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Scripture And The Authority Of God: How to Read the Bible Today Hardcover – Feb 18 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harperone (Feb. 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062011952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062011954
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“The best book of its kind available.” (The Christian Century)

“N. T. Wright opens for us a path beyond of the paralyzing polarization of “liberal” and “conservative.” (Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian)

“In a fashion that is both old fashioned and new fangled at the same time Bishop Wright takes us through a sane and helpful study of what it means to treat the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. Highly Recommended!” (Ben Witherington, author of The Brother of Jesus)

“Written by one of the leading Christian thinkers in the world today, this book is a refreshing and accessible resource concerning the perennial question of biblical authority that moves the discussion beyond the liberal-conservative impasse of our times. Highly Recommended.” (John R. Franke, Professor of Theology, Biblical Theological Seminary)

“[P]robing, provocative, insightful…This is a book of uncommon wisdom for all who read and love the Bible.” (Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and Executive Editor of Christianity Today)

“This wide-ranging whirlwind-tour account of Scripture channeling God’s authority, with its tweaking of distortions back into shape and its first-class approach to Bible study, is masterly throughout.” (J. I Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College)

“Wright offers sensible insights on the transforming power of God, very necessary in these times of skepticism and confusion.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Scripture and the Authority of God is a fabulous book. With characteristic verve and occasionally pungent grace… Scripture and the Authority of God could be the beginning of a more faithful listening, as well as sustaining more fruitful conversation about the nature of biblical interpretation.” (Books&Culture)

“Wright appeals to the reader to take another look at the Bible, not as an isolated phenomenon—a veritable rule book similarly applicable at all times and in all places—but rather as a book better placed within both the contemporary cultural context and as part of a larger tradition of interpretation.” (Explorefaith.org)

“Wright is a provocative theologian... there is so much here that you will wish that it were longer-- but its brevity makes for easy reading and it certainly deserves to be read.” (Church of England Newspaper)

“The whole book gives further cause for gratitude for God’s gift of Wright to his Church.” (ANVIL)

From the Back Cover

"But what does scripture say?”

That question has echoed through a thousand debates in the life of the worldwide church. All churches have officially endorsed strong statements about the centrality of scripture and its authority in their mission, life, doctrine, and discipline. But there is no agreement on what this might mean or how it might work in practice. Individuals and churches struggle with how to respond to issues such as war, homosexuality, and abortion, and especially how to interpret biblical passages that discuss these topics. These disagreements often serve to undermine our confidence in the authority of the Bible.

Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on how to read the Bible today, restoring scripture as a place to find God’s voice.

In this revised and expanded edition of the previously titled book The Last Word, Wright provides two case studies that delve into what it means to keep Sabbath and how Christians can defend marital monogamy. These studies offer not only bold biblical insights but also showcase Wright’s new model for how to interpret scripture and restore its role as the church’s main resource for teaching and guidance. Removing the baggage that the last 100 years of controversy and confusion have placed on this doctrine, Wright renews our confidence in the Bible and shows how it can once again serve as the living Word of God for our lives.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeff K. Clarke on May 26 2011
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever read a book and wanted to highlight almost everything in it? This was my reaction when reading N.T. Wright's newly revised and expanded book, Scripture and the Authority of God (previously titled The Last Word - 2005).

Wright's thesis is stated clearly in the preface - "The phrase 'the authority of scripture' can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for 'the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture'." By setting the scripture in the larger context that the biblical writers themselves insist upon, we will begin to more fully appreciate the role that scripture ought to have in our lives. A role that includes, and yet transcends, the conveying of information about to one that takes an active part within the ongoing purposes of God. As Wright contends, "Scripture is there to be a means of God's action in and through us." This action enables us to see who God is and who we are in relation to the establishment of God's kingdom. Through scripture, God equips his people to serve to serve his purposes, particularly as he reveals Jesus Christ within its pages.

Wright then provides us with a better way to read scripture - what he refers to as the five-act hermeneutic. This method of reading scripture takes seriously the typical concerns related to genre, setting, literary style, etc, and the very important differences these things make in properly reading the narrative. He then takes it a step further by offering a multi-layered method; one that involves knowing where we are in the overall drama of scripture and what is appropriate within each act. The acts are: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus and the church. They constitute different stages in the divine drama which scripture itself offers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Dickinson on June 29 2013
Format: Hardcover
In Scripture and the Authority of God, N. T. Wright attempts to make sense of the claim that The Bible (scripture) is authoritative. Wright's argument is that the authority of scripture is more complex than saying that scripture provides correct information. Instead, it means that the Christian God exercises his authority through scripture and has a plan to redeem all of creation. Scripture spurs the completion of this plan through people. The best way to understand this is to read the Bible as a five-act story. The first four acts - creation, the fall, Israel, and Jesus - are already complete. The fifth act - the church - began at Easter/Pentecost. Scripture includes accounts and writings from early in this act and Christians today continue to live in this act.

