The Christian Hope – (The Scotsman Article)

This is my article in The Scotsman today.  You can get the original by clicking the link – (or better still buying a paper and passing it on to others)….There is also a superb article from the Catholic Bishops Council on the same page….below is the text with the two parts in block quotes that were left out….

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Here’s Hoping you Have Something to Live For –

Scotsman – 27th September 2016 

Humans can live for weeks without food, days without water and minutes without air – but no one can live for seconds without hope. Hope is that almost indefinable quality which all of us need to live and not just merely exist. As the suicide rate in Scotland continues to increase, perhaps we need to ask what makes someone so despair that they despair of life itself? Why, when we live longer than ever before, when we are healthier and wealthier than any other generation in Scottish history, do so many people feel so hopeless?

What do we mean when we are talking about hope? The dictionary definition is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen” or “to want something to happen or be the case”. There are those who hope that Scotland will become independent in both those senses. There are others who hope they will be famous, win the lottery or marry a prince. But what realistic hopes are we offering to young people?

We live in a culture that has been indoctrinated into believing that human beings are always progressing. This is assumed in economic, moral and social terms and is always assumed to be a good thing. When Tony Blair came to power the anthem blasting out from the loudspeakers was D:ream’s “Things can only get better”. Morally we have been fed the view that we are advancing from the primitive and the Dark Ages into a new moral enlightenment. Socially we are progressing to a more equal, just and fair society. The “haves” who benefit from the current societal and economic arrangements like to suggest that this is already happening. But others are not so sure.

Secular optimism in economic progress is both flawed and illogical. Is never ending economic progress even desirable? As for moral progress, what are we progressing to? What will be the next progressive cause? The trouble is that the atheistic secularist version of hope, social progressiveness, is limited and destructive.

Tim Keller, in his latest book Making Sense of God, cites Howard Thurman, an African American scholar who gave a famous Harvard lecture on the meaning of “Negro spirituals”. He talked about how the Christian hope expressed in them was essential and that the modern secularist hope would have been useless. “Imagine sitting down with 19th-century slaves and saying ‘there will never be a Judgment Day in which wrongdoing will be put right. There is no future world and life in which your desires will ever be satisfied. This life is all there is. When you die, you simply cease to exist. Our only real hope for a better world lies in improved social policy. Now, with these things in mind, go out there, keep your head high, and live a life of courage and love. Don’t give in to despair.”

During the course of a debate I had with a government advocate of Same Sex Marriage, a member of the audience asked us, ‘what is your hope in life?’. My opponent stated that as a Liberal Democrat his hope was to raise the tax threshold to £10,000. I was almost lost for words! That’s your hope?! What must life be like if that is really your hope?

As a minister for over 30 years I have noted that most human beings are scared of death, even those who profess not to be. Our culture is desperately trying to tell us that death is just a natural part of life, that it is all part of the “circle of life”. People talk about the body going back to being part of the earth/cosmos/stardust as though this is somehow supposed to be comforting and enlightening. But most people, despite all the attempts to convince us otherwise, realise that we are a little bit more than fertiliser!

Death is what robs us of hope. Because it robs us of everything we value. If death is the end, and if the universe is ultimately to die, then everything and everyone you know and love is ultimately going to fade into oblivion. There is not much point in someone living on in our hearts, if our hearts die.

if we are as Bertrand Russell argues, “a blob of carbon floating form one meaningless existence to another”.

As a Christian minister I see a lot of death, a lot of hopelessness and a lot of false hope. But I also see something that is real. Another dictionary definition of hope is “a feeling of trust”. The Christian’s hope is that they are freed from their fear of death because of the eternal life given them as they trust in Christ. The result of that understanding is that the only thing death can do for the Christian, is make life better. This is not wishful thinking but a concrete hope. Because of the resurrection of Christ our whole worldview and perspective is changed. Christians don’t kill for our faith, we die for it and we live for it. Because for us to live is Christ and to die is gain.

As Keller points out; “If Jesus Christ was really raised from the dead – if he is really the Son of God and you believe in him – all these things that you long for most desperately will come true at last. We will escape time and death. We will know love without parting, we will even communicate with non-human beings (think angels), and we will see evil defeated forever”. Such a hope is beyond anything this world can offer. It’s what a helpless and hopeless people need!

David Robertson, Solas CPC, 
www.solas-cpc.org

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/here-s-hoping-you-have-something-to-live-for-1-4240415

How fascinating that yesterday the Guardian published the world’s alternative

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/26/the-afterlife-the-only-reincarnation-i-want-is-as-fertiliser-for-the-grass?CMP=twt_gu#comment-84137519

The reaction to this article has been strong – with people really appreciating it and of course those who rant with hatred….best of the latter is our friends in Secular Scotland who liked it so much they published it twice – although someone professing to be a Christian didn’t –  “It’s a shockingly insensitive, irresponsible and downright inaccurate article.” If anyone could explain to me what precisely is wrong in this article and what a Christian could object to – I will give you a prize! It seems as though the irrationality and hatred of the militant secularists (even those who profess to be Christian) knows no rational bounds!

