Some books are enjoyable in that they challenge me to a new way of thinking. Other books I enjoy because they affirm that a new way I've already been thinking is on the right tract. NT Wright's 'Surprised by Hope' fits in the latter category. Though the book faded for me (I enjoy Wright more as a historian and case-maker than as a pastor and application-maker), the first 200 pages were great.
The book is really about resurrection and how the word took on new meaning with Jesus and His people. It's about avoiding the departures from this core doctrine that go both directions (the anti-materialists and the only-materialists). Wright's message is that the Bible's message is not about 'going to heaven when you die' but living the kingdom today and hoping for heaven to be realized here on earth.
Wright is easier to pin down, here than usual, he talks specifically about doctrines he agrees with and doesn't agree with. He shares great insights on resurrection, ascension and mission. He gets specific on paradise, purgatory and the 3 main views of hell. He describes the first 2 views (eternal torment and universal reconciliation) and then seems to agree with the third view (conditional immortality) before, in typical Wright style, proposing a 4th view that is really a blend of 1 and 3 by speculating that the wicked lose their humanity (thus ceasing to exist) while still existing in some other state eternally (Frankly, I think he'd have been better off just to stick with conditional immortality, but I appreciate the fresh approach!).
I don't want my earlier statements to imply that after page 200 the book is not worth reading. There are some good thoughts toward the end, but I prefer to let the reader make the applications from the fresh theology. Great book.