Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Review: Surprised by Hope

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright

Before I get into any longwinded discussion of N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, let me just say that it’s absolutely amazing. I picked this book up and could hardly put it down, its presentation of Christian doctrine is incredible and for many it will be revolutionary (though it is really the historic understanding of things). Get this book, read it, then give it to your friends so they can read it. Don’t just take my word for it either, Dallas Willard, Rob Bell and Richard Foster all praise the book, and their recommendation should carry a bit more weight than mine I think. Now, on to why I think this book is so incredible.

I picked up Surprised by Hope while visiting Regent College, the seminary in Canada where I hope to do my masters education. I’d been given a $25 gift card by the college, and was looking around the store for something to pick, finding myself quite overwhelmed by the sheer quality and quantity of books available. One of the concepts which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, has been the importance of embodiment, specifically as it relates to the biblical and historic conception of the afterlife. Thus, when asked if I needed help finding anything, I asked to see if they had any books on that subject, and I was immediately taken to several (the man knew what I meant and knew where to find it without looking it up, is that cool or what?). As I said, there were several, but in the end I decided to pick up Surprised by Hope, and as you already know I was not disappointed.

The book is subtitled Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, and it addresses the true biblical hope for our futures, the significance of the bodily resurrection of Christ and how these two things relate to the mission of the church in the world today. This is a book bursting with hope, and filled with the message that our lives as Christians have deep significance in the here and now. The book addresses many of the false ideas that have grown up in Western civilization about the biblical understanding of human nature and the afterlife, and seeks to recover the historical understanding of these things, which as Dallas Willard says “uniquely meets the challenge facing the Church by recovering the original, radical understanding of resurrection, salvation and the Good news of life now in the Kingdom of God.”

If I have one criticism of the book, it’s that I don’t think Wright is quite emphatic enough in emphasizing that building for the Kingdom must not take the form of a Theocracy. Mind you, he says this, but I just wish he’d made it more clear.

Anyway, as I said, read this book, and hopefully it will change your reading of the Bible, and also your life.