Reviewed by Laurie Danielson Cornell | October 16, 2019
In Surprised by Scripture, one of the world’s leading Bible scholars invites us to engage 12 contemporary issues with a robust, prayerful, comprehensive reading of Scripture. Chapter titles include “Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?” “9/11, Tsunamis, and the New Problem of Evil,” and “Our Politics Are Too Small.”
I commend this good gift to every Covenant pastor and church member, and here is the reason: N.T. Wright gives us 12 excellent examples of how to read and interpret the Scriptures with the same commitments the Covenant family has declared to be essential. In our Covenant resource paper “The Evangelical Covenant Church and the Bible” we say, “At our best, we, as Covenant people read the Bible faithfully, communally, rigorously, charitably, and holistically, with commitments to grace, transformation, and mission.” (This is a two-for-one review—I also strongly recommend that paper, which can be found at covchurch.org.)
“Jesus is coming, so plant a tree,” Wright says in one chapter. “The reason that slogan is counterintuitive to the point of being funny is that, for many devout believers, the Second Coming is the point when the world as we know it is done away with and Jesus snatches his own people up to heaven, to live there with him forever.” Might it be that there is even better news from the Scriptures about our future hope?
Wright goes on to declare that God has begun restoring his beloved creation—and aches for our partnership in the coming of the new heaven and new earth already underway. When we take a broader and deeper look at the Scriptures, here is what Wright concludes: “In the New Testament the Second Coming is not the point at which Jesus snatches people up, away from the earth, to live forever with him somewhere else, but the point at which he returns to reign not only in heaven but upon the earth.”
N.T. Wright creates a calm, mature, and biblically informed space for wrestling with the Scriptures and doing theology together in community. What a gift as we face each theological issue before us. This practice—this rare treasure—is deep and solid in our Covenant heritage, and much needed right now in the global body of Christ, the American church, and in our local Covenant congregations.