Thursday, October 8, 2009

Surprised By Hope

You might not like this book. I believe N.T. Wright to be one of the most gifted theologians of our time but he tends to make lots of people angry. Wright has found a shady spot between conservative evangelical Christianity and liberal mainline Christianity. It is a spot that tends to drive everyone crazy.

In Surprised By Hope, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright takes on and amazingly hot topic: heaven and the afterlife. It doesn’t seem like a hot topic but it is. Here is the deal: it is not a hot topic as long as you don’t challenge people’s personal beliefs about it. And challenge personal beliefs, Wright does.

Every week, in Christian churches around the world, the people speak the words to the Apostles Creed,

I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

But, when you ask people about that “resurrection of the body” thing, you find some muddy answers. For Wright, this is not an odd addition to our belief; it is at the center of Christian hope and belief. Starting with an amazing contextual overview of the belief systems surrounding the time of Jesus, the author call us to consider what we believe about Jesus, his resurrection, ascension and final return and at the same time consider what we believe about our own duty as Christians, our own final destination after death and our own role in the present and coming Kingdom of God.

I am not going to review Wright’s work point by point for a few reasons. First, this book has been out a couple of years so there is plenty to read online in terms of reviews and rebuttals. Second, Wright is infinitely smarter than me, so his work can stand just fine without me meddling in it. Third, you really should just read the book. A fair warning about that: I believe that N.T. Wright writes in a readable, accessible way. However, this is some dense stuff. A lay person may need a theological dictionary to get through some terms like eschatological dualism and parousia. But even thought the text gets dense at times, the key messages are clear and readable.

I really think this may be required reading for Christians who are serious about understanding what they believe, especially in terms of life after death. Even if you set the book down disagreeing with Wright’s premises, it will force you to get a better handle on what you believe, how you live those beliefs out every day and how you share the hope within you with others.



blog comments powered by Disqus