Surprised by Hope

N. T. Wright, Harper Collins, 2008, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        The Christian’s hope, says Wright is intertwined with how we live today; Christianity’s most distinctive idea is bodily resurrection. He argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death.

        If G-d intends to renew the whole creation (begun in Jesus’ resurrection), the church cannot stop at ‘saving souls’ but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working in G-d’s kingdom in the wider world. Earth is where G-d’s reign will take place, which is why the new Testament regularly speaks not of our going to be where Jesus is (going to heaven) but of his coming to where we are: earth (p 190).

        Teaching about King Jesus as Lord (G-d’s kingdom) has as its basis the resurrection—not his parable, not his healings, not even his death (p 243). ‘The power of Easter (resurrection) must be put into effect both at the macro level, in applying the gospel to the major problem of the world and to the intimate details of our daily lives’ (p 253). ‘The church that takes sacred space seriously not as a retreat from the world but as a bridge head will go straight from worshipping in the sanctuary to debating in the city council chambers’ (p 265).

        The church must learn the arts of celebration without compromise and of opposition without dualism (p 269). The new creation which Jesus brings to us (not the ‘left behind stuff’ when we leave the creation behind as we are swept into the clouds) will be characterized by justice (p 213), beauty (222) and evangelism (p 223). ‘Precisely because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, G-d’s new world has already broken in to the present’ (p 213).

        A wonderful treatment of the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection for our daily life.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.