Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Surprised by Hope 1

We begin a series today with N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope::Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. For more than a decade or so Bishop Tom Wright has been making comments, dropping suggestions, and prompting the curiosity of his many readers about what he thinks about “heaven.” Now he comes forth with a book that I think may well be one of Tom’s most significant books ever.
Tom, as many of you know, has written the best book we now have on the resurrection (Resurrection of the Son of God) and one its highlights is its exploration of a theology of resurrection instead of just focusing on proving the resurrection. Now, out of that spade work of history and exegesis Tom turns toward the Church’s theology of resurrection and its significance for life and mission. This is the proper order, and it gives the book in this series an integrity not all books have.
The overemphasis of evangelical Christians and both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox on “heaven” as well as the evangelical obsession with things like the rapture have led now to a vaccuum of solid thinking on what the Bible says about the future, about life after death, about resurrection and about how a biblical hopes shapes how we live now. How often are you hearing a biblical message of hope, a biblical study of resurrection, etc, in your community of faith? How often is it nearly always tied to “going to heaven”? Is a hope for our immediate future wishful thinking or is it profoundly biblical?
Today I want to give a sketch of the book and then offer a few reflections on chp 1. The book has three parts: setting the scene, God’s future plans, and Hope in practice. The first part sketches what folks think today and three chps on what resurrection and the after life is all about in the Christian tradition. Part two deals with the cosmic scope of biblical hope before it turns to personal hope. Part three deals with how hope shapes Christian mission. If this doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will.
Two questions shape this book: First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? And, second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present? Wright knows that many think it is all about going to heaven that, therefore, the second question doesn’t really matter. This is profoundly unbiblical and this book is dedicated to exposing why. “But if the Christian hope is for God’s new creation, for ‘new heavens and new earth,’ and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together” (5). He’s right.
There is confusion everywhere. To begin with, the world’s religions aren’t remotely similar when it comes to future hope. Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Buddhists and Christians. Three views shape much of what goes in the world today:
1. Annihilation.
2. Reincarnation in all kinds of forms and shapes. New Age-ish stuff mentioned here.
3. Spiritualism.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 4:04 am

I have been waiting for your posts on this book since i read that you would do a series of posts on the book. The question about what biblical hope really meant has constantly been on my mind sice last year.
I would have to say that what N T Wright writes about concerning the ressurection has indeed charted my course away from just understanding Christian hope with “going to heaven when i die”. Not that i deny that but i would not say that it is the ultimate hope that christians have.
The view that Wright actually gives makes more sense, on ressurection and ‘new heaven and new earth’. For most of my christian understanding before, i must admit the version of christian hope was after life, that when we die we leave this life and go to heaven. But after reading Wright i saw that this thinking has more ties with gnosticism and hope of other religions (not exactly biblical or christian). If resurrection is to be resurrection it has to be bodily and it has to do with new creation.
But i have yet to find people with an openness to seeing it this way at the moment. Someone even said that i was thinking like those people in Jehova’s witness.
But anyway i’m looking forward on your proceeding posts on the book. I’m currently reading your book “Embracing Grace” after finishing “Jesus Creed”. I have to say that I’m relearning new things and restructuring my beliefs. God bless.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 7:42 am

Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Monday Highlights

[…] Hope and eschaton, a book reading begun by Scot McNight. […]

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posted January 21, 2008 at 9:16 am

I am really looking forward to this series!

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posted January 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

Looking forward to hearing more about this!

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Bob Brague

posted January 21, 2008 at 9:40 am

I notice the similarity between Wright’s title, Surprised By Hope and C. S. Lewis’s title, Surprised By Joy. Is one a prerequisite for the other? Which comes first? Does hope lead to joy, or does joy lead to hope> Or do both occur together? Now, or at some future time?
The whole of Romans chapter 8 is instructive here, especially verse 24: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” and also verse 5: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”
I look forward to studying this book with you.

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Tim Miller

posted January 21, 2008 at 9:46 am

Bishop N.T. Wright is someone who takes a lot of heat from Reformed circles. Oddly enough though, it seems that they are the ones who end up yelling “tradition!” while he quietly entreats, “Ad fontes.”
He’s the most articulate and scholarly Christian of which I’m currently aware. Even when you end up disagreeing with him, you benefit from the conversation.
Looking forward to the posts; God bless!

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posted January 21, 2008 at 10:06 am

I am eagerly waiting for the rest. I think it would be right even if I say that I left the gnostic camp and joined the Christian camp after I listened to N T Wright.

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Stephen Mook

posted January 21, 2008 at 10:40 am

Does anyone besides Scot have a copy? I saw on Amazon that it was coming out in two weeks or so.

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Scot McKnight

posted January 21, 2008 at 10:49 am

Mooker, I should have said that: I’m using an Advance Copy sent to me.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 10:58 am

Ah – a hook to get us to purchase.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 11:02 am

Ha ha. I agree RSJ. I just pre-orderd mine awhile ago!

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William Cheriegate

posted January 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

Another gem from our favorite Bishop, looking forward to it. Tom Wright has often articulated what I believe it’s the best hope there is for pursuing the christian life and following Jesus.
On the controversies related to Reformed Theology, Travis Tamarius’ 2002 article remains an excellent source for understanding the supposed controveries, a copy of it is here:

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William Cheriegate

posted January 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Travis’ article is here:

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Stephen Mook

posted January 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Those advance copies must be nice!

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Dana Ames

posted January 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm

William, that is an excellent article. Thanks.

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Michelle Van Loon

posted January 21, 2008 at 4:04 pm

A lot of us have ideas and powerful images about heaven that we’ve learned through Christian-subculture osmosis, not from the Bible. (Where is this subculture getting its ideas from, if not from the Bible?)
I’m looking forward to checking out this book, too.

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Chris C

posted January 21, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Look forward to seeing where this goes. I remain frustrated by the mire of the 20th century dualism – either Christian hope meaning escape from the world to Heaven, or meaning dismissing talk of resurrection/heaven as opiate for the masses and work to transform the world today. I keep looking for people who are pre or post Liberal/Conservative that can help me sort through the Christian sub-culture osmosis/brainwashing that Michelle mentions. Thanks.

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Jim Martin

posted January 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm

This sounds like a fascinating book. I look forward to your review and to the discussion. Thanks.

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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted January 22, 2008 at 12:11 am

Hi Scot,
I’ll be interested to hear if the book has any significant new material that hasn’t already been covered by his recent speaking engagements – like the one in Roanoke.

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posted January 22, 2008 at 12:15 am

I have not yet read this book by Bishop Wright. However, I have read his book “Resurrection and the Son of God” and a half dozen or so other books by Wright.
Personally, I think that Wright’s vision for the Christian’s hope is very refreshing and tangible. It enables me to see the kingdom, think of Jesus as a real, historical figure, and feel like I can really join into a revolution that was started 2000 years ago.
Looking forward to getting my copy of “Surprised by Hope” and gobbling it up …

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