Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven and How We Can Regain It

Overview


The Christian concept of heaven flourished for almost two millennia, but it has lost much of its power in the last hundred years. Indeed today even theologians tend to avoid the topic. But heaven has always been a central tenet of the Christian faith, writes Jeffrey Burton Russell. If there is no heaven, no resurrection of the dead, the entire Christian story makes no sense.

In this stimulating book, Russell sets out to rehabilitate heaven by forcefully attacking a series of ...

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Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven--and How We Can Regain It: How We Lost Heaven--and How We Can Regain It

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Overview


The Christian concept of heaven flourished for almost two millennia, but it has lost much of its power in the last hundred years. Indeed today even theologians tend to avoid the topic. But heaven has always been a central tenet of the Christian faith, writes Jeffrey Burton Russell. If there is no heaven, no resurrection of the dead, the entire Christian story makes no sense.

In this stimulating book, Russell sets out to rehabilitate heaven by forcefully attacking a series of ideas that have made belief in heaven, not to mention belief in God, increasingly difficult for modern people. Russell provides elegant and persuasive refutations of arguments ranging from the idea that science has disproved the existence of the supernatural, to the notion that biblical criticism has emptied the scripture of meaning. Along the way, as Russell looks at the ideas of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, Mark Twain and Alfred Lord Tennyson, Marx and Freud, and a host of others, he sheds light not only on the history of Christian thought, but on the process of secularization in the West. One by one, Russell refutes these anti-religious ideologies, pinpointing the deficiencies of their reasoning.

Throughout the book, Russell invites the reader, whatever his or her beliefs, to take the concept of heaven seriously both as a worldview in itself and as one with enormous influence on the world. It is a book that will be welcomed by thinking Christians, who often feel beleaguered by the forces of modernity and sometimes find it hard to defend their own beliefs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A marvelous overview of the many philosophical, literary, social, and even religious forces that have challenged the concept of heaven.... Russell's elegant and richly textured survey of heaven offers a first-rate history of a much-debated subject."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Effectively questions the arguments of many thinkers who have rejected religion in general and heaven in particular.... His handling of the ideas of such philosophers as David Hume, John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche is thought-provoking and well reasoned."--Library Journal

"Believers and unbelievers alike will find much here to challenge their thinking.... Russell argues that, far from hiding dark realities behind pretty illusions, the great metaphors of Christianity--from the luminous New Jerusalem of Revelation to the heavenly chariot of African American spirituals--gesture toward realities too cosmic to fit within ordinary language."--Booklist (starred review)

"Paradise Mislaid accomplishes a spectacular feat: it uses the subject of Heaven to examine the history of just about everything we deny or believe. Patient, generous, eloquent, it delivers to the ordinary reader a brilliant analysis of the long battle for Christian ideas. Russell shrinks from nothing as he pierces the illusions surrounding skepticism and cynicism and how these biases have come to dominate our daily lives. Vitally important for those of us who struggle to articulate the richness of the faith they hold dear."--Anne Rice, author of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

"A glorious work of scholarship and faith, expressed with poetic grace."--Rodney Stark, author of The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success

"A lively, fascinating engagement with the past history and future promise of the Christian idea of heaven. Russell's shrewd analysis is certain to stimulate a healthy debate over recovering confidence in this idea within the Christian church and western culture at large."--Alister McGrath, author of The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World

"Jeffrey Burton Russell is an eminent scholar of Western religious ideas, whose previous magisterial works on the history of hell, heaven, heresy, dissent, and the devil display a singular passion for both historical and spiritual truth. In Paradise Mislaid, he shows vividly how the 'flat earth' mentality of our own time has estranged Western culture from its spiritual and intellectual roots. A fascinating and important apologia."--Carol Zaleski, co-author of Prayer: A History

"Presents and effectively questions the arguments of many thinkers who have rejected religion in general and heaven in particular. His handling of the ideas of such philosophers as David Hume, John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche is thought-provoking and well reasoned."--Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195334586
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/25/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Burton Russell is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is well known for a series of books on the history of Satan and evil, as well as A History of Heaven--a book that was favorably reviewed in media as diverse as Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and Christianity Today.

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