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December 12, 2013, 11:27 AM

Wishful Thinking


This blog entry is part of a series.  You might want to start with the first one (at the bottom of the page) and work your way up!  But, it can also stand alone, if you're not up to that much reading!

What creates hope?

   I would suggest it is closely tied to faith.

   Skeptics like to dismiss faith as something which is essentially groundless and spun from nothing but unsubstantiated fantasy.

   The truth is that faith is anchored in experience and evidence.  We don’t believe for no reason.  Faith is anchored in experiences that lead us to take what we have experienced to the next level.

    I daresay that most of us have faith that the sun will not go nova and incinerate the earth, later today.  Our evidence is that it hasn’t happened so far, and based on our understanding of physics (which is limited).  But, just because it hasn’t happened, does not mean it can’t happen, today.  And, almost every day, we make new discoveries about astrophysics which show us that things we thought we knew, weren’t quite as accurate as we thought.  But we have faith that it won’t happen.  We hope it won’t happen.

    Hope is a somewhat more nebulous form of faith.  Faith can be seen as confidence that a specific thing is true, or will become true.  Hope has a lesser degree of confidence, and may be less specific.

   Hebrews 11:1 states:  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

   I can hope something is true, without having a great deal of personal investment in it.  For instance, I can hope that a skydiver’s parachute will open.  But if I am the skydiver in question, I’m not going out the door without considerable confidence that it will do so!

   Having been a skydiver, I appreciate the difference!

   My faith was anchored in the fact that the vast majority of times, parachutes do work, and that the man who packed mine had done so successfully on numerous previous occasions.  Did that constitute an ironclad guarantee?  Nope.  But, it was enough for me to have faith.

    Faith is hope with skin in the game.

    Hope is the first step toward faith.

    The story of Jesus is one of hope, in the midst of tragedy.  A good man is crushed by the forces of the world.  The religious establishment, the political establishment, the legal system, and even the people, all turn against him, despite his goodness.  In a very real sense, their judgment of him becomes a judgment of us.  That the world turns against such a person says that we are deeply broken, and not very capable of saving ourselves from ourselves.

   So, there he is…dead and presumably gone.

   But then, something astonishing happens. Again, the skeptics pooh-pooh it, because, such a thing has never been seen.  They write it off as either a cynical effort of outright fraud by religious zealots, or some kind of delusion caused by wishful thinking.

    One of my favorite authors is Frederick Buechner. He has a book entitled, Wishful Thinking, in which he observes… Christianity is mainly wishful thinking. .. Dreams are wishful thinking.  Children playing at being grown-ups is wishful thinking.  Interplanetary travel is wishful thinking, Sometimes, wishing is the wings the truth comse true on.  Sometimes, the truth is what sets us wishing for it.

   The early church proclaimed, in spite of all the claims to the contrary, that “Christ is risen!  The Crucified One lives!”

   They could offer no absolute proof of this fantastic proclamation, other than themselves and their changed lives.

   There have been countless messianic wannabes throughout history.  Most flared for a few moments and then burned out, essentially forgotten.  A few others, like Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc, ended up making perverse history, taking all sorts of innocent soils with them as they crashed and burned.

    None had followers who made the claims that Jesus’ followers did.  None have had his staying power.  A power that is grounded in his ability to transform lives.

   The secular historian Michael Grant, in his book, Jesus:  An Historian’s Review of the Gospels, is not able to make the leap to faith in Jesus that would make him a Christian.  But, eve with his doubts, he finds cause for hope.  He writes:  “…that such an overwhelming, massive achievement could be, has been, performed by a single individual – and has been performed, moreover, in spite of adamant, crushing opposition from those around him – was and permanently remains the most heartening thing that has ever happened to the human race.

   Even the doubter can find cause for hope in the story of Jesus.

   That hope is the beginning of faith.

   And, faith is what dares to make hope become reality.


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