Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Surprised by Hope

Wright, N.T. Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (New York: Harper Collins, 2008).

I finished reading this book last night (I've been reading a lot with my wife and daughter being away for 10 days). I think that just about everything written by Wright is pretty fantastic and this book was no exception. In it, Wright challenges the thinking about the resurrection and heaven that have become common place among many Christians today. This typical Christian thought usually goes something like this: When we die our immortal soul or spirit is separated from our bodies and this soul or spirit goes to a place called heaven to be with God until Jesus' second coming when the Christians who have not yet died will be raptured and everyone else will be punished.

Wright definitively demonstrates that this is not the orthodox, biblical Christian view of the resurrection as laid out in the New Testament, despite its popularity among many Christians today. Instead, Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new creation. Early Christians did not see Jesus' resurrection as a promise that they would eventually escape this fallen world and go to heaven when they die. It was a promise that God was and is actively working to restore and redeem this world to make it what it should be. As a result, the Christian life and the mission of the Church are not about just remaining pure in this life so that we can get to heaven. The mission of the Church is actually to engage this world in God's work of new creation. Of course, we can never accomplish this work on our own. Only God can establish God's kingdom but we can and should work toward and witness to that kingdom in the here and now.

I have tried to relay many of these same points in my own teaching and preaching but Wright goes into much more detail than I have. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding about what the New Testament says (and doesn't say) about the resurrection and heaven. The resurrection is so vital to the whole message of the gospel that how we understand it truly impacts how we understand our role as Christians on this earth.

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