Archives For N.T. Wright

Soldier PrayingN.T. Wright made some claims about the military and early Christianity which has sparked a bit of a conversation in certain quarters of the web close to me. I’m not a pacifist – though I’m quickly moving into the “non-violence” position, which is somewhat different – and so naturally I appreciate Wright’s cautious approach to the subject. To the chagrin of many Wright enthusiasts, the good scholar does not lead the charge with the mantle of pacifism raised high in the air.

It was acknowledged that Wright’s an Anglican. So without giving him a full pass, it’s said that we shouldn’t expect much different from an Anglican. But from what I know of reading Wright (who is said by Roger Olson to fit the description of a “post-conservative”) he has not been afraid to part with his tradition on matters he believes the Bible teaches (vis. women in the ministry). Wright is, beyond a doubt, a Bible-first Christian. If he believes Christians can – at least in principle – serve in the military, it’s probably not on account of his Anglicanism.

And so when a historian of Wright’s caliber makes a cautious statement about what he doesn’t know about the second and third century of the church, that gives me pause from thinking I can whip out a quote or two of a Church Father here or there and be done with it. A good historian knows that you can’t judge the ethos of a community in a period just by quoting a few literate voices. Continue Reading…

The Bible SaysHave you finished reading your copy of Wright’s “little” 1500+ tome, Paul and the Faithfulness of God?  Don’t rush. It seemed when this opus magnum came out bloggers everywhere raced “read” and “reviewed” it in like a week or something. Sorry, but it’s hard for me to take those reviews seriously in this instance. A book as massive as that needs to be worked through and savoured and enjoyed and critiqued carefully. You can’t rush it.

But by June you might need a little break. No problem. Have a little reading candy with his latest forthcoming book: Surprised by Scripture, set to be released June 3.

Though the current cover mockup (above) implies that it will be called “The Bible Says,” it seems Harper has settled on “Surprised by Scripture,” though the cover for that has yet to be designed. My guess is you just change the words and you’re good to go.

Anyways. I think this book will be somewhat different from most of Wright’s previous work in that he turns his attention (at last) to hot button issues among Evangelicals and seems to give his blunt opinion – even making a case – on contemporary controversial subjects including:

  • Why it is possible to love the Bible and affirm evolution
  • Why women should be allowed to be ordained
  • Where Christians today have lost focus, and why it is important for them to engage in politics—and why that involvement benefits everyone
  • Why the Christian belief in heaven means we should be at the forefront of the environmental movement
  • And much more

The subtitle says it all: Engaging Contemporary Issues.

From Harper Collins website:

Helpful, practical, and wise, Surprised by Scripture invites readers to examine their own hearts and minds and presents new models for understanding how to affirm the Bible in today’s world—as well as new ideas and renewed energy for deepening our faith and engaging with the world around us.

No doubt about it. N.T. Wright is a writing beast!

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.

N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright and James White debate Justification

Listen to this radio discussion between N.T. Wright – no introduction needed on this blog – and James White, a reformed scholar and Calvinist apologist. They debate the hot topic of N.T. Wright’s interpretation of Justification.

How the gospel works

Derek Ouellette —  February 4, 2013

Like me many of you no doubt are confident that the gospel is about how to get saved. When we hand out the four spiritual laws we are giving someone the gospel, a clear and simple presentation on how to get saved. We’d suggest even, that if something like the Romans Road to Salvation has not been delivered then the gospel has not been preached.

The gospel, in essence, is a message delivered to an individual calling them to personally accept that Jesus died for their sins. The deal is sealed with a sinner’s prayer. The gospel had been preached, we’d say, and the individual is now saved.

But this way of thinking about the gospel has been challenged by N.T. Wright Continue Reading…

But what is grace? Grace is not a ‘thing’ – a heavenly gas, a pseudo-substance, which can be passed to and fro or pumped down pipelines. The word ‘grace’ is a shorthand way of speaking about God himself, the God who loves totally and unconditionally, whose love overflows in self-giving in creation, in redemption, in rooting out evil and sin and death from his world, in bringing to life that which was dead. Paul’s gospel reveals this God in all his grace, all his love.

N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (p.61)

A good book is worth revisiting. I’m currently re-reading What Saint Paul Really Said where N.T. Wright describes how he used to read Paul. Ask yourself if this sounds familiar: Continue Reading…

“NT Wright explores his book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters with the folks at Moody Bible Institute. He gets some lecture time and then there is a very civil debate which is refreshing to see after that.”

