Surprised by Hope

I am an unabashed N. T. Wright fan. I think he is one of the most important theologians of our day, and the most entertaining to read and listen to. His book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, is an example of why I say that.

The book seeks to answer two important questions: “What are we waiting for?” and “What are we going to do about it in the meantime?” In other words, are our contemporary ideas about heaven and the afterlife based on Scripture? And what difference do such things make here and now? Wright convincingly argues that most Christians--and churches and pastors as well--believe in something other than what Jesus and the early Christians believed and taught, and consequently cheat themselves of the "hope" of his title. He makes the case for a hope in "life after life after death" and relates that hope to our relationship to the world and our conduct in the world. In doing so, he obliterates popular conceptions of what the word "heaven" means, exposes our faulty (even Gnostic) understanding of "physical" and "spiritual" states of being, reinforces the significance of Jesus' bodily resurrection, and prescribes a cure for both "hollow triumphalism" and "shallow despair."

Some of my favorite lines:
"Heaven is important but it's not the end of the world." 
"A Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self." 
"Resurrection isn't life after death; it is life after life after death." 
"We are saved not as souls but as wholes." 
"The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be a place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise." 
"Jesus's resurrections summons us to dangerous and difficult tasks on earth." 
"In the Bible heaven and earth are made for each other. They are the twin interlocking spheres of God's single created reality."
Like everything I've read by N. T. Wright (and he is so prolific I fear I'll never catch this lifetime), Surprised by Hope is, well, surprising. And hopeful. And compelling. And memorable. And life-altering.

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