this book in paperback several years ago. And I started it more than once. But as an actual book it is just so big....
A couple of years ago I bought it again in KOBO form, thinking that I might get it read faster if it was more portable. And again I would start it, then get drawn onto something else, and re start it and so on...
Finally this winter I decided I would get it read this year. And so a chapter or so a week I got it done!
It is a great book. My favourite part was actually the first section, where Brock and Parker look at the use of paradise imagery first in the pre-Christian world and then in the first few centuries of the Christian church. It does make you think about what it would be like to proclaim louder the NOW part of the "now and not yet" when talking about the Kingdom of God. After all Jesus himself is reported to have said that the Kingdom of God is in our midst.
Sadly now talk of paradise is relegated to utopian fantasies, or something other-worldly, or something that only lies in a distant future.
Is that because of the theological thread of redemptive violence, as the authors suggest? Is it because the lure of the reward that is to come is such a powerful political tool to control the masses? Is it because of a pessimist view of humanity? Or may be all those things.
It is well known that where we focus our energies and thoughts has a deep impact on how we see the world. For much of the last 1000 years the Western Church (Roman, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed) has chosen to focus on the death on the cross. Sometimes it almost seems that Friday is more important than Sunday in some people's theology.
What happens if instead of torturous death we focused on life in paradise? Brock and Parker suggest this is what the early church did. I suggest it would change our attitude towards ourselves and each other. It would be a cause for hope. It might help us get past the idea of redemptive violence. As the authors show, the idea of redemptive violence moves beyond the meaning of the crucifixion to change how we deal with those who are "other".
But in the end I quibble with the title. We do not have to "save" paradise. We do not even have to reclaim it. I suggest we have to embrace it, to open our eyes to see it. Yes we have to be realistic about the "not yet" of the kingdom but if we see ourselves as being invited to live in paradise TODAY I think wonderful things could happen. How do we prepare each other to live in paradise?
So where do you see paradise around you today? Maybe that would be a good spiritual discipline. Some folks follow the advice of Oprah and keep a gratitude journal. Maybe we should start keeping a "Sightings of Paradise" journal.