N.T. Wright on Heaven in Time Magazine

Highly respected theologian, Bishop (Anglican Church), and Author N.T. Wright, noted for his conservative scholarship and defense of the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ discusses what he believes to be the biblical view of heaven vs. the dominant incorrect view of Western Christianity.

 You can read the interview here: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html

17 responses to “N.T. Wright on Heaven in Time Magazine

  1. Hmm,another case of the C of E trying to squeeeeeze the square peg of a pre-scientific primitive religion into the round hole of modern,adult society.Really,he might as well be talking about how Valkyries take our fallen soldiers to Asgard in choppers these days,rather than winged chariots.

  2. Its an interesting article. I like the rejection of the common post-modern view of the immortal soul going to a “heaven” . Instead he supports a view that embraces the very concrete reality that we die physically and yet can be resurrected, which is what the resurrection of Jesus promises all who believe.

  3. Brian,interesting that you like that idea.Is it because neurology indicates that dualism is a fallacy (ie,that the mind is a product of the brain and not an external ‘entity’ ) or that your prefer a physical resurrection that fits in with a bronze age book?Of course,the latter raises the question:what happens to those ‘believers’ that were cremated,or bodies destroyed in volcanic eruptions.Jesus only had 3 days wear on his body.Is dust re-turned into body?Respectfully xx

  4. Mantecanaut,

    Thanks for joining the conversation.

    I am not a scientist but as I understand, our human bodies have been decaying since the day of our birth. The apostle Paul taught that Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘first-fruit’ of the resurrection life (1 Cor 15.20). Thus, his resurrection is only the beginning of an even that will be completed when Jesus returns again. Paul then goes on to explain to describe our present bodies as ‘perishable’ or ‘coruptable’ (depending upon which English translation one reads from) but that perishable body will be raised as an imperishable, glorious body that is beyond the destructive powers of death (1 Cor 15.43-44). The idea is that regardless of how much or to what degree our present body has suffered decay, we will be raised with an indestructable body/life and that is the victory that Paul speaks of in 1.Cor 15.58.

    Now, that promise is contingent upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Though I cannot prove Jesus’ resurrection, I do believe it historically happened and believe there is good reasons for such faith. But that is a completely different issue.

    Grace and peace,


  5. hey Rex,Peace to you,and no offense meant,but in order to be true to my ‘god given gift’ of logic I must speak truthfully.
    Corinthians…how can you read this and NOT understand a primitive peoples fear of death?It is natural for us to fear death,the unknown country,the idea of us ‘not being’.It’s a scary thought to many.And to a people thousands of years ago who had not yet discovered other continents,yet alone that the earth is a globe,it must have been all the more terrifying.This is why all religions have a life after death policy,and resurrection is a common theme.Wouldn’t you expect that?Seriously,what is the difference between one of these ideas/beliefs from our ignorant ancestors?How did you come across your particular one?Ok,cos its true,but they all have old texts,rules,and promises of reward.Punishments for serving other gods.
    Anyway,regarding resurrection:these guys argued for the continuation of the human body because that was what they were most afraid of losing:
    Corinthians 5.1,4 – For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down – when we die and leave these bodies – we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself, and not by human hands. While we live in this earthly tent, we groan with a feeling of oppression; it is not that we want to get rid of our earthly body, but we want to have the heavenly put on over us, so that what is mortal will be transformed by life.

    Is that not wishful thinking?
    27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
    27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
    Dont hear much about that one.It should also be obvious that the authors of the bible expected his return within their lifetime:
    Mat 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
    I apologise if any offense is caused,but I just cant understand how you can accept the myths of one bronze age religion,but not the rest(ie the egyptian,greek,chinese,mayan,celtic,norse,etc )
    Big love xxx

  6. Mantecanaut,

    No offense taken!

    I believe that Jesus of Nazzareth dies and rose from death on what we now call “Easter Sunday.” That is why I accept the teachings of Jesus and not other religions.

    Why? Though I have been a believer in Jesus since 1997, that faith was tested (severely questioned) five years ago. Five years ago, my wife and I buried our first child. As if the death of a child was not difficult enough to bear, a year later my younger brother tragically died leaving behind a wife and 2 children. At some point along the path of grief, I began to question whether or not God was even in control or not.

    Prior to that event, I had alway maintained that if God is powerful enough to create a cosmos as diverse as we live in then other mysterious events, such as incarnation, resurrection, ascension, and glorification, are certainly not beyond his abilities (regardless of how little I might understand these events). But after the death of my son and brother, I was not sure. After all, if God could do such a powerful and mysterious salvation for the world, then why could my son have not been born healthy and why could God have not protected my brother’s life (at least until his children were raised).

    As I understand, this is the question that many people of faith ask in the face of catastrophic suffering.

