Saturday, January 09, 2010

Wright on After You Believe

Trevin Wax has recently interviewed
N. T. Wright concerning the bishop's forth-coming book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.

We modern westerners – and even more postmodern westerners – are trained by the media and public discourse to think that “letting it all out” and “doing what comes naturally” are the criteria for how to behave. There is a sense in which they are – but only when the character has been trained so that “what comes naturally” is the result of that habit-forming training.

The book’s main target is not the other major moral theories of deontology and consequentialism, but the ideas of “spontaneity” and “authenticity” which have a grain of truth (Christians really should act “from the heart”), but which screen out the reality of moral formation, of chosen and worked-at habit-forming prayer and moral reflection and action, which gradually over time form the Christian character in which “authentic” behavior is also truly Christian behavior, not simply “me living out my prejudices and random desires”.

Check out the entire interview at Kingdom People.

The title of the UK version of the book is Virtue Reborn, which may give you further indication of the direction Wright's moving in here. If that weren't enough, the book has been recommended by Stanley Hauerwas: "Bishop Wright, with his usual wisdom and erudition, shows how an account of the virtues is not only compatible but required by the New Testament understanding of what it means to be a Christian. This important book hopefully will be read by theologian and non-theologian alike."

This may prove a nice introduction to the contemporary Christian discussion of the virtues that you find in MacIntyre and Hauerwas, but I suppose those of us who don't receive advance copies of these things will just have to find out in March.

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