I recently noted an interview with N.T. Wright by my friend Tripp Fuller. One of the subjects covered in the interview was Wright’s new book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Explaining the hope he had in writing the book, Wright mentioned a possible titled included “Virtue.” There was some concern it would not “sell.” Imagine living in the 21st Century and “virtue” not selling.
Even if someone may not buy a book on virtue, nearly everyone should be concerned about character. The matter runs to the root of what kind of person we choose to be. Too often we get confused about “doing the right thing.” Asking someone to “do the right” thing without addressing the aim of personhood and what kind of person you or I would want to be seems a bit wrong headed – to borrow a Wrightism. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ essay, “The Abolition of Man.” There in that classic essay Lewis notes how insufferable it is to remove the framework for making moral decisions and then asking a person then to be moral. He write something like, “. . . then bid the gelding to produce.”
Wright, for me, runs along the same track Dallas Willard has been running on. When the question is about deciding to do right, we are managing our impulses. When we determine what kind of person we will be then we choose according to that aim. One tends to begin at the point of behavior. The other emphasizes living out a way of life that is constructive and formative in keeping with the personal decision to be this kind of person or that kind of person.
It is no secret that I like Bishop Tom. We have shared a meal, a conference, and a plane – public not private. He is affable and memorable. He has determined to be a kind of person that flows from his understanding of the grand project of redemption of all things in Jesus. That aim is born out not only in his writing but in his person. Go get it. Read it. Let it inspire you to move from managing impulses to charting a course for what your lie may look like as it reflects the life of Jesus.
This review is in response to my participation in The Ooze Viral Blogger project for After You Believe. I did receive the book for review. However, I would have bought the book and reviewed it had all the books been handed out for the project.