Item description for Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright...
Overview Offers a reinterpretation of biblical teaching on what happens after death, arguing that literal bodily resurrection is at the heart of Christianity and exploring the implications of this for the church's work in the world.
For years Christians have been asking, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?" It turns out that many believers have been giving the wrong answer. It is not heaven.
Award-winning author N. T. Wright outlines the present confusion about a Christian's future hope and shows how it is deeply intertwined with how we live today. Wright, who is one of today's premier Bible scholars, asserts that Christianity's most distinctive idea is bodily resurrection. He provides a magisterial defense for a literal resurrection of Jesus and shows how this became the cornerstone for the Christian community's hope in the bodily resurrection of all people at the end of the age. Wright then explores our expectation of "new heavens and a new earth," revealing what happens to the dead until then and what will happen with the "second coming" of Jesus. For many, including many Christians, all this will come as a great surprise.
Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation--and if this has already begun in Jesus's resurrection--the church cannot stop at "saving souls" but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God's kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.
Lively and accessible, this book will surprise and excite all who are interested in the meaning of life, not only after death but before it.
From Publishers Weekly Wright, one of the greatest, and certainly most prolific, Bible scholars in the world, will touch a nerve with this book. What happens when we die? How should we think about heaven, hell, purgatory and eternal life? Wright critiques the views of heaven that have become regnant in Western culture, especially the assumption of the continuance of the soul after death in a sort of blissful non-bodily existence. This is simply not Christian teaching, Wright insists. The New Testament's clear witness is to the resurrection of the body, not the migration of the soul. And not right away, but only when Jesus returns in judgment and glory. The "paradise," the experience of being "with Christ" spoken of occasionally in the scriptures, is a period of waiting for this return. But Christian teaching of life after death should really be an emphasis on "life after life after death"the resurrection of the body, which is also the ground for all faithful political action, as the last part of this book argues. Wright's prose is as accessible as it is learnedan increasingly rare combination. No one can doubt his erudition or the greatness of the churchmanship of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. One wonders, however, at the regular citation of his own previous work. And no other scholar can get away so cleanly with continuing to propagate the "hellenization thesis," by which the early church is eventually polluted by contaminating Greek philosophical influence. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Awards and Recognitions Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright has received the following awards and recognitions -
Book of the Year - 2009 Winner - Book of the Year category
Christianity Today Book Award - 2009 Award of Merit - Theology/Ethics category
Citations And Professional Reviews Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 106
Booklist - 02/15/2008 page 16
Christianity Today - 04/01/2008 page 36
Library Journal - 05/01/2008 page 72
Newsweek - 05/05/2008 page 20
Christian Century - 05/15/2008 page 36
Christianity Today - 06/01/2009 page 57
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 6.5" Height: 9.25" Weight: 1.3 lbs.
Release Date Feb 5, 2008
Publisher Zondervan Publishing
ISBN 0061551821 ISBN13 9780061551826
Availability 0 units.
More About N. T. Wright
Born in 1948 in Northumberland, England, N.T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham. He was formerly Dean of Lichfield and lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University as well as fellow, tutor, and chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford. He has also served as professor of New Testament language and literature in various colleges and universities. With doctorates in divinity and in philosophy from the University of Oxford, N. T. Wright is a member of the Society for New Testament Studies, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, and the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars. He has published more than 40 works at both scholarly and popular levels related to New Testament studies, especially on the origins of Christianity and Biblical Christology.
N. T. Wright has an academic affiliation as follows - Worcester College, Oxford.
N. T. Wright has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Surprised By Hope?
One of the best things you'll ever read May 6, 2010
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.
Not Too Surprised... Mar 29, 2010
This is the first book that I have read by Dr. Wright, it most likely will not be the last. While there is nothing startling or even overly new contained within the pages, the writing style is excellent and therefore enjoyable reading. Dr. Wright clearly presents the misconceptions held by many that we will someday spend eternity sitting around on clouds strumming harps with little else to do than float. While we may have some rest time, the Scripture certainly does not paint such a picture of our next life. The Apostle Paul states that we will, "judge angels" and we will be "reigning" with Christ doing something. While it is not altogether clear all that we will be doing, we will not be simply idle. Dr. Wright is an excellent thinker and if you want to be encouraged and perhaps stretched to ponder some more traditional ways of viewing heaven, then this book is for you. It is a shame that a book like this even has to be written because it reflects how far removed Christianity really is from the Biblical viewpoint. For that reason alone, this book is worth the price. Dr. Wright is careful to distinguish between what is clearly revealed in Scripture, and what is his conjuncture and for that I am grateful. Many writers of his stature often mistake these two differences. I would recommend this book for anyone that would like to think, be encouraged about what comes after this life, and how the current Church needs to retrain their mission.
