Book Review: For All The Saints

For All the Saints Tom Wright

One area which has always interested me as a Christian person are the wildly different views that different Christian and nearly/non-Christian folk and organisations have regarding what happens when we die. I recently rediscovered and read Tom Wright’s little book For All the Saints: Remembering the Christian departed, which deals (from a biblically informed, historically aware and pastorally sensitive Anglican perspective) with some of the key questions.

Wright should probably need no introduction to readers of this blog, but this book predates the majority of his better known work. Wright wrote this back when he had just finished being Canon Theologian at Westminster Cathedral, before moving on to Durham to be Bishop and more recently St Andrews. This little book (just 76 pages) echoes it’s place in Wright’s journey – it is deeply theological, but also pastoral.

Given the relative brevity of the book, I’m going to briefly summarise what it covers, on the assumption that it is small enough, accessible enough (second hand copies are under £5 on for example) and important enough for anyone interested in the following topics to take my word for it and get hold of a copy:

  • purgatory – Wright skewers this unbiblical attempt at doctrine, carefully examining the reasons why it has faded in and out of fashion.
  • the soul – Wright’s thoughts on this are provocative, biblically informed, and really helpful. If you think ‘the soul’ is an important biblical idea, you need to read this book.
  • All Saints/All Souls – these Anglican (And other traditional denominations) liturgical days are carefully and firmly engaged with
  • engaging with tradition – Wright is respectful of tradition, careful to note the breadth and depth of it, and not afraid to challenge it in light of the Biblical witness, and church history. Tradition for tradition’s sake is challenged – healthy and helpful tradition is celebrated and upheld.
  • ‘Kingdom season’ – thoughts about liturgy, the traditional church year, and so on, are spread throughout the book. This makes it a helpful read for those (like myself) not in ‘traditionally’ liturgical churches, who may be a) jealous of those traditions and b) wondering what/how/why around them.

On Facebook recently, a new pastor friend of mine used the phrase ‘liturgical snobbery’. I think this is an extant ‘thing’ in the church world – and Wright helps us think about this, by thinking and teaching carefully about some really important stuff. I’d widely and firmly recommend this book – I’ll be certain to use it in both pastoral conversations (small group, sermons, etc) and also in a couple of more academic things I’m working on.

(This book was published by my former employer, years before I worked there. I hope my review is not clouded by my relationship with SPCK)

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