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After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters - N.T. Wright (2010)

After You Believe - NT WrightLike all NT Wright books, "After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters" tackles a specific topic or area with an aim to provide scriptural and historical context as a foundation for the author's theological and philosophical positions on the topic. Wright always does his research and this book is no exception. "After You Believe" tackles the topic of character by looking at the ancient Aristotelian concept of virtue and how it was reimagined and reformed by the theology and practice of both Jesus and Paul.

The book is a treatise exploring a Christian virtue ethic in which the believer takes on the assumptions of character transformation through gradual surrender to God's kingdom concepts of worship and mission. More specifically, this is not a book about the "how-to's" of Christian practice.

What you find here is NT Wright continuing his conversation about how not only our theology, but our practice, must anticipate the full appearing of kingdom of God in it's action. That is to say, Wright's vision of a Christian virtue ethic is based on eschatology (where we are headed) and how full human flourishing occurs as we make the journey there, beginning in this world, not the next.

"After You Believe" is a subtle side-swipe of the standard "spiritual disciplines" talk that has come through in many popular Christian books. Wright has little patience for "self-help" Christian concepts, and debunks the "God-less do-gooding" as much as he deconstructs the popular notion of "cheap grace" - both of which he considers errant parodies of true Christlikeness. In fact, this book nods at Aristotle's astute observations of virtue, and yet, explains that Jesus and Paul answered the ancient Greek notion of virtue with the true answer to human flourishing - love-fueled Christlike character.

NT Wright has done with "After You Believe" what he has done with many other New Testament topics- re-addresses them in light of his creational theology that puts God's goal of rescuing humanity from it's sin stained condition and restoring the future of our created intention through Christ's work on the cross and the Holy Spirit's presence with the church through the ages.  This book is vivid, powerful and readable. But it is not simple. It requires you take seriously the concepts he brings to bear in his other books (though he leave you enough overview in this book, even if you haven't read the others).

The purpose of this book is pragmatic (explaining to Christians what they are to do in this life, while waiting for the glorious eternity in the next), but it has a powerful, perhaps eternal intent- to get us walking towards the future in the area of our character, long before the future fully arrives.

It is an excellent book on, as Wright puts it "how to think about what to do". Get it. Read it.  You will not be disappointed. A great book from a great thinker about a topic that is of great importance to all Christians.


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Review by Kim Gentes

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