Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review: Scot McKnight: The Heaven Promise

There has been no shortage of books on heaven in recent years. Some of them have been fairly solid biblical examinations of the doctrine of heaven and others have been fanciful, if not unfortunate stories that stimulate much discussion about the topic while adding very little in the way of biblical wisdom. In his latest book, The Heaven Promise, Scot McKnight explores the most frequently asked questions about the topic including:

  1. What about near-death experiences?
  2. What about rewards in Heaven?
  3. Who will be there?
  4. Is God fair?
  5. Will there be families in Heaven?
  6. What about children who die?
  7. What about cremation?
  8. What about Purgatory?
  9. Will there be pets in heaven?
  10. Why should we believe in Heaven at all?
McKnight examines each of these questions with a mixture of storytelling and biblical exegesis. He relies heavily on a combination of quotations from scholars and theologians who have previously written on the topic and anecdotal stories from people he has met or heard about. 

On a few occasions, he points out a few thought provoking observations that are often neglected in discussions on the topic such as the unity of believers or the nature of the Kingdom mandate and how those influence our thinking about Heaven. More generally, however, he is providing answers, observations, and interpretations that are fairly standard within Christian discussions on the topic.

There are various theological questions bearing upon the way McKnight answers his questions that some believers may wish to examine carefully. His understanding, for example, of the nature of the Kingdom and the responsibilities that implies for our current mandate as Christians to pursue the realization of the Kingdom now is certainly a debated point even among conservative believers. His view on this as well as his views on Christ’s descent, cremation, family relationships, and several other matters are commonly held but are not consensus views. Nevertheless, McKnight is free to present his case and he does provide reasons for his views that are developed enough for a popular work such as this.

Some readers will no doubt be charmed by McKnight’s liberal use of adjectives and his slightly schmaltzy descriptions, other might find it mildly annoying. In either case, it is obvious that he is doing his best to capture the imagination of his readers. The narration was mostly well done but at times I am not sure that Jay Greener captured the rhythm and pacing that McKnight intended.

Overall, the book is a vast improvement over the many pop culture treatments of Heaven to which we have been subjected. Unfortunately, however, the book does not add much of any importance to the discussion that one cannot find in other books on the subject written by conservative Christians. The book is likely to be most helpful to those who have not previously studied the biblical teaching on the subject.

* I received a free copy of this book from as part of their Review Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.