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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (3 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1483004783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1483004785
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.1 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 935,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
NTW is on great form. Actually if you're new to this revolutionary take on Christianity, then call it 5 stars. It's a great introduction to his big themes. If you've read the main theses in Surprised by Scripture, and How God Became King, then it's still worth 4 stars as the discrete topics in each chapter serve as good refresher summaries. Seriously, stuff this is so compelling that after one of NTW's books I had to read all four gospels again to see them afresh. Excellent.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent. Easily comprehensible. Bishop Wright at his best
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 52 reviews
85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Mostly repetition of other books in a shorter form 9 Jun 2014
By Adam Shields - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am an unabashed fan of NT Wright. I have read most of his popular level books (except the commentary series) and a few of his more academic oriented books. I appreciate his focus on calling people to a fresh look at scripture and his ability to take scripture seriously while maintaining real academic quality.

But on the whole I was disappointed by this book. It is a re-working of articles that have previously appeared elsewhere. Most of them were commissioned by US journals or from chapters in books that were for US audiences, or written forms of lectures, so as a Brit, he is most of the time consciously writing for the North American Evangelical audience.

His basic arguments, like most of Wright, is that given historical realities of the original writers and audience, we modern readers tend to be missing the intended point of the original writers.

As with most Wright he needs to go through a fairly long narrative to be able to help the reader understand his point. And I think that is why his full length book treatments are better than these shorter issue based chapters.

The problem is not so much the individual chapters, but that in almost every case, he has a better response in a full length books (and he frequently tells the reader that there is more to the story if you want to pick up another one of his books.) So his first three chapters on science and religion, the historical Adam and the resurrection were all better handled by his book Scripture and the Authority of God.

The fourth chapter, The Biblical Case for Ordaining Women, is actually one of the two issues in the book that was new to me (although he says he has brought up several of the issues before in his commentary series.)

The fifth chapter is theoretically about environmentalism, but is really a short version of his Surprised by Hope book about eschatology.

The sixth chapter is the only chapter that I think might be better as a chapter than the book. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God was decent, but in this chapter he does a better job of summarizing by saying, we cannot solve the problem of evil. Instead, God has chosen to give us scripture, not as a way to intellectually solve the problem of evil, but as a way to remind us that God is with us through difficult times.

Several of the later chapters are more political and this is where likely a number of bad reviews will focus. Wright have a very good defence of why a scriptural church is a political church. And Wright also is theologically consistent with his politics. The problem for many readers is that those politics do not match well with our US political systems. So Wright is 'conservative' about sexual issues, 'liberal' about environmentalism, international debt and immigration policy, and off the political map in regard to terrorism. He is against anabaptist retreat and attempts of re-creating Christendom. As I have said in regard to his discussion of politics in other books, I think he is theologically right about most of his points, but he is not a great economist, political historian or political theorist. (And I agree with him in a large number of his political stances.)

If there is a main theme in the book, it is that we are now all Epicureans. It is the focus of the chapter on Idolatry, but comes up multiple times throughout the book. Essentially this is not unlike what some others describe as modern Deism. But Wright believes that Epicureanism is actually a better description. The short description of Epicureanism is that it is a believe that the gods don't really care about us or at least don't have much influence over our daily lives, so we might as well live for pleasure because that is something we can do.

The rest of the chapters not mentioned are basically the same. Good topics, fairly well handled by Wright, but always feeling a bit too rushed and too thematically squeezed into the book. On the whole, I would just suggest that you read Wright's others books and skip this one, unless you are really interested in his take on Epicureanism or Women in Ministry.

