Timothy Keller has said that the two criteria for the truth of a worldview, or at least the viability of a worldview, are: first, is it intellectually credible and, second, is it existentially satisfying. In this short article I want to discuss one element of Christianity that provides profound existential satisfaction.
We don’t hope for what we already have. Hope is always a future orientated attitude or emotion. Hope looks into the future and predicts good things. Hope is the exact opposite of worry. Worry looks into the future and predicts bad things. We can’t be people of hope and people consumed by worry. Worry allows tomorrow to steal strength from today. Worry about the future saps energy from our present. Hope is the opposite. Hope allows tomorrow to provide strength for today. And those who have hope for the future have a better experience of the present.
The Grounds of our Hope
Is hope a naïve attitude? How does embracing a hopeful outlook not turn us into head in the sand, guilty of wishful thinking, types of people? I mean, if hope is looking into the future and predicting good things, and none of us know the future and none of us can control the future, how is hope not just naive posturing?
Ultimately, I believe that hope can only truly be grounded if there is ONE who knows the future and has communicated to us! For the Christian, God knows the future and He can make accurate predictions about the future. Hope, therefore, comes from knowing the God who promises good things about our future. Not easy things, of course, but good things.
Or, as Jonathan Edwards reminded us long ago, our hope as Christians comes from the fact that: first, God can work good things out of bad. The story of Joseph, the story of our lives and, ultimately, the cross of Jesus Christ are examples of this. Second, our ultimate good things can’t be taken away. The Holy Spirit as a deposit in our hearts is the guarantor of this (Ephesians 1:13,14). A promise is only as good as the promise maker and, since Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), we can rest assured in this promise. Third, the best things are yet to come (Revelation 21:1-5). I would be amiss, given the nature of this website, if I didn’t mention in passing that this hope is buttressed by the intellectual scaffolding provided by history, philosophy, and experience. It is a hope that is intellectually credible. But, instead of getting into all of that, I want to point out how the existence of God provides hope for two of the greatest longings that human beings experience; the longing for justice and the longing for ultimate meaning or lasting happiness.
We all desire ultimate justice, impartial, fair, perfectly executed. There is something in the human soul that longs for this, hopes for this, pines incessantly for this type of just desserts for sin and evil, particularly when we, or people we love, are the victims of it.
This was the driving motivation behind the civil rights movement. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most popular quotes is, “the moral arch of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” But, if there is no God, that is just nonsense and we should be brave enough to admit it. The universe is not going anywhere purposeful; it doesn’t bend towards anything but oblivion.
Still, we desire justice for all the unaddressed evils on earth. Yet justice requires a judge. If there is no judge, what hope is there for the world? What hope is there that wrongs will be righted and injustices will be addressed in an ultimate, perfect, impartial sense? And, here is the other question, ‘if there is a judge of the world like this, a judge of perfect goodness, what hope is there for us?’ We stand guilty, we stand condemned by our own actions and inactions; if I put all of our thoughts from the last week onto a screen publicly we would cringe in shame. Christianity presents Jesus as the only satisfying resolution to this dilemma. As Timothy Keller writes,
“Jesus Christ is the judge of all the earth, who came the first time not with a sword in his hands but with nails through his hands – not to bring judgment but to bear judgment for us. Jesus Christ is the judge who was judged, so that all who believe in him can face the future day of judgment with confidence. On that day, because we are pardoned, he will be able to end all evil without ending us.”
Jesus Christ is our great hope for ultimate justice and our only hope for surviving it. Jesus is the perfect judge who was also judged in our place – our hope is in him.
Ultimate Meaning & Happiness
The second longing is for ultimate meaning and satisfaction or, you could say, the hope for ultimate happiness. If God is not our hope for lasting happiness, where will our hope be? It must be in earthly things. But can earthly things bear up under the weight of all of our hope? Can a career, a spouse, a family, a friendship, an income, meet all of our needs, satisfy all of our earnings, heal all the hurts in our hearts, satisfy the entirety of our being? Of course not! Some of the disillusioned people in our world put all their hope for love and a meaningful life on another person. The result is that, either the other person will be crushed by the expectations, or we will be crushed by their failure to meet our expectations. Our hope for ultimate meaning and happiness must be in God.
God alone knows our future, He alone controls the future, and so He alone can be our hope for the future. He is the God of hope and He has revealed himself in Jesus. Hope is one of the reasons why Christianity is so existentially satisfying, when truly believed at the heart level, while atheism is so existentially crippling, when truly believed at the heart level.
I know this website is dedicated to truth and reasons for belief. But this time around I am just offering you one reason to believe. Hope. And since hope is so necessary for human flourishing, especially in the midst of hardship, the Gospel of God is a beautiful gift to share with people.
“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
 I heard Tim Keller say this in a talk called, ‘Who is Jesus?’
 These three statements come from one of Jonathan Edward’s sermon outlines, written when he was eighteen.
 This line is from one of the many speeches that Martin Luther King Jr. gave.