I don't find myself a particularly apt critic of books, but I do know that a good writer must read, and read a lot, and then let it simmer and steep until it's changed us. I might even add a few posts about the books I've read that have impacted me the most.
Heaven :: Randy Alcorn
Cons: In this case, not so much a "con" as a heads-up. It's long.... like, REALLY long.
It took me about six and a half months to finish this book. Not exactly what I would call a light read.
Which isn't a bad thing, unless (like me) you go into it expecting something not as textbook-y and are out of practice in reading anything deeper than board books to your one year old.
Also, I was forced to take a break and read other things like the Hunger Games series, which added a little time.
Now, to discuss the actual content of the book.
The topic of heaven lay dormant in the back of my mind for the majority of my walk with Christ, and my beliefs about it were pretty succinct: heaven is a physical place, the presence of God is there, & those who follow Jesus go there after death. Outside of believing this, I never pursued the topic much.
Probably because I dreaded the thought of having this conversation & would avoid it if at all possible:
"So, you believe in heaven, eh? And hell, too? Tell me, what's it like to be out of touch with reality?"
I realized this avoidance couldn't go on for much longer, after all, no follower of Christ ever did any favors to Christianity by not understanding their beliefs; thus, the choosing to read a book about heaven in hopes of wrestling through the difficulties of the topic.
That being said, this book is not so much an argument for heaven as it is one man's interpretation of what the Bible says about it.
Alcorn's theology of heaven had the most impact on me. He tied the death & resurrection of Jesus to the doctrine of heaven in an incredibly powerful way. He argues that the redemption which occurred at the cross goes much higher & deeper than we often think. It will, says Alcorn, not only redeem humanity, but creation itself.
Alcorn brought me a step or two closer to understanding the magnitude of the cross. More than one chapter ended with me humbled & my heart overwhelmed with the grace of Jesus.
After explaining his theology of heaven, Alcorn enters into a question & answer part of the book. Though I may not have agreed with all of his thoughts, many of his answers to the questions he posed challenged my perception of heaven. (Ex: Will things created by human hands - art, books, music - continue on to heaven, only in a redeemed form?)
Looking back, I could have skimmed through the second part of the book, read the questions & answers that most appealed to me, and skipped the others. This would have cut down quite a bit of reading. (In saying this, I would not recommend skipping any portion of the first section. It lays a necessary foundation to enjoying the rest of the book.)
Finally, in the third part of the book, Alcorn gives a final encouragement about "living in light of heaven." He reiterates his emphasis on redemption & how the doctrine of heaven should deeply impact a believer's life. It served as a great capstone.
I would recommend anyone interested in heaven read this book, but slowly. It left me more excited about eternity, and reminded me of the ramifications of being a follower of Christ. By being one, I am declaring that this world, currently, was not as it was intended to be and this is not the end of the story.
And some (many?) people will call that crazy, but that's the thing about the Gospel (and therefore, heaven), it is crazy.