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In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth--a difference that makes all of the difference to how In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth--a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth. Following N.T. Wright’s resonant exploration of a life of faith in Simply Christian, the award-winning author whom Newsweek calls “the world’s leading New Testament scholar” takes on one of life’s most controversial topics, a matter of life, death, spirituality, and survival for everyone living in the world today. 


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In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth--a difference that makes all of the difference to how In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth--a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth. Following N.T. Wright’s resonant exploration of a life of faith in Simply Christian, the award-winning author whom Newsweek calls “the world’s leading New Testament scholar” takes on one of life’s most controversial topics, a matter of life, death, spirituality, and survival for everyone living in the world today. 

30 review for Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

  1. 5 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    Would you be surprised if someone said that Christianity does not teach that the soul goes to heaven when a Christian dies? In "Surprised By Hope," N.T. Wright tries to set non-Christians, but especially uninformed Christians, straight about what orthodox Christianity really teaches about life after death (or, more accurately, "life after life after death.") The modern popular notions of heaven, the soul, and the "after life" often shared by Christians and non-Christians alike do not find their Would you be surprised if someone said that Christianity does not teach that the soul goes to heaven when a Christian dies? In "Surprised By Hope," N.T. Wright tries to set non-Christians, but especially uninformed Christians, straight about what orthodox Christianity really teaches about life after death (or, more accurately, "life after life after death.") The modern popular notions of heaven, the soul, and the "after life" often shared by Christians and non-Christians alike do not find their roots so much in Judaism, the Bible, or the writings of the early church fathers as they do in Gnosticism, Greek philosophy (particularly Platonic thinking) and pantheism. "At least since the Middle Ages," writes Bishop Wright, "the influence of Greek philosophy has been very marked, resulting in a future expectation that bears far more resemblance to Plato's vision of souls entering into disembodied bliss than to the biblical picture of new heavens and new earth." Unfortunately, this view of the after life treats creation as "mere embroidery around the edges," and it fails to substantiate the Christian hope that Christ defeated death. A soul leaving the body and going to heaven would not mean the defeat of death at all, but would only be a description of "death seen from another angle." Orthodox Christianity, however, teaches that Christ is the "first fruits" of the tomb and that we shall all be resurrected and transformed, the recipients of new, incorruptible, individual physical bodies, that, like the new earth, are not subject to decay. Heaven will come to earth and unite with earth, so that there is a "new heaven and a new earth." In other words, when we Christians sing, "this earth is not my home, I'm just a' passing through," we don't quite have it right. In a sense, this world is indeed our home, this good creation, but it is incomplete, and it will be transformed, liberated from the slavery of sin and the death of decay. "It is not we who go to heaven," explains Bishop Wright, "it is heaven that comes to earth…This is the ultimate rejection of all types of Gnosticism, of every world view that see the final goal as the separation of the world from God, of the physical form the spiritual, of earth from heaven…And it is the final accomplishment of God's great design, to defeat and abolish death forever, which can only mean the rescue of creation from its present plight of decay." What then IS heaven? Wright's not overly clear about that. On the one hand, he describes heaven as "a temporary stage on the way to the eventual resurrection" (not wholly unlike the Jewish Sheol). When Christ speaks of the "many mansions" that are in his Father's house, He uses the word that means temporary lodging. This is how Christ can tell the thief on the cross that he will be "in Paradise" with Him "tonight." (But in what form? Surely not, like Christ, in a transformed body, if the resurrection hasn't occurred. But surely not as a disembodied soul, if Wright is right about that not being the right view of the afterlife. Wright borrows and revises a contemporary metaphor from Polkinghorne to attempt to explain this intermediate state: "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time when he gives us new hardware to run the software again." But it is hard to see how the idea of "software" is all that different from an idea of a "disembodied soul," which may explain why, despite the lack of talk of disembodied immortal souls in the Bible and the focus instead on the resurrection, it is so easy for Christians to slip into such talk.) So heaven is a stage; but, then, on the other hand, Wright also describes it as a dimension: "Basically heaven and earth in the biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter." Nor are they "a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one." Rather, "they are two different dimensions of God's good creation." They are different KINDS of space, matter, and (perhaps) time, but they are not two different "places." Heaven is not "up." Heaven is all around. Eventually, these two dimensions, earth and heaven, will be visibly united once and for all. So which is it? A stage or a dimension? Somehow both? His arguments lack clarity on this point. Why does Wright feel compelled to set the record straight and make a distinction between the orthodox and popular Christian beliefs? One, because he thinks the orthodox belief is not so much disbelieved as unknown, and, second, because he believes that what we believe happens after we die affects how we live here and now. If this body is only a shell that will be one day be shed for a formless existence, if the earth is a thing we will one day leave entirely behind, if death is not an enemy to be defeated but only a gentle ushering away of our souls, then things like sexual licentiousness, euthanasia, exploitation of the poor, and unrestrained environmental exploitation become much easier to justify to ourselves. The "soul" mentioned in the Bible, he insists, was never meant to refer to some separate, nonphyscial part of us, but to the WHOLE person. Of course, different denominations have different ideas of what constitutes orthodoxy. Wright's view of the after life will not seem orthodox to Catholics, because he utterly dismisses the idea of purgatory; nor will it seem orthodox to many evangelicals, because he utterly dismisses the idea of the rapture. Normally, he sticks to critiquing ideas rather than groups, but sometimes he slips to critiquing groups, and that is unpleasant. As for the mission of the church in the light of "life after life after death," Wright takes a middle ground between the liberal's social gospel efforts to create heaven on earth and the fundamentalist's insistence that because the kingdom is not of this world, we should concentrate only on "saving souls." He speaks not of building the kingdom, as though we could, but rather building FOR the kingdom. While I find this middle-ground inviting in general and agree that Christians should work for good in the world, Wright seems to think all conservative opposition to liberal social policy is opposition to the idea that we should bother trying. This is simply not true; more often, it is opposition to the idea that liberal social policy is the best means to succeed. The two causes about which he is most passionate are ecology and remission of Third World Debt. In his passion for them, he overlooks the possibility that while Christians may agree that we should work for justice and the alleviation of poverty and the conservation of God's creation, they may yet disagree on the best political method for doing so. Wright does not seem to acknowledge this and paints these issues in moral black and white, simply equating a refusal to remit Third World Debt with slavery and the Holocaust. He speaks of refusal to ratify Kyoto as though it had only to do with American desire to greedily maintain prosperity, and as though there were no other issues (such as national sovereignty and potential increased poverty in the developing world) at stake. There are serious trade-offs involved in political decisions, and these trade-offs, more than apathy, are the reason for the conservative focus on the individual life in Christ rather than on the transformation of society through political change. He dismisses all this complexity with a flick of the wrist, saying, well, of course slavery was complex too. He says, in effect, "X is right (or wrong) so do (or stop) it now, and damn the consequences." But even with regard to slavery, moral people could agree it was wrong without agreeing on the best and least harmful path to abolishing it. Not all abolitionists were John Browns. Wright has no patience for discussions of political and economic trade-offs in matters of ecology and redistribution of wealth and sees them only as excuses of the morally weak or greedy. For this reason and others I do not have space for here, the third section of the book, on the mission of the church, was less edifying to me than the rest. There are two things I really like about Wright: (1) He makes me think and see things from a different perspective; he challenges me theologically, whereas most modern Christian books seem like a rehashing of the things I've heard before. This book, in particular, has made me much more conscious about how I talk about heaven and the great Christian hope with my children. It has been natural for me to speak to them of heaven as a place the soul goes to, not because I do not believe in the bodily resurrection and the ultimate transformation and wedding of heaven and earth, but because the explanation is simpler to relate to a child, and because this vocabulary of the afterlife is so common in the culture that surrounds me that it is hard not to absorb it. (2) He reminds me of what I like most about Anglicanism—that it really does strive to provide a via media between Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism, between tradition and modernity, between the liberal and the conservative, etc. There are two things I really dislike about Wright: (1)He sometimes mistakes being right about a moral issue with being right about the best social/political means for dealing with that moral issue. If X is absolutely wrong, then his opinion of how to stop X is absolutely right. (2)His writing style is sometimes tedious. He tends to tell you what he is going to tell you later, only to tell you, "but I won't say anything more about that now." He also tends to start telling you something only to say, "but I've written another books that talks about that." He raises questions with one idea that he does not explain until later, if he explains them at all. In other words, his writing is poorly structured. This book seemed really to be two books cobbled together into one and underdeveloped in the first half.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Okay, I've got about a chapter of this book to go, but I'm thinking so many thoughts, it's stressing me out. So I'm going to write this review a bit prematurely. I promise if I change my mind on anything, I'll come back and revise so as not to be unfair. Back story: I decided to pick up this book after reading a Facebook treatise (I know, LOL. But I don't know what else to call it) on the gospel that used Wright's book as its inspiration. To be honest, I didn't like the treatise much. It bothered Okay, I've got about a chapter of this book to go, but I'm thinking so many thoughts, it's stressing me out. So I'm going to write this review a bit prematurely. I promise if I change my mind on anything, I'll come back and revise so as not to be unfair. Back story: I decided to pick up this book after reading a Facebook treatise (I know, LOL. But I don't know what else to call it) on the gospel that used Wright's book as its inspiration. To be honest, I didn't like the treatise much. It bothered me. But I'd heard wonderful things about Wright, so I thought I'd let the man speak for himself rather than taking his ideas second hand from one of his adoring fans. My attitude at the outset was a bit skeptical but overall very curious as to how Wright would make his arguments and whether or not he could win me over (because I am sooo important. Heh.) Things I liked: To begin with, Wright's style is accessible, which I, as a reluctant reader of nonfiction, very much appreciate. I also think he builds a good case for the bodily resurrection of the saints in the life after life after death. I guess I always believed in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, but I didn't really give it much thought. I do now. I had some issues with Wright's lordship emphasis for the gospel (which I will get into anon), but I also thought it brought a fresh perspective to kingdom living. There is a certain motivating power in behaving as a citizen of God's kingdom here and now. It feels more active and purposeful than merely sitting around waiting to be taken to heaven after death. So much of the gospel, I think, can