I am currently reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. And I must say it is one of the most enjoyable reads in long while. I don’t remember the last time I’ve had so many “aha” moments about passages and concepts so familiar. Over and over again I found my assumptions delightfully challenged and reshaped.
This leads me to an important principle: It is beneficial (and enriching) to read authors from outside of our own traditions.
Lately, I have made a practice of intentionally reading people who write from within a different tradition than my own. And I have found it valuable for the following reasons:
- it broadens my perspective of the church
- it helps me to understand /relate to people within those traditions
- it has potential to reveal blind spots within my own tradition
- it removes unhelpful caricatures that flourish through “hearsay”
- it teaches me how to disagree agreeably, if you know what I mean
- it deepens my respect for the diversity of the body and reminds me that I don’t have to agree with everything someone says to be encouraged / edified by their work
The list could go on.
Here is a sample of some of the writers that I have read recently and the traditions they write from:
- N.T. Wright – Anglican Communion (Church of England)
- Karl Barth – Swiss Reformed (Confessing Church in Germany)
- Walter Brueggemann – United Church of Christ
- Richard B. Hays – United Methodist
- T. F. Torrance – Church of Scotland
- D. A. Carson – Evangelicalism [my own tradition]
- John Webster – Anglican Communion (Church of England)
- John Goldingay – Episcopal
- Jürgen Moltmann – German Reformed
I have not read very much from the Orthodox tradition but I am eager to read something by Georges Florovsky or his pupil John D. Zizioulas, from within that tradition.