It almost feels crass to say it so, but Surprised by Hope is NT Wright’s theology of end times. I’ve often heard others joke about being a panmillenialist — they don’t know how the end times will look, but it will pan out. I can appreciate the heart of this joke more than I can appreciate the cheesy humor of it. But I’ve come to a place where I don’t see this a valid position to hold.
The hope one holds for how God will ultimately redeem and restore all of creation is at the core of how one will live their faith in the present. Our understanding of faith is strongly shaped by our understanding of what happens “in the end”. Perhaps just as true, our current context and understanding will have a strong impact on how we shape our expectations of the final redemption of the world. But to shape our perspective of “end times” based on what is most convenient to our understanding now is to do a disservice to God’s greater story.
One critique I read on Amazon said that Wright should keep his political views out of the book and stick to theology. That seems to me to be a complete miss of what the book is about. I think Wright helps us to see that these two constructs can’t be so easily detached. And that is what I appreciate…Wright brings his views of what God is working toward to the present and makes them matter now.
The pinnacle of the book for me is Chapter 13 — “Building for the Kingdom” — where Wright lays out how justice, beauty, and evangelism are part of our co-creation of the kingdom of God. Each of these become not just a ‘should’, or a moral obligation, but deeply hopeful acts of inviting genuine human life as God intended it to be.