lend itself to fatalism, and looking at the Christian life this way can curb that impulse. Things I didn't like: This section will be longer, not because I hated most of the book, but because I feel my criticisms warrant more explanation than my accolades, which strike me as pretty self-explanatory. This might sound odd, but I question some of Wright's readings of Scripture. Unlike him, I am only a layman and not anywhere near being an expert in first-century Judaism or theology, but I think sometimes being an expert in a particular area can hurt one's understanding as much as help. Is this my ignorance talking? Perhaps. But I can't help but wonder if Wright's education may at points get in the way of common sense. For instance, Wright claims that Jesus didn't teach very much on hell, and when He referred to hell He was making a political statement, saying that if you stand up to the Romans you will be decimated like "gehenna," which the Bible translates as "hell." Having read over the passages where Jesus refers to gehenna, like when He states that's it's better to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin than to be thrown with hands into hell, I find it difficult to read politics into that, and I couldn't find the politics in any of the other verses either. Similarly, Wright discounts the rapture by reinterpreting the the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 where the living believers are caught up into the air to meet the Lord as a mixture of three metaphors he claims Jews of the day would have understood as clearly metaphorical: 1. the people of a city going outside the city to meet the visiting emperor (meeting in the air=metaphor for the excitement with which Christians will react to Jesus' return), 2. the emperor coming to visit his provinces (Jesus coming down from heaven is a metaphor for Him appearing on the earth) and 3. the establishment of kingdoms as extensions of the empire (we're not going to be with Jesus, He's coming here). At least, I think those were the metaphors. My memory is fuzzy so don't quote me. Now, Wright may be correct in discrediting rapture theology (I've always believed in a rapture, but it's not a belief I hold to very tightly), but am I really to believe that first-century Jews would have naturally dissected Paul's passage the way Wright has? Were they all geniuses? Dang. I'm an expert in my own culture, but if someone told me Jesus was going to drive up with a retinue of angels and give a speech to be broadcast to the whole world, I'd take it literally. Now in a thousand years someone like Wright might come along to explain that a 21st-century American would understand it was all metaphorical and that Jesus' retinue was symbolic of His stature, like a rap artist or the president, and the broadcast speech was symbolic of His great renown. This neo-Wright might be right on in his assessment of the prophecy, but he would be dead wrong in his assessment of my understanding of the prophecy. Does that make sense? Just because I know about the trappings of celebrity doesn't mean I necessarily apply this knowledge to everything I read or hear. I am aware of the war on terrorism, just as I'm sure the Jews were aware of the workings of the Roman empire, but it would be a mistake to link everything I write and say back to the war on terror, and I should think the same would go for the Jews. I could be wrong, though. Seeing the Bible through Wright's eyes, it seems ridiculous to try to read the Scriptures if you're anything but a 1st-century Jew. For example, Wright is adamant that the Son of Man passage in Matthew 24 is not a reference to Jesus' return but to His resurrection, and Jesus is drawing heavily from Daniel in a way that sounds like the judgment but is really not, so everyone who thinks Jesus is speaking about the second coming is wrong. Um...how was I ever supposed to get that? Was the Bible written solely for 1st-century Jews, or did God have some provision made for the rest of us? If the Jews did understand that passage to be about the resurrection and not the second coming, does that necessarily mean they're right? That's the kicker for me. Wright prioritizes (what he imagines to be) early Christian and Jewish interpretations of the text, but I'm not convinced that they got everything right. After all, they didn't recognize the Messiah when He came. And that's not a dig. I probably wouldn't have recognized Him either. All it means is that even though the Scriptures were written for them in their language, their interpretations were still proven to be flawed. This could still be the case for 1st-century Christians and Jews. This is not to say that historical context and early interpretations aren't valuable. They are invaluable. It's just that even if you could know for a certainty what all the early Christians believed and taught one another, that's no guarantee that those interpretations are perfect. That's all I'm saying. The second thing I had an issue with was Wright's cynicism. That's right, I said it. Cynicism. Not that he's always cynical. Overall, he seems like a pretty hopeful and grounded guy. But his straw man of North American fundamentalism is kind of disgusting. Now, I don't really consider myself to be a fundamentalist or even super conservative, although I suppose those terms are all subjective. However, I know quite a bit about North American Christian fundamentalism, and whatever problems I have with it, I have never believed, as Wright apparently does, that conservative Christians cling to a fatalist gospel so that they can create acid rain and get rich without having to worry about making the world better or caring about the poor. That's ridiculous. Why Wright attributes to their beliefs all kinds of ugly motives is beyond me. Maybe one of them ran over his puppy. I agree with him that Christian fundamentalists probably tend to believe in a fatalist sort of gospel, but for the love of Pete, it isn't like they're twisting and warping the Bible to get there, looking for any way they can hang on to their selfishness and avoid helping others. The Bible, read literally, is clear that this earth as we know it is temporary and that conditions will deteriorate and keep deteriorating until Jesus returns and sets everything right. The implications of this are that there is very little impetus to improve the world since it's all gonna burn. Instead, they see the emphasis as saving souls (a term I'm sure Wright dislikes) because the souls will last while possessions, bodies, sicknesses and injustices won't. That's not evil; that's logical. Wright can attack their interpretation of the gospel (which he does) but I don't see the point of not extending good faith to these believers. They're just working off of what they understand, not being immersed in first-century Christianity, and, in my opinion at least, they're interpretation of the Bible is reasonable, if not immaculate. My final issue with Wright's book is that it leaves me more confused than enlightened concerning the gospel. Maybe this is unavoidable, but I find it incredibly frustrating. Why did Jesus die? What exactly was accomplished on the cross? This is the heart of the gospel, but it seems there is little consensus among Christians. Some preachers emphasize that Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath meant for us. He took our sin, we got His righteousness, thereby making it possible for us to have a right relationship with God. This, they claim, is the end of salvation. Others say that Jesus died to free us from the bondage of sin. He rescued us from ourselves. Still others note that Jesus was setting an example of sacrifice that urges all Christians to give up their lives for the good of those in the world. Wright seems to suggest that personal salvation is not the end at all but a means by which God looks to redeem all of creation. I honestly don't know where I stand on all this. What was it Jesus came to do? I've always believed He came to save sinners--to tear the veil and do for us what we could not do for ourselves. I've heard it said, though, that this take on salvation is very selfish, and that's a hard thing to hear. It's true that my personal decision to accept Jesus' sacrifice for me does not necessitate my campaigning for justice or helping the poor. I might do those things, but they would not be considered an integral part of the gospel. So I see why Wright and others are frustrated that the gospel is too internal and too small. It might help me personally, but it doesn't help the world. I understand their feelings, but I don't know if I can agree with their "fix." Wright envisions the kingdom of heaven as an alternative mode of existence where Christians live as though God is their king and work to see His will done by reforming the structures that oppress people. That's a powerful image and a seductive one, but part of me can't help but wonder if the kingdom of heaven isn't even more different from the kingdoms of this world than Wright thinks it is. Wright is enamored of an external outworking of the kingdom, but in my mind I replay Jesus' words that the kingdom of heaven is within you. This is not to say that we aren't to live out the kingdom in whatever ways we're called to, but I don't think the kingdom of heaven is composed of political structures or organizations. The kingdom of heaven strikes me as being not so much about God's rule over the injustices of the world, but about God's rule in my own heart. Maybe that's a small gospel, but looking at the whole counsel of Scripture, as I understand it, it fits. Wright jumps through all kinds of hoops to prove that the world to come will be material and we will have bodies so we therefore should be focused on the conditions of this world because material things matter. He doesn't seem to like talk of the soul because it induces people to look to the future world without caring for this one. I get the drawbacks, but just because you don't like the implications of a doctrine doesn't mean the doctrine isn't true. When Jesus tells us to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin, I think we can draw from that that the soul is of greater import than our bodies. In addition, Wright never addresses the scriptures that describe the earth being worn out like a garment or passing away. Wright insists that God will redeem the earth, not throw it out, but the emphasis in the Bible seems to be on the transitory nature of earthly things and how we need to dedicate ourselves to things of eternal value and substance. This is why I think Wright might be a bit off when he writes that Jesus saved us so that we could dedicate ourselves to stewardship over the earth. The earth won't last. God's priorities don't seem to involve our trying to redeem the world until He can do it for reals. After all, the great commission was about making disciples and baptizing and teaching people, not about planting trees or lobbying governments or even redistributing wealth. Purveyors of the social gospel often seem astounded and saddened that so many Christians seem uninterested in social justice, but social justice, while a worthy goal, does not appear to be the aim of the gospel. Jesus did not address the unjust political structures of his time, instead He assured those who mourn that they would be comforted and that wrongs would one day be redressed. He didn't try to overthrow Caesar but encouraged people to obey their governments. The apostles weren't about writing petitions for refugees or reforming the economic system or protesting wars. They were about saving souls. Peter writes that the Lord isn't slow in keeping His promises, but He is patiently waiting. And Lord isn't waiting for people to redeem the world and make it better; He's waiting for people to come to repentance. So in a nutshell I fear that Wright has confused the gospel message with something else. I too am kind of sorry that a gospel that emphasizes personal repentance, patient bearing of suffering, evangelism and holding on to the hope of a new heaven and new earth to replace this broken planet does not often lead to bettering conditions for people here and now. But tacking on a social motivation to the cross strikes me as irresponsible. Just because the gospel doesn't do all you wish it would doesn't give you the right to change it. Now if you want to say that social justice is a good method for evangelism, that's fine. Or that behaving as citizens of heaven necessitates that we love others and show our love in tangible ways, that's fine too. But it's not the gospel. We don't seek social justice for its own sake because that doesn't make any sense. Why labor just to make this earth a more comfortable place from which people can go on to hell? We should live out the kingdom of heaven as a witness of God's love and as a sign pointing to the full expression of the kingdom to come, but the goal in mind is always the salvation of souls. If that means people aren't as focused on ecology or relieving third world debt as Wright would like, well...the priorities are different. (Although people can be called to environmentalism and debt relief as well as evangelism. Those are just two different ways of showing God's love and provision for us to the world. God is great and multifaceted. It takes the whole varied lot of us to begin to reflect Him and His will accurately) It doesn't mean we get to pollute or ignore suffering with impunity, but it means we need to see these things as God sees them. Focusing the Christian life on the here and now runs counter to an awful lot of Scripture, and while it may do some temporary good, if we can't get an eternal perspective all that good work will mean very little when all is said and done.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rod Horncastle

