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A Two-Pronged Hope

A lot of the reading I am doing for my thesis is related to the idea of hope—how it provides an account both of the “unfinished” or “unsatisfactory” state of the natural world and the existence of human beings who expect and long for better from the world. I recently came across this quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, from a chapter in The Future of Hope, which I feel captures these two themes well:

It’s time that we returned to hope. The Christian hopes for two things: she hopes for consummation, and she hopes for redemption; she hopes for a transformed mode of existence that goes beyond God’s work as creator and sustainer—a new creation, a new age, not in any way brought about by “flesh and blood,” that is, by the dynamics of creation; and she hopes for deliverance within this created order, within history, especially deliverance from injustice. Two distinct hopes, neither to be assimilated to the other: hope for a new creation, and hope for the just reign of God within this present creation.

Consummation: all that is good about the world will be vindicated and attain its highest expression. Redemption: the world and we who inhabit it require deliverance from and forgiveness for the pain we suffer and the pain we inflict. A good reminder, this Advent season, as we wait for the coming of the Christ child—the one in whom “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met, the one we believe has made possible a “transformed mode of existence,” the object of our present and future hope.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. ryan, what do you make of hope? it seems a vexing concept at times does it not? I mean it could be argued that hope is the force that alienates Christians from their lives. especially that hope of new creation which more commonly, and mistakenly, is referred to as heaven. The sentiment exists that suggests that Christianity’s preoccupation with the after-life/heaven has left some tragic consequences in world where Judeo-Christian thought has dominated power structures for centuries (environment, war policy, colonialism, etc)
    Maybe that is becuase in many cases hope has been projected too far into the future and not more directly to the redemption of our lives. I think this quote provokes that short-range hope in my thinking at least – who knows if that is what Nick W. meant though…

    December 11, 2007
  2. Those are certainly valid concerns you raise, Dale. I think that Wolterstorff’s usage of the word “consummation” is important here. I think of this as something like “bringing to fulfillment” or “validating” every good thing about this world as opposed to something which leads to a disregard of the present. I think you’re right, often Christians are oriented way too far into the future to be of much use to anyone in the present and this has had disastrous consequences. But theoretically, I think, hope for the future ought not to imply a disregard for the here and now; rather, it should infuse it with meaning and purpose.

    December 11, 2007
  3. Love this quote, Ryan.

    When I speak I tell people I am not optimistic, but hopeful. Intuitively I’ve always known what I mean by that, but Wolterstorff has laid it out nicely here.

    December 14, 2007
  4. I like the connection to the incarnation that was put forward, either in this essay or another one in the book, I can’t remember… That Jesus, his coming in the incarnation comes from both in the world (from Mary’s body) and from Other. The source of hope is not just from outside the human story, but stems from within as well.

    December 15, 2007
  5. Thanks Jessica. I think you’re referring to David Billings’ “Natality or Advent.” I haven’t read the whole article, but your reminder that hope is mediated to us through the human condition seems like a very appropriate one at this time of the year.

    December 16, 2007
  6. Paul Johnston #

    Great topic, Ryan and one that I think needs to be better reintegrated into the modern Christian mindset.

    Perhaps we err when we prioritize reasoning a right theology rather than just hoping in God’s love and grace, for one another.

    How does a person pray, unless a person hopes? How do I persist in being loving,(considering other’s interests as if they were my own) unless hope in a better collective future inspires me to continue.

    Hope evokes humility, generosity, space for diversity. Hope speaks to better days ahead; future smiles and embraces.

    Jesus’ faith carried His cross.

    Honestly, my friend, my faith does not have a chance of carrying mine. But my hope in His faith, that is a different matter.

    That hope gives me all the chance I need.

    December 16, 2007
  7. Thanks Paul. Well said.

    December 16, 2007

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