Tuesday 6 April 2021

Christians have to 'Hope' - but what does that mean?

It seems to me that many Christians are confused by the injunction to Hope. 

Surely it is a vital truth that Christians must Hope - yet I often see this grossly (and sometimes anti-Christianly) misinterpreted and misapplied into a foolish and unrealistic optimism about This World; which amounts to the denial of Hope. 

For example, Christians may look at The World - at the state of the churches, politics, or any social institution; at the character and behaviour of some political, religious or business leader - and in effect they will refuse to take seriously the overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic signs and trends; because they must (they assume) be 'hopeful'. 

This amounts to a gross failure of discernment due to a failure even to try and discern; asserting a non-Christian kind of non-judgmentalism which is actually a denial of spiritual responsibility. 

Or, it may be a fear of despair; the sense that if we really took a serious and measured account of states and trends then we would be plunged into despair - and therefore they fall back on an assertion of 'Hope' which is actually a kind of dishonest optimism. 

The distinction between optimism and Hope is that optimism is about this world, while Hope is about the next

Jesus promises those who follow him, that their reward will be resurrected life everlasting in Heaven - but (obviously) he did not promise that life for his followers would be 'Heavenly' in this world

(And if he had made such a promise of worldly happiness, then by now it has been refuted so many times that it would make Jesus a liar.) 

Hope is indeed the antidote to despair; but this Christian Hope is a product of Faith - not of a fixed attitude of doctrinal optimism such as that things might get better, somehow; anybody might suddenly repent and reform, despite everything - and so on. 

Of course any such thing might happen and cannot be ruled-out; but that is not a reason to ignore, explain-away, let alone excuse evil when we have good reason to discern evil.

Faith is not about Hoping that God will intervene to make everything right in this world; Faith is a confident belief in our transformation into Sons and Daughters of God after death.

If we are using Faith and Hope as excuses not to discern, or as an excuse for cowardice and lack of principle; that is actually itself a type of sin - a turning-away-from God. 

So, let's take care not to do it - despite the frequent temptations!



whitney said...

Hope = Confidence in God

Bruce Charlton said...

@W - Yes, but that could also be a definition of Faith (which I suppose is the single Master Virtue, and in a sense includes Hope - since our Faith is specifically in a loving Father God) - so I find that thinking of Hope in this rather more specific way, as related to the repeated promises of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, is clarifying.

William Wildblood said...

It strikes me that this is almost the sin of Judas who was expecting something good to happen in this world because of Jesus's ministry.

Adam said...

In an email conversation with an old friend recently he stated that believing in an eternal life is merely another human vanity on the part of Christians.

I replied that believing in such was not vanity, but hope. Thus, I am very glad to read this piece of yours.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - Almost every human who has lived believed that the soul survived beyond death in some way or another - but with very widely varied understandings...

Or - as I tend to believe - there are actually very widely varying possibilities. Maybe religions are reporting the truth: i.e. saying "If you follow this religion, then This is what will happen to you after you die..." I believe this is pretty close to the truth - in the sense that 'This' is what you will experience after you die.

On this basis, it would make sense to select the religion that offers what you most personally want to happen after you die, then evaluate that religion to see whether you (intuitively - which is the bottom line of all knowledge) regard it as *true*.

For example:

On this basis, of the mainstream large religions, Mormon Christianity offers the closest vision to what I would most hope to happen beyond death; but without sufficient emphasis on personal creativity (co-creation, subcreative participation in God's primary and on-going creation) - which for me is a vital component of a Good eternity.

It turns out that exactly what I want is implied by Mormon theology, but the individualistic creative element has been lost in the process of making a church - therefore I am a *theoretical* Mormon Christian with additional understandings from Steiner, Barfield, Arkle and my own meditative intuitions from the Fourth Gospel specifically.

Thus I am pretty sure what I need to do to attain the 'afterlife' that I most deeply hope for. Essentially, follow Jesus after death (and what that entails) and in this life to strive to recognize that I live in God's a living, conscious, purposive creation - always being threatened by the demonic forces of chaos who reject Heaven, hate God, reject or are incapable of love.