Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Chapter 1)

To this point, this blog has been limited to my thoughts on various books, devotions from various biblical passages, my thoughts on American evangelicalism, and updates about my life. Since I know that people actually read this blog occasionally, I have decided to introduce a new aspect. Instead of reviewing an entire book, I am going to pick one of the books that I am reading and offer up a thought from it for reflection and/or discussion.

The first book about which I want to do this is N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope. If I haven't mentioned it on this blog before, N.T. Wright is my hero. In my opinion, he is the premier New Testament scholar today. He is a brilliant communicator and has superb research and analysis skills. I like British biblical scholarship better than American because Americans try to get cutesy and creative, while the Brits are more realistic and, in my opinion, relevant. (There are some notable exceptions to this blanket condemnation of American scholarship. Further, in a lot of ways American evangelical scholarship is ahead of mainstream American scholarship in that evangelicals take seriously things like authorial intent and external evidence.)

I like Wright's book already. It has two major themes: eschatology and politics. What do we believe will happen in the future? How should that affect what we do today? I love those questions. So, here is the thought from chapter 1.

"This book addresses two questions that have often been dealt with entirely separately but that, I passionately believe, belong tightly together. First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present? And the main answer can be put like this. As long as we see Christian hope in terms of 'going to heaven,' of a salvation that is essentially away from this world, the two questions are bound to appear as unrelated. Indeed, some insist angrily that to ask the second one at all is to ignore the first one, which is the really important one. This in turn makes some others get angry when people talk about resurrection, as if this might draw attention away from the really important and pressing matters of contemporary social concern. 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. And if that is so, we find that answering the one is also answering the other." (N.T. Wright, Surprised by the Voice of Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church [New York: Harper One, 2008], 5.

The Left Behind, Dispensationalist eschatology gets hated on by a lot of contemporary authors (Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, for instance). Is this justified? Does the "escape" mentality keep us from social consciousness?


APBarger said...

Great blog! As I read it I appreciate your viewpoints and insights into scriptures. Keep it up!
By the way, I noticed you are reading the World is Flat. Let me know what you think. In general, I like Friedmans stuff. Check out the Lexus and the Olive Tree for some great religion parallels.

Matt said...

Thanks Adam!

Yeah, I am reading the World is Flat. However, I do not anticipate finishing it any time soon. It is long and I don't get to it very often. It's a great book, though. I've already used it in a sermon illustration.