Many Latter-day Saints are showing an increased sympathy for the writings of Anglican bishop N. T. Wright of Durham, England, and others in the Emerging Church tradition. Such LDS interest derives from the movement’s emphasis on returning to basic Christian living modeled in the New Testament and adherents’ willingness to back away from those churches that have systematic theologies and a seeming addiction to the discourse of power while pursuing their agendas. The Emerging Church is more of a conversation than an organization, and it crosses denominational boundaries around the world. It is characterized by a deep interest in interpreting the New Testament as narrative, in Christian living and service as the keys to spreading the gospel, and in Christ’s invitation to all converts to join with him in building the kingdom of God here—in this life and on this earth.
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church provides Bishop Wright an opportunity to bring together his scholarly work on these New Testament themes with his personal insights on Christianity for a general readership. He can look back on a remarkable career as a scholar and cleric. He is one of the most respected New Testament scholars worldwide and currently serves as Bishop of Durham, the number four authority in the Church of England. As an Oxford graduate in classical studies and PhD recipient in theology, Wright has produced a remarkably fresh analysis of the New Testament in which he finds the traditional Luther-based theology of the evangelical tradition to be inadequate and argues for the superiority of a Calvinist approach. He has written dozens of books and is currently halfway through an ambitious six-volume series entitled Christian Origins and the Question of God. His most recent volume in that series, The Resurrection of the Son of God, provides much of the scholarly basis for Surprised by Hope, which is written to a broader audience. He has argued that church leaders should be Bible scholars and teachers, and he has written commentaries on almost all the New Testament books in his For Everyone series published by SPCK, which he says is aimed at twelve-year-olds or seventy-year-olds who have never read a Bible commentary.