After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Those who think of becoming a Christian as nothing more than a fire insurance policy --- guaranteeing a flame-retardant eternity --- reduce the journey of faith to its lowest form and miss the richness of becoming a follower of Jesus. But exactly what does one do after one chooses to become a Christian? How should we live? And what is the point of it all?
In his newest book, AFTER YOU BELIEVE, N. T. Wright tackles these and other questions that accompany the journey of faith. His latest work serves as a sequel to SIMPLY CHRISTIAN and SURPRISED BY HOPE. He suggests that as followers of Jesus we are meant to develop virtue, but it doesn’t come easily. Just as learning a language or how to play a musical instrument takes time, patience, commitment, practice and hard work, so, too, does growing the goodness of God in all of its forms.
He writes: “Learning to navigate this world wisely, and to grow toward complete and mature human life in and through it all, is the challenge we all face. And the point of this book is to suggest that the dynamic of ‘virtue’ in this sense --- practicing the habits of heart and life that point toward the true goal of human existence --- lies at the heart of the challenge of Christian behavior, as set out in the New Testament itself. This is what it means to develop ‘character.’ This is what we need --- and what the Christian faith offers --- for the time, whether short or long, ‘after you believe.’”
Wright suggests that growing in virtue is more than just doing good works or embracing moral living, but recognizing that Christian behavior is about good works in the sense of “doing things which brings God’s wisdom and glory to birth in the world.” The good works and moral living are thrown in, too, but by viewing ourselves in these terms, our motives, purpose and response change powerfully.
Though Wright’s academic nature and tone emerge at times, AFTER WE BELIEVE is beautifully written, rich with insights and lined with thought-provoking material. Drawing on a rich well of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, Wright demonstrates how God works in and through us. As we practice, practice, practice virtue, we find that our church communities are empowered to grow into all they were meant to be as we eagerly anticipate that which is still to come.
Sometimes compared to a modern-day C.S. Lewis, N. T. Wright is an author not to be missed. Though his prose will be heady for some, his rich theological insights are worth savoring and point to a faith that is so much more than mere fire insurance, but the flood of transformation that comes with knowing and following Jesus. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on March 2, 2010