    I've been eager to read this. But no way was I spending money on it - had to wait for the library to suck in a copy. Whew! Saved $35.00. I just started reading John MacArthur's The Second Coming. Basically it has all the issues N.T. tries to deal with except MacArthur isn't a social liberal tree-hugging Nutter. I've suffered through my third N.T. Wright book. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with this guy. He seems to be on the right track --- but then his train does a Wobbly C I've been eager to read this. But no way was I spending money on it - had to wait for the library to suck in a copy. Whew! Saved $35.00. I just started reading John MacArthur's The Second Coming. Basically it has all the issues N.T. tries to deal with except MacArthur isn't a social liberal tree-hugging Nutter. I've suffered through my third N.T. Wright book. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with this guy. He seems to be on the right track --- but then his train does a Wobbly Charlie off into the farmlands, and everyone is having so much fun on the caboose "cheering" they fail to see that nobody is driving the train to a Biblical destination anymore. So is N.T. a serious trustworthy traditional Bible scholar? Maybe, sort of, kinda... The back of this book is fodder for liberal "What else does Harper One publishing ever put out?" propaganda. WE have Rob Bell fully supporting this effort, as well as those from the United Methodist church applauding. It seems even Richard Foster and Dallas Willard (who aren't often liked, and may not tolerate each other) are supporting this book. Yep, N.T. sure brings all the liberals together under one blanket. Lets keep them in the closet for now maybe. So Yes, this is what happens when people wander off from Romans based Calvinism and yet desperately try to make sense of secular academia and the Bible. I've learned that you really can't argue Biblical theology with atheists while being any kind of arminian-type liberal believer. (arminian's assume that salvation is basically up to us and our amazing power to accept or reject God's desperate begging for our souls into His Kingdom.) So a book like this is comically what results. And atheists quickly notice that little of Arminian theology seems to agree with the Bible as a whole. That's why i've never seen a liberal christian have any kind of meaningful debate with an atheist or Muslim. I didn't really take any notes while reading this. I was hoping the issues would be obvious enough to deal with later. But like my wife wisely said "N.T. probably stands for NOT THOROUGH." Indeed, for every point N.T. addressed I came up with about 10 Bible verses that he seriously needs to address --- and he seldom does. He just assumes we are easily agreeing with his thoughts. BUT NOPE, I definitely need more convincing. N.T.'s mocking and belittling of conservative Calvinism does not equal truth necessarily. (Yes N.T. - I still believe in the rapture. You've proven nothing) The obvious issue with N.T. is that he doesn't often show the complete Bible verses that deal with his points. Sometimes when he does dare to show some, they are from some - slightly off -translation that he doesn't bother to state. Notice that MacArthur and Sproul seem to find it essential to show entire Biblical paragraphs and their sources at all times, on almost every page. So what exactly is N.T. hiding? Why so sneaky? The first major problem with this book is the subtitle: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the mission of the Church. Ummmh? Why are we rethinking it N.T.? Are you about to tell us something that 2000 years of Bible scholars failed to notice? Or just drag us back to gnostic land? The answer: Kind of. But like all of N.T.'s books - it's messy. N.T. seems to think that all current Christian church-goers ACTUALLY BELIEVE that us Saints end up in Never Never Land floating on clouds eating creme-cheese in spirit GHOST bodies. (maybe those who haven't bothered to open a Bible, or get their spirituality from food commercials resemble N.T.'s strawmen). But as the Bible clearly says: Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. But N.T. just doesn't want to let go of those old trees. He's hugging them pretty tightly. I'm just not sure why? Our God can easily create nature (only takes a day or two according to the trustworthy Genesis account --- I still have no idea if N.T. trusts any of Genesis? Maybe that's in another book. I sure hope he does.) So here's where the challenges begin. N.T. states: ( page 18 ) "...there is very little in the Bible about going to heaven when you die and not a lot about a postmortem hell either." Ummmh? There's definitely enough info N.T.. Enough for you to mangle and get Rob Bell all socially excited. The problem is that N.T. is very good at liberally dismissing verses that he doesn't agree with. He just moves them over to the parables and metaphors section. Many modern Bible enthusiasts have no problem with doing this to about 95% of God's Word. But as we know: Scripture interprets scripture. So be careful about mucking about with your personal agenda. N.T. tries to change (or perhaps clarify) everyone's thinking on Heaven, Hell, Souls, and sin nature. He desperately tries to stir it all up - but when it settles: i'm back to the historic foundation on all of those issues. Not necessarily the Hollywood understanding of a few lazy churches - but definitely something a bit more Biblically sound than the Vatican. Mr. Wright has many pet agendas while dealing with these endtimes type issues. N.T. Mocks the Left Behind series and a Biblical Millennium----- yet he hasn't given us anything more Biblical yet. Other than his exhaustive Eco-opinion of course. Boy will he be shocked if the rapture or tribulation happens around him - neither of those he believes in of course. Now the rapture is a somewhat hidden future prophecy (we can forgive people for being hesitant on that issue) but the Millennium is right there in front of us. Very dangerous and misleading to simply dismiss for the liberal green cause. Revelation 20 ...but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 7And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them I do understand that the Bible needs to be read very carefully. AS A WHOLE. And that we need to see how everything fits systematically. AND that nothing gets swept under the rug. It's mind numbing waiting for N.T. To get to his point sometimes: which always seems to be - "paul speak... richly metaphorical..." Basically anything N.T. doesn't like gets put in the RICH METAPHOR box. All I know is that God puts things in the Bible for very specific reasons. WE can't assume certain things get promoted or prioritized above others necessarily. Lately i've even seen people turn JESUS into a metaphor. (how long till N.T. possibly embraces this liberal concept? Hopefully never. But it always starts with Hell, the demons, then Satan, then Sin, then God's sovereignty, then our nature... then heaven. Eventually we become our own gods. Just ask Rob Bell.) N.T. Seems to insist that this earthly dwelling is God's good intent. It's just dirt and matter N.T. - stop hugging all those trees. Which leads me to my main concern with this entire book: What is N.T.'s relationship with his God and Savior? I didn't get much info about having a deep loving relationship with the King of Kings. Mostly I heard N.T. complaining about our appreciation of nature and God's universe. I almost think N.T.'s Jesus died for this dirt and functioning universe. N.T. Seems to downplay the essential need for a relationship with Jesus. Kind of like Jesus telling the thief on the cross; "look, I'm glad we met and all - but you really need to focus on getting off this bit of wood, using your last few bits of breath to plant some shrubs at the base, maybe do some art, leave the world better than you found it." I'll have to go find another book where N.T. tells us about His personal Jesus. N.T. Thinks people are generally good and just need à Jesus pep talk... then Jesus will physically return as our unanimous King with great applause from enlightened humanity. This of course means no Calvinism for him. If only God would have done this then we could have avoided that whole Flood incident. By the end of the book I was seriously wondering what N.T.'s Jesus died for? To redeem creation it seems. But the Bible says: Luke 11 27As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Which goes with Luke 10 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21At that time, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and declared, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. That sounds rather Calvinistic doesn't it. Seems to say that treading on these earthly enemies is not as important as having your names recorded eternally in heaven. YES, these understandings are often hidden from the world's wise and learned (makes me nervous for N.T. and all of his scholarly wisdom and education... Maybe?) There's so much in this book that needs to be commented on, but I doubt many care. But like a few have said: "after reading stuff like this - I have more questions than answers". Personally I don't. But if that's the damage N.T. is doing to Christianity then he needs to learn to be more clear. Maybe write some shorter books that get to the point much earlier. To sum it up: N.T. thinks that heaven is simply on this Earth - eventually. Sin and all evil will mostly just fade away with God's goodness slowly taking over. Those dead saints will one day magically appear with their bodies intact to live eternally in a rather normal state - similar to Jesus after His resurrection. The Church is mostly to share the message and do lots of Gospel social goodness that will touch the cold hearts of mankind and bring about God's Holiness --- eventually. Somehow. And hell and judgement are... ummmh? Obviously not what the Bible clearly says. God can't be that mean and PURE (what will the atheists think?) Far as I can tell: that is what N.T. Wright insists is Biblically and theologically correct. (like I said, his books are long winded and messy, and often sneaky.) Just to be clear, here's what I think: We will have a new heaven and a new earth. It may be very different from what we now experience. The future city of New Jerusalem will function on a different geographic reality than we know now. God is GOD after all: Jesus deserves a Kingdom like we've never seen or comprehended. But the sin of mankind requires a NEW nature, and the righteousness of Christ is enough to satisfy the wrath of God towards spiritual rebellion - yes, Hell is for all those who have no covering for their sin nature. It's not mean to be placed there - but patient and fully just in allowing people to eternally embrace their sin nature. God indeed saved His elect for His good purpose and glory. Dead people do not embrace Christ - Only a loving God could reach down and save dead sinners by the giving of faith. WE will have NEW bodies and NEW NATURES. I'm not sure N.T. fully embraces this doctrine. To save creation is an instant act of God. Not a thing that we can do slowly. The church isn't here to do other than spread God's message and tend to those who hear it and CAN hear it. I really wish N.T. would save me all this reading and just write a short pamphlet of what he actually believes. Other theologians seem to have much less of an issue getting to the point and being clear. Reminds me of the simple message of God: "Don't eat the freakin' apple or you'll die! Trust me." Of course Satan then comes along with a nice liberal speech about surely NOT dying but REALLY living a fuller existence in the here and now... Hmmm?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bryon

