I think for many people hope comes to mean wishful thinking. A young lady might say, "I hope to be married someday." What she means is that her wish, her desire, is to married, even though at the moment the prospects of that happening are not the greatest. So hope becomes this weak wish list of what one looks forward to happening in the future. There is no firm evidence for what the future holds which means that hope is nothing more than speculation on our part.
This is the reason why a book like Heaven is for Real becomes such a popular book in Christian circles. We are looking for evidence that what we speculate about, what we wish for, what we "hope" for is actually true. Whether or not it provides such evidence is a discussion for another day.
Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed started a discussion on the nature of hope. We need to have this conversation. If hope is nothing more than our speculation about the future and if we need to have evidence to support of speculation than are we really trusting God?
One word that has come up a few times in the last year’s discussion about life after death, about heaven and hell, and about who goes where, is the word “speculation.” A number of folks have used it, but two notables who have pushed against traditionalists with that word are Rob Bell and Shane Hipps. Is the Christian hope in life after death, in “heaven” (however understood), in eternal life, speculation? I cringe when I hear “speculation” because I wonder how extensive such a view is. Is it all speculation? Just speculation? Or is just some of it speculation? What of the Big Four: return of Christ, last judgment, resurrection, and new creation?
A simplistic reaction to the “it’s speculation, after all” claim is to affirm or assert or dig one’s ground on the doctrine of Scripture. There’s a better way, and it’s a deeper way. The Christian hope is not simply believing the Bible. I will say it with Greek words and then spell this out as we discuss Tony Thiselton’s Life after Death. Here it is: euangelion is epangelia. (Gospel is promise.)
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