Currently I am reading Tom Wright’s Small Faith, Great God. It is a reprint of a book with the same title which was originally published in 1978. At that time, Tom was still 30 years old. The book itself is a collection of sermons which he preached years before. So, “I was still in my early twenties when the first of them was preached.” (p. 9) Hence, regarding the quest of Historical Wright, here we are facing with a very early but redacted data.
Anyway, one couldn’t help but notice some similarities and differences between this early Wright and the later Wright. Or, to put it in Wright’s own term, there are “continuities and discontinuities.” Tom is well-known for his mastery of prose, but I guess his later expressions are richer than those in his former self. To put it in other words, the early Wright used more traditional Evangelical language (e.g., on heaven, the Pharisees), while the later one subverts and enlarges many of them.
On the other hand, one could easily notice as well Wright’s still-ongoing emphasis on history in his early work, for example, speaking about resurrection on the other side of death: “The myth has come true, not just a “true myth” (whatever that may be) but as human history.” (p. 60) Tom operated within the realm of history, and the reference to “true myth” is perhaps a light poke to C. S. Lewis who called Christianity the “true myth.” And he still does regard himself as a historian, as he repeated the claim throughout his writings. Of course, it must be highlighted as well that he was doing his scholarly endeavours against other historians and their historical constructions, and hence one must respect and work within the category. But in the end his emphasis on history was not immune to criticism, as Richard Hays remarked to Wright during 2010 Wheaton College Theology Conference, that perhaps Wright could learn something from Barth, who distinguished history (Historie) and story (Geschichte). All things considered, the book is refreshing; one see another side of Wright, and, more importantly, is reminded of the great God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Tom.