In Surprised by Hope, Wright does a good job defending the historicity of the resurrection (albeit with problematic concessions about inerrancy; e.g., the illustration of Wittgenstein’s poker, pp. 31ff). He is also correct to point out that the hope of Christians is not a disembodied soulish existence in heaven but a resurrected body on the new earth.
Wright’s main argument about the resurrection and the new creation is correct. Conservative who know they agree with Wright on these points may be surprised by how much they end up disagreeing with Wright along the way in this work.
For instance, because he’s not willing to fully challenge Darwin (83), Wright is forced to concede that death is part of the good creation of God (94-95). This puts in jeopardy the truth that bodily resurrection is the Christian hope in the face of a fallen world. That truth is close to the heart of Wright’s argument in Surprised by Hope, but this concession puts an otherwise good argument off-kilter from what the Bible is actually saying. Wright says, “Death as we now know it is the last enemy, not a good part of the good creation” (p. 99, emphasis added). This is very different from Rom 5:12 (to name just one passage).
Wright is not always quite fair when dealing with other positions. For instance, he brings up Harold Lindsell and Tim LaHaye when discussing dispensational theology, but he nowhere deals with scholarly dispensationalists like Darrell Bock, Craig Blaising, or Alva McClain who have actually made some of the points Wright is making before Wright made them. This is all the more annoying because Wright has a habit of speaking as if he has finally discovered truth that everybody else has missed when often time he seems simply to have failed to do the requisite research in historical theology.
Wright’s aberrant soteriological views also appear in Surprised by Hope. Wright either distorts or fails to mention the Reformation view of justification when presenting his own view on the matter (139f.). Those who hold to the traditional view are "overanxious" and wish to "rigorously exclude" any "mention of works." While such a person can be found, Wright ignores the concerns of a number of careful evangelical scholars who have argued his views on justification contain unbiblical deviations from what Protestants have historically accepted since the Reformation.
In getting justification wrong Wright gets the gospel wrong. In other works, Wright also foregrounds the end of the exile when it comes to the cross (JVG, 592), repentance (JVG, 247-51, 256-58), and forgiveness (JVG, 268-72). As a result the larger story of the Bible about creation, fall, and salvation from sin becomes the story of Israel about election, exile, and return from exile.
This distortion of the gospel is clear in what Surprised by Hope omits. Wright wrote an entire book about the resurrection of Jesus and bodily resurrection as the hope of Christians without actually coming around to telling his readers how they could be saved from sin and included in the resurrection of believers. Though he included a chapter about Jesus as judge, there is nothing to tell a reader how he can escape God’s judgment. Even the section on evangelism deals primarily with mistakes that evangelicals have too often made. Wright does not handle how an individual can be saved from his sin.
Though Wright is correct that salvation is more than an individual’s relationship with God, salvation is certainly not something less than an individual’s salvation from sin. The Fall was cosmic in extent, but it sprang out of the actions of individuals. Likewise, redemption is cosmic in effect, but it too centers on the rescue of individuals from sin and the restoration of fellowship with God.
In the end, Wright’s main argument about the resurrection is correct, but because Wright has so many other central things wrong, the book itself disappoints.