Telling readers to look at scripture like a five-act story raises a question, namely How can God exercise authority through story? Stories are authoritative in their ability to change how a person thinks and acts. Stories do this in a couple of ways. First, unexpected twists in stories surprise people into a better understanding of an event (as in, I expect, the story told to David about the man with the lone sheep). Second, well-told stories allow a hearer to envision her- or himself as a part of the story, including imagined reactions.

How does the story of Scripture play out? The third act, Israel, addresses events in the first two acts - namely, there is a good creation with evil in it. Israel is God's promise to respond to evil and the explanation that his plan to do so is his Kingdom. In the Old Testament, God addresses Israel directly to remind them of their role in this plan. The fourth act, Jesus, follows directly out of the third. This is the "climax" of scripture.
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Amazon.com: 75 reviews
135 of 138 people found the following review helpful
Warning: This Book Will Revolutionize the Way You Read the Bible! March 1 2011
By Fr. Charles Erlandson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
N.T. Wright has made a habit out of taking the Bible and giving it a fresh reading for contemporary audiences. This is most obviously the case with his various works on St. Paul and his doctrine of justification but is also true for his excellent popular commentaries on the books of the New Testament. And now there is "Scripture and Authority: How to Read the Bible Today."

Put simply, this book will revolutionize the way you read the Bible! Most of us actually misread the Bible in a number of ways, to the impoverishment of our souls and of God's Kingdom. "Scripture and Authority" is a wonderful antidote to poor readings of Scripture and moves well beyond the typical, tired debates over the authority of Scripture. Read meditatively, it will assist the Bible in changing your life and the way you see God and His divine purposes.

Wright's thesis, though hard to summarize, is best captured in this most important sentence in the entire work: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked, offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." The rest of the book may be seen as an explanation of this definition which, unfortunately, doesn't show up until Chapter 8.

If you care about reading the Bible more carefully and faithfully, then I highly encourage you to read this book and digest it!

In the Prologue, Wright situates the Bible within 5 contexts, demonstrating the difficulty of any naked appeal to the Bible without any context. While often such an approach is a disguise for denigrating the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, it's good to know that Wright is solidly orthodox and makes use of such contexts because he believes them necessary in order to read the Bible well today. These contexts are: Scripture and Culture, Scripture and Politics, Scripture and Philosophy, Scripture and Theology, and Scripture and Ethics. In the Prologue Wright also draw attention to 3 key underlying questions in discussions of Scripture today:
1. In what sense is the Bible authoritative in the first place?
2. How can the Bible be appropriately understood and interpreted?
3. How can its authority, assuming such appropriate interpretation, be brought to bear on the church itself, let alone on the world?

Throughout the book, Wright is asking us to put aside simplistic understandings of Scripture, either on the liberal or fundamentalist side of things, and to address these 3 crucial questions with faith, intelligence, and integrity.

One of the most important things that Wright says (it would be worth the price of the book if everyone reading it understood this one thing) is that "Authority of Scripture" is a shorthand for "God's Authority Exercised through Scripture." Scripture's authority is a derivative or delegated authority, for all authority truly belongs to God. This mediated authority is different than we often assume. How, for example, can "story," which comprises large parts of the Bible, be authoritative? Ultimately, Wright sees Scripture as God's unfinished story in which we are to act out the final scene, which requires an active participation and not a passive reception of the Word of God, which is all too common among Christians. Wright goes further and says that the Bible is more than just revelation or repository of truths and more than just a devotional aid.

In Chapter 2, Wright relates the Scriptures to God's Kingdom-People, the Church. This is a much needed concept since modern Christians so often read the Scriptures apart from the Church and out of the context of God's people in which the Scriptures were written, interpreted, and lived out. The Scriptures are nothing less, therefore, than the place where and the means by which the people of God discover again and again who God is and how His Kingdom-purposes are being taken forward. Israel and the Church are, therefore, fundamentally a "Scripture-hearing people."

So how does Jesus relate to Scripture? He accomplishes that to which Scripture pointed. Likewise, the Apostolic preaching of the Word in the New Testament is told as "The Jesus-Story Fulfilling the Old Testament Scripture Story." The Word of God in the New Testament becomes the vehicle by which the Holy Spirit exerts His authority over God' people.

Over the centuries, however, God's people began to believe in a distorted view of the Scriptures, which was originally to be seen as "God at work powerfully through Scripture to bring about the Kingdom, by calling and shaping a new covenant people and equipping its leaders to be teachers and preachers." This devolved into the understanding of Scripture as a divine rule book to be referred to or as a resource for private devotions, both useful but very inadequate and distorted views of Scripture.