    I have a new favorite author/theologian in N.T. Wright, author of Surprised by Hope. He knows how to communicate lofty, theological concepts in a way that both makes sense and engages the reader to think. So much of what we think about theology is tainted by our church and political. The mistake that many are making these days is they are re-INVENTING and re-DEFINING theology. Some people are taking the party's theological line without thinking about it at all. Re-THINKING is absolutely healthy I have a new favorite author/theologian in N.T. Wright, author of Surprised by Hope. He knows how to communicate lofty, theological concepts in a way that both makes sense and engages the reader to think. So much of what we think about theology is tainted by our church and political. The mistake that many are making these days is they are re-INVENTING and re-DEFINING theology. Some people are taking the party's theological line without thinking about it at all. Re-THINKING is absolutely healthy and necessary. Wright doesn't get too complicated. He looks at one topic: "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on heaven as on earth." He looks at that phrase in the Lord's Prayer in light of Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. By the time you get done reading the book, you actually feel hopeful - like God wants to do great things with your life and that He wants to develop your gifts for eternal kingdom work and application. How cool is that? http://mondokblog.blogspot.com/2008/0...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Genni

    In Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard makes an observation about the story of Abraham and Issac that has stuck with me since. He says that Abraham believed God's promises were for this world. In other words, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was willing not just because he knew someday they would "be together in heaven". He was willing because he believed God would do something here on earth with Isaac, whether it was make a provision somehow or as the writer of Hebrews says In Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard makes an observation about the story of Abraham and Issac that has stuck with me since. He says that Abraham believed God's promises were for this world. In other words, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was willing not just because he knew someday they would "be together in heaven". He was willing because he believed God would do something here on earth with Isaac, whether it was make a provision somehow or as the writer of Hebrews says that Abraham considered that God could "raise him from the dead". Again, he believed it was going to be something in the here and now, something physical. In the exact words of Kierkegaard, "Yet Abraham believed, and believed FOR THIS LIFE. Yea, if his faith had been only for a future life, he surely would have cast everything away in order to hasten out of this world to which he did not belong. But Abraham’s faith was not of this sort, if there be such a faith; for really this is not faith but the furthest possibility of faith which has a presentiment of its object at the extremest limit of the horizon, yet is separated from it by a yawning abyss within which despair carries on its game.” However, that kind of hope is something difficult to reconcile with traditional teachings on eschatology. And that is what Wright spends this book dismantling. There are two main thoughts that particularly struck me as relevant: the terminology we use today in describing souls and going to heaven as well as what it actually means when the New Testament talks about mortality and immortality. First, the assumption of the Western world that we all have a soul, that it needs to be saved, and that it will "go to heaven" is terminology that is not supported by the New Testament. The roots of this kind of thought are found in Plato, who believed in a disembodied soul, that the earth and the earthly body were "bad" and must be shed so that the soul could be free and pure. This kind of terminology at first glance seems to meld well with New Testament teachings, but after Wright's treatment, does not stand the test. Wright says that the word "soul", rarely used in the New Testament would actually, by inference of underlying Greek and Hebrew words, more closely resemble what we would rather call the "whole", or "whole person" or personality. I have not studied Greek or Hebrew so I cannot really argue with him here. But, if his other points in the book are supported successfully, then this is indeed an issue that is, at best, "semi-Christian informal traditions that now need to be reexamined in the clear light of Scripture". Concerning the "flesh" that must be put off; God pronounced His creation to be "good". That includes our flesh, or physical life. Here I quote Wright: "Evil does not consist in being transient, made to decay. There is nothing wrong with the tree dropping its leaves in the autumn. There is nothing wrong with the sunset fading away into darkness. Evil consists in none of those things. Indeed, it is precisely the transience of the good creation that serves as a pointer to its larger purpose. Transience acts as a God-given signpost pointing not from the material world to a non-material, but from the world as it is to the world as it meant one day to be. Second, what does Paul mean when he talks about the perishable putting on the imperishable? Or the mortal putting on immortality? What does he mean when he talks about the physical body versus the spiritual? Wright's point here illuminating. Paul is not talking about the material of which they are made, but rather the power or energy that animates them! This is a really significant distinction. These two thoughts are really foundational for leading into the main thesis of the book, that the resurrection of Jesus is an important event, not because he defeated death and therefore everyone who believes in Him will now go to heaven. It is important because it is a signpost for what God is going to do in our world, indeed, what He has already begun. His kingdom has already come and His plans for the future are NOT to destroy the world, but to transform it, as He transformed Jesus's own body. "His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" is not a phrase to symbolize a metaphysically immaterial kingdom, but a literally physical one, although we don't see it in it's completed form yet. This is radically different from what the masses believe is going to happen. This also addresses a deep apathy within the church as a whole to work for something other than "saving souls". That is so important. But there is so much more to it than that. However, a lot of people have the mindset "What is the point of doing anything? The world is going to be destroyed anyway. There is no point in taking care of it." But if what Wright is saying is true, then we would not simply be "oiling a machine that is about to roll off a cliff". Now, there are still some unsolved mysteries. Some problem verses. And also, the question of how all of this fits with the Book of Revelation. I searched around and see that he has only written one book on Revelation, Revelation for Everyone, a commentary. I read some reviews and it seems he is a partial preterist. Fascinating. Going to have to check it out. A few notes on his writing: 1) He is repetitive. I don't remember this from reading Evil and the Justice of God . But I think the points he makes are incredibly important so I guess I forgive him. 2) He often says, "this point brings up such and such question....but more on that later". Not the best writing technique, I suppose, and a bit annoying. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized why he was doing that. At certain points it was logical for such and such question to pop up, but not logical to answer at that point before other foundations of thought had been laid. So, forgiven again. And he really did come back to it. Wright gives SO much to think about in this book, and challenges SO many assumptions. If I were to go through them all, I would literally be re-writing the book. I confess to feeling particularly lazy to do that right now. And of course I won't go into all the ways this book affected me personally. For whatever my opinion is worth, I do think every Christian should read this, even if they give it careful thought and disagree.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Most of this book was superb, and parts were atrocious.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Vahle

