Review-ish of N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope"
I mean, I love C. S. Lewis. "Mere Christianity" changed my life. But if I can be a little blasphemous against Lewis, this book is better. It is better at framing a Christian Worldview and the entirety of the Christian life than the above mentioned. It also clears up the murky waters of Death, Dying and the after-life and what Wright wants to call something like "life after death after life." Basically this is a book about the Ultimate Christian hope (Resurrection into New Creation) and how that hope impacts our lives now! These are the types of questions Lewis sometimes missed on.
I have two critiques. (1) I wish there was more scripture actually quoted. I know the verses he alludes to. I know many more that he doesn't. But more is better when you are challenging 200 years of Dispensationalism and 2000 years of Gnosticism. And (2) His ending is a little scattered and weak. I kind of understand why it is that way, but he could have spent another 5 minutes and made it better. Maybe I am wrong...
Anyways, I am going to be posting some of my review, interaction, favorite quotes from the book in a series that will highlight a couple chapters at a time. I will not highlight every chapter, but I will most. I hope you enjoy!
Wright describes events, disasters, cultural practices that bring death, and our beliefs about death, to the forefront of our thoughts. With events like 9/11, WWII, tsunamis, hurricanes and the death of beloved celebrities, we expose that our beliefs vary and are extremely far away from Orthodox Christianity. Wright also gives the thesis statement for his whole book, which he dedicates to answer 2 questions that he finds pertinently linked: "First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present" (p. 5). It is our answer to these orthodoxological questions that will shape other orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the greatest way.
Wright pointedly makes crystal clear that our theology on heaven, resurrection, the soul and the final things may be the most unclear thing about Christianity. That we have such divergent views and he attributes it to what he calls “Folk Theology.” He gives a very fair share of the blame to Platonism, (e.g. the earth is a shadow of the real heaven/forms of which is our destination). Also in this chapter he gives a more thorough overview of the rest of the book then the one sentence thesis statement in Chapter one. One of the assertions that keeps coming forth is the idea the heaven took center stage in our theology somewhere in the 1800’s and possibly before this we had a resurrection theology. As a Wesleyan, I certainly know that Wesley was optimistic about the future and our role in it (much like Wright speaks now), but also Wesley seemed to shy away from these types of things. I wonder why Heaven took the place of resurrection in this time. Plato had been dead some 2000 years. I wonder if science and manifest destiny brought it about. We were conquering the west; we were running out of land to be explored. And possibly the height of the Enlightenment, and subsequently what Durkheim calls the demystification of the known world, caused the Western World to start dreaming. Dreaming not about new lands or unexplained mysteries here, about another place. Certainly this would also explain a rise in Science fiction and the seeming angel worship of the Victorian Era.
Question for you: What is the ultimate Hope of Christianity? If your answer is "Heaven" you need to buy this book because you would be surprised to know that you are probably wrong as I was...