I’m a great fan of N.T.Wright’s work. He is a rare combination of both readability and intellectual depth – so often theological works are either one or the other, but not both. I think I can fairly say that his works on Romans and Paul in general have profoundly affected my understanding of the meta-narrative of Scripture and Paul’s place within it; ‘Surprised by Hope‘, ‘Justification‘ and ‘Romans for Everyone Part One & Two‘ in particular.
With this in mine I approached this work with great anticipation. Whilst the previous works were very much God focussed, this promised to be the application of his theology for our lives; the practice of virtue in response to the promise of God’s reconciling redemption of the world, the fulfillment of his covenant through Jesus.
In the end I was a little disappointed. Somehow the book never seized me in the way his previous works did. It felt to me as if it repeated itself, going over the same ground again and again and only adding a little more each time. The basic premise I agree with wholeheartedly, if God is going to renew creation and we are to be part of that renewed existence, then we should play our part in striving to live that future life today, practicing the character traits and responses that will mark it so that they gradually become instinctive – this gets over the question of what does it matter how we behave if we live under grace and not law. Having said that I must confess that my reading was broken up with large gaps of time between sessions, and my experience may have been different if I had more of a single run at it. I shall have to read it again sometime! I must also add that the last chapters which I read yesterday and today were useful. I greatly appreciated his description of worship and mission being co-joined twins with a single heart, and his outline of the tools which are available for developing virtue in the last chapter helpful.