Book Review: Surprised by Hope

Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright weaves together the apparently disparate Biblical themes of heaven and a reconciled, regenerated Earth into a robust Biblical theology of the resurrection and the Second Coming. In the process, he tackles the infiltration of Greek philosophical concepts into the Christian faith, as well as more modern aberrations of the traditional Christian Church and faith.

The first 2/3 of this book are strong, accessible theological writing. The last 1/3 is a bit more tedious as Wright attempts to map out what the first 2/3 of the book should look like played out in the Church in the real world. While the last 1/3 isn’t necessarily off-base, there is more room for polite disagreement.

Wright’s basic argument is that for several hundred years Christianity has been thrown off course in terms of how it thinks about what happens after we die. Heaven as our final destination has become the norm in many Christian circles, despite the fact that the Bible nowhere indicates that Heaven is our final and eternal destination. Wright argues that Biblically, heaven is seen as a stopover, a celestial motel that is truly awe-inspiring and glorious. But not our final abode. Basing his theology in Genesis as much (or more) than Revelation, Wright argues persuasively that we are intended to inhabit and to tend the new earth which will result after the Second Coming of Christ. This is the context in which mankind was first created, and if we expect God to simply throw all of that out the window, we need to read our Bible more carefully.

Though longer than it could be, Wright is, as always, thorough. He references key Scripture passages, so have a Bible handy to look them up as he often does not print them out in full (or in context). Although he acknowledges classical scholarship, he does not assume the reader is overly familiar with it, and such a familiarity is not necessary (though if you have it, the reading will be that much richer).

Wright is lockstep in line with the Bible and orthodox Christianity in insisting on a literal, physical, material resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To Wright – as to the Apostles and early Church Fathers – this is essential. It is the basis for all of the New Testament theology, and Wright refuses to follow down the path of weakened strains of modern Christianity who find it more convenient to redescribe Easter as a spiritual rather than physical resurrection.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone curious about how to reconcile Biblical references to heaven as well as a new earth. It will provide delicious food for thought!

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