    I've been thinking of heaven lots since Josh died. When he died, I KNEW that there was more to the resurrection and heaven then I had thought before, and with longing I've been thinking lots about it. NT Wright offers a richer, more biblical picture of the resurrection than I'd ever considered, and it is a picture that gives me much more hope! Each chapter was earth-shattering - in page after page, Wright shatters our view of "escaping" to heaven and instead focuses on the reality of the Resurrec I've been thinking of heaven lots since Josh died. When he died, I KNEW that there was more to the resurrection and heaven then I had thought before, and with longing I've been thinking lots about it. NT Wright offers a richer, more biblical picture of the resurrection than I'd ever considered, and it is a picture that gives me much more hope! Each chapter was earth-shattering - in page after page, Wright shatters our view of "escaping" to heaven and instead focuses on the reality of the Resurrection for the kingdom here on earth. Hard to think of a book that shaped me recently as much as this one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Let’s say you’re a Christian reader—not the type who reads heavyweight theology. You might read a couple of pages of Grudem from time to time. You read Rick Warren with your church, toughed through Tim Keller after you heard your pastor quote him a few times, and even picked up Platt when you heard someone tell you that you were called to the mission field … along with every other Christian you know and don’t know. You spend each day proud that you’re not of this world, and that you’re just pass Let’s say you’re a Christian reader—not the type who reads heavyweight theology. You might read a couple of pages of Grudem from time to time. You read Rick Warren with your church, toughed through Tim Keller after you heard your pastor quote him a few times, and even picked up Platt when you heard someone tell you that you were called to the mission field … along with every other Christian you know and don’t know. You spend each day proud that you’re not of this world, and that you’re just passing through. You live a content life knowing that everything’s all right between “you and Jesus.” You finally feel comfortable telling the tract hoards that your response to Jesus, if you died tonight and He asked “Why should I let you through the pearly gates of My heaven?” would be “Only by Your blood!” You’ve stopped smoking, drinking, cussing, and listening to secular music because you know Jesus might turn you away if you were to arrive at His gates flicking a cigarette, swigging from a dark brown bottle, and, with your usual curled upper-lip and slight squint, offering the cherubim and seraphim a confident yet playful “What’s up, bitches?”—all while the sorcery of that worldly vixen Taylor Swift flows through that one earbud hanging from your head. If this is you, you might find SURPRISED BY HOPE a challenging and insightful read. Wright won’t convince you that all your moral decisions (as mentioned above), regardless of your sincerity, will not get you to heaven. He’s not another rank-and-file member of the tract hoard … extended edition. Wright’s book just might pull the floor from beneath your feet and convince you to stop alienating and victimizing yourself in this world—a world in which you’ve been convinced does not apply to you because of your status as a “citizen of heaven.” He might convince you that Jesus has saved you FOR the world and set you apart to bring forth His Kingdom by valuing it as a the stage on which the last three acts will unfold. He might bother you when his idea of “heaven” doesn’t align with the alto part of that hymn you like so much. He might make you question that image of the Jigsaw God you used to and still worry about (before you decided to stop watching horror movies like the SAW franchise). He might even convince you to ask the same questions Rob Bell is asking—the ones your pastor told you not to read as part of his well-meaning duty to protect his flock from the goats prancing bleating the shofar around the Walls of Orthodoxy. But if you’re the scholarly pastor or the arm-chair theologian, you should probably skip out on this one (unless you want to steal some great analogies to share with your congregation or Sunday School class) and read Wright’s unfinished magnum opus Christian Origins and the question of God Series, which includes THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD, JESUS AND THE VICTORY OF GOD and THE RESURRECTION OF THE SON OF GOD. You should skip SURPRISED and go for the more detailed, footnoted arguments of the same information—as a matter of fact, most of what you’ll find in SURPRISED was taken straight from these three books—so if you’re the type to critically evaluate, I say go for the depth and get Wright’s series instead.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Uh, like WOW. If you're not into theology because you think it will be dry and boring, try NT Wright. Not that it isn't a bit of a challenge, but with some concentration, you will be richly rewarded. He opened up things I have believed in and about all my life, yet put such a fresh perspective on it for me. Changed my perception on many things. I need to follow this up with a discussion group - to help get it more into my living, breathing, everyday life, and to add the dimension of acting on it Uh, like WOW. If you're not into theology because you think it will be dry and boring, try NT Wright. Not that it isn't a bit of a challenge, but with some concentration, you will be richly rewarded. He opened up things I have believed in and about all my life, yet put such a fresh perspective on it for me. Changed my perception on many things. I need to follow this up with a discussion group - to help get it more into my living, breathing, everyday life, and to add the dimension of acting on it, not just absorbing the ideas and then doing nothing with it - just adding to my knowledge.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    Wow... this book has lived up to its title, for me. Somehow N.T. Wright has stripped Christianity of all the useless trimmings that people have added to it over the centuries, and brought it all down to WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAYS. And guess what - IT'S SO MUCH BETTER. It's not about "feelings," it's not about "going to heaven when we die," and it's certainly not about hating this world and everything that isn't 100% "Christian" in it - it's about building something. It's about the resurrection Wow... this book has lived up to its title, for me. Somehow N.T. Wright has stripped Christianity of all the useless trimmings that people have added to it over the centuries, and brought it all down to WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAYS. And guess what - IT'S SO MUCH BETTER. It's not about "feelings," it's not about "going to heaven when we die," and it's certainly not about hating this world and everything that isn't 100% "Christian" in it - it's about building something. It's about the resurrection and redemption of EVERYTHING, not just ourselves. I think if every Christian read this book, thought about what N.T. Wright is saying with an open mind, and stopped looking at the Bible through denomination-coloured glasses, we could make this world a beautiful place for Christ to return to. Because that's what He said He'd do, right? Return? Shouldn't we be preparing a red carpet of some sort rather than bickering amongst ourselves about things that don't even matter? I LOVE THIS BOOK. Can I give it 10 stars? I'm giving it 10 stars. Life-changing stuff.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I like my beer hoppy, my scotch peaty, my coffee black, and my resurrection embodied.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Ingegneri

    huge fan. love the resurrection

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mwebel

    After 20 years of feeling that I had a decent idea of what happened to us after we die, this book left me reeling. I realized that almost all of my ideas of heaven and unity with God were based, not on the Bible, but on cultural conceptions. This book helped me understand the Biblical statement on what happens beyond the grave, and that in turn gives me a new hope. I hope this hope changes the way I approach this world, not just the way I perceive the life to come. Another fascinating angle to t After 20 years of feeling that I had a decent idea of what happened to us after we die, this book left me reeling. I realized that almost all of my ideas of heaven and unity with God were based, not on the Bible, but on cultural conceptions. This book helped me understand the Biblical statement on what happens beyond the grave, and that in turn gives me a new hope. I hope this hope changes the way I approach this world, not just the way I perceive the life to come. Another fascinating angle to this book is the discussion of worldview. This, more than any other Christian book I've read, openly discusses the influence and importance of our worldviews. The analysis is academic, but accessible to all readers. I hadn't realized how deeply set my assumptions were, not in the Bible, but in my culture. I need to relearn the Biblical interpretation of reality.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Silvia Cachia