In Chapter 6, Wright addresses a series of misreadings of the Bible, beginning with the allegorical method of Origen and the medieval Church. But even the Reformers lost sight of the grand narrative of the Scriptures at times and the revelation of God's Kingdom and purposes. He is most forceful when he deals with Enlightenment rationalistic readings of the Scripture. He's right to point out that Enlightenment thinkers had an alternative eschatology, a new view of evil, and of man - views which undermined the authority of Scripture. Wright continues by showing the impotence of the deconstructionist readings of postmodernism.

In Chapter 7, Wright spends an entire chapter continuing the theme of "misreadings" of the Scriptures. In Chapter 8, Wright offers what may be the most important sentence in the entire book: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." That's a mouthful, but in this careful definition Wright preserves an equal emphasis on the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the cosmos. It's a definition meditating on, which is exactly what Wright's book does. Most understandings of the Scripture do not get this balance right and have a much more impoverished view of the authority of Scripture, and for this reason alone "Scripture and Authority" is worth reading. For Wright, the Scriptures ultimately only have authority as they are lived out by God's people in God's Kingdom.

In the end, Wright calls us to a fully contextual reading of the Scripture, including the proper use of tradition and reason. He likens our reading of Scripture as the fifth and final act in a play. Act I is Genesis 1-2; Act II is Genesis 3-11; Act III is the remainder of the Old Testament; Act IV is the decisive and climactic act, which is the story of Jesus; and Act V is the Creator's redemptive drama being lived out in us through the Scriptures and the Church by the Spirit in the midst of a cosmos God is redeeming.

Wright's strategies for honoring the authority of the Scriptures are also wonderful and worth the price of the book. They are:
1. A total contextual reading of the Scripture
2. A liturgically grounded reading of Scripture
3. A privately studied reading of Scripture
5. A reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship
6. A reading of Scripture taught by the Church's accredited leaders

If only Christians would heed all that Wright says, we would honor the authority of Scripture more and act as more faithful ministers in God's Kingdom and players in His cosmic drama!

Wright concludes by applying his understanding of the authority of Scripture to 2 test cases: the Sabbath and monogamy.

Wright tackles his material in 9 chapters and a Prologue:

Prologue

1. By Whose Authority?

2. Israel and God's Kingdom-People

3. Scripture and Jesus

4. The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church

5. The First Sixteen Centuries

6. The Challenge of The Englightenment

7. Misreadings of Scripture

8. Case Study: The Sabbath

9. Case Study: Monogamy
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A Fine Revision of The Last Word March 30 2011
By MasterAP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
N.T. Wright has expanded and revised a previous book on the authority of Scripture and sent it out to be part of his latest series. Scripture and the Authority of God is Wright's argument for why Christians read the Bible.

Wright offers fresh, and helpful statements on the "battles for the Bible" as well as how the Bible has been treated throughout history.

Inside you'll find 8 chapters and 2 new case studies:

By Whose Authority discusses what authority means and how to apply it to Scripture.
Israel and God's Kingdom-People sets the stage for how Scripture was brought about in the Old Testament.
Scripture and Jesus is about exactly what it sounds like.

Then he delves into the historical aspects:

The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church
The First Sixteen Centuries
The Challenge of the Enlightenment

Finally Wright tackles the Misreadings of Scripture and How to Get Back on Track.

He finishes the book with 2 case studies; one on The Sabbath and what Scripture says about how/if we should keep it and one on Monogamy and if it was truly the way God intended.

As with every N.T. Wright book, you will need to give this work your undivided attention. If you have anything going on in the background, you will lose focus and miss the depth of this scholar's teachings.

Even though this is a re-release of a previous title, I enjoy reading whatever Wright authors.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by HarperOne Publishing.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Scripture & the Authority of God May 26 2011
By Jeff K. Clarke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have you ever read a book and wanted to highlight almost everything in it? This was my reaction when reading N.T. Wright's newly revised and expanded book, Scripture and the Authority of God (previously titled The Last Word - 2005).

Wright's thesis is stated clearly in the preface - "The phrase 'the authority of scripture' can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for 'the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture'." By setting the scripture in the larger context that the biblical writers themselves insist upon, we will begin to more fully appreciate the role that scripture ought to have in our lives. A role that includes, and yet transcends, the conveying of information about to one that takes an active part within the ongoing purposes of God. As Wright contends, "Scripture is there to be a means of God's action in and through us." This action enables us to see who God is and who we are in relation to the establishment of God's kingdom. Through scripture, God equips his people to serve to serve his purposes, particularly as he reveals Jesus Christ within its pages.

