Easter Sunday. Why hope is better than optimism.

Easter Sunday. Why hope is better than optimism.

Does Easter Sunday fill me with hope or optimism? I’ve just finished reading of Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith, in which he draws upon the distinction between hope and optimism offered by German theologian Jurgen Moltmann.

Hope and optimism… both have to do with positive expectation, and yet the two are very different. Optimism has to do with good things in the future that are latent in the past and the present; the future are associated with optimism…is an unfolding of what is already there. We survey the past and present, extrapolate about what is likely to happen in the future, and, if the prospects are good, become optimistic. Hope, on the other hand, has to do with good things in the future that come to us from “outside”, from God; the future associated with hope … is a gift of something new.

I find this a tantalising way of looking at things, and one that has significant implications for me.

First, it makes the resurrection of Jesus central to my faith. If Jesus’s bones are still rattling around in a grave somewhere in the Middle East then Christian faith is about optimism. His resurrection is simply a metaphor for the idea that his followers kept his ideals alive after his death. If however, God did raise Jesus from the dead, then something new, something from the “outside” occurred that changed everything.

Second, it reminds me that we really do need “salvation”. I don’t mean by this the idea that my soul will go to some spiritual dimension after death,but the idea that we really do need God to do something for us, to transform us and our world. Without this the future will simply be a rerun of the present. But with God’s work we can hope for something genuinely new, for the transformation of our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our societies, our economic and political systems, and our environment.

Third, it is a glorious reminder that Christian faith is about gift. The good things of God come to us from outside ourselves, received from the hand of God, an act of grace and generosity.

Both optimism and hope are good things, but hope takes me to a place optimism can’t.

Pursing the Common Good. Where Christians are Getting It Wrong and How They Can Get it Right

Pursing the Common Good. Where Christians are Getting It Wrong and How They Can Get it Right

In the last few years I’ve noticed a shift in the language of politically engaged Christians. Increasingly rare is talk of Australia as a “Christian” nation whose heritage must be preserved and increasingly common is talk of “the common good”, with Christians asking how they can contribute to it This is a welcome change. IContinue Reading

Why I Need Good Friday

Why I Need Good Friday

Good Friday is the painful vision of humanity at our very worst. I am horrified by what I see there. A good man extinguished. A man who devoted his life to doing good, to healing the sick, welcoming the outcast, forgiving those broken by their guilt, honouring the shamed, standing with the poor and challengingContinue Reading

Rain on My Roof

Rain falling onto a tin roof. It is the only sound i can hear. Thousands of drops of the most precious liquid to be found on the earth, flung from the heavens, their descent temporarily interrupted by sheets of inclined colorbond down which they slide, before falling, falling again until, with a dull thud, theyContinue Reading

Cage Fighting Pastors & Expelled Tomboys. What Makes a Real Man and a Real Woman?

Three stories in the news this week raise the question of what it means to be a real man or woman. First came the story of 8-year-old Sunnie Kahl who would have been described in the past as a “tomboy”, for she enjoys things that are typical of boys her age and not so typicalContinue Reading

No, it is not a joke. We really are trying to send refugees to Cambodia

No, it is not a joke. We really are trying to send refugees to Cambodia

Immigration minister Scott Morrison has just visited Cambodia and apparently one of the points on his agenda is the possibility of Australia sending asylum seekers there. Seriously? Cambodia? I’m just reading The People Smuggler, which tells the story of refugee Ali Al Jenabi. Ali grew up in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where he and his familyContinue Reading

“Scientists are not agreed that humans are causing climate change”. What a load of bollocks.

We human beings have an amazing ability to believe what is patently false. One of the more stubborn falsehoods is the idea that scientists don’t agree on climate change. It’s often argued that either the very fact of climate change is disputed by scientists and/or that scientists agree climate change is happening but are dividedContinue Reading

“Justice didn’t do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.”

“Justice didn’t do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.” This is the closing sentence of Debbie Morris’s remarkable book Forgiving the Dead Man Walking. On a Friday night in the 1980′s sixteen year old Debbie and her boyfriend Mark were kidnapped while on a date. After shooting her boyfriend in the head and leavingContinue Reading

Right Question, Wrong Answer

Many people find themselves torn over asylum seekers. They want to be compassionate, and for them this includes stopping people from dying at sea. Between 2000 and 2013 it is thought that approximately 1,225 asylum seekers on their way to Australia died at sea. During the same period 24,203 people arrived by boat , meaningContinue Reading

On The Importance of Doing ‘Nothing’

Aided by a couple of days off and a flat mobile phone (thanks to a lost battery charger), I have spent the last three days doing ‘nothing’. I am so used to being busy doing ‘something’ – writing an article, preparing a sermon, running a meeting, dreaming a new idea into being, writing emails, worryingContinue Reading