Surprised by Hope has had a profound influence on the way I thnk about my faith, my future, my life on earth, and our hope of eternal life. I'd say hands down that this book is one every Christian should read.
The premise for the book is the argument that all of Christianity hinges on our hope for eternity: namely what we call "heaven," which we obtain through the work done through the resurrection of Jesus. However our culture, and ideas of "heaven" are more strongly influenced by greek philosophers, namely Plato, than the Bible.
This includes the idea that when we die, we are no longer physical beings but simply spiritual beings floating in could for eternity. This concept greatly contrasts Jesus's own example, which was not only a spiritual resurrection but a very real, although somewhat different, physical body. Wright highlights the fact that throughout the bible, a theology of resurrection and renewal is preached, applying to not only our bodies but also our Earth (See Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1). A very convincing argument is made that once we grasp a better understanding of the Hope we proclaim, it will alter the way we experience Christianity and live in this world.
The Idea's put forward in this book: That things I do on this earth really matter for eternity, and a refreshed view of the Hope I proclaim, are extremely exciting to me and will be on my mind for many years to come. If you're not into reading theology (I admit, the book is a big long winded), I would suggest you check the hour-long talk by N.T. Wright "Why Does Jesus' Resurrection Matter? Considering Its Relevance for Today," which i've inserted into the bottom of this post and sums up the first part of this book.
After watching that, I'd still suggest you pick up the book and read the last two or three chapters, which are more application oriented: Now that the ideas of resurrection and Christian hope are more clear, how does that change the way I live?
I'd be interested to hear from others who have read this book, and what thoughts and discussions it has sparked for them. Also, I'm looking for a new book to read on my upcoming vacation so if anyone has suggestions, let me know!