 

HT

 

I don’t always agree with Michael Bird, but I usually enjoy reading him. He’s witty and sarcastic, a theological comedian, which comes off as ostensibly offensive to liberal Christians because he doesn’t pay a whole lot of “due” respect to the ideologies we are being force-fed. Recently he wrote an article presenting his idea on how to solve the same-sex debate, which, though admittedly stuffed with rhetoric, made some well reasoned – though not necessarily new – arguments.

He states two non-religious reasons not to support same-sex marriage. The first is that – he says – it reduces marriage to a legal contract. That there is no “moral quality” to marriage. Yet ever since ancient times societies have “recognized the importance of the marriage-family bond for society.” He makes the point (and this is both perceptive and critical) that ultimately this debate is not about “who I choose to love” (you don’t need a legal contract for that! [It’s not about sex either since last I checked, the government doesn’t care to know who’s shacking up with whom as long as both are consenting adults.]), this debate is about the “nature and function of marriage in our society”. He goes on from there to propose what many others have been proposing as of late: separate church and state regarding the “sacrament” of marriage. Let the state issue binding legal contracts and let the Churches, Synagogues, Mosques et cetera, issue religious blessings. The second argument is one that I argued years ago in the local newspaper: who, advocating same-sex marriage, can find grounds to refuse polygamy? If you advocate same-sex marriage but refuse polygamy, I would love you hear your “rational.

“Go into exile, I must”

But that is not why I’ve written this post. In his article Bird says something that really got my wheels churning.

“Christendom is over folks. We are no longer calling people back to values they nominally consent to. There is no silent moral majority; we are now the minority, we are the odd balls, we speak a different language, we inhabit a different symbolic universe, we are now regarded as enemies of the state’s values, we are the new villains, we are the greatest threat to what the secularists think is a fair, just, and inclusive society. We are subversive ideological terrorists because we order our lives according the story, symbols, and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, all of which stands in violent opposition to the values of the secular order. We Christians represent a clear and present danger to the very edifice of secular pluralism because we refuse to believe in it and we tell a story that undermines it.”

This is not a “victim’s mentality” as some have claimed. Continue Reading…

John Piper speaks on behalf of a myriad of traditionalists when he defines the biblical concept of “the righteousness of God” in terms of God’s general character or goodness. Thus when he writes against N.T. Wrights teaching that, for Paul and the other biblical writers, the phrase “the righteousness of God” has the specialized meaning of “God’s covenant faithfulness”, Piper says:

“There is something far deeper in God than covenant faithfulness. God was not unrighteous before there was a covenant. He was righteous before there was any covenant to keep. ‘The LORD is righteous in all his ways’ (Ps. 145:17), not just in keeping the covenant.”

But what Piper fails to take into account is that words don’t just float about detached from their context so that all that really matters is that one keep a dictionary of it’s basic meaning on hand.

Yes righteousness means “the quality of being morally right” in the dictionary. Yes if we speak of the “righteousness of God” as a standalone phrase it would mean “God’s quality of being morally right”. But when words and phrases are not plucked from their context to float about in an abstract manner, in other words when their context is allowed to help determine their meaning, an element of precision becomes important for understanding the message which is being communicated. And the phrase “the righteousness of God” (and it’s variations) is a case in point.

Throughout the scriptures the Hebrew word “tsedaqah” and its Greek equivalent “dikaiosyne” have specialized meaning important for the “exegesis” of a text. Regarding its Old Testament usage, J.I. Packer writes:

“The reason why these texts call God’s vindication of his oppressed people his ‘righteousness’ is that it is an act of faithfulness to his covenant promise to them.”

Here Packer confesses – in the Old Testament at least – that God’s ‘righteousness’ (in particular in the Psalms and Isaiah, but elsewhere too) is a specific reference to God’s covenant faithfulness, not an abstract reference to God’s general moral character.

When we come to Paul it is patently obvious to anyone who attempts an exegesis of the text even on a surface level, that his discussion of the righteousness of God in Romans (and elsewhere) is rooted repeatedly and at almost every point in Old Testament passages. Then, for the astute reader in search of Paul’s own message, and not a message deduced from sixteenth century polemics, they will quickly discover that in every case where the phrase and it’s variants are employed Paul is talking in covenant terms, covenant contexts, covenant promises and covenant faithfulness even where the word “covenant” is not employed (not least by quoting or alluding to Genesis 15, Deuteronomy 27-30, the Psalms and so on).