Jeffrey A. Klick, Ph.D.
"...because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!" Mar 4, 2010
To be honest, I have shied away from N.T. Wright for some time, having heard talk of tension and controversy. But browsing in my local library, I decided to take the plunge. Once again, I am happy I did! N.T. Wright does exactly what he intends: stand the hope of bodily resurrection and the new creation before his readers and ask where that hope leads us. Though Wright seems to think he will be met with controversy for this statement of hope, I found myself in general agreement, almost amazed that his view needed defending within the church!
Surprised By Hope is written as a corrective against "popular" Christian thought on heaven, the "afterlife", our mission and our place in the world. Wright shows with great clarity that our hope for the future is not in a distant heaven, but in a new creation. He declares again and again the goodness of God's creation, which though marred, he intends to restore and remake. He calls us to a life of action, that sees every Christlike deed as an act of building for the kingdom, something that will last, and not be wasted. Thus, rather than being highly cerebral, Wright tries at every turn to remind the reader that what he is saying has implications for the here and now.
Heaven and paradise, hell, purgatory - all are covered in his attempt to elucidate eschatology for the reader. Purgatory is rejected powerfully. Hell is handled with some kid gloves. And heaven and paradise are described in depth as the temporary residence on the road to resurrection for those who are part of the new creation. Some within his own tradition may find his handling of these three startling. I did not. However, I know there are many in my own local body who would be much more taken aback. In the end, the new creation, the merger of heaven and earth once sin and death are once and for all dealt with in full (Christ's resurrection a precursor to this) provide the backdrop for this and the rest of the book.
This is not about just reshaping Christian teaching so that it can match up better, so that our eulogies and funerary practices are more in line with scripture. It is about responding to the new creation initiated within us by the bodily resurrection of Jesus himself. While we will not remake the world into some idyllic Garden by our own action, we will bring God no glory, and will have quite missed God's point, if we get caught up in a "ticket to heaven" mentality and fail to live and grow as his new creation. Thus he will likely alienate those on both sides of the theological and political spectrum. The book is a call to be about more than just what is "spiritual", while not drifting away into a social gospel that is detached from the power of a risen savior:
"...the task of the church between ascension and parousia is therefore set free both from self-driven energy that imagines it has to build God's kingdom all by itself and from the despair that supposes it can't do anything until Jesus comes again. We do not "build the kingdom" all by ourselves, but we do build for the kingdom. Al that we do in faith, hope, and love in the present, in obedience to our ascended Lord and in the power of his Spirit, will be enhanced and transformed at his appearing (p. 143)..."
Wright makes many attempts at lightening the mood through humor (e.g. p. 207),and though not always accomplishing his objective, the intent is appreciated. In general, I found the tone of the entire book to be patient, allowing for questions as they might arise, yet unyielding and definitive when it came to the gospel. While coming from an entirely different tradition than my own, I felt like I was hearing a message from a long-time friend, one who felt comfortable pointing out misdirection knowing it would be received in love. Wright comes across as an authority, grasping the biblical data and able to handle it with great dexterity, and not just a scholar with an axe to grind. There is some disjointedness and repetition, due to the fact that this book is the collection and reworking of a number of lectures given by the author. But I did not find this a major distraction.
While there is much I agree with Wright in this book, there were a number of things that left me in a mood for quibbling. On page 216 (and then scattered, deliberately placed references throughout) he describes his intent to record his "conviction that [Third World debt remission] is the number one moral issue of our day." While it is his book, and he can freely record his conviction in whatever he sees fit, I know not nearly enough about the subject to either support or argue with him on the matter. I expect he intends it as an example of where our understanding of the new creation already begun should have real actionable results in the now, but without more discussion of why this example is fitting, I would have to say it is a failure to get his point across. It instead invites argument and debate.
Where he discusses the sacraments, especially the Eucharist in pages 273-276, I was unimpressed by the vague wording used. Though I see him aiming at redirecting us from understanding Communion as symbol-only, towards an actual, though "new creation", partaking of Christ, I don't think this was necessary or beneficial to the overall flow of the text. Once again, though it is related to the topic, his own particular view on the matter may cause more friction in getting the major theme of the book across since it is clearly much harder to swallow and not foundational to the topic (my opinion, of course).
