R'Ai ew

Heaven explained
by William C. Plädier

Rethinking Heaven the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church


hristians don't go to heaven when we die—that's the dramatic way to sum­ marize Ν. T. Wright's book. The Christian hope is that our bodies will be raised on a transformed Earth when Christ returns, not that our souls will be freed of our bod­ ies so that they can get to heaven. Ν. T. Wright is a distinguished New Testament scholar and (sometimes under the more approachable name of "Tom Wright") author of short introductions to New Testament texts and widely read pop­ ular defenses oí Christianity. A British evangelical and a gifted and prolific writer, he is probably the closest living equivalent to C. S. Lewis. He also has a day job as the Anglican bishop of Durham. Luther would have agreed with Wright about resurrection hope, but for Luther our intervening state is one of sleep. After death, he said, his next experience would be at the second coming, when he would hear a voice saying, "Dr. Martin, wake up!" Wright concludes that a body of scriptural evidence, beginning with Jesus' promise to one of the thieves crucified with him, demands something more: When Jesus tells the brigand that he will join him in paradise that very day, paradise clearly cannot be their ultimate destination Paradise is, rather, the blissful garden where God's people rest prior to the resurrection. . . . The early Christians held firmly to a twostep belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. Resurrection therefore means not life after death, but life after life after death. Using an analogy from technology, Wright explains that in this intervening
Christian Century May 20, 2008

period, "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time when he gives us new hardware to run the software again." That waiting area of paradise cannot be the end of the Christian story for at least two reasons. First, Jesus' bodily resurrection back in this world is the foundation of Christian hope: "What God did for Jesus on the first Easter Day, he has promised to do for each one who is in Christ That is the biblical and historic Christian expectation." Wright thinks that the empty tomb and Jesus' followers' experiences of meeting him are "as well established ... as any historical data could expect to b e . . . . They are the only possible explanation for the stories and beliefs that grew up so quickly among Jesus's followers." True, they are not the sort of experiences for which we can find analogies in the rest of our experience; some facts about the world, like the evidence of Jesus' resurrection, are of the sort that challenge us to remake our worldview in order to find new hope. We give up this grounding for our hope, however, if our hope is not in bodily resurrection. Second, Christians should not believe in the myth of progress—the world is not steadily getting better and will never approach perfection—nor is it true that only a few of us will be rescued from a world doomed to destruction, as many American fundamentalists believe. Rather, the world—the physical world— will be transformed and redeemed. What does that mean? The incomplete world we know will be re-created in different space and matter, flooded with God's own life. Jesus will be present "as the center and focus of the new world." And in that world our bodies will be resurrected—again in a transformed way, and not 36

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.
By Ν. T. Wright. HarperOne, 352 pp., $24.95·

necessarily including any of the same mol­ ecules that now make up our bodies (after all, we can preserve our identities even in this life through complete changes in the matter that we contain). These trans­ formed bodies will not be somehow ethe­ real but will be "more real, more solid" than the ones we have now. Will the world be too crowded to hold all the accumulated generations? Wright assures us that God can figure out a way to solve such problems in any event, but notes that half the people who have ever lived are now alive, as if to suggest that this future world might not need to be too different from the current one in order to hold everybody. It will not be a world in which we will simply lounge around—"There will be work to do, and we shall relish doing it." But first, when Christ returns, there will be judgment. Wright sees no need for pur­ gatory—death itself will free most of us from all that is sinful. He also does not expect eternal punishment of the most sin­ ful, or their annihilation. Rather, he thinks that some people so turn to evil that they are "conniving at their own ultimate dehumanization." Some who were once human so destroy the image of God within them that they cease to be human, and their eternal fate will be to exist forever in the new creation in this less than human state.
William C Flacker is professor of philosophy and religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana

