This book is a wonderful tool to help individuals understand the true hope of the Christian faith. There are so many misconceptions ( I think) out there that need to be examined. Wright always seems to give a fresh and honest reflection of Christianity. I think this book shows that our greatest hope is in the resurrection of the dead and the new creation, an all too often overlooked idea that is definitely present in scripture. In fact, it is at the root of it! Christ came to usher in the Kingdom of God, and we need to realize we have access to that Kingdom now and one day we will be risen with the living Lord! Great read!
N.T. Wright is one of the premiere scholars in the world today and it's astonishing how many books he has published. What's even more profound is that while many of these are written for the lay-person, they are still obviously well researched and well thought out. While he's not without controversy (as is with any scholar who tries to bridge the gap between the academia and the "regular" world), I would fully recommend that as many Christians read as much of his writings as is possible.
Surprised by Hope would be a very good introduction to Wright. The sub-title reads "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church" and this is as succinct of an outline as possible in regards to the topics covered in this book. Basically Wright sets out to correct the weird cultural misunderstandings that most Christians bring into the discussion regarding our faith in Jesus and what that means for heaven, the after-life, resurrection and the mission of the global church. One of his on-going ideas is that it's not about going to heaven after you die, but about having life after life after death - that there is a final resurrection where heaven comes down to earth and transforms it. All of this is understood through the resurrection of Christ - that he is the first-fruit of this final resurrection. The post-resurrection stories of Christ present him in his glorified bodily state and this involves a physical reality that has been transformed.
This is an incredibly fascinating read and he covers so much ground in this work. While it is written at the popular level, you cannot just breeze through it. This is heavy material and we need to take our time with it. I would highly recommend this work to anyone interested in Wright as well as anyone who wants to understand what the Biblical picture is in regards after-life issues. Most of my critiques are fairly minor - I do wish that the footnotes were at the bottom instead of an index (although I realize that is a personal opinion and may have been an editorial decision). It would have also been nice to have more of the Scriptural texts actually written out instead of just referenced (again, it's a personal preference and showcases my laziness to read this alongside the Bible). I do wish he had talked more about differing views of soul-sleep, hell etc but I do realize that this is not a systematic textbook and there are plenty of these on the market place.
I think it is one of the best books on our hope in Christ that I have ever read. As a matter of fact I have read none that compare. I would encourage any believer to read and pray through this book. The resurrection should be the center piece of our faith and Wright provides ample Biblical reasons to live out this truth.
As one would expect, Tom Wright is a bastion of orthodoxy as he cuts through the cultural additions made over the centuries and brings out the true "faith of our fathers" concerning "life after life." Wright's style is one of both academic brilliance and a fatherly spiritual mentor as he methodically works through the epistemological and historical issues to illuminate an orthodox Christian view of death and life after death. Readers will be able to relate well to his discussions about how non-Christian, even pagan beliefs, have infiltrated Christian thought. Indeed a strong defense of orthodox Christian belief in a literal bodily resurrection (of Jesus and believers) and how this belief should drive us to embrace a hope that mimics Christ's downward mobility toward humanity by loving and serving others. This book should energize the church to "love our neighbor as ourselves" in this life, love and appreciate God's "good creation," and find a balance between "saving souls" and "serving souls."
This book does a great job of undoing the mess of theology we have made in the US. I'd note to one of the other reviewers that one of Wright's points is specifically that our faith has been twisted to focus too much on our "individual" destinies. Once you are alive in Christ, a whole world of life opens up, including life in faith community.