"Paul and the Faithfulness of God": Magisterial, and Yet Down to Earth
Imagine in a world like theirs—imagine it even in a seemingly democratic world like our own!—the dissolving of barriers between classes of people because of the radical teaching of Jesus, the forming of a new community around the resurrection of Jesus. What Wright teases out of these few verses is an expert summary of the themes he intends to develop at length in the rest of the book, but what he is also offering is a brief but stirring exposition of the master scholar at work. In his clear, persuasive prose, Wright is also building the case for himself as the premiere expositor of Paul in our lifetimes.
So, no, I have not finished the books, which were in physical form too heavy to even carry in my baggage to Europe. I have been reading away at them on my Kindle, but I long to return to making notes in the margins, for in my early reading, I found myself remarking on one thing after another—and reminding myself of what I was learning on every page. This is the book on Paul I will return to over and over, long after I finish it.
I have learned from many of Wright's works over the past decade. I use his short "For Everybody" books as a part of my sermon preparation, have recommended his books on Christianity for parish reading, and have employed his recent books on evil and on heaven in classes and in my own books. But Paul and the Faithfulness of God may be not just the most imposing, but the most important thing N. T. Wright has ever written.
If you have always loved Wright, swallow that lump of apprehension in your throat and open the cover. If you have ever wondered why Wright has achieved near-celebrity status as a scholar, take the plunge. And if you have resisted Wright, for whatever reason, read this first section on Philemon and see if you don't find it convincing.
And every page since then has been a revelation.
For more conversation on Paul and the Faithfulness of God -- including a special Patheos discount on the book—visit the Book Club here.
Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including Faithful Citizenship from Patheos Press. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.