and the Justice of God" by Sylvia C. Keesmaat and Brian J. Walsh and "Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology." The former offered a provocative (and controversial) reading of Jesus' Parable of the Pounds that got me thinking about economic justice. The latter helped me navigate the debate between Wright and John Piper on the doctrine of justification by faith and suggested "union with Christ" as a point of rapprochement between the traditional Protestant doctrine and Wright's own interpretation of justification.
N. T. Wright, a former Anglican bishop and a prolific writer about Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament, receives an up-close analysis in this compilation of essays originally presented at the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference on his works. The book begins with an incisive introduction that compares and contrasts Wright�s theology and writings with those of one of the first seekers of the historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer. The book is then divided into two sections, �Jesus and the People of God� and �Paul and the People of God.� In each section, essayists discuss various points Wright makes (or doesn�t make) in his own writings, e.g., the absence of John�s gospel in Wright�s Jesus and the Victory of God. Wright then has a chance to respond to the critiques individually and in longer overviews of his own work. Does this get wonkish at times? A little. But Wright, whose writings on religious history and theology cover such a broad spectrum, is a prime choice for this type of coverage. For larger religion collections. --Ilene Cooper