The structure of hope

Continuing musings on eschatology, this is my artistic ๐Ÿ˜‰ reproduction with slight edits of a diagram on the structure of hope from a chapter by James K A Smith ‘Determined Hope: A Phenomenology of Christian Expectation’ in Volf and Katerberg’s The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity. Eerdmanns, 2004.

This structure could apply to hope for sunny day in Ireland tomorrow (doubtful), to Rory McIlroy’s winning of the US Masters in April (possible – here’s hoping), to Marx’s hope for a utopian society, to Daniel Dennett’s hope for a rational world free of religion, to Christian hope in a new creation.

Hope has a subject (the person who hopes). That person puts their hope in something (the ground of hope) – an act of faith. This hope is put into action, actively hoping for a desired future outcome.

That outcome is good – to hope is to hope that things get better. To expect things to get worse is not hope, it is fear and depression and angst.

There then comes a point when the hope is fulfilled. It reaches its ‘end’ – hence Christian eschatology.

Which raises an interesting question which I hope to come back to – What actually do Christians hope for? If you are a Christian, what are you hoping for regarding the future life beyond death? What is desirable about the new creation to come? What most excites and motivates you in the here and now?

5 thoughts on “The structure of hope

  1. Restoration. Both the word of God and the experience of life offer glimpses of the rightness, goodness, and beauty that was intended in and for humanity–and all creation, for that matter. An experiencing of things as they were meant to be, without the barrier-building effects of sin, is outside of my frame of reference, almost unimaginable, but I can imagine a little. And that little bit is terribly exciting! Just to think how profoundly different relationships will be when things like insecurity, pride, and defensiveness are taken out of the equation. Or how adventure and discovery will be amplified when they are not always tempered with the weight of the pain and lostness of our fellow humans. And sharing in God’s pleasure and satisfaction in the consummation of his plan of redemption. I will be able to experience and share his heart in a more tangible way, including his delight as we watches us discover the wonders and glories he has prepared for us. That’s what I look forward to, and that is an effective motivator for a great commission lifestyle. The more, the merrier, right?

  2. Hi Crystal. We’re just back from an IBI staff-student retreat so the delay in commenting.

    I love what you say about sharing in God’s pleasure. Very C S Lewis like!

    Some portraits of the new creation focus on the ‘side blessings’ – no more pain, suffering, crying, death, sin, environmental destruction, injustice, famine, illness etc. Those are huge blessings described in Scripture of course, but I was challenged thinking about this of how easy it is to detach this ‘new creation hope’ from the creator himself.

    Searching through references to hope in the NT they are pretty well always hope in God / Jesus Christ – a hope in a person at the centre of the new creation, rather than the new creation itself.

  3. The Lewis-likeness probably arises from the fact that he and I are so much alike…well, except for level of education, ability to analyze and articulate, gender, nationality, historical context, and a few fundamental metaphysical presuppositions. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Seriously, though, all the ‘side blessings’ flow out of who God is, and what he has always desired and intended. They are wonderful promises, but their real significance is derived from the fact that they are God’s self-expression. It isn’t unlike how I would feel about a wonder-filled, magical date that my husband planned for me. The gifts and surprises would be lovely on their own merit, but their real value would lie in what they meant about my husband’s heart and about our relationship.

    • Well, thank you! Example from experience. This date has (repeatedly), and will happen–I snagged a good one! He took me to Ireland, remember? ๐Ÿ™‚

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