sometimes Wright talks about the transformation of the whole cosmos into a different kind of space and matter. sometimes far. 614-235-4136 www. Faith as a Way of Life Project. all of this will find its way.Wright devotes the last third of his book to arguing that his claims about the resurrection matter for the mission of the church today. Level II and Supervisory training by The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. perhaps the unexpected item on the list.4 . Ohio. As to justice. St Peter. Level I and Level II Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Residency positions available in mid-August 2008-August 2009 This full year. beauty and evangelism in the here and now. far away. Wright insists that it is "crystal clear" and that there is "no room for doubt" about the conclusion. After an argument that seems a little fuzzy. CT. GA 30033 (404) 320 1472 www acpe edu Relating the Gospel to a Pop Culture Audience: Exploring a Crisis in Ministry Lakeside Theological Convocation Lakeside. he argues that "when people cease to be surrounded by beauty. intensive Spiritual Care education includes opportunities to practice ministry within a clinical team environment These opportunities include trauma-on-call.. I had great hopes for this book. Columbus. We desperately need some reflection on what lies beyond death that falls somewhere between the Left Behind series and the often hopelessly vague thoughts of much theological liberalism. and kindness." The Puritans of colonial New Haven were buried facing Jerusalem so they could see Jesus returning at the general resurrection without having to turn around. But if we await a transformed world. I was frustrated that Wright keeps wavering between the assertion of specific conclusions and the acknowledgment that of course everything about the future "is simply a set of signposts pointing into a fog. end-of-hfe issues and crisis intervention The CPE Residency Program is enthusiastically supported by YRMC. Second. Which is it? Will Indiana still be Indiana. as with C. Ohio Sept. 2008 . they cease to hope. Suite 103 Decatur. Trinity Lutheran Seminary on the Great Lakes 2008 A Jewish . gratitude. MN Rabbi Herbert N.edu 37 Christian Century May 20.Christian Dialogue: Learning from and with Each Other Great Lakes Theological Academy Traverse City. Drell and Adeline Bernhardson Distinguished Professor of Religion. Congregation Mishkan Israel. then "every act of love." Wright therefore urges Christians who believe in the resurrection to work for justice. shown through its generous financial package of $36. every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk. and Wright could have been the man to give it to us. 2008 FACULTY PRESENTERS YUMA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER Caring for the growing needs of our communities Vi Darrell Jodock. of course. any description of the interim state in which we exist before the resurrection will be tentative. 2 . For one thing. University of Denver For more information: Center for Continuing Education and Life Long Learning | L Trinity Lutheran Seminary. New Haven. For example. every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation. Michigan July 21 . Lewis's apologetic works. can be reached at (928) 336-7002 or ecooper@yumaregional org More information about the CPE program and Yuma Regional Medical Center can be found on the Internet at www yumaregional org YRMC Clinical Pastoral Education Program is accredited to offer Level I. albeit (we may hope!) in a transformed condition? I do not know what Wright would say." and he therefore insists that the aesthetic must be an important component of the church's mission. Assistant Professor and Director Estlow International Center for Journalism. he explains. though. he identifies Third World debt as the most important moral issue of our time.. Maybe I was hoping for too much. Gustavus Adolphus College. Ine 1549 Clairmont Road. then there would be no ultimate value in trying to improve it. Director. and Lecturer. Most of all.000 The director and CPE supervisor. then he needs to give us a little more detail about the right picture. it would all be destined to destruction. but Wright offers such radically different pictures of that state—a garden where we rest up and our software existing on God's hardware—that one wonders whether there would be a basis for rejecting any alternative. After all.25. 2008 FACULTY PRESENTERS Christian Scharen. Similarly. If Wright says confidently that other people have the picture wrong. Brockman. Yale Divinity School CLINICAL PASTORAL EDUCATION IN THE DESERT SOUTHWEST Five one-year. As to beauty. but I ended up disappointed. S. through the resurrecting power of God. If our hope rested in escaping the material world. and he seems to mean that we will inhabit something like the terrestrial ball on which we now live. Senior Rabbi. interestingly enough. Wright's work could have used more vigorous editing. the central points here could have been made in a book half as long. At other points he talks about the transformation of this world as a new home for our resurrected bodies. I sometimes felt bullied. Yale Center for Faith and Culture Lynn Schofield Clark.TrinityLutheranSeminary. Sometimes Wright seems fairly close to them. into the new creation that God will one day make. the Rev Dr Earl Cooper.