    In Romans 8.28, the apostle Paul teaches that God is at work for our “good” (which is sort of ironic, since this verse is so often used by those who do not know suffering to quickly bandage the suffering of others). What dawned on me is that what God is working towards is the salvation of people (which is a big theme in Romans), not our present comfort. I was able to relax and trust again that God is working for my good – my salvation. He is doing that through Jesus who died and rose again, of which real people saw him , touched him, and heard him resurrected from the grave of death. Those same people went out telling others about this and even died for it. There testimony and responses to that testinmony were passed on, some of which became a collection of writings known as the New Testament.

    I believe the tradition of testimony and therefore believe in Jesus. I further believe he came to offer hope to a world where so much suffering takes place and to restore justice (the kingdom of God) in a world filled with evil. I am stricken with grief that there are Christians, past and present, have done things in the name of Jesus that are everything contrary to what Jesus taught…and yet I also know I am far from a perfect person. And so I continue to believe.

    I know what I have said does not give a reason for human suffering. What ever reason may be given for why one person suffers and another does not, in the end such reasons seem woefully inadequate. My comfort is that I know God, through the Son, Jesus, has experienced such suffering too.

    Grace and peace,


  7. Rex,

    Live NT Wright. Good stuff.


    How is resurrection any more wish thinking than the “wish thinking” of those who want to believe that after death there is nothing?

  8. Mantecanaut,

    I am not certain where your misconception is coming from. As I understand it there was great disagreement in the first century among the Jews as to whether there was a resurrection at all. This idea flies in the face of most other religions that teach that an incorporeal being is freed from the physical body at death. some of the scriptures you cited actually lend more support to the idea of a resurrection of somekind. Whether or not Jesus will put back together the old body we had molecule by molecule, or just give us a new body, remains to be seen. I dont think the Bible tells us clearly what the resurrection body will be, just that it will be different in many aspects.

    So I dont viwe the Biblical accounts as superstitious fear of death, after all we in this day and age make up all sorts of outlandish ideas about what happens after death. One of those being the idea that there is a bodiless spirit, made of “energy” that rises to “Heaven” as in Maria Shriver’s book that NT Wright talks about.

    As a scientist myself it makes more sense that God would recreate the body in some fashion, and not just scoop out the “soul” of a person. After all he did create us in the beginning to have a personal relationship to him in the physical body we have now. The decay and death that comes to all of us now is the result of sin and being banished from Eden where the tree of life was.

    As to my preference, I have none! I would be content to be with God in whatever form he chooses. That doesnt change the facts that are taught in the Bible, and if some scripture is hard to understand and can be interpreted different ways then God will make it clear at the end.

    As to those who were cremated: Can God reconstitute a human body? yes. Can he create a new one out of nothing? Yes. He can do all these things so it doesnt really matter what happens. God can make a physical resurrection body, he can make us beings of an enirely different sort. Does it make a difference regarding our response to God’s message? Either way we still need Jesus, and God still offers grace to all who believe.

  9. Glad to have you coming by my blog. Wright is great. Stay warm in the snow …

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  10. Hi there!
    Well,you kind of made my point Brian when you said:

    “.. after all we in this day and age make up all sorts of outlandish ideas about what happens after death.”

    Yep.And thousands of years ago,when the life expectancy was mid-30’s,perhaps the fear of death was even more potent,and they made up some outlandish ideas of their own.
    I think you’re being disingenuous describing yourself as a scientist though Bri.The point of science is that it the only tool we have for discovering truth…that is,by accepting as fact only those things that we have evidence for.You say:
    “That doesnt change the facts that are taught in the Bible, and if some scripture is hard to understand and can be interpreted different ways then God will make it clear at the end.”
    but there is very little fact in the bible.It gets the value of ‘pi’ wrong for a start,and supports a flat earth.God will make it clear in the end?When we’re dead?What did he write the book for then?Why not write it a bit more clearly,and take out some of the murder and genocide?There are some lovely parts of the bible,don’t get me wrong,but the resurrection is surely exactly the sort of thing that a pre-scientific people would invent to assuage their fear of the unknown?You chaps seem to be saying “we dont know whats going to happen,how we will be resurrected,but it will happen”.I respectfully suggest that it would be more honest to just say that you do not know what happens when we die.Benoverby…it is not wishthinking to admit this.That we do not know.Its just honesty.
    Well,there’s a lunar eclipse on Thursday.Should be very beautiful/impressive,check it out.Thousands of years ago they thought this kind of thing was a sign or portent from god.They would be afraid,some might sacrifice a few unfortunates to appease the gods.These days we know a little more,and can appreciate the wonder of the cosmos,without attributing it to supernatural agent,or pretending to know things that we cannot.Lets learn a bit more of astronomy/biology before we decide we ‘just know’ things eh?

  11. Science is “the only tool we have for discovering truth…” You do know that such a statement is highly debated. And not just by theologians, but also by philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and many other.


