I just finished N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperOne 2008). Here is my review in two (very long) sentences:
I found the book helpful in that:
(1) it highlights the uniqueness of early Christian belief in the resurrection over and against more general understandings of the afterlife among first century Jews and Pagans (chapter 3) and contemporary Christians and skeptics (chapter 5);
(2) it captures a holistic understanding of salvation, God’s concern for the material world He has made, and the unity of creation-fall-redemption in Scripture (e.g., p. 96: “redemption doesn’t mean scrapping what’s there and starting again from a clean slate but rather liberating what has come to be enslaved”);
(3) Wright demonstrates how Jesus’ bodily ascension affects our understanding of heaven and the world, similar to my quote of Torrance below (chapter 7);
(4) the book deconstructs some false notions about the second coming and makes a good case for it as “appearance” (Colossians 3:4, I John 2:28, 3:2, chapter 8);
(5) it has some great stuff on how earth and heaven in Revelation 21-22 are united on the Last Day like a man and woman are married on their wedding day (pp. 104-108).
I found the book not as helpful in that:
(1) chapter 9 presents Christ’s coming in judgment as a good and happy event for the world, but never discusses the need for personal faith and repentance so that individuals can be rescued from that judgment, without which it is very not good;
(2) the view of salvation Wright offers seems reductionistic in that it sets our future bodily resurrection over and against our current relationship with God, especially in its legal aspect (e.g., p. 196), which is a false dichotomy because salvation in the New Testament is both resurrection and justification (among other things);
(3) the book conceives of sin too much, in my opinion, in horizontal categories like genocide, nuclear bombs, racism (important as those are) and not enough in vertical categories, as an affront to a Holy God (cf. pp. 179-180 for an example);
(4) the book at times over-reacts against popular stereotypes and caricatures them (e.g., his constant objections to evangelical language about “going to heaven when you die,” and hymns which speak like this);
(5) Wright explicates the gospel only in terms of “Jesus is Lord” and not “Jesus died for our sins” (p. 227) – I’m grateful Jesus is Lord, but without forgiveness of sin via substitutionary atonement on the cross, his Lordship is terrible news to me when I die and give an account of my life to God.