During the past centuries the Christian faith has been under attack by its younger, secular brothers. Brilliant people – not seldom sons of priests – has done their best to diminish the Christian truth claims and I guess we have to admit that they have been quite successful. Perhaps it is ironic that these heretical thinkers today are spoken of as intellectual giants even within some rooms of our churches but I do not find that particularly problematic. In a way I think that they have helped the church to purify itself and its doctrines. Although I think we are wise not to dismiss these critics I believe that it is important for us not to be ruled by them either. There are many aspects to this issue and I will not even attempt to mention them all, but I would like to raise one that I believe might be important within some movements in the contemporary church.
I consider it to be correct to assert that there is a trend among some groups of Christians to fear hope. It is almost as if they are afraid that the gospel truly is good news. The main reason for this is in my experience the various secular explanations of faith as a defence mechanism against our existential fears and anxieties. People are simply afraid to see hope as part of their faith since that would make them easy targets for this critique. It is understandable that these brothers and sisters do not want to appear as naive in their faith but my claim is that it is irrational even to fear this critique since such fears requires that you look upon religious faith from a perspective that does not allow for hope in the first place.
I think that much good has been said about our need to reject the deus ex machina, onto-theo-logy and so on, but I do not think that we therefore should seek for a God that offers us no hope and I do not think that the older sibling should always serve the younger. As Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks points out, the book of Genesis provides us with plenty of stories about feuds between brothers and on the surface they all tell us that the older should be ruled by the younger. However, in all these stories – Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers – there is a counter narrative that leads us to a place of reconciliation and brotherly love.
It will always be tempting to allow the younger brother to rule over the older. The various secular strands of the Western tradition are all such brothers. But the biblical story is not about replacing the older with the younger, it is about reconciliation. That is our ultimate hope and I’m not willing to give it up simply to avoid groundless accusations of being naive.