I marvel at how NT Wright to write so much, so well, and so thoughtfully. The Last Word is one of hos most recent publications and it continues the trend. The subtitle pretty well sums up what the book is about: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.
The first two-thirds of the book lay out a lot of the groundwork of his reasoning, but it is the last third of the book where he lays out some of his conclusions and direction on where to go with them this makes this book worthwhile. As a final teaser to those who haven’t read the book, here are just a few of his thoughts from the last third of the book that I found especially meaningful:
Pg 98 – Deconstruction of standard ways of reading texts is by no means always a negative or destructive thing to do; it may have the effect of jolting us out of comfortable half-truths to see something which is really there in the text and to which we had not previously paid attention.
Pg 112 – Genuine historical scholarship is still the appropriate tool with which to work at discovering more fully what precisely the biblical authors intended to say. … Real, fresh, historical reading of the Bible, measured rigorously by the canons of real historical work, can and do yield fresh insight.
Pg 115 – We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.
Pg 134 – If it is part of the privilege and duty of each Christian to study scripture, and to read it devotionally, it is important that the wider church should be able to hear what individual readers are discovering in the text. … The church needs to facilitate, through small groups, and other means, this bring of particular viewpoints to the attention of the whole body, both so that the larger community may be enriched and so that maverick or clearly misleading readings can be gently and appropriately corrected.
Pg 138 – If, therefore, those called to office and leadership roles in the church remain content merely to organize and manage the internal affairs of the church, they are leaving vacuum exactly where there ought to be vibrant pulsating life. Of course Christian leaders need to be trained and equipped for management, for running of the organization. … But how much more should a Christian minister be a serious professional with it comes to grappling with scripture and discovering how it enables him or her, in preaching, teaching, prayer and pastoral work, to engage with the huge issues that confront us as a society and as individuals.
Pg 140 – The Western church has for some generations allowed a dangerous “separation of powers,” according to which scripture is taught by professional academics while the church is run by clergy who, with noble exceptions, rely on secondhand and increasingly outdated understandings of scripture itself.