A Determined Hope
As always, reading Jürgen Moltmann is proving to be an illuminating and challenging experience. The following three quotes from In the End—The Beginning: The Life of Hope struck me on the bus ride home today. First, on the nature of Christian hope:
Christianity is wholly and entirely confident hope, a stretching out to what is ahead, and a readiness for a fresh start. Future is not just something or other to do with Christianity. It is the essential element of the faith which is specifically Christian: the keynote of all its hymns, the dawn colouring of the new day in which everything is bathed. For faith is Christian faith when it is Easter faith. Faith means living in the presence of the risen Christ, and stretching out to the coming kingdom of God. It is in the creative expectation of Christ’s coming that our everyday experiences of life take place. We wait and hasten, we hope and endure, we pray and watch, we are both patient and curious. That makes the Christian life exciting and alive. The faith that ‘another world is possible’ makes Christians enduringly capable of future.
And why ought we to think that another world is possible? Moltmann identifies the inextinguishable human hope that things can and ought to be better than they are as pointing to a better day. We are meant to be “unreconciled” to the world as we experience it:
If we only had before us what we can see, then we should come to terms, whether cheerfully or reluctantly, with things as they are. But the fact that we do not come to terms with them—that between us and reality there is no harmony, either pleasurable or tedious, is due to the inextinguishable hope for the fullness of life. It keeps us unreconciled until God’s great day. It keeps us on the move along the paths ahead. It fills us with that openness to the world which can never find fulfillment through anything except eternal life in the coming kingdom of God.
Finally, Moltmann offers a challenge for human beings to live up their mandate as divine image-bearers, to play their part in the ongoing project of redemption:
The temptation today is not so much that human beings want to play God. It is much more that they no longer have confidence in the humanity which God expects of them. It is the fearfulness led by lack of faith which leads to capitulation before the power of evil. God has exalted human beings and opened to them a vista into what is wide and free, but human beings hang back and say no. God promises the new creation of all things, but human beings behave as if everything remains as it was. That is the separation from God and from life. It isn’t the evil which human beings do that condemns them; it is rather the good that they fail to do—not only their great misdeeds, but their many small neglects.
For me, these three quotes just about sum things up: a genuinely Christian view of the world that hopes relentlessly, that refuses to be reconciled with a reality still characterized by pain and disharmony, and resolves to do its part in the making of all things new.
I really appreciate Moltmann’s thoughts on hope and the future. What does he have to say regarding today, the present. Although we do live ‘unreconciled until God’s great day,’ are we not supposed to live with the understanding that the kingdom of God is not only future, but also present as well? Maybe I’m misunderstanding Moltmann.
I know that things are not all well in our world. In know we struggle – all creation groans…and yes, hope gives us promise for the future. Does Moltmann mean that we are to persevere through the groaning, ‘moving along the paths ahead’? Just want a little clarification.
Now I want to buy Moltmann! You’re bad for my book budget, Ryan!
I’m sorry about the book budget Dave. All I can say in my defense (and it’s not much) is that I’m bad for my book budget as well…
Re: what Moltmann has to say about the present. I think the third quote gets at his views quite well. Part of the “humanity God expects” of us involves living according to the future we believe will one day be a reality. Future hope should infuse the time that precedes it with hope (and goodness, peace, justice, truth, delight, curiosity, love…) as well.
That’s the sense I get from Moltmann anyway – he doesn’t think that Christians should just grit their teeth and make the best of an awful world, but that we should be a prominent part of making it better.