Few areas of Evangelical theology have as little to do with the Bible as what we think about the After Life. From harps and wings to various overly-deterministic platitudes offered at funerals, Evangelicals don’t have a clue what to do with what comes next.
A very few excellent books – N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, for example – help us to think clearly through the Scriptures’ vision of the next world. But none of them are quite so accessible and fun as Randal Rauser’s new book What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven? (What on Earth)
What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven? is a clear, compelling and fun look at the Bible’s promises about Heaven.
Those familiar with Randal’s previous work will find What on Earth a welcome addition to his corpus (which includes The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails and God or Godless. If this is your first foray into his writing, here’s what you can expect:
Randal brings careful, methodical and disciplined thought to the various topics surrounding the afterlife. But then, with the rhetorical flourish of a veteran educator, Randal presents his thoughts as a series of twenty questions, each designed to provoke our imaginations and challenge our assumptions.
Randal asks us to consider such questions as “Where is Heaven now?”, “Will we all be beautiful?” and “Will God resurrect insects?”
All Randal’s answers are predicated on the assumption that Heaven is not an otherworldly place distinct from Earth.
As Randal puts it, Heaven is Earth, perfected.
And this is the real power of What on Earth Do We Know About Heaven? Even for those of us who’ve accepted that the Bible teaches “Heaven” is God’s final rescue and redemption of our created world, the full implications of this creation – our creation, the world we all live in – being fully restored is hard to wrap our brains around.
But imagining that the new creation will include galaxies. Or that Deaf culture will be an integral part of the new creation. Could the Titanic be restored? What about the Nazi warship Bismark?
Randal’s presentation isn’t gimmicky or trite. Rather, his questions stir our imaginations.
As the book progresses, Randal presses forward to more personal issues, inquiring about the nature of our relationships and of course eternal destiny.
At every turn, Randal wields all four components of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Scripture, Reason, Experience and Tradition. (I don’t actually know if Randal’s Wesleyan or not, but if he’s not, he should know we’re recruiting!) His thorough, careful reasoning makes What On Earth Do We Know About Heaven? a challenging, informative and formative read.
What On Earth is great to read by yourself, but each chapter also includes questions for discussion and reflection at the end. This makes it ideal for small groups, where the discussion that flows out of the chapters will doubtless be powerful and edifying. I do wish he’d covered a few more topics – like ghosts and some theodicy issues, but I suppose that’s what sequels are for!
Bottom Line: What On Earth Do We Know About Heaven is a fun, challenging read that will stir your imagination and provoke your faith. Well worth your time.
YOUR TURN: What about Heaven confuses you?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”