Thursday, May 8, 2008

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Chapter 2)

In chapter 2 of Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright argues that most Christians' ideas about heaven and hell are influenced more by popular culture (i.e. Dante's The Divine Comedy) than they are the Scriptures. He writes:

"My own church, the Church of England, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, declares that it finds its doctrine in scripture, tradition, and reason, taken together in their proper blend. I suggest that a good deal of our current view of death and the life beyond has come from none of these but rather from impulses in the culture that created, at best, semi-Christian informal traditions that now need reexamined in the clear light of scripture." (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church [New York: HarperOne, 2008], 27.

For example, Wright quotes the hymn, "How Great Thou Art":

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.

To Wright, the future is not about "taking people home" to another dimension called "heaven," it is about resurrection and re-creation of this world. So, Wright has put out a challenge. Are there any verses that specifically state that our eternity will be spent sitting on clouds with the saints, playing harps and singing, Holy, Holy, Holy? Or is the "kingdom of God," "kingdom of heaven," and "paradise" language about a new creation of this world?

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