Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Surprised by Wright

N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope seems to have raised a few eyebrows in the Church. I'm surprised by the reaction to Wright's work. It's one of those cases where I thought everyone already knew what Wright was writing about, i.e., the importance of the resurrection for Christian faith. After finishing the book soon after its release, I thought to myself, "Well. He's done it again. There's nothing new here. But, because he's such a good writer, this will get some good press."

But, here's the shocker: to much of the reading public, there is much that is new here. In other words, Wright has put his finger on a major theological problem in pop Christianity. It seems that most Christians do have a gnostic view of life after death, that the resurrection of their bodies is a rather offensive idea to their modern sensibilities, and that the common way of talking about heaven as "our final reward" does reveal their preferences for the afterlife (by the way, Eugene Petersen issued the same warning a few years ago in his, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places).

I can't believe it. To test Wright's warning, lately I've been bringing up eschatology in everyday conversation with believers (no, not the left behind variety). It's been amazing how many believers find the biblical idea of a resurrected earth and a resurrected body as bizarre and foreign ideas. When I say, "heaven is not our final reward. It's a halfway house until the last day, when God brings heaven to earth and the grave gives up bodies for resurrection glory." They often say, "Really? I've never heard that before."

All this singing about "When we all get to heaven" has messed up our theology more than I realized.

Be careful little mouths what you sing.


Andrew Walker said...

Whoa, Dr. Reeves is blogging again?! I think its been an entire year since the last post. Nonetheless, its great to read what's on your mind.

Don't know if you knew that Wright was on the Colbert Report. Here is the address:


JD & Jen said...

yay for a new post!

totally agree with ya. last year when i was working with a youth group, we would talk about eschatology everyonce in a while. i warned them of the dangers of left behind and everything that american christianity taught them about the end times. they looked at me like i was a heretic! then they warned me not to tell their parents what i was teaching. ha!

hope to see you at homecoming.

I ate the world said...

I had a friend that started reading up on the Jehovah's Witnesses. And apparently their "Armageddon" is some what similar to Wright's theory on the end times. They have an idea of heaven not being the final resting point and the earth and all believers being given a new body.
I may have been misinformed about their end times theories (having only repeated what I heard from an even less informed individual), but none-the-less the point of this story is that when my friend found this out he used it as evidence to further prove why Jehovah's Witnesses were not saved.
I explained to my friend that I too believe there will be a physical resurrection and that Heaven is only the temporary until the Earth is made new. Needless to say, my friend was speechless. He probably thinks I'm not saved, but he only called me a liberal ... I thanked him for the compliment.

JD & Jen said...

i've been called a liberal for much the same reason; here at seminary! but not in any way related to a discussion on jehovah's witnesses; though it was related to the end times. i was sharing with a friend some of the things that we had learned about in the revelation class taught a few summers ago.

people don't like to hear something different than what they've been taught (or what they can buy at walmart*). what do you expect when more theology is taken from oprah than from the bible.

if i have to be labeled a liberal in order to teach what the bible actually teaches, then sign me up.

Josh said...

Great to see a new post. I have to confess that I too was one of the Christians who had a very limited view of eschatology up until about a year ago. I guess I had never given it much thought. I knew the Bible talked about a new heaven and a new earth, but somehow I had never thought through the implications.

It's moments like these that I worry about my theology. What else have I not thoroughly considered?

Rodney Reeves said...


I saw the show. I thought Bishop Tom did a great job. Colbert acted like his usual idiotic-but-making-a-great-point self. I'm a fan of Colbert and Stewart--their genius is fun to watch.

JD, Jimmy, and Josh (the J club?),

Good to hear from old friends. As you already know, it's easy to dismiss those who use labels to dismiss the rest of us. Like Josh said, we're all in constant need of working on our theology.


JD & Jen said...

speaking of old friends, i ran into randy maxwell a few months ago.

I ate the world said...

haha "J club"

JD & Jen said...

does that mean we need to make a facebook group? ha!

JD & Jen said...

i watched that episode of the colbert report (though i went there via bw3's blog). cookie monster was hilarious.

matt gallion said...

I've really been wanting to read Peterson's newer books.

But I'm poor. And seminary is making me read Hauerwas instead.


Sarah Lewie said...

Dr. Reeves,
I recently read "Surprised By Hope". There was a great deal of info that was hard to swallow, but went down easier since the famed days of Revelation class.
I passed the book onto my mother and pastor here in WA - it's crazy how many conversations we get into because of the seemingly "anti-traditionalism" of the content.
It was good to see you the other day! And it's good to see you back online!


danny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.