Personally, I think you should start with Scripture and the Authority of God, then read Surprised by Hope and Simply Jesus and expand from there as you have time and interest.
3 stars is probably a little overly harsh, but I grading on a curve based on the very high quality of books that I expect out of Wright.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Great Discussion of a Variety of Topics 21 Jun 2014
By Henry T Imler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of N. T. Wright and his writings. His style is very engaging, holding one's attention while dealing with scholarly topics. He can engage so many topics, ranging from historical Jesus to Pauline theology to studying the Psalms to discussing the Bible itself. So when I heard about this book I was ecstatic because it's not a traditional book but rather a collection of essays that seem rather unrelated.
I say they seem unrelated because there is a thread in this book that comes around again and again: Epicurean philosophy. This book represents, more than anything, Wright's critique of the post-Enlightenment worldview that is centered upon the foundation of the ancient philosophy first espoused by the Greek Epicurus. He taught that if God or the gods even exist they are a long way away and have nothing to do with the earth. The earth sustains itself with no help from God or the gods.
The Roman poet Lucretius popularized this philosophy, and his poetry was rediscovered in the Middle Ages and helped spark the Enlightenment. This kicked God and Jesus upstairs into heaven, separating them from the earth and humanity. Therefore theories like evolution sprang up in a way to fill in the void that was previous filled by God. Christianity joined in with the Enlightenment in espousing this kind of dualistic worldview, saying heaven is a place a long way away and that Jesus has come to take us away from this evil world back to heaven with him.
Thus Wright is saying that the Western Church has colluded with the enemy by affirm his worldview and then trying to reaffirm God from within it. That's why people like Al Mohler of Southern Seminary says that we must either believe the Bible or what science teaches. It's either Jesus or Evolution; an historical Adam or the Bible is completely false. Wright is seeking a way past this Epicurean false choice into a more fully biblical worldview.
Wright calls Christians to rediscover what the Bible is actually saying by letting go of our allegiance to Epicurus/Lucretius/Enlightenment. Heaven is not a far away realm but is overlapping and interlocking with our own. We can believe in evolution and the resurrection without compromising our faith in Jesus. We can let go of our secret love affair with Mammon (money), Sex (Aphrodite), and War (Mars). In America, we can work to stop having the same battles that were fought in 1861-1865!
I heartily recommend this book to all. Wright shows how Christians can believe in the Second Coming of Jesus and therefore actively participate in ecological causes. If you have read Wright's other works you'll see him applying those ideas in very concrete ways. A must read text.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Is Wright Correct? 14 July 2014
By revtcr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An Overview

Surprised by Scripture is a collection of papers and addresses given by N.T. Wright in noted places both in the US and Europe, ranging from 2004 to 2013. While Wright addresses the contemporary Western world in general terms, the reader can’t help but notice the many specific references to the US. Wright’s reason: because of the powerful influence that the American culture in the rest of the world. Two important elements through the book is Wright’s repeated attention to the philosophies of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism in a modern guise, on the other.

The book is comprised of twelve essays, which really are showcase of one of today’s most brilliant biblical scholars engaging contemporary issues, per its subtitle. The reader must also keep in mind that N.T. Wright is not only a biblical scholar but a historian as well. As the reader moves through each chapter, he or she encounters both the theologian and historian on each page. The book is engaging, witty, and often focuses the reader to rethink held positions. And what is central to the book, the one constant, is the author’s modus operandi: how God is putting the world to rights through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and thereby launching the new creation.

A Critique

Above I mentioned Wright’s modus operandi (so much more can be said). Readers of Wright’s works would know what I mean. It is this Wright uses to engage the contemporary issues addressed in this work. Now what ultimately determines the usefulness of Surprised by Scripture is this: Is Wright’s reading of Scripture correct?

But not all the essays in Surprised by Scripture are engaging and useful. While there are several gemlike and evenly balanced essays, the one I was expecting the most from turns out to be the most disappointing: “Do We Need a Historical Adam?” Instead of an assured, challenging and thoughtful Wright, who forces you to rethink, what we get in this chapter is a very speculative and sloppy Wright. For example, in an effort to draw a parallel between nation Israel and Adam and Eve, we find this: “that just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation” (p. 37). But Wright offers no explanation as to the origin of these socalled “early hominids.” However, all is not lost in this essay. I found his bit on the young-earth position mature and wise.

