I was recently asked by a friend for books to help him engage the Bible on a deeper level. He was reading his Bible but feeling like a spark was missing. Daily devotions just were not doing it.
For many followers of Jesus, there comes a point when reading the Bible feels dry and repetitive. “How many times can I read the Good Samaritan parable and get something from it? What am I supposed to take from this genealogy? How many times do I skip over Revelation because, if we are honest, why is it so weird?”
I’m sure you have had questions like this and felt like the biblical narrative is confusing and messy. So maybe you turn to a commentary, but wow that is a massive read for just one book of the Bible! Maybe you try to pick up a nerdy, theological book but the footnotes and theological jargon cause you to feel inadequate in understanding. Where do you turn to?
I would like to suggest an author and scholar. His name is N.T. Wright (Nicholas Thomas Wright, but the cool kids call him N.T.) and he has been known by many to be the leading New Testament scholar of our time. I think when we look back, we will be talking about Wright in the same breath as guys like Karl Barth and C.S. Lewis. But what is unique about N.T. Wright among theologians is the way he writes for the people. He certainly has his “nerd” books but Wright can take large concepts and write them in a compelling way for all readers.
If you are looking for a way to be re-inspired by the beauty of Scripture and the narrative of the gospel, I invite you to check-out this list of N.T. Wright books. I believe by reading some of these selected books, you will begin to read your Bible in a fresh, new way.
Why did Jesus live? Why did he spend over 30 years on this earth if his sole purpose was to die on the cross? What was the point of Jesus’ ministry leading up to the cross? It is these questions that puzzled N.T. Wright as a teenager and this book is his attempt to answer questions that, if we are honest, we have wrestled with at some point. Wright sees that our bewilderment at answering these questions stems from a poor understanding of the gospel. We often miss or glance over the central message in the Gospels; that the kingdom of God is here. N.T. Wright has a knack for taking his readers to 30,000 feet to observe the whole narrative of Scripture and in this book he puts this talent on full display. I have never read a work that so perfectly connects Jesus to the entire narrative of the Bible and make sense of the role of Israel and kingdom. If want to understand the gospel through the Gospels, then pick this book up!
“Our questions have been wrongly put, because they haven’t been about the kingdom. They haven’t been about God’s sovereign, saving rule coming on earth as in heaven. Instead, our questions have been about a “salvation” that rescues people from the world, instead of for the world. “Going to heaven” has been the object (ever since the Middle Ages at least, in the Western church); “sin” is what stops us from getting there; so the cross must deal with sin, so that we can leave this world and go to the much better one in the sky, or in “eternity,” or wherever. But this is simply untrue to the story the gospels are telling—which, again, explains why we’ve all misread these wonderful texts. Whatever the cross achieves must be articulated, if we are to take the four gospels seriously, within the context of the kingdom-bringing victory.”
N.T. Wright is known in the academic world for working out nuanced arguments and wrestling with intricate, theological details. However, in “The Case for the Psalms”, Wright flexes his artistic muscle as he reflects on the great poems and songs of our Scriptures. Wright grew up reading and singing the Psalms daily (something we evangelicals could learn to do more of!), and thus offers great insight into the role and impact the Psalms have in a believer’s life.
“The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent nonpsalmic “worship” based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy.”
This book may be the magnum opus of N.T. Wright’s work regarding the cross. This book invites the reader to see the cross beyond just the place of individual forgiveness but the start of a world-transforming revolution. As with “How God Became King”, Wright examines the full picture of Scripture to show what is accomplished on the cross. Check this book out if want to understand more of why Jesus died on the cross.
“The point of trying to understand the cross better is not so that we can congratulate ourselves for having solved an intellectual crossword puzzle, but so that God’s power and wisdom may work in us, through us, and out into the world that still regards Jesus’s crucifixion as weakness and folly.”
Paul’s theology and writing have been examined exhaustively by scholars but Paul the person is quite the enigma. Wright’s work on Paul’s theology has been extensive and often debated by more conservative scholars (he holds to what is known as the New Perspective on Paul) but in this work we get to see Paul for who he is. Through this biography, the reader sees Paul as an actual person within his own context. Paul comes alive in Wright’s work and the reader is guaranteed to join in with the dramatic journey of the apostle.
“When people in churches today discuss Paul and his letters, they often think only of the man of ideas who dealt with lofty and difficult concepts, implying a world of libraries, seminar rooms, or at least the minister’s study for quiet sermon preparation. We easily forget that the author of these letters spent most of his waking hours with his sleeves rolled up, doing hard physical work in a hot climate, and that perhaps two-thirds of the conversations he had with people about Jesus and the gospel were conducted not in a place of worship or study, not even in a private home, but in a small, cramped workshop. Saul had his feet on the ground, and his hands were hardened with labor. But his head still buzzed with scripture and the news about Jesus.”
If you followed my series on the rapture, you know that the start of my skepticism on certain, popular end times teachings started with this book. “Surprised by Hope” not only challenged my view on the rapture but also my understanding of what Christians look forward to in Christ. This book calls us back to a more biblical view of hope by re-centering our gospel narrative on new creation and resurrection rather than “going to heaven after you die”. You will find a refreshing and delightful presentation of what God is doing in this world by reading this book.
“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”