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Surprised by Hope – A Review by Jay Adams

Category Book Reviews
Date January 6, 2009

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

By N. T. Wright
New York: HarperCollins, 2008
352 pp, hardcover
ISBN: 978 0 06155 182 6

Bishop Tom Wright has written a book on the resurrection entitled Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Rejecting Liberalism on the one hand as a failure, and rejecting Fundamentalism on the other as an inadequate (or truncated) understanding of the Gospel, Wright attempts to set forth a middle ground: a doctrine of the Resurrection Life.

For Wright, who spends much time repetitively reiterating what the Resurrection is – a bodily raising of the body of Jesus as the firstfruits and his people as the harvest “” the Resurrection is the sine qua non of the Christian faith. While he offers a surprisingly accurate, and largely helpful, presentation and vigorous defence of the bodily resurrection of Christ, Wright spoils it all in the second half of the book.

This new resurrection life that we now possess in part, he says, should lead us to works such as dealing with the global debt of downtrodden nations. People like Desmond Tutu are held forth as sterling examples of what he has in mind. In a near Marxist non sequitur he jumps from the exposition of biblical truth to a personal agenda that no more flows from his exposition of Scripture than Islam or Hinduism does. With such a staunch defence and presentation of the truth of the Resurrection, it is sad to see the coupling of a viewpoint that he asserts, but never attempts to demonstrate, issues from that doctrine. The jarring disjunction of the two destroys the real value of the material that is presented in the first part. Wright is correct in stating the need for an emphasis upon the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as crucial to all else that Christians believe. The trouble is, he wants to have both the works of liberalism and the truth of orthodoxy at once – a position that his failure to do so demonstrates is impossible to achieve.

From The Journal of Modern Ministry Volume 5, Issue 3, Fall 2008. With permission.

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