Book Review: Heaven Misplaced
May 7, 2010
What is the point of the Bible? If you talk to your average person (Christian or no) they would probably tell you that the point of the Bible and of the Christian walk itself is the hope of going to heaven when we die. This is typified in the gospel song:
“This world is not my home, I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”
Douglas Wilson says that this view is missing something big. He turns the lyrics of that song around and says, “Heaven is not my home, I’m just passing through”. In this very brief book (~130 pages), he makes the case that scripture is the story of how God has acted decisively in history with an eye toward restoring this world (not destroying it) for His glory. The Christian hope is resurrection not disembodied heaven. The hope that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15 is that we would be resurrected like Christ was.
Wilson goes on to argue that the Christian hope for this world is a positive one. The current Christian paranoia that the world is going down the tubes quick is not the view of Isaiah, Revelation, or 1 Corinthians. Pessimism about history is not a biblical view Wilson says. Wilson points to verses such as this familiar Christmas verse as evidence:
Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Wilson makes the case that scripture paints a picture of the gospel increasing and growing throughout history in anticipation of the general resurrection and return of Christ found in 1 Corinthians 15.
Wilson appeals to the beauty of this optimistic view. He invites his readers to imagine it being true. I remember once hearing Wilson facetiously say that he was tempted to rest his case for this optimistic view of history on two points, “1) Jonathan Edwards believed it and 2) It is a whole lot of fun.”
The book was very interesting. Wilson is a good and cogent writer. He is an admirer (and sometimes critic) of Oxford theologian N.T. Wright. I found this book to be somewhat of a compendium of Wright’s thought written in a readable and and much shorter format (Wright usually makes his case in 700 page books) – so if you are curious about Wright’s thought and don’t want to kill yourself with 700 pages try this book.
Anyway, whether you ultimately agree or disagree , the book is totally worth the read – and try suspending judgement until you read it. It can be found for cheap here. Or, if you don’t mind reading on google books, it can be found free here.