Deluded or Divine?
Chris Ruddy is assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. a frequent Commonweal contributor, and (as intrepid readers of this blog know) a pen pal of Cathy Kaveny. He is also a discerning reader who generously recommends to his friends not-to-be-missed articles and books.
His latest recommendation, which I enthusiastically second, is the new book by N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (Harper San Francisco). Wright is Anglican bishop of Durham, England, and New Testament scholar extraordinaire. His writing abounds with welcome wit and is devoid of academic obfuscation.
The pivotal paragraph of his new book occurs on p. 111, at the close of his discussion of the gospels’ passion narratives:
Nothing in all the history of paganism comes anywhere near this combination of event, intention, and meaning. Nothing in Judaism had prepared for it, except in puzzling, shadowy prophecy. The death of Jesus of Nazareth as king of the Jews, the bearer of Israel’s destiny, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people of old, is either the most stupid, senseless waste and misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns. Christianity is based on the belief that it was and is the latter.
I plan to use the book in my introductory course, “Exploring Catholicism,” at Boston College in the Fall. It would also serve wonderfully well for parish adult study groups.