Heaven Misplaced: Christ's Kingdom on Earth

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Heaven Misplaced: Christ's Kingdom on Earth, by Doug Wilson

I'm back. I'm sorry I was away for so long. After months of the pregnancy fatigue, I was starting to (finally) feel like myself again. Then the holiday craziness took over my life, and I got a cold that just won't die. I did, however, read some terrific books during my leave of absence and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. First: Heaven Misplaced.

I finished this a while ago, and I've been mulling over how best to review it. What do you say about a book written by someone smarter than you, who knows Scripture better, and is a better communicator? "Read this book." "Buy a copy for your friends." "I really liked it." See? Everything seems so trite. These underwhelming statements doesn't detract from the truth, though: I think you should read this book, get a copy for your friends, and I really liked it.

Doug Wilson tackles postmillennial eschatology in this book, although you'll have to read through to an appendix before you ever reach that description. He makes his argument using every day language, and footnotes define theological terms like "root of Jesse" and "the Incarnation". He makes his arguments in a particularly winsome way. He describes The Story, the best and greatest story ever told. In the introduction, he asks the reader to suspend skepticism and read his book with the same mindset as a work of fiction. But the best news of all, he says, is that it is all true. Instead of me poorly trying to paraphrase this, I recommend you read his introduction--it's an excellent summary of his book.

For you theological types, I grew up arguing for postmillennial eschatology, which is usually a pretty lonely road. I was challenged by this book though, because I've absorbed some of American Christianity's pessimism regarding the end times. For you non-theological types, eschatology is what Christians believe about how the world will end. Most Americans think that, to quote Wilson, "the world is God's Vietnam, and the return of Christ consists of the few lucky ones helicoptered off a roof during the fall of Saigon." To me, that just doesn't seem right (not to mention I have a pocket full of proof texts to back me up here). Christ conquered death and sin on the cross, bound Satan, and rose again from the dead and now reigns from heaven. Would this victorious God just slink off into history and let the world, literally and figuratively, go to hell?

This book is an introduction to historical optimism. This is the view that the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The will will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come. (page 9)

This book would be a great companion piece to a book with another contrarian thesis, Heaven is not my Home, by Paul Marshall (see a review here). I marked up my copy of Heaven Misplaced and read it slowly because I wanted to really absorb it. I would have liked to have read it with other people--I'm sure the conversations would be great, and each chapter has discussion questions which I think are helpful for individuals or groups. Basically: I label myself with these theological terms, but I want to write this on my heart: Jesus Christ is victorious in history, and I am privileged to be tasked with the Great Commission and help accomplish "Thy Kingdom come, and Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."


Nathan Garrett said...

Thanks for posting a review. I've been wanting to read something about postmil (eventually), and will have to pick this one up.