In their haste to hate and condemn they also seem to have an inability to understand and read what is being said – according to the SS Christian “To suggest people commit suicide because they’re afraid of death is absurd. To imply they despair of being rich or famous trivilises the reality of the pain they feel.” – the only problem is that no where in the article did I say either of those things!  Mainly because I don’t believe them. If you are afraid of death you would not commit suicide (its because you despair of life)…and the rich and famous are probably more likely to commit suicide once they realise that their wealth and fame means nothing!   But hey why bother with truth? If you can’t argue against what is being said – just make it up…


12 thoughts on “The Christian Hope – (The Scotsman Article)

  1. David my brother, so good to be given opportunities to like this in one of our national newspapers. The Gospel – He die,me no die.

  2. Excellent articles, both. Thank you for the referrence to Catholic article. It’s apologetics you’d hope would come from the CoS and CoE. But it is pleasing that both articles were published together. In the name of euchumenism how would the CoS respond to the Catholic article, as it’s easy to predict how they’d respond to yours.

    I particulary liked the referrence, tucked away, in the Catholic article to the “gift of faith.”

    I think Keller has drawn heavily on Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor’s book “A Secular Age.”

  3. I’m not after a prize and I do appreciate much of what you say in this piece as well as more generally however one of the negative comments on the Scotsman website is from someone who queries your statement that suicide rates in Scotland “continue to rise”. A little Googling suggests he is correct to do so. Do you have any evidence to back up that statement?

    1. Yes – they are right – mea culpa – although you have to be careful with figures – the last three years has been static. I should have gone back further The Scottish suicide rate for some reason remains far higher than that in England. But apart from that the basic premise of the article still stands – people commit suicide because they despair of life. Many people who do not commit suicide seek solace in other ways….but wait until euthanasia is legalised and watch the suicide rates soar! (The criticism I was referring to from the SS was not about the suicide rate though)…

    1. Seems like you have a problem with thinking, rationality, intelligence and expression – as well as reading! Go on – try reading the whole article…it might help you think!

    2. I don’t know your age – but I’ve been around a long time! So long that I remember – sadly not in great detail – a particularly hard winter in the late seventies. One road in the North-east was the scene of a number of deaths – people caught, in their cars, in snow that made the vehicles immovable, and who froze to death. However, the newspapers were full of the story of one particular man who survived. He was, if memory serves me well, a commercial traveller – dealing in, of all things, women’s clothing. What he had done was to wrap himself up in as many of his samples as he could. The most telling comment, however, was that: “I never gave up hope that I would be rescued”. He made no ‘religious’ claim, but merely confirmed what many of us know – a sick person; a hard-pressed man; a nation with its back to the wall; can all continue to fight while hope remains. But if hope is abandoned, any cause is lost. To face each day without hope is, I would suggest, to have lost any battle before it begins.

      Perhaps your own concept of “hope” is no more than the unfounded assertion of Charles Dickens’ Mr Micawber that “something will turn up”! But God’s Word provides a deeper meaning of the word. The assertion of Dean Inge, an author less well-known than Dickens, that “Hope, as a moral quality, is a Christian invention”, may not be totally accurate, but it is certainly a Biblical concept. It was from Judaism and the O.T. that Christianity inherited this good hope; this God-based, expectant outlook on future time.

      There may come a time in your own life when this will become a reality to you. Until then, it would surely be wise to follow David’s suggestion, and read the whole article. At the very least, it could be what you need in your own time of difficulty – a basis for real hope!

  4. Maybe I don’t go on the guardian enough, but this is at the bottom of the article:

    “Did you know…

    … the Guardian is unique? Unlike other media, we have no billionaire owner and no hidden influences. Just open, honest journalism, free from commercial or political interference. We seek truth, not approval.

    If you do too, then please help to keep our independence, and our future, secure. You can give to the Guardian in less than a minute.

    Contribute…”

    If that were true, I might visit it much more often!

  5. I gave up reading the Guardian many years ago. I can’t remember how long ago. Maybe thirty years. I do seem to recall The Guardian being strongly of the opinion that the Viet Cong had nothing to do with Communism and that a victory for the Viet Cong would not be a victory for Communism. Sorry, but you probably need to be of a certain age to know anything about the Viet Cong. Suffice to say that the Viet Cong did win and the whole of Vietnam is a Communist country. ‘Open, honest journalism’? Well, yes, if you like left-wing, liberal bias thrust in your face. When was The Guardian last ‘open and honest’ on the issue of climate change?

  6. Norman,

    You hoped to make a point. You did, but it wasn’t what you hoped for.

    On a bus today, incorporating a photo of a man in his 20’s -30’s, there was a poster: “Knowing someone is always there gives me hope” The Samaritans.

    In 2014, in England and Wales, suicide was the biggest killer of men under 45.

    Paul & Mike, me too . Undiluted, independent bias. Pigs might fly, before we’d see it publish both Scotsman articles, unadorned.

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