So I’m reading “The Day The Revolution Began” by N. T. Wright. I’m up to chapter 5 and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the book and Wright so far. My hope is that this review will serve as a platform for discussion and edification. I’m interested to hear any of your thoughts.
1. N. T. Wright is one of my favourite modern day theologians for a multiplicity of reasons including his work on Second Temple Judaism, justification and works, and his refreshing take on Christus Victor. Revolution, in particular, has given some great insight so far into the background of the Cross and into biblical themes such as priesthood and how that is fulfilled in Christ as well as clarifying some things around Christus Victor and the context that the Reformers were writing in.
2. I have read either in parts or all of many of his books and have always found myself challenged and often motivated to live out the Christian life in its fullness, in some ways Revolution is no exception to this. I have certainly been spurred to take seriously idolatry which is always for me personally, refreshing.
3. Despite the praises I give to Wright, I have some issues with Revolution. I have told one friend of mine that reading the book is sort of like an abusive relationship, there are things I hate about the book but I’m always drawn back to it. In particular, I have an issue with the way Wright caricatures Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). I have always come to appreciate the scholarship and academic tone of Wright’s works, however, so far whenever he talks about PSA he speaks about it with venom and likens PSA to that of pagan worship. If I didn’t know any better (but I do) I would say that Wright and anyone who believes this about PSA completely misunderstands PSA’s depths and beauty.
(However, I understand that Wright is broad brushing from experience and usually wouldn’t pit this against theologians such as Thomas R. Schreiner. In fact, Wright both affirms PSA and doesn’t lump him into his broad brushing of PSA in a recent debate with Schreiner centred around Revolution.
4. Unfortunately, I can understand how some could be led to reject altogether the idea of PSA in favour of Christus Victor or any other model of the atonement. However, don’t fall into the trap of pitting one against the other. Properly taught, the atonement incorporates so many things including both PSA, CV and I suspect other theories as well. But to reject PSA in favour of other models is grossly unbiblical and can have vastly unhealthy implications that I’m not sure I could predict (this can be true of holding exclusively to PSA as well).
5. Would I recommend the book? In short, yes. It is worth a read. But I recommend it lightly seasoned with a warning. Wright is not a heretic, nor is he dangerous, but Revolution (at least so far) can have you asking more questions than rolling around in answers. Wright is unforgiving in his treatment of PSA but don’t let that lead you to reject it in favour of exclusively any other model.
Conclusion: The atonement is vast, deep and stunning. A proper approach to it would lead any soul to be reconciled to God and any Christian into a deeper relationship with Him. I pray that a book such as this would lend towards that goal for any who pick it up as I firmly believe that was Wright’s intent in writing it.