    This was a great book to me on the concept of Resurrection and its ramifications. The first part is devoted to defend the event of Resurrection, and a Scriptural look at what it was, -a real bodily resurrection of Jesus. It supports it from different angles, (historical, philosophical, cultural, scientific, etc.), and it also places it in the context of the Old and New Testament. The second part he takes this key or central to christianity event of Resurrection, and explains what it means to us This was a great book to me on the concept of Resurrection and its ramifications. The first part is devoted to defend the event of Resurrection, and a Scriptural look at what it was, -a real bodily resurrection of Jesus. It supports it from different angles, (historical, philosophical, cultural, scientific, etc.), and it also places it in the context of the Old and New Testament. The second part he takes this key or central to christianity event of Resurrection, and explains what it means to us in the present, how it defines or redefines heaven, earth, Jesus coming, his judgment, and what the author calls life after life after death. The third part is dedicated to the church mission as redefined by his analysis of the Resurrection. (The purpose of the christian as individual, and the church as a collective, its socioeconomic and political place in the community. My opinion: The first part is something I've studied a bit, and though interesting, it was not ground breaking to me (since I'm familiar with the apologetic of the resurrection and I believe in it as it's narrated in the Bible.) The second part is what was a total breakthrough to me. I had gaps, not very well explained notions of what it means to die, and have my soul, -the spiritual part of me, go to heaven. This was a confusing area in my faith I never gave much thought but took for granted. And here it is where the author came to bring the scriptures to life, and explain what Jesus's Resurrection means, and how it's tied to our present hope, and our future hope as well. He explains how the our resurrection means something other than a disembodied soul ascending to heaven. I could attempt a synopsis of the author's arguments, but I rather exhort you to read this book just for this. The time and skill he took in presenting and explaining the Resurrection are worth our reader's time and attention, -if this is a topic that interests you. The third part was to me the weakest. I believe he got too carried away, and redefined (or tried to), the role of the church around his idea of resurrection. Even though I have different beliefs, it still was an interesting end of the book, since much of what he defends can, at the very least, be applied to our life as individuals AND christians. There's many brilliant and beautiful paragraphs and thoughts in this part, -among some confusion owed to a lack of understanding about the historicity of the church as an institution, the problem of the diverse and conflicting beliefs of the many denominations, and his failure to understand and define worship. The main problem is similar to the problem he solved in part two. In part two, he warns us of the dangers of trying to fit our ideas about resurrection around our erroneous conceptions of heaven. In this part, he tries to fit worship, and the mission of the church, around resurrection. All in all, a great read. (I may have to buy it, -a friend loaned it to me-), to come back to it for sure.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Martindale

    Overall this was pretty good. Much in the book is old hat for me, I came to similar conclusions long before, in things like his opposition the cliché presentation that we believe in Jesus, so we can go to heaven when we die, and in contrast to this, his emphasis on the resurrection and the Heavenly kingdom coming to the New Earth, and the restoration of the created world. My main complaint is Wright rarely says "It seems", of "Possibly" or "my interpretation" is, but is so dogmatic in his claims, Overall this was pretty good. Much in the book is old hat for me, I came to similar conclusions long before, in things like his opposition the cliché presentation that we believe in Jesus, so we can go to heaven when we die, and in contrast to this, his emphasis on the resurrection and the Heavenly kingdom coming to the New Earth, and the restoration of the created world. My main complaint is Wright rarely says "It seems", of "Possibly" or "my interpretation" is, but is so dogmatic in his claims, which is fine, so far as it goes, but occasionally he presents some strong assertions as obvious fact and what the bible clearly means without giving any evidence for his claims. For example, his belief that the biblical cosmology (which sounds so similar to dubious views of their pagan neighbors) was actually meant as metaphorical language of overlapping dimensions, all seemed far fetched to me. I can’t recall Wright giving any textual argument to indicate that this is what they meant. This simply seemed a way to distance biblical writers from what on the face of it appears to be an extremely unscientific and rather ridiculous views of the cosmos, and claim they actually meant something far more reasonable instead. I suppose it is charitable to do so, but yeah, a book attempting to get us to return to biblical theology.... His section on hell was pretty disappointing. It is hard to understand how a biblical scholar in speaking of Gehenna, failed to mention the tradition and significance of this valley in the book of Jeremiah, instead referring to the claim it was the garbage dump for which there is no evidence. He does briefly mention the connection of Jesus’ talk of Gehenna with the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which is interesting, I’d enjoy to hear an argument for this, but he gives none. I like that he mentioned the conditionalist and their biblical grounded belief that immortality is not a given, but a gift for those who believe, yet it appears that Wright, despite being so opposed to the Platonism that has crept in the church in other areas, still holds the Platonic notion of the innate immortality of the soul which must exist forever. Ultimately, it seems N T Wright takes C.S Lewis’ view that the eternal soul will become an non-human, like the ashes left of a burnt up log. Some reason the biblical teachings that the wicked will be judged according to what they’ve done, and then suffer the second death, which is described as being burned up root and branch, to die body and soul, to be consumed, devoured, utterly perishing like the beast and to be as though they never been, doesn’t appear to him to be justice, so he must concocted some non-biblical speculation of what it all means instead. But at least he distances himself somewhat from the eternal conscious torment crowd. Finally, the off handed snide comment about Friedrich Hayek was not appreciated, it could be argued that the rejection of Hayek’s economic and political theory, and the embrace central planning, confiscation of wealth and socialistic ideology has actually increased poverty, terror and oppression. I am a fan of Hayek precisely because I care for the poor and see historically, despite of its short-comings, free-market capitalism has done more to improve the over-all lot of the poor than any other economic system. People’s hatred of the one thing that actual works, and in the name of the poor, the embrace of what has historically done more to hurt the poor than anything is, is baffling to me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Edney

    This is at the top of my list of the most important books for the church written in our generation