God is a good God, yes! He is righteous in the general sense that he is morally right, yes! But the question Paul is addressing in Romans is very specialized: will God be faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham that through him and his descendants all of the nations of the earth will be blessed? It had looked to the Jews in Rome as if God had abandoned his covenant people and had begun a new project without them (i.e. they were a precursory variation to modern Dispensationalism.) . In other words, God’s commitment or faithfulness to his covenant was being called into question. So Paul begins his letter with a declaration that God’s faithfulness to his covenant, God’s righteousness in other words, has been revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).

He spends the next eight chapters unpacking that passage – note all of the talk of Abraham and so on – and then concludes his argument in Romans 9-11, particularly with phrases like “not all Israel are Israel” and “all Israel will be saved.”

So while yes, Piper is right in a minimalist sense that to speak of God’s righteousness in a detached, abstract way is to speak of God’s moral rightness, his holiness and goodness, in doing so he commits the uber exegetical fallacy of actually committing eisegesis. When Paul says something very specific in a context that determines it’s meaning and which has serious repercussions for understanding everything that follows, and then when what Paul means is blissfully overlooked or ignored and replaced with something else more general and abstract, all of Romans becomes lost.

Is it any wonder that a friend of mine, of Calvinist leanings no less, was reading a recent commentary on Romans by R.C. Sproul when he quipped in disappointment that “it seems every passage is about predestination.” That is what we call an exercise in missing the point, and for a book as important as Romans, that is a terrible mistake for someone as influential as Sproul or Piper.

The irony here is that Piper claims that his interpretation of the righteousness of God is “remarkably illuminating exegetically.” It is exactly the opposite of that. Few things can darken Paul’s letter to the Romans more than Piper’s attempt to exegesis “the righteousness of God.”

I spent so much of my Christian life with the conviction that everything the Bible had to say was clear. That all one had to do was read it to know it’s meaning. To my young mind, that was the very definition of what inerrancy meant. That everything in it was scientifically in advance of its time and that anyone who read with “spiritual eyes” could easily discern it’s message at every point.

When I encounter Christians on blogs and elsewhere today I usually encounter others who hold to this view of the scriptures, and I easily get flustered. But I am committed to the scriptures as the infallible word of God. So when I encounter Christians on the other end of this teeter-totter they automatically lump me into the first group precisely where I don’t comfortably fit in.

It gets most frustrating, however, when in discussion with any particular inerrantist group on any particular subject that they favour. Because they read the Bible and assume that what they think the Bible says does not come out of their interpretation of it. In fact, from their perspective they are not even thinking the Bible says something they believe, they are simply stating what the Bible says. And of course it just happens to align with what they believe. (They would actually say it’s the other way around.)

In a recent blog article Scot McKnight states the problem this way:

Many Christians grow up with a view of Scripture that it is inerrant, and that means for them – and I speak here of the populist impression – that it is not only true but that is more or less magically true – true beyond its time, true when everything else says something else. Connected to this view of inerrancy is a view of Bible reading that takes a sound Christian idea called the perspicuity of Scripture, that the Bible’s message is clear to any able-minded Bible reader, and ratchets it up one notch so that the Bible reader thinks whatever I see in the Bible is what the Bible is saying. This is my way of saying that one’s interpretations of Scripture become as infallible as the Bible itself, and since everything interlocks, giving in one inch is the first step in apostasy. (Here)

A “perspicuity of Scripture” (when pushed) is the idea that “whatever I see in the Bible is what the Bible is saying.” And the problem here, McKnight says, is that one’s “interpretations of the Scripture become as infallible as the Bible itself.” Give an inch anywhere and you’re well on your road to apostasy (is this why the neo-Reformed are so militant?).

But we run immediately into a problem at this point. Many people in that position cannot see how it is that their interpretation of the Bible is different from what the Bible is saying. After all, from their perspective, what the Bible says is clear if a Christian is “spiritually discerned” (which is a polite way of saying that I am holier than you are because I know what the Bible says).

