I’m continuing to read through N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope. I have pretty much agreed with everything he has addressed thus far. I believe he holds to very solid and healthy biblical teaching in regards to topics like the kingdom of God, heaven, earth, the soul, the body, the resurrection of the body, etc.
But I was interested in learning more of Wright’s thoughts on both the soul and hell (though I recently posted some of his thoughts on the soul with regards to its relation to the body). Does Wright fully hold to conditional immortality? Is he an annhilationist or does he hold to eternal conscious punishment? Many of these questions are answered in his chapter 11, though the answers do not come as I thought they would nor are they dogmatic in some areas.
First, I share some more words on the soul from Wright.
In his sub-section on Paradise in chapter 11, following his thoughts on Purgatory, Wright gives these thoughts on what many theologians term as the intermediate state for the believer:
I therefore arrive, fourthly, at this view: that all the Christian departed are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness. Though this is sometimes described as ‘sleep’, we shouldn’t take this to mean that it is a state of unconsciousness. Had Paul thought that, I very much doubt that he would have described life immediately after death as ‘being with Christ, which is far better’. Rather, ‘sleep’ here means that the body is ‘asleep’ in the sense of ‘dead’, while the real person – however we want to describe him or her – continues.
This state is not, clearly, the final destiny for which the Christian dead are bound, which is as we have seen the bodily resurrection. But it is a state in which the dead are held firmly within the conscious love of God and the conscious presence of Jesus Christ, while they await that day. There is no reason why this state should not be called ‘heaven’, though we must note once more how interesting it is that the New Testament routinely doesn’t call it that, and uses the word ‘heaven’ in other ways. (italics his)
I was interested to see that Wright does not fully embrace the teaching of conditional immortality, which usually embraces the concept of soul sleep during the intermediate state. Rather, Wright holds that the believer will be conscious as they await the resurrection of the body.
Now, the question is – What about the non-believer during the intermediate state?
Well, actually, Wright doesn’t address this really at all. He does share his thoughts on hell and judgment, and I will put some of those words up in another post. But I am not sure if he leans towards the unbeliever being in an unconscious sleep or what during the intermediate state. It’s possible more thoughts come up in his treatise Jesus and the Victory of God, as he points to it in this chapter in a footnote. But I am left wondering what he fully believes about the non-believer.
Anyways, stay tuned for some quotes on hell and judgment next week. You might just be surprised to read them as well.