84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recovering a deeper understanding of the Christian hope
What are we waiting for? And what are we going to do about it in the meantime? These are the big questions Tom Wright asks right at the start of this wide-ranging examination of the classic Christian concept of hope. Characteristically thorough, but nevertheless crystal-clear throughout, Wright's book takes a critical look at an idea that, for Christians as much as for...
Published on 3 May 2008 by Jeremy Bevan
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long winded!
The actual book didn't live up to my expectations having read the information on the back of the book. I felt it was rather wordy, a bit boring, and drawn out at times, and I'm sure that it could have been condensed into fewer pages. If I hadn't wanted to finish it to join in the discussion at a church book group, I would probably have skimmed more! However, I do think...
Published on 3 Feb 2012 by A. Roberts
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recovering a deeper understanding of the Christian hope,
What are we waiting for? And what are we going to do about it in the meantime? These are the big questions Tom Wright asks right at the start of this wide-ranging examination of the classic Christian concept of hope. Characteristically thorough, but nevertheless crystal-clear throughout, Wright's book takes a critical look at an idea that, for Christians as much as for anyone else, has become rather `fuzzy'.
But if you thought Christian hope was simply a matter of clocking into heaven when you die (perhaps after a period of dutiful post-death `journeying' - the idea of purgatory being very much in vogue, it seems), Wright may make you think again. Master of the pithy phrase, he draws the reader's attention to "life after `life after death` " - for the ultimate reality is a new heaven and a new earth. And that has massive implications for our lives now: it means we are not `restoring a great painting that's shortly going to be thrown on the fire', or planting roses in a garden about to be bulldozed: what we do now matters for all time and eternity. So we need to take this earth - its beauties, our bodies, justice, God's rule - with the utmost seriousness. And celebrate the person and the event that give it all value and undergird its hope - Jesus and his resurrection. In one of my favourite passages, Wright urges us to celebrate Easter right through to ascension, using the time to take up something new that might help us `wake up in a whole new way' - give us `a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures' - and in doing so bring something of the real meaning of Easter.
The author's exploration of our future hope is carefully grounded in an analysis of what the resurrection meant for early Christians, and how they understood the future of hope - so much more than `heaven when you die'. All this, and a quick tour of (a Wright understanding of) heaven, hell, purgatory and the real meaning of the `rapture'.
`Surprised by hope' is a richly rewarding read - though not without its faults. Wright has much to say about the importance of the created order being redeemed and renewed, but he doesn't give many clear pointers as to what that might mean for us now, or refer us to the growing theological literature that does so. And though his stated aim is to set out some practical ways hope can come alive for individuals or communities that lack it, he concentrates less on the practicalities than on digging some really solid foundations from which they can rise. But these are minor blemishes. What endures from the book? A clear call to build for the kingdom - a job of work that draws on a hope for the present and the future, grounded in a past event of eternal importance. Time to stretch that canvas on a new frame, and bed those roses in...
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very surprised (and gladdened) by hope,
Great book - I love Tom Wright's academic writing style, historically and biblically accurate. Its a pleasure to read something that is so much more than the "fluff" that we are often dished up with regard to christian paperbacks. The topic is something that is dear to my heart in the present post modern culture and the book has given me a surprising amount of hope for the future.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Creation,
Tom Wright sets out to describe his whole world-view in this one book, and he does a good job. If one should sum up the book in one term, "new creation" would probably be very appropriate.
One of the book's weaknesses happens to be one of its strengths as well. You often get the impression that Wright could've written much more on a particular subject, but then he chooses to go on to something else. In this sense, the book deals with a lot of issues, but from a somewhat general perspective. Let it be said that Wright is a man of "the big picture".
I particularly like how he provides a balanced view on the old fight between "saving souls" and "making this world a better place". Wright recognizes that these two ideas are closely connected according to the New Testament. I was very intrigued by the idea that God actually sets out to save the world, not just the people in it. Yet, people are part of what's being saved, and they're part of his way of saving everything and everyone else.
I would encourage all ministers to familiarise themselves with Tom Wright (sometimes called N.T. Wright) and his theological approach to the New Testament. He really is one of the most knowledgable theologians of the 21st century.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Reader's view,
Bishop Wright writes in his inimitable way a book that one has difficulty in putting down. He questions and answers the problems we all have about the Reurrection; however, as one might expect, he leaves a lot to ones own faith, without which we would be failures as Christians. Probably the best bit of the book for me is the last three sections (13 - 15) concerning the mission of the Church and it's future. Many churches are having real difficulty facing up to the problems of falling congregations; Tom Wright provides some well thought out and helpful ways and suggestions as to how we all need to get out there and do as we were bid by Jesus to spread the good news.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks Tom,
This book was bought for me by my spiritual director after the death of my mother. I thought it particularly well written, excellent in contenmt and in challenge. It has done me a great deal of good, and I'm grateful to the author for the strength it has put into me.
