Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

April 18, 2004

Notes on Moule's The Meaning of Hope (2)

See Part I here.


In the first chapter, Moule was careful to show the difference between secular optimism (which is essentially vacuous) with true Biblical hope, which is the believer's confidence in God Himself.

Now, in the second chapter, "Hope, Faith, and Love," Moule looks more closely at this confidence in God. He says that "a truly Biblical hope is bound up, not only with trust in God, but with the experience of forgiveness."

This is really his fundamental point here. Then he writes, in what I think is the "money-quote" of the chapter:

""Obedience in the acceptance of His verdict, penitence, and trust in His goodness and His readiness to enter with us into the wilderness into which our sin has turned us--these are absolutely basic to any hope worth calling hope."

So the hope dawns in us when we, having accepted God's verdict concerning our sinfulness, recognize that we are forgiven. Our hope cannot come, is not hope, if it does not begin here, at the harsh reality of our sinfulness, and then the gracious gift of His forgiveness. This is presaged in Hosea 2:15, where the valley of Achor, a place of bitter defeat, is promised as Israel's "door of hope."

And this is why Romans 8, which is Paul's great chapter of hope (Moule calls it a chapter of "glowing expectancy"), begins with forgiveness. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . ."

Moule writes: "So penitence, obedience, the dutiful acceptance of God's ways is the very heart of hope."

From this understanding spring three "momentous thoughts."

1) "Biblical hope is entirely realistic: it reckons with the worst." God has made a way for even the worst, our own personal valley of Achor, to become our door of hope.

Christian hope starts with the fundamental understanding that the worst that could have happened has. As a result, even creation itself has been subject to frustration, and yet God will make a way through this wilderness. Moule: "Such hope is essentially a stable one, because it is grounded in nothing so fluctuating and uncertain as circumstances, still less in moods, which change, but in the undeviating reliability of God's character."

2) Biblical hope "is essentially moral." It is concerned with "obedience and disobedience, repentance and forgiveness--relationships, not things."

The Christian understands, or should, the basic problem is not simply that life is short, or that bad things happen, but that sin has alienated us from God. But, "once fellowship has been restored by the divine forgiveness, then hope lives. The essence of hope is not that we may, with luck, escape, but that although we are going to go through the agonies caused by sin--our own and others'--yet it will be with Christ who has himself been to the nethermost hell for us." Christ has made a way!

3) "It is closely allied with trust (or faith) and therefore with love." This is an important point. There is no hope without trust in God. Here Moule must be quoted at length:

"Hope is not a calculated security. On the contrary, the first requisite if we are to possess hope is that we should be dispossessed of security, and instead should daringly and at absolute risk cast ourselves trustfully into the deep which is God's character. To hug the shore is to cherish a disappointing hope; really to let myself go and to swim is to have discovered the buoyancy of hope."

Hope is a "flimsy and transient thing" when it is devoid of this kind of trust. Hebrews 11:1 says, "It is trust [in God] which forms the foundation to our hopes."

Looking at this wondrous sequence more closely, we see that the Father's forgiveness leads to our response of love; trust springs from this love, naturally. Trusting God, we are able to risk the deep water, rather than hugging the shore, and in the act of trusting hope is born.

Quoting Moule once more: "Thus we are confirmed in our conclusion: the qualities of an essentially religious hope, as contrasted with a shallow optimism or even a deeply rooted but inarticulate instinct, are realism--facing the worst; morality--the recognition that God's character is constant and undeviating; and trust in that same God, who is a God of forgiveness as surely as he is a God of righteousness."


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