Wright continues his critique of the Rapture and a Dispensational reading of Scripture. Before you wonder why. Because of Wright’s own reading of Scripture, there can be no place for a Dispensational reading, especially the Rapture position. At any rate, before I bring this review to an end, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something on the essay “The Biblical Case for Ordaining Women.” I consider this one of the gemlike essays. For years, I’ve been waiting for an egalitarian to do what Wright does in this essay: “Galatians 3 is not about ministry…” (p. 65). Instead Wright lays a foundation for his interaction with 1 Corinthian 11 and 14 and 1 Timothy 2. As a complementarian, I challenge fellow complementarians to read this essay with an open mind.


Above all, to see how N.T. Wright’s reading of Scripture engages some of our leading and controversial contemporary issues is what commends Surprised by Scripture for me. Wright is not for the faint of heart. But neither can he be ignored. I’ve even read where senior denomination leaders have asked their younger pastors to stay away from the writings of N.T. Wright. Why? Because Wright will challenge you to rethink your beliefs, and worst, even cause you to give some of them up. Rather than frustrating a reading of Wright’s works, I so wish that denominational leaders would engage an N.T. Wright, not least in the US, and perhaps be the better for doing so. A la Luther. Semper reformanda.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
How the Gospel Still Challenges the World and its Philosophies 22 Jun 2014
By C.P.M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since falling in love with the works of N.T. Wright over a year ago, I have recognized in his works how the overarching theme in all his works (that with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the new creation has begun to break into our world, that God has declared himself the king of this new world, and that we as Christians are called, as his image-bearers, to reflect His goodness in all things and to share the Gospel with everyone) has a political dimension to it. Sometimes Mr. Wright has touched upon this in his more recent popular works, but usually has chosen to do so in a tangential way. In this book, Mr. Wright begins to articulate more fully how the message of the Gospel challenges the world and its underlying philosophies. Mr. Wright points out how modern Western pop culture, in America especially, has adopted the Epicurean thought of the Enlightenment. Epicurean meaning that God, or the gods, are probably far off (if they exist at all) and have very little to no effect on our day to day lives, so we shouldn't worry about them at all. Mr. Wright ties this in with Europe's implicit and America's explicit split government and religion as well as culture's split between science and religion. In this series of essays, Mr. Wright makes a powerful case for taking up the thoughts of the Old Testament Jews and New Testament believers, where faith and public service were not as divided as they are today and science was used to explore the intricacies of God's created world, not used to proclaim the death of God. Each chapter comes from a speech or essay that Mr. Wright wrote in the past and has been edited for this book to give some thematic flow and it mostly works. As with any work of collected essays/speeches, this book can seem a little disjointed at times, but Mr. Wright and his editors have done a fantastic job of trying to tie it all together. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know how revolutionary the message of the Gospel is even in our modern world and how the message of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is still the message that the world needs to hear.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Theology to challenge your presuppositions 12 Jun 2014
By John Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For most people the Epicurean view, that God is a long way away and stays out of touch, is reality, according to Tom Wright in this book. The Epicurean worldview, which sees the divine as being entirely separate from the practicalities of everyday life, such that God and the world don’t mix, has been enshrined in the American Constitution with the separation of church and state. Unsurprisingly Christians sound unconvincing when they submit to the presupposition that God does not intervene in everyday life.

Even more insidiously, Christians are often firm believers in the American dream that if you get up and go you will succeed, and the fittest will survive the economic jungle. There is a gut-level reaction against any kind of health-care proposal: after all, if these folks were fit to survive, they’d be out there earning a living! The unexamined presupposition behind this is simply social Darwinism. The great irony is that often those who are most opposed to Darwin when it comes to reading Genesis 1 are in fact most deeply in thrall to him, or to the wider application of his theories, when it comes to social and international policy.

The book contains a number of interesting and challenging essays, each providing extensive scriptural support for a position that many will find controversial. People who are of a more conservative bent are unlikely to appreciate the book, and many readers will find some of the arguments a bit heavy going. However, people who like to have their preconceptions challenged – or who like to challenge the views of others – will thoroughly enjoy the book.
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