Small Faith Great God by N.T. Wright

Derek Ouellette —  November 16, 2010

One day, perhaps some time between morning prayes and breakfast, N.T. Wright took up his pen and wrote another book.

It’s good to see the good scholar continue to journey down the corrador from the halls of academia to pews in church. As I’ve absorbed his material over the years there two things which strike me the most: 1) he is committed above all to the God Jesus Christ and prima scriptura through which God has exercised his authority; and 2) that he always writes in a pastoral spirit, knowing full well that what we believe affects how we live. To that end, pastor Wright has spent most of his time struggling with his own Reformed tradition in an exhaustive attempt to get things back on track.

Phrases such as “sola scriptura” and “sola fida” have been used so cavalierly that their intended mean have almost been sucked from them completely. To begin to fix the problem Wright first devoted his energy to scholarly circles in works such as Climax of the Covenant, What Saint Paul Really Said?, and Justification. Of course the latter two have been absorbed by lay-theologia-type-people like myself who enjoy getting down into the nitty-gritty stuff of theology. But by and large, it seems much of Wright’s work (For Everyone Series excluded) has not been too accessible among, shall we say, none-reflective or pop-culture Christians. The regular church folk who are content knowing that they are “saved and going to heaven” (yes, they need to read Surprised by Hope), and that is all the thinking they really want to do. (As they search for the latest book by Max Lucado, John Ortberg, Joel Rosenberg or Joel Osteen).

But now Wright has (finally) written a book which – though laced with good theology no doubt – can be catagorized and placed on our Christian Living section in the bookstore (right next to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life perhaps?). This is exciting because I believe of all the scholars I’ve read who are living, N.T. Wright has put the pieces together the best, and now his influence may extent beyond the countless reflective believers in the evangelical world, but also to those who stick to books by Chuck Colson, Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore and John Piper.

I have not yet read Small Faith Great God, but from the excerpts I’ve seen and the write-ups which have been given to me, it sounds clear that Wright is addressing a belief which is completely out of control in the evangelical world of North America. When people think about faith it is often spoken of in such a way as to strongly suggested (if not explicitly stated) what we need to have faith in our faith. In this book Wright pulls the rug out from underneath that concept, and turns it on it’s head. It is not “faith” we need to believe in. It is God.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? By wait. I believe there maybe something else going on here. N.T. Wright is not just challenging the charismatic notion of “having faith in our faith” (a la Joyce Meyers), he is also (perhaps prominently) taking those who are “stuck on Reformed” (like “stuck on neutral”) to task for their nation often strongly suggested (if not explicitly stated, a la R.C. Sproul) that we are justified by faith by believing in Justification by Faith. Contrary this error, N.T. Wright is showing that it is not “Justification by Faith” we need to believe in so that we are “Justified”. Rather, we are called to have faith in God. We should not think of our faith as being “Great” or “Small” faith. What we need to start thinking about is who we are placing our faith in. A “Great God”.

I may have to recant some of this after I actually read the book. In any case, pick it up, read it and let me know what you think.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Charlie


    Small Faith Great God was originally written in 1978…Wright’s first book, setting out his (then) standard Calvinistic beliefs. I think it’d be fair to say his views have changed significantly.

    So Small Faith Great God isn’t where Wright’s got to now (in that journey from halls of academia to church pew you mention); rather, it’s where he started, and from where he’s since drifted.

    I think that ought to colour how we read the book quite significantly. What do you reckon?


  • Derek Ouellette

    Thanks Charlie,

    Since I’ve written this I have (mostly) read Small Faith Great God. I good review of the way Wright’s view’s have changed can be found here, here, here and here.


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