my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased. where he feels quite comfortable.) But the novel is a gripping read and a stimulus to thought. the main ethical conclusion that Wright draws strikes me as a non sequitur. To Changez. $22. Hamid relies too much on heavyhanded symbolism as he packs his ideas into one evening's conversation. This reaction. America's great sin is hubris—a profound conviction of its superiority and of its right to control the rest of the world for its own advantage. Changez thinks. Though he grows the beard associated with Islamic fundamentalism. is lost in a dangerous nostalgia for a past with a man named Chris. he uses an unusual method of narration.and 20th-century European and American literature.2 2 . which he doesn't at first understand. What moral choices will the young man make? What will he become if he remains in the city? This. www cfossings org/contetence n ambitious young man leaves the provinces. signposts and not photographs. Christian boys captured by the Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in the Muslim army. and they still retain a high social status in Lahore. He is surprised by his reaction. Now he becomes a poorly paid professor in Pakistan. Yes. Why should I assume that my deed will find its way into God's new creation? The thought that all that we do is spiritually preserved in God's eternity seems at least as good a reason for hoping that our good deeds will not go for naught. Reviewed by Trudy Bush. When he is on assignment in the Philippines. as Wright says. 192 pp. a man who claims to love America but leads student protests against American influence in the Middle East. like post9/11 America. 2008 St. Changez tells his story to an unnamed American whom he has met in an old section of Lahore and invited to dinner. The American might be an assassin hired to kill him.. the reluctant fundamentalist of the title. The reality of history is that some good things do get lost. but religion plays no role in his change of allegiance. Economically and socially. And then I smiled. though his family is now poor. his concerns remain secular. Changez is a Muslim. He had been attending to the fundamentals of becoming an upper-class American and ex38 A celling at a job that required subordinating all else to the fundamentals of finance.00. the dramatic monologue. he's just regaining his rightful place. becomes globalized in Mohsin Hamid's thriller. has a habit of reminding him that he is an outsider. Louts.Furthermore. they were once rich. are charged with meaning: Erica. After all. is a Pakistani who comes to Princeton on a full scholarship and graduates summa cum laude. I realize that any sensible account of what lies beyond this life can only offer. He lands a coveted job in New York. Hamid has attempted a difficult thing: to write a gripping thriller that is also a novel of ideas. Jim. Changez comes to see that his acceptance into the world of high finance. the city of his birth. His business card and his relationship with Erica. Changez. Missouri Conference information available at. then gradually becomes disillusioned by the anxiety and corruption beneath the bright surface. (The characters' names. "I stared as one—and then the other—of the twin towers of New York's Trade Center collapsed. He is like the janissaries. he seems destined to advance quickly. or it may be that the American is the one being threatened. The America that welcomed him is devoted not to Christianity but to the secular religion of wealth and power. By Mohsin Hamid. who became complicit in the destruction of their own civilizations. give him access to the highest levels of New York society. This book exhibits Wright's usual combination of great learning and friendly prose. is a modern version of a ploy once practiced by the Ottoman Empire. It is the wavering line between matters where Wright seems absolutely certain and matters where he lets everything remain unclear that leaves me frustrated. The severely handicapped child I teach to walk (to use Wright's example) may get run over by a truck. To keep the tension high. hoping to make his fortune in the city. Changez turns on the TV and sees the 9/11 attacks. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. despicable as it may sound. 2008 . A natural at the job. In both roles he is a man on the margins. Along the way he raises important questions and points in some interesting directions. But his boss and mentor. ILmiPiSLAΫ jtotf ímtmmtí^$kí t&tàtHmq* Who Do You Say "I A M " : Getting Honest About God Why Luther's distinction of Law and Cospel matters mote than ever to the Church and the world M a r y Sue Dreier Steven Kuh I John Strelan October 1 9 . one of the classic plots of 19th. But much of his own motivation comes from his pride in the past glory and power of Pakistani civilization. a man between two worlds—a reluctant fundamentalist." he recalls. He first is infatuated with the glittering world he finds there. for example. working for the prestigious valuation firm of Underwood Samson. the world of global power. Harcourt. a CENTURY contributing editor Christian Century May 20. is the turning point that gradually leads him to exchange one fundamentalism for another. And he can't win Erica because she remains fixated on a boyfriend who has died. a wealthy and well-connected young woman. with my good deed forgotten.

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