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ben De Bono

    At risk of sounding hyperbolic, let me start this review by saying that Surprised by Hope is not only one of the best books I've ever read, it's also among the most important. Let me also say that anyone considering reading Rob Bell's latest, Love Wins, should skip that book and read this instead. Surprised By Hope is much better written, contains all of the good theology present in Love Wins (or more accurately, Love Wins contains Surprised By Hope's theology) and avoids and corrects the major At risk of sounding hyperbolic, let me start this review by saying that Surprised by Hope is not only one of the best books I've ever read, it's also among the most important. Let me also say that anyone considering reading Rob Bell's latest, Love Wins, should skip that book and read this instead. Surprised By Hope is much better written, contains all of the good theology present in Love Wins (or more accurately, Love Wins contains Surprised By Hope's theology) and avoids and corrects the major theological errors in Bell's book. In this book, Wright reexamines our view of eternity in light of biblical teaching. His basic argument is this. Our final destination is not a disembodied existence in some alternate dimension called Heaven, but the merger of Heaven and Earth which happens at the second coming. Our hope is in the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of creation, not in an evacuation plan that leaves this world behind. The argument is far more complex than that, but even in that brief description you can see that this is a book that will get under some people's skin. Wright goes after and dismantles Left Behind eschatology, including the rapture (an unbiblical concept based on a complete misreading of 1 Thessalonians 4:17). This will be disruptive for many, but hopefully those in that camp will at least give Wright's arguments the consideration they deserve. He's not trying to reinvent Scripture but instead is holding our traditional views and doctrines up to the light of Scripture. His goal is a more biblical view, not an abandonment of biblical teaching. The book is divided into three parts. In the first, he goes back to Jewish world Jesus was apart of. He shows how Judaism's hope was not focused on a disembodied Heaven but on the resurrection of the dead. Jesus was, as it says in 1 Corinthians 15, the firstfruits of that resurrection. Therefore, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a secondary issue, it is everything. If we lose it, we lose Christianity. This section also includes one of the best apologetic defenses of the resurrection I've come across. The second part looks at the implication of the resurrection, both of Jesus and the promised resurrection of the dead, on our views of eternity and eschatology. It's here that Wright discusses the theology outlined above. His writing about the new creation and where our hope as Christians truly lies is deeply moving. More than once I found myself close to tears reading his words. The hope of the Gospel is better than what we've been taught. It's a similar theme to what's encountered in John Eldredge's work, and I'd recommend this book especially to fans of Eldredge. For as much as I appreciate his work, it does lack the intellectual depth and theological rigor found in Wright. Eldredge goes for the heart, Wright more for the head and both wind up with an incredibly moving and powerful view of what life in Christ is truly all about. In the final section, Wright examines what the church's mission should be for today in light of this theology. He argues that the church's job is not simply to sit around and wait for Heaven but to help bring about the new creation here and now, not as a replacement for what's to come but in anticipation of it. Wright argues that our focus should be on three things: justice, beauty and evangelism. We're too fight injustice in this world, create art and beauty that neither denies evil nor succumbs to it but instead reflects the hope of our faith, and proclaim the Gospel that Jesus is king and that all are called to obediently follow him. Reading other reviews, I've noticed some are particularly harsh on Wright in this section because of his focus on justice. Let me say first that I am very conservative politically. Wright and I would likely not see eye to eye on many political issues. I don't fully agree with everything he says in his section on justice, but I do 100% agree with his theological point behind what he says. We are called as Christians to fight injustice, to confront systems of corruption and oppression and to care for those who have no voice. Wright emphasizes economic injustice above all else. I think we must also include things such as the 4,000 babies aborted everyday in the US. However, we both agree that Christians are called to fight injustice. I find it unfortunate that many of my fellow conservatives have been so shortsighted in analyzing this section of the book. Surprised By Hope is a life changing read. I cannot recommend this book enough. I believe it desperately needs to be read, understood and put into practice by the western church. It will be to our shame should we fail to listen to Wright's critiques of our beliefs and actions.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Surprised by Hope deals with two questions: What does the ultimate future look like? And how should we live in the present in light of that future? Personally, I wasn’t that “surprised” about Wright’s description of the future because it meshes well with my own views. It would come as more of a surprise to someone who holds to the Premillenial/Pretribulation eschatology of dispensationalists like Tim LaHaye (who made the popular “Left Behind” movies). While Wright addresses all the future issues o Surprised by Hope deals with two questions: What does the ultimate future look like? And how should we live in the present in light of that future? Personally, I wasn’t that “surprised” about Wright’s description of the future because it meshes well with my own views. It would come as more of a surprise to someone who holds to the Premillenial/Pretribulation eschatology of dispensationalists like Tim LaHaye (who made the popular “Left Behind” movies). While Wright addresses all the future issues of death, resurrection, the Second Coming, judgment, purgatory, paradise, heaven, and hell, his main emphasis is that heaven is not our ultimate destination. We don’t leave this world behind for our “home” in heaven. Heaven is coming down to join Earth in the new creation where God will be present with his people in a world of justice, healing, and hope. This is what Wright calls “life after life after death” or life after the resurrection. The final chapters 12-15 deal with the “So what?” question. Chapter 12 (my favorite) lays out the connection between the future and the present in the resurrection of Jesus, which is the inauguration and foundation for the Kingdom of God. It is “the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.” “Precisely because the resurrection has happened as an event within our own world, its implications and effects are to be felt within our own world, here and now.” The book concludes with a discussion of how resurrection (“the power of Easter”) is the catalyst for mission. Resurrection power transforms people into new creatures to be agents of the transformation of the earth – agents who “move straight from worship of the God we see in Jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    At first I thought I would enjoy and agree with this book--Wright spends a great deal of time and effort setting the record straight on what early Christians meant by "resurrection"--and that it has very little to do with what most modern Christians think about the soul, heaven, the afterlife, and the end of time. He is very specific, and at first I was gratified, feeling that I was learning something both a little esoteric and also true. But gradually I became disenchanted. I doubted that the G At first I thought I would enjoy and agree with this book--Wright spends a great deal of time and effort setting the record straight on what early Christians meant by "resurrection"--and that it has very little to do with what most modern Christians think about the soul, heaven, the afterlife, and the end of time. He is very specific, and at first I was gratified, feeling that I was learning something both a little esoteric and also true. But gradually I became disenchanted. I doubted that the Gospels were written as the accurate historic accounts he assumes--accounts that are comparable to modern histories or newspapers or testimonies in court. I also began to wonder if the gospels (whatever they are exactly, and there is a wide difference of opinion about that) and Paul's letters are really as unambiguous as he claims; and as I checked his Biblical references I began to doubt that that is so. I began to wonder if the stark distinctions he made between pagan, Jewish, and eventually Christian views on death were really as clear as he has convinced himself, or if instead people have always been understandably vague and fuzzy about these things, early Christians included. It is all through a glass darkly, after all. The further I read and the more disagreements he had with other theologians, the more I began to think he is "a party of himself alone" as Dante put it. He gives the game away on page 121 where he says that what he has been describing is "Christian orthodoxy properly understood" (my italics). There is an excellent review of the book by Skylar Burris here on Goodreads--I agree with everything she said, and I give it an equal number of stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Saraí Hernández

    Some Christians (myself a month ago) would be slightly uncomfortable with the following questions: 1. Is heaven a peaceful space, covered with puffy clouds? Are you going there after you die? Besides singing and hanging out with saints, what are you going to do over there? 2. If you say that Jesus is lord and he reigns over the world, why is it full of evil? 3. Or do we need to wait for life after death to get peace and justice? If so, why should we bother to fight against injustice in this world? Some Christians (myself a month ago) would be slightly uncomfortable with the following questions: 1. Is heaven a peaceful space, covered with puffy clouds? Are you going there after you die? Besides singing and hanging out with saints, what are you going to do over there? 2. If you say that Jesus is lord and he reigns over the world, why is it full of evil? 3. Or do we need to wait for life after death to get peace and justice? If so, why should we bother to fight against injustice in this world? N. T. Wright addresses these questions (and more) in his book Surprised by Hope. He takes a step back from popular but unbiblical conceptions. Instead, N. T. Wright examines the Bible in its historical context and presents the beliefs of early Christians on the death and resurrection of Jesus. By the end of the book, I was, indeed, surprised. A proper answer to the questions above belongs to a conversation over coffee; but I will try to summarize a conclusion: the Christian hope involves more than individual salvation. It is also about the healing of this world in a new creation which started with the resurrection of Jesus, continues today in the Church and will gloriously finish when Christ returns.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drake