Wright then provides us with a better way to read scripture - what he refers to as the five-act hermeneutic. This method of reading scripture takes seriously the typical concerns related to genre, setting, literary style, etc, and the very important differences these things make in properly reading the narrative. He then takes it a step further by offering a multi-layered method; one that involves knowing where we are in the overall drama of scripture and what is appropriate within each act. The acts are: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus and the church. They constitute different stages in the divine drama which scripture itself offers.

The primary purpose set out in reading scripture this way is to understand it better and to pay tribute to the differing stages of the overall narrative, while finding our place within it. As a result, we must act in an appropriate manner for this moment in the story, and not another. While we will be in direct continuity with former acts, we will also be living with a sense of discontinuity, in that our ultimate fidelity will belong to the stage in which we live. For example, when we read Genesis 3-11, we read it as a second act in a play in which live in the fifth., with Jesus as its climax and turning point (act four). Wright argues for a developmental approach to reading scripture that honors the Old Testament as it stands in the Christian canon, but one that at the same time moves beyond it to fully embrace our act.

Such a method helps us to better appreciate, understand and practice scripture in ways that are appropriate to where we are within the divine drama. It has the ability to move us toward a more-informed and contextual reading that will likewise enable us to live in a contextual way that is congruent with our stage in the story, rather than trying to act-out stage one or two.

Wright concludes his new edition with two case studies that show us the value of reading scripture this way: Sabbath and monogamy. These two essays are very helpful in fleshing out his proposed method, while at the same time offer us helpful insights into these two contemporary issues.

I highly recommend this book to every christian who desires to read the bible in a more informed and contextual way. I think the five-act model proposed will be immensely beneficial in helping us move through the countless debates in church and culture that often center on inaccurate readings of scripture. By paying careful attention to the whole narrative of the bible, we will place ourselves in a better position to weigh the issues in a more appropriate and biblically faithful way, while at the same time become more effective at living out our part in God's cosmic drama
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I do not know any book that takes the reading, study and importance of scripture more seriously than this book. May 18 2011
By Adam Shields - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Originally posted at [...] blog

I am a fan of NT Wright. Primarily because I so strongly appreciate his pastoral heart for the church and his desire to serve the church. He can be a controversial figure, in part because of that pastoral heart. He created another dust up last week because of an editorial about the US and Osama bin Laden. And I have heard more than a few people complain that Wright needs to focus on scripture, where he has few peers and leave all other areas of social involvement alone. However, the entire point of much of Wright's writing and speaking is to help people put into practice the living of their lives as Christians. You may disagree with him over politics or theology, but it is clear that his positions are based on his understanding of scripture and he thinks and acts deeply based not on political maneuvers, but on his understanding of scripture.

Scripture and The Authority of God is a reworking of a 2005 book, The Last Word and I think is the most accessible and best book of Wright's that I have read.

The basic thesis of this book is that the authority of scripture is completely dependent on the authority of God. So there is no separate authority of scripture apart from God. This seems fairly uncontroversial, but it is important. The book opens with a fairly long discussion about how we currently understand scripture. This necessarily involves a discussion of the enlightenment, modernism, post-modernism and a variety of other subjects. It is not a wasted discussion and while it may be a little repetitive for people that are fairly conversent with Wright and with his line of thinking, it really cannot be skipped.

The next section is a long discussion of what it means for scripture to have authority and then how we should and should not read scripture. This center section is really the meat of the book. This is the section where I was most impressed and most convicted that the Evangelical world in general, and I in specific, do not spend enough time or effort in scripture itself. Evangelicals like to talk about scripture and we often read it, but we do not often really study and allow scripture to change us. Wright believes that while personal reading of scripture is very important, scripture needs to be the center of our corporate worship. I know my church, and many Evangelical churches, no longer have focused scripture reading. The sermons attempt to be scripture explication, but extended readings of scripture (more than 90 seconds) are just not a part of the average worship service.

The last section is entirely new to this edition of the book. Wright takes Sabbath and the idea of monogamy within marriage as models to help the reader learn how to appropriately read scripture and submit to its authority. He is not asking you to come to complete agreement with his results, but rather to give you a model. This is fairly similar to the final section of Scot McKnight`s book the Blue Parakeet, but I think this was done better.

Overall, this is a book that I think that many should read. It moves far beyond the discussion of `literal reading' of scripture or how we should talk about inspiration. And it does it in a way that is patient and graceful to all sides.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
balanced, understandable, insightful, helpful March 14 2011
By T. Hamaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a new edition of an earlier book called "The Last Word." But it includes 2 new excursuses: one on sabbath, the other on monogamy. Even if you own the first edition of this title, the two additional essays are excellent and worth the price of buying this new edition of the book.


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