I’ve often been puzzled by the nature of hope. Many think that hope is one of the central Christian virtues, so my lack of clarity on what hope is has bothered me off and on over the years. Recently, however, I think I’ve started to get a better picture.
When we hope for something, in Christian terms at least, we are not merely wishing for something good, or for better things yet to come. If hope was merely this, it would not count as a virtue. However, hope is a central Christian virtue. So what is it?
There is a lot of confusion about what it means to have faith in God. Some believe it means to believe in God without any good evidence. I’ve argued elsewhere that this is a misguided view of faith.
The best explanation of a biblical understanding of faith in God that I’m aware of comes from Paul Moser, who argues that faith is “entrusting oneself to God”. To paraphrase Genesis 15, then, “Abraham entrusted himself to the Lord, and the Lord counted this entrusting as a right relationship to himself.” The virtue of faith, then, includes belief, but goes well beyond it. It also includes a lived experience of entrusting one’s very self to God.
In many churches, there is great confusion about the purpose of the Sunday morning service. Many on the more theologically conservative end of the spectrum carry out the Sunday service as if it is primarily an evangelistic service. But I think this is a mistake. It should primarily be about worship, equipping members of the church for growth in Christ, and enabling them to reach out to others in love.
This misguided understanding of the point of Sunday morning also in part explains the lack of character formation, minimal spiritual growth, and being ill-equipped for ministry that is present in so many of our churches.
It is of course easy to criticize, but what can be done about this?