  12. mantecanaut,

    Your entire argument is speculative. Do you fear death enough to make up wild stories? Do you fear that the Bible is true and make wild accusations about Biblical facts? Im not sure where the reference to pi came from, but let me state clearly: The Bible is not a science textbook, it is not a repository for empirical data accumulated by observation and experimentation. You are missing the point entirely if you think the Bible will give a scientist an acceptable argument for HOW things are done. It does however give us reasons for WHY things happen, as in their real meaning. Science may be a good tool for us to describe our world, but it falls short in giving us meaning to our lives. The truth you ascribe to science is simply the result of our observations about the natural world, which are limited by the tools we have for observing and our ability to understand what we are observing.

    What science cannot tell us is actually more important, and thats the reason the Bible exists.

    But if you want all the answers to your scientific questions about the Bible here is a good place to start: http://www.doesgodexist.org/

  13. I noticed and commented on this recent article featuring NT Wright over on my blog. He and C.S. Lewis got my faith back on track as I was going through my time of troubles. Just last night I saw Wright’s new “Surprised by Hope” at Barnes and Noble and was impressed. I’ve put in an order for it through Amazon.com

  14. Bri,obivously,I’m aware that the bible isn’t a science book.I mentioned pi,because you talk about “bible facts”.The bible mentions pi and gets it wrong!Even though the babylonians had gotten closer to the figure centuries earlier.For a book that the creator of the universe puts his name to,that’s a pretty shoddy “fact”.I know we’re just going round in circles here,but Ill try to get one point across.You guys are looking for ‘meaning’ to your lives.As have we all since man first looked at the sun and wondered what that firey orb was.Thats why the first ‘gods’ we created were sun gods,sky gods and earth gods.We didnt understand weather systems and proscribed natural events such as floods to the gods’ anger.We used these stories to explain that which we could not understand,to give ‘meaning’ to that which was beyond our ken.As we progressed and became agricultural,god’s of corn appeared,we developed many rituals to ensure a good harvest.With time our beliefs evolved…the many gods became one,as we still grappled with that problem of ‘meaning’.Does it not strike a chord?The quest for meaning traces a line through our history.Step back a second and look at it.Why did those ancient peoples believe what they believed?Why are religions/beliefs still invented today?Why do we change and adapt older religions to fit modern circumstance.We are still searching for the big answer.And that is the wonder of being human,that which makes us different from other animals,that we evolved a neo-cortex that became so spectacularly good at ‘pattern detection’.We SEEK patterns,explanations,meanings.Ok,so you’ve found your meaning.But with those of 2000 yrs ago…and it keeps needing to be brought up to date(eg.the catholics ejecting the idea of limbo).Sure,there are beautiful stories in the bible (also in homer’s illiad/greek myths) but there are also some pretty horrible ones.You cannot deny that.But we edit those out,and expand on the meaning of the good parts.Doesn’t that seem natural?That were still seeking to refine the meaning?Guys,WE are the ones who give meaning to our lives,with the people we love,and the deeds that we do,and by having the courage to look into the cold wind of reality,head held high,and say “i may not understand all,but I will join with the human project,the endeavour to progress and learn more.to shine a light in the darkness.”Look how far we’ve come.In a finger-click.
    Ok,sorry,didnt intend to go on so long.I guess you can delete it easy enough.
    Just lastly must be rude about that link you gave Brian,there are no answers there mate…just a bit of side-stepping,some bible quotes (c’mon,who can’t pull a bible quote to say what you want!Be truthful now.),and its generally something that might be said to a child to stop it asking too many questions.I really don’t mean to be offensive guys,and if i have been i apologise.Im just a human.x
    “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

  15. mantecanaut,

    I can appreciate your skepticism, and I agree that many people have invented gods to make them feel better.

    I did not seek God to give meaning to my life, God gave meaning to my life when I found Him. I sought God because I was in awe of his creation and Jesus’ teaching.

    But without going into a long discussion here I will just say that the God who created the universe is not an invention of man. I won’t try to prove it here because it would take too much time. Just look into the website I inlcuded in the last comment. It has more than enough facts to keep you occupied.

    One question I have for you: Can you reference the Pi comment you keep making? I would like to see where in the Bible it says that.

  16. Hi Brian,agreed..these kind of debates go nowhere.I wont intrude further,so this will be my last reply (hurrah I hear you cry!Of course,you free to get in touch if you have any questions).That website though was really hard going!Very disingenuous.Just look a bit deeper into it’s arguments…they don’t hold up.Quite childish really.Anyway,can’t remember where I came across the biblical pi reference first,so,quick google search brings up:
    If nothing else,it shows that the bible was written by men,(as of course were all other religious documents.Things like ‘the golden rule’ preceded jesus by hundreds of years..Confucious,Zoroaster etc)and is thus not an infallible document.Anyway,Im sure you can rationalise it in some way to fit in with your beliefs.Good luck fellas!Peace and love x

  17. My apologies that the “doesgodexist” website was mentioned. It cast a shadow on what was otherwise an interesting discussion.

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