I was first exposed to N.T. Wright as a seminary student at Southwestern Seminary about 15 years ago through a class on the atonement. I was fascinated by Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, in particular his exodus motif of interpreting the gospels.
Since then, I have discovered that Wright has a “popular” side as well, and over the past several years have come to appreciate his treatment of Jesus, the gospel, and Scripture on a non technical level. Surprised by Scripture is that sort of book.
In Surprised by Scripture, Wright deals with some contemporary theological issues. The most important offering of the book is his suggestion that Americans deal with theological conundrums in a manner unique from the rest of the world. For example, he points to the idea that it is only in America that we estrange science from faith, as in our ongoing evolution versus creationism debates. But it is not just that. Generally its our entire treatment of the Bible, everything from the necessity of a historical Adam to women in ministry to our views on eschatology.
As a reader I found that I didn’t agree with everything that Wright had to share. But as a theologian, I had to admit that I appreciate his thoughtfulness and his open handed treatment of some sensitive if not polarizing topics. He writes as if his goal is for the reader to figure it out for yourself.
I remember a seminary professor telling my hermeneutics class that when he went to seminary the saints of his home church admonished him by saying, “Don’t let seminary ruin your faith.” What he discovered he offered to us. “Seminary didn’t ruin my faith,” he said. “It put muscles on it.” Such are the writings of N.T. Wright, and in particular, Surprised by Scripture.
I would encourage you to read this book thoughtfully and with an open mind. No, you won’t agree with everything he says. Nor will you be persuaded by each argument. But you may close the book after the final page with some conviction about what you believe and why you believe it. And that experience will leave you stronger than the borrowed faith you’re clinging to.