As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After an inspiring discussion about our first book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, I was looking forward to our second book: Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright.
In Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright delves into the complicated, difficult and varying beliefs on Heaven and the after life. First, he discusses the common beliefs held in the Western, Christian world surrounding Heaven, who will go and what will it be like. However, Wright believes we are focusing on Heaven too much, it is only a resting place and that it is not the end goal. The Bible tells us that Jesus died and rose again, and so will we! So in the second half of this book, Wright focuses on our resurrection, the judgement day and what our new bodies and world might be like.
Tom Wright, also known as N T Wright, is a retired Bishop and is now a Professor at the University of St Andrews. And, he has definitely brought all his theological and academic knowledge to bare in this detailed, and for some, controversial discussion. One club member found a newspaper article from the book’s publication in 2007, which accuses Wright of not believing in Heaven. I didn’t find it that controversial, actually I found it quite comforting to think that Heaven is a peaceful place of rest where we wait. I also felt it banished the idea that everything physical is bad and only the spiritual is good, which supports my own feelings that this body, life and world are a gift not something to be wished away to get to Heaven quicker.
While there were some real nuggets of inspiration in this book, I sadly did struggle with the dense text, the meandering writing style – Wright often went off on random tangents – and the academic language used. It turns out, I was the only one in the group, and that includes the vicar too, who managed to finish it! However, it did make for an interesting discussion piece and also during the group we watched a TV interview with Wright. In the interview, I thought he was eloquent and charismatic – such a shame that didn’t come across in this book!
In conclusion, I thought Surprised by Hope was a difficult but ultimately worthwhile read. Next up for the club, we will be reading and discussing Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Okay read.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Tom Wright/N T Wright?