Många talar om "det kristna hoppet", men vad står det egentligen för? Att lämna denna eländiga jord för att komma till himlen? Eller att se Guds rike växa till i vår egen värld? Och vad menas i så fall med uttryck som "en ny himmel och en ny jord" och "kroppens uppståndelse"? På vilket sätt kan det påverka vårt kristna liv just nu?
Tom Wright, en av vår tids mest framstående bibelteologer, tar upp alla dessa frågor i Ännu bättre och visar hur Bibelns budskap om Jesu kroppsliga uppståndelse får långt mer vidsträckta konsekvenser än de flesta kristna har anat.
Wrights förklarar hur tron på livet efter detta direkt påverkar vad vi tror om livet före döden. För om Gud ämnar förnya hela skapelsen -- och om detta redan har påbörjats genom Jesu uppståndelse -- då kan inte kyrkan nöja sig med att "rädda själar" utan måste vara med i denna förnyelse genom att utbreda Guds rike i dess allra vidaste betydelse.
Här följer en intervju (på engelska) med Tom Wright
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book on this topic? Is it something that people have been asking you about often, or something that you feel we should talk more about?
**I had been working on the Resurrection for my big book The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003), and when I was at Westminster Abbey decided to give some popular lectures on the whole theme. These were well received and I then did other versions of the same material in various places. Finally I heard that many churches in the UK were doing a project on Hope in 2008 and friends urged me to get the lectures written up into a book that would feed into that year.
During your process of research and writing, have you been surprised yourself in one way or another?
**Many, many times . . . by my own stupidity, rebellion and sin; by God's infinite love and mercy (always much greater than we imagine)... By the surprising plans God has for us, again often quite different than the imaginations we had had . . . but also, in research and writing for this book particularly, by how utterly the resurrection of Jesus transformed the worldview of his first disciples and then, even more remarkably, of thousands within the pagan world of the day. For them, Jesus' resurrection wasn't just a key item they had to believe; it totally reshaped who they were and how they lived in the world.
In English, the title makes one think of C S Lewis. Has he inspired you somehow, and if so, how?
**Very much so. I do not agree with him on every matter but I read many of his books when I was young and still go back to them and find them fresh and thought-provoking. His book on Miracles, even though people say it wasn't one of his best, contained a superb passage on the resurrection which opened my eyes to what the final chapters of the gospels are really all about -- and to how feebly many churches, including many 'conservative' churches, have reduced that meaning (e.g. to a vague idea of 'going to heaven').
One of your main points seems to be that everything will be even better than we expect. What is the main source of this hope? Other than the Bible, what inspires you to work with these themes?
**The main source of this hope is the resurrection of Jesus; but that means what it means because the God we know as Jesus' father is the creator -- and the re-creator -- of all things. I am constantly inspired to work with these themes by the writings and example of many heroic figures both in Judaism and in early Christianity, who took the promise of God's future hope utterly seriously and lived and died for it. I also find many heroes of our own day inspiring for the same reason, especially those who work long and hard years, giving their lives, in more or less total obscurity, for the love of God and people, not for pride or reward. As a Bishop I was privileged to serve many clergy who came into exactly that category.
Who is the reader that you have imagined while writing?
**The thoughtful Christian who has heard and used the word 'resurrection' all his/her life but has never really thought what it means -- or how ideas like 'ascension' and 'second coming' actually make sense. Equally, I would love to think that thoughtful non-Christians might read it to see what it is these Christians are really supposed to believe, as opposed to the vague ideas which people have about Christianity. Ideally, too, people might read it in advance of not only their own death but that of people they love; a funeral is not a good time to give detailed explanations about the Christian hope, and people should be taught it when they don't immediately need it so that the teaching will be there when they do. One particular audience was my parents, who were in their mid-80s when the book came out; my father has since died and I am happy he read the book before he did.
What has the response (readers, reviews) been like so far?
**Remarkably good. In fact I get more letters, emails, comments from strangers -- and indeed requests for interviews, like this one! -- about this one book than about all the other 50 or so that I have written. That tells you something about how important the topic is -- and, I hope, how much the book does to make it clear.
When you give lectures and sermons on this topic, what kind of feedback do you get? Is this a hot topic" among Christians now that youve raised it?
**Yes; but I am sometimes frustrated that some Christians only want to talk about hell! Final judgment is an important, and biblical, topic but to make it the centre of everything, as some seem to do, does no justice to the balance of scripture or the proclamation of Jesus. Many people say things like 'I sort of believed this all along but I never really figured it all out', or 'I knew I was supposed to believe in resurrection but until now it didn't make much sense'. Those, naturally, are reactions that make me happy!
Do you think that Christians talking about life ever after is something that puts non-believers off, in general, or that it could even make Christian faith more relevant for some of them?
**The western world assumes that Christians believe in 'heaven' as a kind of escapist paradise that has nothing to do with present reality. That's why people are put off by a concentration on it. Once you make it clear that Christians are in fact supposed to believe in God's renewal and recreation of the entire cosmos, that opens things up in quite new ways, not least because it connects with themes like our care of the planet in the present time.