Bringing Heaven Down To Earth

blog for the book by Nathan Bierma • www.nbierma.com/heaven

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Visit to Neland Faith and Writing group

This past Thursday I was honored to be invited to join the Neland Church “Faith and Writing” book group, which had interrupted its long to-read list of reputable titles in order to read Bringing Heaven Down To Earth. I grew up at Neland and knew most of the members of the group, and I couldn’t help but think that no matter how many copies the book sells, no matter who reads it (easy for me to say, I’m not in marketing!), I would cherish the feedback of these readers more than most; their positive comments would be the most validating and their critical comments most useful. Sharing a book you’ve written with people you’ve never met is an amazing thought, but sharing it with people in the worshiping community that formed you is most rewarding.

I was right about the quality of both the positive and negative comments from the group. A few members said that while the ideas of the book were fairly familiar to them–-because they shared with me the influences of the Reformed tradition and the writings of the key authors I refer to—-they generally found it a useful, plainspoken overview of these ideas. One member remarked that she could hand this book to a pastor and say, “Preach a sermon series on Revelation” (see this). One member wondered about the exegetical precedent for the ships of Tarshish analysis in chapter 4; I said that I once asked Richard Mouw at a conference in Chicago for his exegetical paper trail on his work on Isaiah 60 in When the Kings, and he told me only that it was largely based on his own reading and reflection. This member also thought I may have left my section on the Rapture too brief, especially since I avoided the premillennial doctrine of the tribulation and thousand-year reign of Christ. I agreed that I could have spent more time directly confronting these tenets of premillennialism, although I had wanted to keep it simple and focus only on the meaning of apentesin, and leave the more thorough debunking of premillennialism and Left Behind to others (Hoekema, and book-length critiques of the LB series, to which Thomas Thompson, a Calvin College professor and cousin of Jerry Jenkins, will notably add his later this year).

I was touched by the warm hospitality of the group (thanks again to Jan for the magnificent spread of tea and snacks), and by their responses to the book, which were both affirming and unsparing. And I’m grateful again for the major influence of the Neland community on my faith and on this book.

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