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What N. T. Wright Didn’t Write

Breaking BeatifulIt’s been a long time since we had a story as interesting as this one to share, but this one has certainly been worth the wait. Wholesale distributors are listing a new title, Breaking Beautiful: The Promise of Truth in a Fractured World by N. T. Wright (with Tim Suttle) as a July 1st release from either Beacon Hill Press (as Send the Light lists it) or House Studios (as Ingram/Spring Arbor lists it) in both student workbook editions (at $12.99 US) and a leader edition (at $39.99) containing six videos (an inclusion lost in the annotation with both distributors).

But Christianity Today is reporting that N. T. Wright is distancing himself greatly from the project if not totally denying any association with it.

An Australian blogger, Micahel Bird is quoted — from a blog post now removed — as having this interaction with N. T. Wright

“He was mystified when I mentioned the book to him since he’s never heard of it before, nor does he recollect ever meeting a chap called Tim Suttle,” wrote Bird (in a post he has since taken down). “Hmm. Very strange indeed. The immediate word that comes to mind is ‘forgery.’ “

Tim Suttle, on the other hand delves into much greater detail in his regular Monday Morning Confessional series:

Months ago I was asked to write six chapters to accompany a video series – a work for hire thing. The House Studio packages these great small group resources consisting of a set of video talks by a well known scholar and a short chapter written by some unknown author interacting with the video, some of the theological issues at stake, and discussion questions for the group. They have produced several – Stanley Hauerwas, Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne – all of which I highly recommend. They do a couple of things well, including printing the transcript of the video before the chapter, which seems to allow better discussion. Plus, if you only buy the book, you still get the transcripts of the talks (I’m guessing most groups buy 5-6 books and only one DVD). This is my second project for this series, the first is Public Jesus. The videos are mine for that one.

The videos for which I was asked to write were of N.T. Wright. They were produced by Travis Reed at The Work of the People, who sold the rights to the House. It was all done contractually and legally. N.T. Wright signed a contract with The House Studio authorizing the use of the video and the production of the associated materials that I wrote. For my part, it was a work for hire project – 2 grand for six chapters… roughly $14.25 an hour. I wasn’t set to get any of the royalties from the project – those were slated to go to Wright and Reed. The House has done everything legally and above board.

These series are not big sellers, and I doubt very much if The House makes any money on them – especially Breaking Beautiful because it was so expensive. The packages are meant to entice people who would typically not read something by Hauerwas, Brueggemann, or N.T. Wright, to get some exposure to these important thinkers. Video based curriculum help folks who aren’t tempted to read theology to get caught up in theological discussion. They are solid gold in my parish and serve the church well.

I woke up to an email this morning from Tom Wright saying he had only found out about the project from a friend, stating that he had not given permission for it… ugh. Meanwhile a pretty snarky blog post about and subsequent Facebook posts came out from a Pauline Scholar saying the whole project is a scam.

Nevertheless, on the internet today I’m being called a forger…

…I want to clarify that I have had no control over how this project was marketed. I think “N.T. Wright with Tim Suttle” does not reflect what really happened. In fact the moment I saw the cover I said so publicly. Two months ago I made sure to post something to mitigate any sense that I was somehow collaborating with N.T. Wright – you can see it here….

…I was really excited about a writing project that I put my heart and soul into doing. I thought it represented some of my best pastoral writing. Now it’s being completely slammed, and I’m being treated like a joke, and the whole thing may fall through…

continue reading here

For its part, House Studios has not made any statement about the project. Amazon has pulled the page the listing the title, though you can see it in this cached page

Note to Canadian Readers: Book Manager is showing this title as in stock at David C. Cook, but such is not the case, the title is on order.

An expanded consumer-friendly version of this story appears at Thinking Out Loud.

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