I've quoted (and credited) it often.
One particularly helpful insight was regarding the restoration of Peter after Christ's resurrection, and the depth of recognition revealed in the question 'do you love me'.
I'm sure if Tom had written as NT I wouldn't have grasped it properly and guess that in simplifying the material he's opened himself to some criticism from academics.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resurrecting Christianity,
This review is from: Surprised by Hope (Paperback)
Tom Wright has written a remarkable book which re-states the Christian message for the modern world. He has done this, not by deserting the main tenets of Christian belief, but by re-examination of the central principle of hope in Christian thought. His purpose is to bring the beliefs of the early Church to life again and show how those misrepresented beliefs can be applied to re-energise the surprise of the Christian hope, especially with the dying and the dispossessed. In sum his argument is that Christian hope is not a matter of going away from the world into heaven but of applying God's creation in today's world.
Wright argues that many Christians are confused about their own beliefs. He suggests that "a good deal of our current view of death and the life beyond has come from....impulses in the culture which have created at best semi-Christian informal traditions". These require "proper examination in the clear light of scripture". He points out that "the idea that every human possesses an immortal soul, which is the 'real' part of them, finds little support in the Bible." When used in the Bible the word 'soul' conveys the idea of the whole person, the personality, rather than "a disembodied entity hidden within the outer shell of the disposable body." In addition, Wright places the concept of life after death in the context of first century Judaism and beliefs existing in both Greece and Rome.
Anyone looking for the resurrection as myth will be disappointed. Wright has no doubt that the resurrection is historical fact which makes "the strange story of Easter" compelling. Referring to the different accounts of the resurrection Wright, citing the well known incident from 1946 involving Wittgenstein and Popper, writes, "surface discrepancies do not mean that nothing happened." He dismisses the claim that the gospels were written late in the first century and are derived from each other. He draws attention to the role of women, noting that in contemporary terms, they were regarded as unreliable witnesses unlikely to be cited on grounds of credibility. Similarly, the claim that Luke and John were written to combat docetism is undermined by the nature of the resurrection body. "Had the stories been invented towards the end of the first century, they would certainly have included a mention of the final resurrection of all God's people. They don't because they weren't"
Wright utilises a two pronged hypothesis against resurrection deniers. Firstly that Jesus' tomb was empty and secondly that his disciples did encounter him. He points out that Jesus was buried according to Jewish tradition which involved the later collection of the bones of the dead person which did not occur. In addition, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. The tomb itself did not become a shrine and the disciples "were hardly likely to go out and suffer and die for a belief that wasn't firmly anchored in fact." He deals swiftly with those who deny the resurrection happened and gives short shrift to the idea of cognitive dissonance. In doing so he is offering "a historical challenge to other explanations and to the worldviews within which they gain their meaning." In particular, he challenges the claim that because the resurrection was not expected it did not occur. The alternative explanations for the empty tomb have failed and those which still circulate are based on the proposition that dead people don't rise. However, denial of the resurrection, which is based on the skepticism of the Enlightenment, is not a neutral thought, sociologically or politically. It is the expression of a worldview which deliberately excludes the possibility of the resurrection because it challenges the basis of that worldview. In the words of Polly Toynbee, "I don't believe. I don't want to believe."
Wright sets resurrection and life after death in the context of paganism and Judaism. Pagans denied the resurrection, some Jews affirmed it. The ancients were aware of what might loosely be called the spiritual world but that world did not incorporate resurrection which was "a virtual synonym for 'life after death'". Early Christians did not visualise Jesus has having gone to heaven and become divine but shared the Jewish belief that resurrection for all would occur at some future date. When Jesus was crucified the disciples thought their hope had been extinguished. The impact on their belief in resurrection mutated through a variety of forms before becoming associated with messiahship. Wright rejects revisionist claims that early Christians absorbed the idea of resurrection from their surrounding culture and used it to persuade themselves that Jesus had risen from the dead although they knew it wasn't true. Wright argues some Christians have departed from scriptural authority to convenient doctrines such as purgatory and universalism. He classifies these as forms of idolatry. He points out that those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (preferences, practice, histories) and treat others in the same way, while other objects of worship such as power and money show similar characteristics. The Christian purpose is the worship of God and the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God.