For such a person there is a parable that Tom Wright shares which will help them understand:

After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in the late summer of 1997, many in England were in a state of shock which reached a climax with her dramatic funeral the following Saturday. Millions of people all over the country seemed unable to think of anything else all week. The day after the funeral, preachers were faced with a choice. Since everyone is thinking about Diana, do you preach about her, discerning if you can some message, however oblique, in the day’s readings, and trying to help people deal both with genuine grief and with (as some cynics suggested) media-generated mass hysteria? Or do you do your best to change the subject and move people on (as we say) by simply preaching, with or without the lectionary, about something else entirely?

I chose the former route…. But I know of a church where the preacher made the other decision, and preached an entire sermon about Mary the mother of Jesus. One of the worshippers there told me afterward that she had come upon a young woman after the service, in tears as much of puzzlement as of grief. ‘I didn’t understand what he was saying,’ she said. ‘Can you help me get the point?’ She had assumed, throughout the sermon, that the preacher was in fact speaking about Princess Diana, however obliquely; and she was determinedly trying to decode, from his totally different discourse, a message that might help her in her grief.” (Justification, p.41)

And there you have it. When people come to the Bible with their minds on one thing, expecting one thing, they will assume that what they expect to see is what it is saying. They will then fight hard to “decode” it or attempt to press it into a systematic service and try to pull out of it something totally different than what the Bible itself is trying to say. This is why it is important to study the Scriptures in their own context (yes!), but more importantly, from their own context as though you and I were in the original crowd. This is much more difficult than picking up a Study Bible or Commentary to read about the background of a passage. We need to learn how to think as the original hearers thought in order to hear what they heard. And this, I think, is all about learning to come to the Bible with the questions the Bible itself is seeking to answer.

(For part 1 click here)

In the next part of Wright’s new book (4-stars) he reaches for the metaphor of a sound system whose speakers are in serious need of adjustment. While reading the Gospels, the Church has tended to turn the volume down on some speakers, up on others and nearly off on yet others still. The result has been a distortion of the beauty that is meant to ring through the beautiful and true message of the Gospels.

Turn Up Israel’s Story

After assessing the problem we face, a misreading of the Gospels, Wright directs us into an adjustment of sorts by taking us through the Gospels one book at a time. He wants to draw attention to the importance of the story of Israel for the Gospel writers and reminds us that if Israel’s story is important for them, it should be for us as well. Of particular interest is Wright’s continued insistence in the Exile motif at this junction. This view that he holds to is still widely contested but for Wright it is absolutely essential to get it right and to understand that first century Jews believed they were still in Exile and that the Messiah would come and deliver them.

So to this end – in chapter four – he talks about Daniels seventy-weeks – “a jubilee of jubilee’s” if you will – and connects it directly to Matthew’s genealogy list where the Gospel writer structures Jesus’s genealogy into three fourteen generations (14 x 3 = 42) with Jesus being the last (totalling 49, a la Daniel’s seventy-weeks). I agree with my friend Drew, that when we think about this type of math it does seem that Wright is stretching things a bit, looking for any under-the-rock evidence connecting to key Exile-related numbering systems. But maybe Wright is correct here. Maybe we are just not thinking “Jewishly enough”. Perhaps for a first century Jew, Matthew’s point would not have gone unnoticed. I can’t say for sure, but Wright does present an interesting case.

Turn Down These Two Speakers

Many Christians will find Wright’s next adjustment somewhat shocking. He says that the next two speakers have been turned up way too loud, thus making the Gospel writers more subtle points nearly impossible to hear.

Yes “JESUS IS GOD!” But…

As he touched on earlier, the Church has been obsessed with proving the deity of Christ and reading the Gospels as if that (and perhaps some moral teaching stuff) is all they had to say.  Wright says, YES THERE IS A GOD, YES JESUS IS GOD (reflecting the volume of this emphasis), but the screaming of some points has drowned out the more subtle emphasis of the Gospels, not that Jesus is God (though he is), but that God has dwelt among us. Jesus did not do things to prove that he is God, he did things to show us what God is up to. It’s also been custom in the Church Tradition to read “JESUS IS GOD!” as simply an answer to Genesis 3, and to skip over, almost complete, the story of Israel. Yes Jesus is God, but he’s not just any old god, he’s Israel’s God. In fact, the main point of this whole chapter is to further what he said in Simply Jesus to remind us that the story of Jesus is more than just the story of Israel, the story of Jesus is the story of Israel’s God.

