N. T. Wright is one of those thinkers who fall into a binary: Either people have never heard of him, or they believe him to be one of the most influential figures of our time. The magazine Christianity Today has called him “the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation” and “the most important apologist for the Christian faith since C. S. Lewis.” The British theologian is credited with writing more than six dozen books, many about the apostle Paul, and has reached the stage of fame where publishers are repackaging his work into new volumes, akin to a pop star’s greatest-hits album. He’s spent a large portion of his career in academia, but his work has also reached far beyond the Ivy Tower: He served as the Anglican bishop in Durham, England, in the early 2000s, and on the 2004 Lambeth Commission, a body set up to provide guidance on contentious divisions within the Anglican Communion over same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
Wright, 71, does not fit neatly into the oversimplified categories often used to describe American Christianity: liberal versus conservative, mainline versus evangelical. Over his career, he has won the admiration of those who follow what they describe as orthodox teachings, but he has also called on Christians to more actively seek out opportunities to lift up the poor and the marginalized. In addition, he’s quite familiar with the religious and political environment of the United States, having spent significant time in the country over the years. But while Wright is ultimately a foreign observer from across the pond, the problems he sees in America are distinct but not altogether dissimilar from the problems he sees in Britain: He believes most people have no framework to help them navigate a time of political turmoil and division. Without the guiding story of Christianity, he says, conflict and moral confusion proliferate.