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A Brief History of Heaven Paperback – February 4, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0631233541 ISBN-10: 0631233547 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631233547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631233541
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Christians throughout history have imagined heaven in many diverse ways: a celestial city (sometimes called the "New Jerusalem"); a kingdom where God resides on a throne; a perpetual feast with an abundance of food and drink; a garden of paradise. Heaven has also served different theological purposes as a consolation for earthly suffering, a reward for good works or a promise of reunion with loved ones. After many years of studying Christianity's enormous body of historical literature on heaven, author and theologian McGrath notes at least one common theme that unites all these different visions and purposes: "The Christian concept of heaven is iconic, rather than intellectual-something that makes its appeal to the imagination, rather than the intellect, which calls out to be visualized rather than merely understood." Herein lay the rich possibilities and contemplative pleasures of this historically detailed discussion. McGrath, a professor of historical theology at Oxford University, organizes most of his narrative around the prevailing "visuals" of heaven, and how these have influenced Christian spirituality. After all, he notes, "It is much easier to reflect upon an image than an idea." From the way Christians built churches to the music they wrote for hymnals, the ever-morphing images of heaven have shaped this religion enormously. Though clearly a scholar, McGrath transcends the drone of the academic dissertation, offering an accessible and thorough narrative. Using the rich visual imagery of heaven, McGrath has created a fascinating kaleidoscope for viewing the evolution of Christian worship.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘Alister McGrath invariably combines enormous scholarship with an accessible and engaging style. This book is no exception - a splendid survey of a centrally important subject, covering theology and the arts with equal grace and clarity.’ Dr Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury

"Bringing together literature, theology, politics and the arts, this fascinating book traces the remarkable influence that the idea of heaven has had - and continues to have - on western culture." Publishing News

"It is delightfully lucid and insightful...Recommended for large public libraries as well as academic libraries offering a variety of Christian religious courses." Joyce Smothers, Library Journal

"Though clearly a scholar, McGrath transcends the drone of the academic dissertation, offering an accessible and thorough narrative. Using the rich visual imagery of heaven, McGrath has created a fascinating kaleidoscope for viewing the evolution of Christian worship." Publishers Weekly

"Pick of the week...It's an ambitious, immensely accessible, erudite and entertaining exploration of the way the idea of heaven has been constructed over the centuries." The Saturday Age


More About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
As is sometimes said, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." In a similiar vein, the topic of heaven can be broached from multiples angles. If you take nothing else from Dr. Alister McGrath's book, _A Brief History of Heaven_, you will at the very least learn that the Christian concept of heaven can be thought of in different ways.

_A Brief History of Heaven_ is a unique little book (184 pages) where theology meets the arts. McGrath provides a nice blend of theological reflection on heaven with a mapped development of Christian conceptions of heaven throughout the Church's history. This latter feature often takes the form of rich citations. I personally found these extra-biblical references enriching, not to mention nostalgic. After all, many of the classic works mentioned I had taken in my introductory course to English Literature in first-year university. For example, McGrath draws on authors like Dante Alighieri, John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, John Bunyan, Matthew Arnold, and others, not to mention classic works like _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, _Beowulf_, _Everyman_, etc.

McGrath spends the first two of six chapters discussing perhaps the two primal images of heaven in Christian thought: Heaven as a city (the City of God) and as a garden (Paradise). The reader cannot help but be gripped by the fact that, "...the Christian concept of heaven is iconic, rather than intellectual - something that makes its appeal to the imagination, rather than the intellect, which calls out to be visualized rather than merely understood." (McGrath, 2003, p.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Thompson VINE VOICE on February 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
McGrath tends to meander in this book, but the side trips are interesting too. McGrath quotes theologians, writers and poets throughout the ages to present their views on heaven. It is a short, but very entertaining and challenging read. McGrath, like C. S. Lewis, makes us yearn for heaven and thus, makes our pilgrimage on earth more bearable.
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