Confessing Christ Bloggers
Mar 16

Written by: gfackre
3/16/2009 4:32 PM

Presupposed in the last rumination on our word, is its positive significance. Desirable things to come can happen, or will happen because there are grounds for the same. But the word “hope” can have other meanings. Even negative ones, oddly enough given our usage so far. For example, Juergen Moltmann points out in the "hope" entry in the Westminster Dictionary of Theology (Westminster Press, 1983) that “In Greek antiquity hope had a formal reference to the future as a neutral expectation, the content of which can be either pleasant or unpleasant.” (271) (It is interesting that Moltmann was asked by this American and British dictionary to write this entry, as it reflects the “theology of hope" of the time to which he gave impetus.) Indeed, Moltmann asserts its timely biblical meaning in his final comment in that entry: “A theology of love was developed in the Middle Ages and a theology of faith in the Reformation; now it is important to develop a universal theology of hope which directs the church, mankind. and nature, towards the kingdom of God and prepares for it.” (272)

Negative meanings( along with positive ones) are still also current in a listing for the word(s) in a current Thesaurus, as in “daydream," "fool’s paradise," “pipe dream," “castles in the air”, “rose-colored”—all suggesting hope as illusory, or major rubrics which suggest that usage has to do with looking forward with no necessary warrant for such as in “longed-for" or “dreamed about” or “keep finger’s crossed.”

How different all the formal or negative usages are from those that appear in Scripture, so noted by Moltmann. “By contrast, biblical thought always understands hope as the expectation of a good future, which rests on God’s promise….It is unambiguous.” (271) Whether verb, noun or adjective, biblical usage is consistently a “Yes” to tomorrow.” Why is this so?

The entry “Hope” in The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary makes an illuminating point in answer to this question. In reviewing all the appearances of the word or parallel terms in both Testaments, it distinguishes “among the basis of hope, the object of hope and the activity of hoping” ((500) The basis for hope is always “God,” either deity as such (“the God of Hope” Rom. 15:13), or some activity that grounds expectation, or the promise that provides such grounds. In the New Testament, Christian-specific terms for hope in history or at it End, fix on Jesus Christ's words or deeds, the latter focused on the resurrection as in 1 Cor 15., 1 Peter 1:3.

The “object of hope” is , at the end of the day, the End that is the Day when the Night of sin, evil and death are no more—the coming of the Kingdom , when God is all and in all and the whole of creation—persons, society, the cosmos—is made to be as God intended them to be, an eschatological fulfillment of the divine purpose and promise. We are canvassing its creedal specifics in terms of the resurrection of the dead, the return of Christ, final judgment and everlasting life, the last being the consummation of hope to which we shall turn subsequently.

The act of hoping in the New Testament is grounded in the christological warrant mentioned,or takes place in the light of the object, or is directed specifically to it. Its most off-noted locus is in Paul’s Corinthian partnership of “faith, hope and love.” But it occurs in many places and is directed to varied objects. Paul can hope for something as historical as Timothy’s sending to Philippi and , trans-historical as the great Finale. The difference, however, is that historical hoping has its question mark (or given the warrant for any act of hope, maybe, better an "interrobang"--a combined exclamation point and question mark), whereas the ultimate hope is securely anchored in Christ and thus “faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb.11:1a ).

An interesting observation by the Dictionary author: Paul seems to be saying in Romans 8:20 “that hope is most truly hope when it occurs in the context of darkness, suffering, or persecution.” (501) That would seem to be replicated by the emergence and reemergence of it in the periods of recent history we have just canvassed.

Copyright ©2009 Gabriel Fackre

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