Yes, the Gospels are for the Church, But…

The second speaker that has been turned up way to loud is the one that emphasizes the Gospels as simply reflecting the life of the early Church. They have no real connection to Israel and are rather merely a reflection of the crisis’ that arose in those early days. Each Gospel writer, it is said, wrote to a specific audience to address a specific issue. They’re also read, then, as providing the early Church a proper moral compass, via the life of Christ. From the liberal point of view, this is why the Church made up a fictitious Jesus and filled his mouth with words and his hands with actions, things he said and did that he never actually said and did.

The truth is, says Wright; the Gospels are the Churches foundational documents, but primarily in the sense that they tell “the story of the launching of God’s renewed people” (emphasis original). But it’s not right to think of Jesus’ mission as one of “founding the church” because, as Wright points out, there already was a people of God.

Turned Off, Unplugged and Placed in an Attic

The first speaker, says Wright, was turned down too low and the second two were turned up way too high. But the fourth speaker, he goes on, “has often not merely been turned down, but never switched on in the first place. Maybe, to extend the metaphor, it’s even worse; maybe the speaker needs to be retrieved from its lonely spot in the attic, dusted off, put in its place, and plugged in.”

What speaker could Wright be talking about? Well, that precise speaker that speaks of the clash of the Kingdoms. Not some secondary, subsidiary, incidental clash, but an actual clash of the Empire of Caesar with the Kingdom of God. Explicit. Intentional.

For Wright there can be no doubt about it. It is especially clear, he seems to think, for anyone who embraces the notion that the true gospel is understood as the story of Jesus as fulfillment of Israel’s story. For Wright, that is a direct corollary to the notion that Jesus and his followers consciously pitted the Kingdom of God against the Empire of Caesar. (This must make Scot McKnight’s view ironic to N.T. Wright. McKnight passionately affirmed the first – that the gospel is Jesus’ story as fulfillment of Israel’s story – while rejecting the latter. )

Wright then sets about to make an impassioned case for the explicit conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Empire of Caesar in the Gospel’s:

“But, you say, surely Caesar is only mentioned once in the gospels, and there Jesus says that there’s a clear division between God and Caesar, a split of church and state, so that never the twain shall meet. Well, not so fast. We’ll get to that. It sounds suspiciously modern. Did Jesus really anticipate post-Enlightenment Western ideology so exactly? And the objection is forgetting, in any case, the wonderful passage in John 18-19 (to which also we shall return), in which Jesus, representing God’s kingdom, confronts Pilate, representing Caesar’s. They go at it together, arguing about kingdom, truth, and power until Pilate proves Jesus’s point by having him executed with the words “King of the Jews” above his head. And once we recognize that confrontation for what it is – part of the very climax of John’s astonishing gospel – there is more. Much more.” (p.135)

He goes on, in the allotted time, to build a wonderful case for the clash of the Kingdoms, not by appealing to some obscure verse here or there, but by tackling large portions of each of the Gospels and mixing them with the times and context of Israel’s own his(story). The confrontation of God and Caesar is a final corollary to the confrontation of God and Babel, or perhaps more explicitly, God and Egypt. Each case, as much as they have a spiritual element, have an explicitly physical one too.

In the end Wright’s point is that “the four gospel writers, each in his own way, tell the story of Jesus as the story of the new and ultimate exodus. What our present fourfold exercise has done is to draw out the various dimensions of that new exodus and to highlight their significance.” (p.153)

All of this delivers us through the corridors of the main arteries and directly into the heart of Wright’s book: “the explosive combination of the kingdom and the cross.” – Part 3…

In How God Became King (4-stars) N.T. Wright takes up the problem he introduced in Simply Jesus and carries it to the next level. There Wright addresses the problem the Church has made of assuming ‘the gospel’ equals ‘justification by faith’ which seems to have little or nothing to do with the actual Gospels. He attempted to show us in Simply Jesus that the Gospels tell the gospel and that the gospel, proper, is the Story of Jesus. Now, in How God Became King, Wright goes a step further: the Story of Jesus is actually about another story, the story of how God became King (see here for how I think McKnight and Wright diverge on emphasis at precisely this point).

How Tradition Distorted The Gospel Message

The first two chapters play off each other in a way. The first shows how the gospel became distorted early on in the great Western Christian Tradition in large part do to the emphasis laid down in the Creeds and then later again by the Reformers. In both cases emphasis is laid upon the Birth, Death, Resurrection and (sometimes) Ascension of Jesus, leaving out complete everything in between; the life of Jesus, his mission in action and word and how the rest should be interpreted along through it’s lens.

