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He explores the perspective of the first Christians as recorded in the Bible and shows how their belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus would have been surprising to pagans and Jews alike. The second part of the book lays out the theological implications of believing that the resurrection of Jesus is the first instalment of God's transformation of the whole creation. Wright covers a huge range of ideas, dealing with the future of the cosmos, ascension, second coming, judgment, the redemption of our bodies, and heaven and hell. I found the chapter on NT metaphors one of the best. Particularly helpful was the idea that citizenship of heaven (in Philippians 3) does not mean severing ties with earth. Rather, as the citizens of Roman colonies brought Roman civilisation to their own communities, so Christian citizens of heaven work with God to make earth more like earth, anticipating the final day when Jesus (the Lord) comes again to bring this to conclusion.
Part 3 sketches out applications for church and society. Again, the scope is broad, from a definition of salvation as being both "for humans and, through saved humans, for the wider world" (217), to reflections on what it means to cooperate with God to build the kingdom of heaven on earth, and the implications for the worship and organisation of the church.
I found this book compelling as a rare attempt to think hard about the many dimensions of what resurrection and new creation mean, both here and now, and in terms of our future hope. Wright gives a solid foundation for Christian involvement in the arts and in working to help the weak in society. He identifies and avoids the opposing errors of imagining that human effort alone will bring transformation, or that there is no point working for the good of this world as it is doomed to destruction. He returns frequently to 1 Corinthians 15:58 to remind us that whatever good work we do in God's service is not in vain, as he will weave it into the new world he is (re)creating.
As always, Wright writes (!) in a stimulating yet slightly slippery style. His insistence on his own theological vocabulary sometimes makes it difficult to determine where he agrees with more traditional views, and where he departs from them. While he does affirm the need for repentance and conversion, the depths and consequences of individual sin seem underemphasised. Although this can be partly explained as polemic, surely the fact that only those who acknowledge the lordship of Jesus will enjoy the new creation gives a certain priority to evangelism?
This is an important book, and there is much of worth here. Even if you don't accept Wright's viewpoint completely, what he says will make you think more carefully about what the Bible says about our present and future hope rooted in the resurrection of Jesus. And hopefully, it will encourage you in whole-life discipleship and mission as it has me.
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