Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What may a Christian hope for in this life? Part 1

“Christianity is wholly and entirely confident hope, a stretching out to what is ahead, and a readiness for a fresh start”
Jurgen Moltmann. "In the end the beginning:the life of hope

Yet because this hope has been held by christians for thousands of years, many of whom are now dead, questions arise as to what may be legitimately hoped for by the christian in this life.
Following J. K A Smith’s phenomenology of hope we define hope as an act of positively “intending” the future that is grounded, by faith, in reality, and moves towards an object within a horizon. There are other modes of intending the future, such as wishful thinking or fear , that have no ground in reality or that have a negative object, yet neither of these is hope. For hope to be hope it must be (or at least perceived to be) grounded and good, possible and positive, real and righteous. Hope can be shown false by being ungrounded, not possible; or by not being good, even if possible and actual. Christian hope must also be carefully distinguished from the secular concept of expectation, that attempts to calculate what is possible in the future from the immanent conditions of the present. Hope is not a weighing of probabilities, but an expression of possibility. Christian hope is not derived from weighing up past and present circumstances to ascertain God’s action, but it is a cry to him in the possibility of his free action.
“Prayer is the sole ‘reason’ for hope, at the same time that it is its means and expression. Prayer is the referral to God’s decision, on which we are counting.”
Jacques Ellul
What is it then, that a Christian, living between the resurrection of Jesus and His return, may cry out to God for, within the horizon of the possibility of his own death?


byron smith said...

Is this a doctrine essay?

Looking forward to the rest!

Mike W said...

yeah, it is a hacked up essay. Blogging the lazy way. We just got the markers report, and the marker was (rightly) pissed off that most essays said that christians cant hope for anything, basically. So i thought I'd put it up.
Good to hear from you papa Byron.

byron smith said...

Incredible. Nothing? Does the gift of the Spirit mean nothing? Is our present existence a mere appendage of essentially pointless time? I would have thought that at the very least they might have come up with "Christians can hope to be used by God as his ambassadors proclaiming the message of reconciliation" or something!

byron smith said...

... just channelling some of that POness. ;-)

As a papa, I also hope that the sign of baptism will be effective and will result in a life of faith, hope and love (hey, I can even hope that for myself!).

Mike W said...

the official words of the marker were that many of the students in fact answered the question 'what may a christian NOT hope for in this life' and that this resulted in some very gloomy answers. I think some people tried to beat up on pentecostals, though one of the other comments was that engagement with opponents was weak and insensitive.

byron smith said...

Ah, so perhaps something a Christian may not hope for are opponents who conform to our straw-man image of them...

But then again, perhaps we can hope that Christians learn to define themselves by the gospel rather than in opposition to others.