This week I finally finished a book I'd been looking forward to reading for quite some time – N. T. Wright's After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. I was looking forward to it for two main reasons. First, I basically love everything that Bishop Wright writes. He has a superb intellect, but is capable of writing in a way that engages me on a practical level. I'd read the first two books in this series (Simply Christian, and Surprised by Hope) and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I knew I'd like this as well. Secondly, I have adopted the framework for my own pastoral ministry that discipleship really has to focus on the development of character. I've been working on my own manuscript of a book that focuses on developing character, and I thought I would gain some encouragement, challenge, and new ideas from this book on character.
I wasn't disappointed on either score. In fact, at one point early in the book, I looked at my wife and said, "I think N. T. Wright stole my book idea." He was saying some things that I've written and said before, and just the affirmation to come from that was enough to really encourage my own writing and thinking on the subject. As to the actual content of the book, it was as brilliant as I'd hoped.
His premise seems to be that there are two competing streams of thought when it comes to what we're supposed to do after we become followers of Jesus. On the one hand you have those who teach that, essentially, there is a strict, fixed set of rules that we are to abide by at all times. On the other hand you have folks who argue that really Jesus has come to set us free from rules and instead replace the rules with a pursuit of authenticity and "being true to yourself". Wright argues that both fall short of Jesus' vision for his followers, and that instead we should focus on the development of a virtuous Christian character that would result in us being fully human in the way Jesus desires us to be (and as he himself was).
You can download my summary of the book here: Download After You Believe – Review