The Liberal and Social Movement Did No Better

The second chapter then takes a look at how since the 18th century Jesus’ humanity, his actual life, was emphasized at the expense of what the Gospels actually had to say regarding those good things that the Creeds and Reformers did emphasize; the Birth, Death, Resurrection and (sometimes) Ascension of Jesus. Instead, Jesus became a social activist. His primary message, unrelated to all of that other stuff we find in the Gospels, is to care for the poor, the downtrodden, the prostitute, sinner and so on. Sliding along a bit from this Liberal Christian movement of the eighteenth century, but still keeping within this category are those Wright calls the “devout Christians” (as opposed to the Liberal’s he referred to as the “less devout Christians”). The social gospel movement that carries on today, that emphasizes what Jesus did and said in regards to the poor without necessarily rejecting the Creeds, but certainly downplaying them as if they weren’t really all that important. The problem with the social gospel movement, says Wright, is that while emphasizing many of Jesus’ apparent social concerns (such as “what you did it unto the least of these…”) and deemphasizing his more doctrinally laden ones (“the Son of Man came to… give his life as a ransom…”), the world since the birth of the social gospel movement has not really gotten any better. The social gospel, on it’s own, is not really the answer to the world’s problems.

Six Inadequate Christian Answers

In his third chapter Wright explores the six answers a devout Christian might give today to the question: what do you suppose all of that middle stuff – the stuff between Jesus’ birth and the cross – was written down for? They are: 1) to tell us how to get to heaven; 2) to teach us how to live an ethical life; 3) to give us Jesus’ example to follow; 4) to show us that Jesus was perfect, thus qualifying him as the ‘perfect sacrifice’; 5) to give us stories to identify with; and perhaps the most common answer would be, 6) to prove the divinity of Jesus. All – or most, at least – of these answers have a grain of truth to them, but they fall short of being what the Gospel’s are all about. The last point will make a good example: the early Creeds were written apologetically to defend the deity of Christ as were the apologetic writings of the eighteenth century to this day in many circles. Gnostics denied the union of the Father and the Son and eighteenth century modernists denied anything resembling miracles. In response Christians turned to the Gospels and sought to defend the miracles of Jesus so that, by default, his miraculous acts would bolster the Christian claim to his deity. That is, the Gospels have been routinely read as if their main point were to prove that Jesus is God. That’s all fine and dandy, but was that the message that the gospel writers themselves wanted to communicate? The flat out answer is no. The gospel writers didn’t seek to prove Jesus’ divinity at all, they assumed it and wanted to make other points.

Wright says that some people today say that the point of the middle stuff was to show us, through Jesus, what God is really like. He says “that is a bit more like it”, but it still falls short of the actual intent of the gospel message. The point of the middle stuff isn’t just to show us God (be it God’s character or otherwise), but more precisely, it was written to show us what God is up to. He says that people have come to the Gospels with the wrong questions, and they found answers to those questions, but that doesn’t help us understand what the actual message of the Gospels is, which should be our goal. We need to begin, he says, by admitting our misunderstanding and then seek a fresh reading.

For that, we’ll have to turn our attention to part two…

A customer was browsing our store recently and as she was passing by an end cap displaying Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven she said, “Ooh, another story of someone who went to Heaven?” as she took it off the shelf and began to read the back. “No”, I said. “It’s a book about heaven, but Alcorn has not gone there himself.” “Eww” she said as she promptly repositioned the book on the shelf.  “Why would anybody want to read a book about Heaven written by someone who hasn’t even been there?

No joke. She actually did just say that.

Although her question was meant to be rhetorical, I decided to answer it anyways. “Well because in those other books people will tell you that they went to heaven, but in Alcorn’s book you will find out what the Bible actually says on the subject”.

Oh“, she snarled, “there’s that.” Conversation ended.

Ya, there’s that. You know. This little thing we Protestants like to call sola scriptura. My concern – and desire – is not to pick on this one customer, but to observe a growing trend among conservative evangelicals. When books like 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is For Real rise to the top of Bestseller charts in North America, and sustain their presence there, while those very same buyers avoid books like Alcorn’s Heaven or Wright’s Surprised by Hope, there’s a problem. A serious problem.