A review of Raised Forever: Jesus’ Resurrection and Ours by Rory Shiner. (Matthias Media, 2014) by Picador.
“The body is not there. Clearly someone has taken it… But that raises questions.
“Why has someone taken this body? And, if you are stealing a body for who knows what purposes, why strip the linen off first? How exactly does it make your job easy to ensure the body is naked prior to departure?
“Furthermore if you’re stealing a dead body early on a Sunday morning, my guess is that you feel a little, well, sheepish about the whole exercise. Like you’re doing something a bit out of the ordinary – something on which society might frown. Something you wouldn’t tell your mum about. So, if you’re that guy (the ‘who cares what mum and society thinks I’m getting me a dead naked body’ guy), how likely is it that you’re also a bit of a neat freak? That you’re someone who has been raised to leave places neater than you found them so that you neatly fold and separate the grave clothes before you leave?”
So begins Raised Forever by Rory Shiner, an accessible new book about the resurrection. It is not simply a book about the historicity and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, nor simply a book about what happens to us when we die; the explicit purpose of the book is to explore the connection between these two events.
The book traverses the history and claims for the resurrection of Jesus showing that there is good evidence to believe he was raised from the dead. But, Rory says, there is “an argument so powerful that it could sweep away everything else, including all sorts of historical evidence: there is no God to do the resurrecting.” The question of Jesus’ resurrection is actually a question about God. What kind of God is this God who would raise Jesus from the dead?
The answer to this question means that there is no simple assessment of the evidence that lets you continue on with your day as if you’ve just solved another problem: “To receive the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead would involve you, and would involve changes in you. It’s not the sort of knowledge that can easily be accommodated into existing structures. It’s an intrusive sort of guest, one that starts rearranging the furniture – and eventually (if you’re not careful) you’ll wake up one day and find it doing major structural work on the whole house.”
The real heart of the book, and its strength, is the central chapter where Rory devotes time to explaining the broken connection between Jesus’ resurrection and ours. “We, like them, are firm on the one and flaky on the other: ‘Jesus was raised from the dead. Absolutely! And that means we will… um… hard to say, really. It’s a bit of a grey area. Go to heaven when we die? Exist as eternal souls? Something about a ‘rupture’ or a ‘rapture’ or something? Who knows’”.
The rest of the book is built around 1 Corinthians 15, and the certain hope we have of bodily resurrection as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the firstfruits of the age to come. It addresses the foolishness of not believing in human bodily resurrection, the coming transformation, the question of the location of heaven, our fears and worries about what happens to those who die while still waiting for Jesus to return, and the nature of resurrection hope.
And Rory explores all these things while keeping both feet firmly on the ground. This is not a book of lofty thoughts disconnected from daily life. This is a book that will help you know the power of Jesus’ resurrection for everyday life. It’s good for a new believer, for an old believer, for a not-yet believer. I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t want to give this book to.
This book made me laugh out loud. It made me think. It taught me new things. I pondered again what a gift God has given us in Jesus. It made me lift my eyes to the heavens, from whence my hope comes.