Wright shows the idea of a non-material heaven and materialistic earth is a product of Greek philosophy. Since the Enlightenment materialism has been the dominant philosophy, sustained by the myth of progress. Its driving force came from the nineteenth century belief that scientific and economic advances, allied to democratic freedoms and wider education, would result in earthly perfection, as predicted by Owen, Marx and others convinced they could change human nature. Darwinism provided justification for empire. However, the myth of progress cannot explain the existence of evil. "If you move away from materialistic optimism ....without embracing Judaism or Christianity, you are quite likely to land up with some kind of gnosticism" and the conspiracy theories of The Da Vinci Code. There is much more in this splendid book which should be read by all Christians looking to renew their faith. Five stars.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but well worth reading!,
This book was recommended to me by quite a few people. I found the subject matter mentally stretching (frequently), but when I did grasp sections it was a complete revelation, and well worth the struggle.
It introduces concepts which should completely transform our churches if we take them onboard (Champagne breakfasts for 8 days starting from Easter Sunday to make a REAL festival of Easter!)
What is really scary is how folklore, culture and misunderstandings over the years have pulled so many of us away from the reality of the resurrection and what it really means to us in our lives today. Even Christians who spend their whole lives working for God's new creation will benefit from going back to the original understandings and proof of what has the resurrection should mean to us all.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says in the title!,
This review is from: Surprised by Hope: Original, provocative and practical (Kindle Edition)
Tom explains clearly and readably the so-called "New Perspective" on the Christian faith. He reminds readers that the core of the faith is not to be found in misleading hymns and liturgies but in the bible. Tom claims that over recent years Christians have retreated from the challenges of 'God's Kingdom on earth'. Instead they have increasingly concentrated on the comforting but unbiblical idea of 'going to Paradise in heaven when we die and living there forever'. In this challenging and ultimately inpiring book Tom explores in a knowledgeable way the Old Testament foundations of Christianity and the messiahship of Jesus, giving a continuity to the idea of covenant, especially the covenant given to Abraham of blessing the world through his offspring. The closing chapters are a huge and encouraging challenge to Christians to put the idea of 'Kingdom of God on earth' to the test and show this world the Lordship of Christ over the whole world.
Some may find parts of this book disturbing of long-held beliefs, but should not be put off reading to his conclusions.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The after-life and all that comes before it,
It would not be unfair to describe this as a `lite' version of the The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins & the Question of God) (RSG), which Wright published a few years earlier. There was also some additional material included, where he built upon the conclusions reached at the end of RSG. The book is certainly aimed at a wider audience than RSG as Wright tries as hard as possible to say away from technical terminology. As usual, though, his writing style is brilliant, clear and easy to follow. He picks his analogies carefully, and always maintains a pace to keep the reader interested.
His basic thesis is as follows: many christians have muddled beliefs about death, resurrection and the afterlife. This then leads on to a confused idea of how the ideas of life after death relate to ideas of life before death. The book outlines some of the current ideas about these topics and Wright contrasts these with the beliefs of the early church, or what we might consider to be "authentic" christian belief. He demonstrates how some ideas that are commonly assumed to be christian are in fact adopted or adapted from alternative sources.
Having set out his stall with the historic evidence for the resurrection, what the ascension meant and what the earliest christian hope was for "life after life after death" he then moves on to the idea of salvation. The two key questions posed, which I think we all ought to answer, are:
1) What are we saved from?
2) What are we saved for?
Wright's particular answer is framed in terms of creation and new creation. Many christians have been used to the idea that salvation is about the restoration of a broken relationship with God. Wright calls this into question and claims such a worldview has missed the point. Personal salvation is a secondary matter to the restoration of creation.
Following on from this, the final section of the book looks at how this all affects the look of the church. Here, Wright does not shy away from politics. He has criticisms of both the right and left wings of the political spectrum. Probably the most insightful area of this section is when he talks about the "massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt."
The conclusions of the last couple of chapters are not always that insightful or strong. Here, Wright does betray an Anglican bias, particularly with his advocacy of liturgy and other such religious rituals. Other than that, it is an insightful and thought-provoking read; well-written with a razor sharp wit and a well-researched basis.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important ideas, clearly expressed, forcefully argued,
In many ways this book acts as a popular level summary of Wright's recent thinking, and that is both its strength and ultimately also its weakness. The book's big idea is that Jesus' bodily resurrection is not a one off event but rather the forerunner of the general resurrection, and that this is the key which makes sense of a great deal of new testament thinking, in the gospels and the letters and in Revelation. He contends that the loss of belief in the bodily resurrection being replaced by an idea of a non-corporeal heaven has resulted not only in a loss of appropriate hope for christians but also has wider consequences for theology and for how christians live their lives. These are important ideas, clearly expressed and forcefully argued. The book's weaknesses stem from Wright's rather dismissive tone for anyone who does not agree, from their origin as lectures rather than being written as a book and from the constant refrain 'this is a topic that there is not space to explore here'. At 300 pages this is not a short book, but rather perhaps one that attempts to cover too much ground in the space available.
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Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright (Paperback - 23 Sep 2011)