Friday, January 9, 2009

Hope Worth Longing for

There are days such as birthdays, graduations, weddings, and holidays that we fantasize about for days and yet are somewhat disappointed when they have finished. In all our fantasizing we have made that one day so special that reality cannot compare to the image we have in our minds, therefore, when the day is over a sense of disappointment remains. Such unfulfilled longings are the focus of the first third of Plantiga’s first chapter. Plantiga shows how everyone has a longing for Christ that cannot be suppressed. Unfortunately, we often seek fulfillment of this unidentified longing in material things. It is such short-sighted fulfillments that leave us in a perpetual state of restless discontent. However, we when we come to the understanding that our longing is for God, we experience a never-ending satisfaction.

The second portion of this chapter explains the connection between our longings and hope. Lewis B. Smedes says that “genuine hope always combines imagination, faith, and desire.” In order to hope we must have an idea about what to hope for, a conviction that it can be achieved, and a desire to achieve it. Those who seek to satisfy their desires with material things do so because they either cannot imagine or accept that God has made and loves us or they do not desire to accept God’s love.

Plantinga also explains that the majority of our hopes are self-centered. This is an accurate assessment of hope. It is easy to imagine great things for oneself and much more difficult to imagine great things for unknown or large groups of people. Part of this may be that it is harder to imagine that things like stopping world hunger or establishing world peace are possible, thus we lack the faith that belongs in hope.

Despite this, Plantiga encourages us to hope for Shalom. He encourages us to expand the range of our hope to include not only ourselves but also our communities and our culture and even our world. Hoping for Shalom is to hope for the way the world should be. Only Christians can have this hope because it is only through Christ that we can be convinced that this world will be redeemed into what it should be. Without Christ there is no redemption for this world and thus no true hope for it. Our hope cannot be in the past. When we hope in the past our hope is false because our memories of the past are incomplete. To hope in the present is difficult when we are surrounded by wars and rumors of wars. For that same reason it is difficult to hope in the future. Only the redemptive power of Christ can provide us with a lasting hope.

While Plantiga makes many agreeable points, they are overshadowed by the quotes that surround them. This technique of writing makes it difficult to remain interested.

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