Book cover: Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright

Surprised by Hope

   Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

by N. T. Wright

If you’ve ever wondered what "going to heaven when you die" has to do with the biblical teaching of Resurrection, N. T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope may clear up the confusion, (or add to it). I was surprised that a theologian entrenched in an old institutional church (he's a Bishop in the Anglican Church) would be willing to challenge deeply rooted ideas about life after death, or as he puts it, "life after life after death."

I was personally distracted by his use of the word "Easter" throughout the book since Easter is not a biblical word. Jesus' death is the fulfillment of the Passover instituted by God. His resurrection and ascension is hinted at in the Wave Sheaf offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread following the Passover. I assume he was trying to make his teaching relevant to those for whom Easter is their traditional celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

He was inconsistent in his statement that the Bible does not teach we have an immortal soul while stating without any evidence that the incorrigibly wicked would continue to exist as disembodied spirits. At least he realizes that the popular conception of "hell" is not biblical.

I think we would do well to heed his exhortation to be active now as agents of the "new heavens and new earth" in working to bring about "justice, beauty and evangelism" where and however we can.

I was inspired by his statement that "when people cease to be surrounded by beauty, they cease to hope." We can see the need for justice and the preaching of the good news of the gospel, but we think of beauty as something nice, but not nearly as important. Yet if we think about it, we are all affected positively by a beautiful park, pleasant music, thoughtful art and literature. Art can play a part in evangelism.

Some of his ideas are speculative because the Bible doesn't clear up every question we might have about God's plan for the "new heavens and new earth." Whether he is right or wrong, or even expresses clearly his ideas or not, N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope is challenging Christians to rethink, not only the doctrines of heaven and hell, but also to rethink how to go about the mission Jesus gave his disciples before he returned to his Father in heaven.

Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: Surprised by Hope, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Author: N. T. Wright, copyright 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers


Volume 13 Issue 02 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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