I find myself in disagreement with Wright that, "during his earthly ministry Jesus said nothing about his return." (p. 125). While he does raise some interesting points, I am simply not convinced by his argument. His point is not to question the truth of the Christian claim of Jesus' return (as he makes very clear), but the idea that Jesus himself taught that he would. To be fair, his argument (p. 128) attempts to put Jesus' own statement regarding the "Son of Man" in the "proper" context of Daniel 7 and messianic expectation, and should be given some careful consideration before moving on. As well, his comments on parousia and royal presence are helpful to the overall flow of the book even if one does disagree with his original contention about Jesus' own teaching.
In discussing the destiny of those who are not a part of the "new creation" (pp. 182-183), discussing hell, he is by his own admission rather speculative. I'd have to say his speculations didn't help clarify anything for me. But such is the way with speculations, and his approach was certainly not combative in this instance.
A final point of interest, which at first I found a tedious stretch, was his noting that Jesus is mistaken for a gardener at the tomb. To Wright, this takes on nuance and meaning as Christ is the new Adam, the tender of God's creation (p. 210). And while I slightly rolled my eyes when I first read this comment (which was not the only mention of the idea), and am still rather guarded about putting much faith or credence in it, it is interesting. Wouldn't it be just like God - one more time to try to get his message across.
The book was very enjoyable to read, and its subject matter is essential for a proper view of our mission and God's purposes. It was handled by Wright in a slightly defensive way, but the defense is artfully as well as passionately given.
A good book Feb 8, 2010
This was my first NT wright book and it was good. It puts forth a very biblical idea of heaven and the like. It touches on the resurrection far more than I have every heard and which should be heard in many of out churches today.
Lively Theology, Deadly Economics Jan 27, 2010
Right now somebody I know is having their body grossly manipulated by chemotherapy. In thinking about their suffering I remembered someone once telling me that, as Christians, we can look forward to a new body, one free of the disease and injury that we accumulate on earth. What comfort that is. However, I can't seem to remember hearing much about our "new" bodies in recent years. So, I set about looking for some edification on this matter. Wright's book provides just that. For whatever reasons, many Christians have forgotten the most hopeful and exciting expectation in our faith, that of a bodily resurrection similar to Christ's. In Parts I and II of his book Wright examines Scripture and early Church thoughts on the resurrection of the believer and leaves very little doubt as to the orthodoxy of the idea.
The implications of bodily resurrection are profound and complicated. Wright deals with these implications in Part III. I chose not to finish reading Part III because I found myself is such disagreement with Wright's discussion of economic phenomena early on in Part III. I recommend this book, so please do not let my following critique dissuade anybody from reading the book.
A few quotes from Wright:
"As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world... (pp 216)"
"Whatever it takes, we must change this situation or stand condemned by subsequent history alongside those who supported the Nazis seventy years ago. It's that serious. (pp 217)"
"...reading the collected works of F.A. Hayek in a comfortable chair in North America doesn't address the moral questions of the twenty first century. (pp 218-219)"
Early in the book Wright notes that late 19th century memes like The Enlightenment and evolution were unable to prevent of the atrocities of WW1, the Gulag, and Auschwitz. All this scientific progress and personal liberation and we still managed to create hell on earth. I agree with him. I do wish he'd focused more on the Gulag, Maoist China and Pol Pot's Cambodia; that is, more focus on communist atrocities.
It has been estimated that communist governments have killed more people in the 20th century than were killed in all wars during this period. Both communist Russia and China may be responsible for over 40 million deaths each. (See [...]) One of the sentiments of communism is an appeal to end the "economic imbalance of the world" by "whatever it takes." Thus far it has taken close to 100 million human lives.
His discussion of economics is void of the care he uses in his theological logic. Sometimes, his insinuations are odd and inaccurate. For example, he decries third world debt as the worst symptom of the world's "economic imbalance" and then anticipates his opponents appealing to F.A. Hayek to justify this evil capitalistic situation. Well, Hayek would not justify third world debt, as he would see it as capital confiscated by taxation which was then lent by one government to another government. Third world debt is not a phenomenon of free markets; it is a product of statist socialism.
I do wish Wright would reconsider what he thinks are the most pressing political problems of the day, thus the mission of the church. He is guilty of attacking caricatures of free markets, just like his atheist opponents attack caricatures of Christianity. He is also remotely sympathetic to sentiments which were, in large part, responsible for the preventable deaths of millions.