Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
N.T. Wright, 2008, Harper One, San Francisco, ISBN 0061551821, 295 pages, $24.95, hardcover.
Most Christians, if asked "What happens when you die?" would state emphatically that they will go to heaven to be with God, thanks to the sacrifice of Christ. N.T. Wright challenges that notion and proposes instead a return to the New Testament idea of bodily resurrection as a part of God's restoration of all creation at the end of the age.
Wright contends that many Christians cling to "going to heaven when you die" as an escape from the world instead of embracing a theology of resurrection that sees Jesus' resurrection as the first fruit of God's ultimate redemption and the church's mission as proclaiming Christ's dominion over all. In short, he firmly believes that we are "saved to" service for the glory of God as much as we are "saved from" sin.
The book is divided into three parts. The first discusses the muddle of beliefs about life after death in the world and explains that Christ's resurrection is the breaking forth of God's kingdom on earth.
The second section delves into our future hope, specifically, how Christ's resurrection paves the way for our life in His kingdom.
In the final third of the book, Wright spells out his vision for the mission of the church. He is at his finest as he attempts to ground the church's efforts in the present day (from evangelism to social justice, art, and conservation) solidly in resurrection theology and liberate them both from modernist progressivism (which places the emphasis on the work instead of God) and traditional evangelicalism (which sees such work only as an addendum to saving souls for heaven).
Most readers will find Wright's work engaging and, at times, controversial. His willingness to turn traditional understanding on its ear is as troubling as his reliance on the Scriptures is reassuring. What he succeeds quite admirably in doing, however, is to drive readers back to the Word of God to see for themselves how Christ's resurrection demands so much more from believers than passive longing for heaven.
Type: Eschatology / Christian Living
The Bare Bones Bible Bios
Jim George, Harvest House Publishers, 2008, ISBN 0736915400,269 pages, $12.99, softcover.
If you want a quick overview of major characters from the Bible, turn to Bare Bones Bible Bios, which contains condensed biographies for over forty people from the Bible accounts.
Each of the bios follows a structured pattern. The writer tells us the subject's most notable quality, his most notable accomplishment, when he (she) lived, and the major biblical text concerning the individual. George then gives us a quick sketch, a larger context, and a portrait of the individual. He concludes with lessons we can glean from this biblical person.
Fourteen of the biographies are taken from the Pentateuch-Adam to Rahab. Nineteen more reveal the lives of other Old Testament characters. The final seventeen relate incidents from the lives of New Testament characters.
The author provides two sections about Jesus the Christ. The first section covers the prophecies of the coming Messiah, His birth, and His early childhood. The second gives us an outline of His adult ministry-His teachings, His miracles, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His Great Commission.
Glen H. Jones
Take: Highly Recommended
Intelligent Design 101
H. Wayne House, general editor, Kregel Publications, 2008, ISBN 0825427819, 284 pages, $16.99, softcover.
Not all scientists hold to the theory of evolution. Some hold to old earth creationism (God created human beings recently, but the universe has existed for billions of years). Others espouse a recent earth creation (God created all things in seven literal days a few thousand years ago). A third way of looking at creation is the concept known as Intelligent Design (ID).
Those who hold to ID are primarily scientists and philosophers who claim that an examination of the natural universe shows design. Design implies a designer. Those who hold this view do not always openly claim that God is the designer, but that idea is implied.
Proponents of ID point out that Darwin's works made it possible for agnostics and atheists to have a way out of believing in God. Neo-Darwinism has become the new religion for those who reject the knowledge of a divinely-revealed God.
Recent-earth creationists find fault with those who propound ID. If nature shows an intelligent design, creationists cannot understand why we cannot identify the Creator as the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1).
In the last section of the book Wayne House gives an overview of creationism and ID and contends that evolutionists want absolutely no teaching in schools of ID and creationism.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Intelligent Design
Concise Church History
John Hunt, AMG Publishers, 2008, ISBN 0899576966, 664 pages, $17.99, hardcover.
Beginning with the age of the Lord's apostles, John Hunt takes us on a church history journey from ancient to modern times. He explains the contribution of the church fathers that were instrumental in spreading the gospel to the outer reaches of the then-known world. He outlines the severe persecutions that befell the apostles, the church fathers, and other faithful witnesses who faced a hostile pagan world.
The writer has an extensive section dealing with the growth of the church from the fourth to the sixteenth centuries, including Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Patrick, Chrysostom, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Wycliffe, Huss, Tyndale and Calvin, besides the spiritual heroes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Space will not permit a detailed discussion of the spiritual giants of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Matthew Henry, David Brainerd, and John Newton.
This volume is, in this reviewer's opinion, a valuable resource for the serious Bible student.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Church History
Take: Highly Recommended