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Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church Hardcover – February 5, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

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 learned-an 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.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, shares the strong current interest in Christian beginnings evidenced by the historical Jesus quest but points to faith, more than practice, more than dogma, as what most differentiates early from later Christians. Early Christians had faith in the Resurrection, that is, not only that Jesus rose from the dead in a new body but that they (indeed, everyone) would also rise from death in new bodies and into a new creation, not different but fulfilled, in which all would live fully and never die. That is what Christian hope consists in, and not in an afterlife in a distant heaven or hell, both of which domains are largely medieval fabrications popularized by a Florentine satirist, Dante. After explaining why we ought to believe objectively in Jesus’ literal resurrection, Wright argues that in his ministry resurrection is called the first fruits of the new creation because it demonstrated that the conditions of the new creation could be realized, however imperfectly, in the old, and by human agency. In the long run, Christian hope empowers and enjoins Christians to heal humanity and nature now, not to participate in general degradation through war, greed, and pollution. --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061551821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061551826
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

N.T. WRIGHT is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world's leading Bible scholars. He is now serving as the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. For twenty years he taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities. As being both one of the world's leading Bible scholars and a popular author, he has been featured on ABC News, Dateline, The Colbert Report, and Fresh Air. His award-winning books include The Case for the Psalms, How God Became King, Simply Jesus, After You Believe, Surprised by Hope, Simply Christian, Scripture and the Authority of God, The Meaning of Jesus (co-authored with Marcus Borg), as well as being the translator for The Kingdom New Testament. He also wrote the impressive Christian Origins and the Question of God series, including The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God and most recently, Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

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Customer Reviews

Read the book and do the study.
Tim
Surprised by Hope continues NT Wrights well founded theology well rooted in Scripture and a must read for those studying Christian Apologetics.
J. Johnian
In this work Wright emphasizes the hope of new creation through resurrection.
Erin J.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

210 of 216 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Pedrone VINE VOICE on March 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
N.T. Wright has written another brilliant work echoing he previously published masterpiece on the resurrection. Wright's expounds on a Christian hope firmly rooted in the Biblical narrative that longs for new creation.

In a world where the radio orthodoxy of Christianity espouses a gospel of fire insurance, Wright correctly and articulates a gospel and hope for so much more than disembodied bliss. "God's Kingdom in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God's sovereign rule coming on earth as it is in heaven".

Our hope according to Wright is not "going to heaven when you die" but rather in life after life after death. We hope not for an escape from this earth, but to the glorious day when God will make all things new.

Readers of this book may find the lack of eschatological certainty within the book frustrating. In a Christian sub-culture where end-times charts and elaborate explanations of the book of Revelation are the norm, Wright is careful to show that Christian eschatology is not about a certitude of specific events yet to come, but rather a hope for a renewed earth. Eschatology must be viewed as sign posts guiding our way through a fog rather than a detailed map.

Wright's comments in chapter 12 on the meaning of salvation are worth the price of the book, and his restatement of the doctrine of hell in chapter 11 is worth twice the price of the book. How we view the gospel, and the death and resurrection of Jesus greatly determines how our definition and the outworking of salvation.

In short, this is N.T. Wright at his best. A foremost expert on the resurrection of Jesus and the implications of Christ's defeat of death on eschatology and future hope, Wright has given us a clear, readable, and deeply Biblical picture of Christian hope.
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264 of 279 people found the following review helpful By A. Blake White on April 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wright states in the preface, "Most people, in my experience-including many Christan's-don't know what the ultimate Christian hope really is. Most people-again, sadly, including many Christians-don't expect Christians to have much to say about hope within the present world" (xi). Wright's aim in this book is to do his part to straighten this out.

Chapter 1 sets the scene by describing the broader world's confusion about hope, then describes three popular views about the afterlife in the world: annihilation, reincarnation, and ghosts and the possibility of spiritualistic contact with the dead (new age stuff).

Chapter 2 describes the reigning confusion about hope in the church, which has oscillated between seeing death as a vile enemy or a welcome friend. Wright blames Platonism's influence on the Christian faith for much of the confusion and reason why so many value the soul over the body. He is concerned that not many Christians understand biblical hope, and rarely think about it, much less live in light of it. The biblical vision of "heaven" is not souls flying off to a spiritual domain but resurrected bodies reigning with Christ on the new heavens and new earth. He then lays out the effects of the confusion in our hymns (the ultimate vision is not us going home up there but Christ coming here), our celebration of the Christian year (Easter should be celebrated more than Christmas), and funerals. The wider implications of our confusion about the future have to do with how we live here and now, and the way we look at earth and our actions here. If one thinks God is going to destroy this universe, why care about it now?
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Format: Hardcover
Friends call him "Tom" -- and, at this point, Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright has friends around the world, eagerly looking for his next visit and his next book. There's an air of C.S. Lewis about the bishop of Durham.

Nearly a decade ago, he became a sensation among American journalists for touring the country with Marcus Borg, the two of them cast as a pair of dueling Bible scholars and co-authors of a still very popular book, "The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions." What drew headlines coast to coast was that, in each city along their tour, the crowds were larger than anyone envisioned. I recall reporting on this myself, double checking to make sure the claims were true -- that thousands of people, rather than hundreds, were hungry to hear truly gifted scholars debate details of Jesus' life and ministry.

That year, Borg played the provocateur, skeptical about many traditional claims concerning Jesus. However, since that time, Borg's own path has veered right into what he calls "The Heart of Christianity" and his recent books are read by thousands of regular churchgoers across the U.S.

That year, Tom Wright played what I can best describe as the C.S. Lewis role. In many of Tom's books, he even writes in Lewis' nuts-and-bolts voice and measured cadence. Many Americans may have forgotten the role Lewis played as a Christian titan in the popular media of his era. In his heyday, before "The Chronicles of Narnia" eclipsed everything else he wrote, Lewis was famous as "a Christian apologist," meaning that he'd go anywhere and stand toe to toe with anyone to defend his orthodox view of the faith.
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