Recent Book Reviews of A New Heaven and a New Earth

In the past couple of weeks I’ve become aware of some recent reviews of A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014).

Matthew Forrest Lowe On-line Review

The first review is by Matthew Forrest Lowe, which is posted both on NetGalley and on his own website, Lonely Vocations.

The review begins by saying:

I’m always impressed by Richard Middleton’s work, and this book is no exception. It’s a difficult trick to write about eschatology without losing sight of the larger narrative of biblical theology, but Middleton pulls it off! He begins by showing how the book’s concern fits within his story, noting his concern “to make the Bible’s vision for the redemption of creation available to a wide audience” (16) — many of whom might struggle with some of the same questions that he’s wrestled with throughout his theological life.

While Matt largely agrees with the emphasis of the book (and he includes an excellent summary if its argument), he raises two important questions. The first concerns my understanding of sin throughout the book (which he would like more clarity on); the second concerns my interpretation of the intermediate state in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 (he cites Walter Grundmann’s alternative interpretation in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament).

These are legitimate questions and I look forward to addressing them (and much more) when Matt presents his extended version of this review in Ottawa in a few weeks.

Book Review Panel at the CETA Meeting on May 31, 2015

Matt is on the executive committee of the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) and he will be presenting his review as part of a book review panel on A New Heaven and a New Earth, at the annual meeting of the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association on May 31, 2015.

While the formal CETA meeting will be held during the day (8:30 AM — 4:30 PM) at the University of Ottawa as part of the 2015 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the panel discussion will take place at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church at 7:00 PM.

In fact, Matt is organizing the review panel. Besides Matt, there will be reviews by Brian Walsh (with whom I’ve written two books) and Janet Warren (whose review will appear in the Canadian Theological Review, the journal sponsored by CETA). I will respond to the three reviews and we will have a time of open discussion with the audience.

If you are around, I hope you can join us.

Midwest Book Review

The second review of A New Heaven and a New Earth is a short note in the Midwest Book Review. My publisher, Baker Academic, posted the following excerpt from the review on their website:

Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction, figures and tables, an appendix (Whatever Happened to the New Earth?); a thirty page Subject Index; and a fifteen page Scripture Index, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology is a model of Biblical scholarship making it very instructive reading and highly recommended for personal, seminary, community and academic library Christian Studies collections.

You can read the entire review here in the Midwest Book Review, listed under “Christian Studies.” 

James Howell in the Christian Century

The third recent review is a longer piece by James C. Howell in the Christian Century. This is the excerpt Baker Academic posted on their website:

A thoughtful, thorough, and well-written book on biblical eschatology. . . . Middleton’s message concerns, secondarily, Christians’ fixation on the rapture and, primarily, virtually all of Christian preaching and teaching that eviscerates the richness of the Bible’s eschatology, offering nothing more than the chance to go to heaven after we die and this world has ended. . . . Middleton eloquently lifts up what is entirely plain if you pay attention: ‘the Bible consistently anticipates the redemption of the entire created order.’ Guiding us on a dazzling tour through the broad range of relevant texts, he makes clear the Bible’s emphasis on the material order–on culture, bodies, and buildings–and shows that the Creator’s purpose isn’t for creation to be swept away, but for it to be entirely redeemed.

This one is a somewhat strange review. It is mostly positive, but the reviewer raises all sorts of questions about things in the book, some of which are actually answered in the book (did he read it carefully?) and some of which are on minor points that I didn’t stress, but that he somehow thought were important. And once or twice he just plain misinterpreted what I was saying (like on the nature of final judgment or on taking eschatological imagery literally).

But, that’s par for the course as far as book reviews go (there have been much greater misreadings of things I wrote in reviews of my earlier books). And, as they say, any publicity is good publicity! (And the Christian Century is a widely read periodical.)

Rodney Clapp in the Christian Century

Interestingly, Rodney Clapp, the editor who originally contracted me for the eschatology book (but now works for a different publisher), wrote an earlier piece for the Christian Century on trends in holisitic eschatology (entitled “Life after Life after Death”), in which he mentioned the book I was working on a couple of years before it was published.

At one point in the article, he addresses recent books on the subject:

Premier among them is N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Rob Bell’s bestseller Love Wins follows Wright in putting the post-mortem emphasis on resurrected bodies in the context of a new heaven and a new earth. More recently Howard Snyder and Joel Scandrett, in Salvation Means Creation Healed, make an extended argument that salvation focuses not just on souls and not just on people, but presents the hope of a transformed and new earth. Meanwhile, biblical scholar Richard Middleton is at work on a book that will closely examine the major biblical texts and argue for the eschatological hope of a new heaven and a new earth.

You can read the entire article here.

Rodney Clapp on the Running Heads Website

A few months ago Rodney followed this up with a more extended online review of A New Heaven and a New Earth; he posted it on the editorial website for Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications, called “Running Heads” (Rodney is chief editor for Cascade Books).

These are the opening and closing sections of the review:

Some years ago, when I was an editor with Brazos/Baker Academic, I acquired a project that has just now come to fruition. That book is J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Baker Academic). Richard’s work is a sweeping—and exegetically detailed—survey of the argument that the earth is not to be left behind at the end of history as we know it. Instead, God will transform the “old” heavens (which are a creation of God themselves) and earth, because all creation is a part of God’s salvific work through Israel and Jesus Christ.

. . . . . . .

Of course, it remains to be seen if the holistic eschatological perspective will spread through the entire church and become dominant. I hope it will. If it does, Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth will surely be seen as a key text in that shift.

At the end of the reivew, Howard Snyder (one of the authors Rodney mentioned in his earlier article) posted a comment in response, saying that he was using my book in one of his courses at Asbury Seminary.

You can read the entire review (and the response comment) here.

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