    In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright argues that many Christians and non-Christians alike have a distorted picture of what the Bible teaches about our future hope. The obsession with "heaven," he argues, is completely misguided, as the Scriptures present heaven not as our final home but as an temporary rest until the final resurrection and the New Heavens and New Earth. It's important to grasp this, he asserts, not only to ensure that our doctrine is correct but also because our ideas about our ul In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright argues that many Christians and non-Christians alike have a distorted picture of what the Bible teaches about our future hope. The obsession with "heaven," he argues, is completely misguided, as the Scriptures present heaven not as our final home but as an temporary rest until the final resurrection and the New Heavens and New Earth. It's important to grasp this, he asserts, not only to ensure that our doctrine is correct but also because our ideas about our ultimate destiny inevitably shape the way we live our lives today. Thus, someone who believes that their final state will be as a disembodied soul living in an ethereal space is going to approach life differently from someone who believes that the entire world as well as their own bodies are going to be resurrected, made perfect, and filled with God's glory. Thus Christians must ensure that they develop a biblical view of the end so that they can live in light of it now. Positives: 1. Wright is, well, "right" in his main point: that is, the Scriptures present a far more substantial, far more glorious picture of our future hope than simply "dying and going to heaven." He rightly points out that the emphasis of the New Testament is far more on the final resurrection and New Heavens and New Earth than on the intermediate state. 2. He gives a summarized but brilliant defense of the historical resurrection of Jesus as well as presenting the theological and eschatological significance of the resurrection. This was one area where I greatly benefited from Wright's insights. He provides a great overview of the worldview assumptions of both Jews and pagans in the first century, showing that neither group would have been expecting the resurrection of a single person like Jesus and would have been naturally inclined to doubt such an event. The connections he draws between Jesus' resurrection (and His ascension) and the New Creation were at times eye-opening for me. 3. Many of the applications he makes towards the end of the book - e.g. the effect that the New Heavens and New Earth should have on our church life, our prayer life, our missions work, our vocations, and our reading of Scripture - were excellent. 4. His last name is very appropriate, as Wright is an incredibly-gifted writer. I don't think I've read any other modern author whose writing style at times reminds me more of C. S. Lewis. His descriptions of the Lordship of Christ, the significance of Jesus' resurrection, and the glorious life we have to look forward to in the New Heavens and Earth were at times simply breathtaking. Negatives: 1. Wright's treatment of the doctrine of hell was disappointing. Given the fact that he has no problems whatsoever making dogmatic statements about heaven, the resurrection, purgatory (which he doesn't believe in and makes a strong case against), the second coming, and the New Heavens and Earth, it seems strange that he comes off as extremely wishy-washy on the Scriptural teaching about hell. His argument that Jesus' statements about judgment were only referring to the threat of Roman intervention is unconvincing, and his passing over of other passages like Revelation 14 on the basis of their being difficult texts to understand is, given the nature of his book, inexcusable. The position he lands on is that hell is indeed real and everlasting, but that the people in hell are no longer human beings but formerly-human creatures whom God simply leaves to themselves to live eternally in their own selfishness. As Trevin Wax has pointed out, Wright's view of hell is "more akin to C.S. Lewis than to anything clearly taught in Scripture." 2. His excursus on Third World debt feels very out-of-place and poorly handled. Wright indulges in more overstatements here than in any other section of the book. His tone comes off more as an angry blogger than a balanced scholar. He makes several assertions -- such as claiming that third world debt is the single greatest moral dilemma of our day -- without providing adequate data or arguments to back them up and then asserting that those who disagree with his perspective are in the same boat as those who were on the side of slavery and segregation in generations past. Thankfully, this subject doesn't take up too much space in the book; but it lasts long enough to be frustrating. 3. In addition to the two major disagreements above, I found myself disagreeing with Wright on other issues that he brings up but doesn't give as much space to. Some of these include: his claim that Jesus said absolutely nothing about His second coming (though he does provide an interesting interpretation of the traditional texts and parables used to counter that claim); his belief that Christians can pray FOR the saints in heaven (i.e. for their rest and joy), though he discourages Christians from praying TO the saints as intercessors in the place of Christ; his view of justification (which I won't get into here due to the massive amount that's already been written about it). One spot in the book where I was particularly taken aback was where he mentions the Holy Spirit and uses the pronoun "he" but then in parentheses suggests the Spirit could also be referred to as "she." He gives no reasons for this, though I suspect that it has to do with the feminine form of the Hebrew word “ruach” (which is a weak argument for referring to the Spirit as "she). Still, one should not make such a bold and controversial suggestion without providing something to back it up. So what was my overall opinion of the book? In a word (or two), it was "mostly great." In my opinion, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, and discerning Christians will find much to chew on, learn from, and enjoy in this book. It serves as a powerful reminder that Jesus' resurrection is not only something we celebrate at Easter; instead, it is the central event of human history, the ushering in of God's new kingdom, and the firstfruits of the grand resurrection to come in the New Heavens and New Earth. For that, I greatly benefitted from this book and would recommend it (with caution) to others as well.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    I am crazy about this book. I wanted to start it over again as soon as I had finished it to make sure I didn't forget anything - I did reread the 3rd section immediately. I love that in talking about our future hope, it changes the way I live my life now and not simply because of some future reward for good behavior but because in light of Christ's resurrection and our promised one "our work is not in vain." I am crazy about this book. I wanted to start it over again as soon as I had finished it to make sure I didn't forget anything - I did reread the 3rd section immediately. I love that in talking about our future hope, it changes the way I live my life now and not simply because of some future reward for good behavior but because in light of Christ's resurrection and our promised one "our work is not in vain."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chandler Cooper

    I was unsure of this throughout the first half - lots I agreed with, but I struggled with the “so what?”. Then, after about 200 pages, it all clicked. This is an excellent book on what Christ’s resurrection means for us in today’s world, how we are called to serve with love and justice in the new creation we are in the midst of. So much great content in here - I can’t wait to reread it knowing the ending, as I know the first chunk will resonate much more.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I gave it a try but could not make it through this one. Wright takes too long to get to his point. Becoming Worldly Saints is a better book, on approximately the same topic. I gave it a try but could not make it through this one. Wright takes too long to get to his point. Becoming Worldly Saints is a better book, on approximately the same topic.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David

    One of the most paradigm - shifting books on Christian theology and living I've read. Wright shatters the incomplete narrative that says the gospel is simply a matter of justification and atonement, and invites the reader to see and believe how it stretches further--so much further, in fact, that it lands in eternity. This eternity, Wright reveals, full of such immense hope, is so poorly understand by the modern church as to be some disembodied, spiritual existence of constant worship. Rather, h One of the most paradigm - shifting books on Christian theology and living I've read. Wright shatters the incomplete narrative that says the gospel is simply a matter of justification and atonement, and invites the reader to see and believe how it stretches further--so much further, in fact, that it lands in eternity. This eternity, Wright reveals, full of such immense hope, is so poorly understand by the modern church as to be some disembodied, spiritual existence of constant worship. Rather, he demonstrates that our hope is in the promised coming of Christ's Kingdom here on Earth--not the same one, but a redeemed one, a remade one, one with ourselves actually in it, redeemed, remade, and resurrected too. Our future is not "up in heaven," but in this New Earth, Earth and heaven and all things as they were meant to be, with all the beauty of work and opportunity for creation that entails. And this, he argues, is the full promise of Christ. Not just salvation FROM sin, but salvation INTO an inheritance and Kingdom and resurrected body. This remaking of us and the world is why Christ came, and this is the story God has been writing and preparing us for since the beginning. It was always so much bigger than us. One of the most helpful things this book accomplishes is its exposure of the far too many habits, practices, and common forms of speaking of the church that distort this truth and dim this hope. In response, Wright calls for vigilant hope - bringing among God's people--affirming our future as resurrected, bodily beings, celebrating and looking forward to the coming renewal of the Earth and even human culture / institutions, and speaking honestly and comprehensively about the Christian gospel as a grander narrative of world-shattering, life-changing hope.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brenton

    This is my second time reading Surprised by Hope, and I think this is a very strong book. I probably would have given it a 5-star rating the first time; it is an important book for me. Wright helps me give voice to what I have been working on and thinking about for a decade or so. The main weakness of this book is that he links a lot of conversations elsewhere that he doesn't fully play out here. He is strongest walking through biblical texts, but he doesn't spend a lot of time on in the texts. Wh This is my second time reading Surprised by Hope, and I think this is a very strong book. I probably would have given it a 5-star rating the first time; it is an important book for me. Wright helps me give voice to what I have been working on and thinking about for a decade or so. The main weakness of this book is that he links a lot of conversations elsewhere that he doesn't fully play out here. He is strongest walking through biblical texts, but he doesn't spend a lot of time on in the texts. While this is not as important as his foundational biblical-theological works, it is an excellent volume for those interested in the topic.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kaley

    A truly transformative book. I had to digest this book slowly, a chapter a day, to soak in all of the richness of N.T Wright's writing on how to truly understand the hope of a Christian (hint: it's not being whisked to heaven when we die) and the way we get to participate in the kingdom of God/heaven right now. The perfect book to read leading up to Easter! A truly transformative book. I had to digest this book slowly, a chapter a day, to soak in all of the richness of N.T Wright's writing on how to truly understand the hope of a Christian (hint: it's not being whisked to heaven when we die) and the way we get to participate in the kingdom of God/heaven right now. The perfect book to read leading up to Easter!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Jorgensen

    Amazing. The best one-book summary on hope and the resurrection. Any minor disagreements I have with Wright are drastically overshadowed by the watershed and momentous work in identifying the biblical thrust of hope and the western church's negligence of it. Amazing. The best one-book summary on hope and the resurrection. Any minor disagreements I have with Wright are drastically overshadowed by the watershed and momentous work in identifying the biblical thrust of hope and the western church's negligence of it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ricky Balas

    A very good, food for thought read that challenges your preconceived beliefs and makes you question "how did I come to believe that and were my beliefs grounded in scripture?" N.T. Wright at his best. A very good, food for thought read that challenges your preconceived beliefs and makes you question "how did I come to believe that and were my beliefs grounded in scripture?" N.T. Wright at his best.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Surprised by Hope might be the best book by N. T. Wright that I've read yet. It does an excellent job of communicating a biblical eschatology that takes seriously the Bible's teachings on the bodily resurrection and the new heavens and earth. It not only consists of sound exegesis and theology but is also challenging and exciting in its summary of how this should affect our everyday lives. This is really a book that all Protestants, especially ones involved in ministry, need to read. Surprised by Hope might be the best book by N. T. Wright that I've read yet. It does an excellent job of communicating a biblical eschatology that takes seriously the Bible's teachings on the bodily resurrection and the new heavens and earth. It not only consists of sound exegesis and theology but is also challenging and exciting in its summary of how this should affect our everyday lives. This is really a book that all Protestants, especially ones involved in ministry, need to read.

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