I have to tell you, I'm very interested to read NT Wright's new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.
That's a lot to rethink. And I'd probably pass it off as another attempt to make a buck at the bookstore if it weren't written by NT Wright.
Besides, the truth is that I've been rethinking these issues already.
The Bible is full of different images of the end times and the everlasting life. At points it seems like it is saying there is a cataclysmic end and a total new beginning in the sky somewhere. At others it seems like the earth itself gets reborn. At points it is cloud #9 and at points it is earth 2.0.
At different points in history, Christians have gravitated to one or the other. Post world wars we have been living in the pendulum swing to the escapist "sweet-by-and-by" version. I grew up under the fear mongering and escapism of this view as it dominated the evangelical mainstream.
But then I read Isaiah. And notice in Revelation that the New Jerusalem comes down to earth, and we don't go to it. And things like that. And I study texts that have been used to support the ideas of pre-tibulational rapture and millenial kingdom and armaggedon and I find them flimsy indeed.
But I don't know what to make of it anymore. And Left Behind has been the only real discussion of this issue in recent decades to be embraced in the church (another issue it is easier to avoid in order to maintain status quo), and unfortunatly it was hardly a discussion, and hardly holistically biblical.
So where to from here? I don't fully know. I have some ideas, but I confess the need to really give this some thought and further study.
Enter NT Wright. I was recently introduced to his take on Mark 13 and Daniel 7 and found it very compelling. (The Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven is a reference to Jesus being vindicated and coming--not to earth from heaven, but from earth to heaven--in vindication as the King of the Jews victorious over sin and death.) I want to hear him out on other matters. Especially this one. Here is a scholar who is decidely focussed on Scripture, and yet allows it to breathe fresh in dialogue with the church past and present, as well as current scholarship and cultural questions.
I recently heard this provocative quote from Wright: "Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world." Needless to say, he is causing quite a stir. I am going to look into this further. Incidentally, here is a Time interview, a Christianity Today article, and even an interview on The Colbert Report. I'll be looking at these in the next few days and hopefully I'll have more to say about this in the future. Perhaps you'd like to join me in this.
With all the apocalyptic movies out there and the whole rage of "save the world" propaganda inundating us every day, I think that the Christian message has two elements of truth wherein it meets contemporary thought head on and yet needs to sort itself out and decide what it has to say. Truth is, I think it has something to say in the World War era as well as the Green era that should challenge us more than Al Gore ever could. We'd best get to that, else I think our eschatology simply becomes irrelevant fodder for scary movies, and nothing else.
I think the Bible intends to be far more than that.