2009 Readings in Christian Social Thought Discussion Series, Week 2
Reading: N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Chapter 3
"God's miraculous makeover." That's how Lisa Miller, in Newsweek's Beliefwatch column (Feb. 2), describes the Christian teaching about bodily resurrection that is receiving fresh emphasis these days from (of all people!) scholars of religion. Our resurrection bodies will be the same ones we have now, only made "buff and beautiful." That's according to St. Augustine, according to Paula Frederiksen, author of Augustine and the Jews.
Miller also refers to the recent book Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews, by Kevin Madigan and Jon Levenson, and to Levenson's earlier book, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel (2006), and to Randy Alcorn's Heaven, a best-seller in evangelical circles.
So, N.T. Wright is not alone in making the contemporary case for resurrection as an actual return to personal, embodied existence -- "transformed physicality" -- as he sometimes calls it, not as a metaphor for the power of goodness to rise again from apparent defeat or for the survival of the immortal soul.
Miller's "heavenly makeover" brilliantly captures the appeal of the resurrection hope for a TV-addicted society. But the column misses entirely the explosive, politically-dangerous radicality of the belief for life in the present, which is what N.T. Wright aims to help us see in Surprised by Hope....