rethinking salvation with n.t. wright

surprised.jpgIt’s not often that books about theology keep me awake at night. In fact, it’s typically a theological book that I will grab if I’m having a hard time going to sleep. N.T. Wright’s latest, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, is proving to be a major exception to this rule.

Last night while reading a section on salvation from chapter 12 I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Anyone who thinks theology doesn’t relate to how we live needs to read this book… or at least this section. I’ll do a less than adequate job, but here is a summary of some of Wright’s major points from these few pages.

  • Wright says the typical view of salvation is about our relationship with God in the present and our souls going home to be with God after death. It follows then that if salvation is mainly about where we go when we die, than the task of the Christian now is primarily to save souls.
  • Reacting strongly to this, Wright makes it clear that for the Christian salvation is always about the entire person. Because we believe in the resurrection of the body and not just a disembodied soul, salvation must be for the whole person.
  • Equally as important to Wright’s view of salvation is what we are eventually saved to: “God’s promised new heavens and new earth and our promised resurrection to share in that new and gloriously embodied reality.” A major theme in this book is the final destination for the Christian. Wright sees the testimony of the Scriptures and church tradition to be clear: we are with Christ when we die (call it Heaven, or paradise) but ultimately we experience the resurrection of the body when Christ returns to establish his eternal Kingdom in the new heavens and new earth. In other words, the priority for the Christian isn’t so much life after death, but “life after life after death.”
  • Because our final destination is this new heaven and new earth and because God’s eternal Kingdom has been initiated here and now through Christ’s resurrection, than our life on this earth takes on great significance. In this view salvation “can’t be confined to human beings.” Why? Because as redeemed human beings who will experience the fruits of Christ’s victory in the new heavens and earth we are “given the mandate to look after creation, of bringing order to God’s world, of establishing and maintaining communities.” It’s the mandate giving to humanity in Genesis 1.
  • All of this leads, it seems to me, to a higher view of salvation. To be saved is not simply to receive a ticket to go somewhere else. It is rather a guarantee of our participation with God’s beautiful redeeming work now, and fully participating with God in the new earth to come. And of course all of this is made possible because of the victory made know in Christ’s resurrection.

If you do read the book, this section comes from pages 194-201.


One thought on “rethinking salvation with n.t. wright

  1. I love the line…”life after life after death.” ie. Kingdom living begins here and now. I’ve got to get the book.

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