|"Look behind you!"|
Paula Gooder’s Heaven is the perfect blend of academic scholarship and clear, concise writing aimed at readers who aren’t afraid of a little theology. Over the course of nine short chapters and an epilogue, Gooder moves from Old Testament cosmology to what happens to people after death via fascinating discussions about angels, heavenly ascents and resurrection. Gooder is also concerned to show that the reality of heaven impacts us now, as anticipations, so to speak, of the future descent of the new Jerusalem to the new earth (Revelation 21).
If there’s an area that needs strengthening, it’s the lack of any discussion of the idea of progressive revelation that surely underpins Gooder’s study. Is it possible that some who read Heaven will come away feeling that they’ve learned a great deal, for example, about the development of ideas concerning angels, but aren’t so sure that a case has been made for their actual existence? Did people become familiar with Michael and Metatron because divine revelation was permitting people to recognise such figures, or were these characters simply the imaginative outworkings of a collective mind ever more confident in positing the existence of supranatural agents?
The need for some clarity here did not stop me from enjoying Heaven and learning much. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much that I thought it fulfilled the criteria for the 2013 Michael Ramsey Prize – and I made my vote!