Guests: Paul Dybdahl and Dave Thomas
Relevant Biblical Passages: 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 9:28, Revelation 21:3-4
The Hope of our Hope. Within the Adventist community, the phrase “blessed hope,” taken from the KJV of Titus 2:13 is a precious passage: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” The focus of the discussion questions below is on the interplay between hope and doubt
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19: Nothing but misery without a resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul develops two lines of thinking in the opening paragraphs of the chapter: One, he cites all the human witnesses to the resurrection of Christ; two, he argues from human experience that a this-worldly hope without the future hope vouchsafed by the resurrection of Christ would leave us “of all people most to be pitied” (NRSV). Given those kinds of arguments, what kind of “certainty” can we see in Paul? Does it fall short of absolute proof yet still represent a certain confidence?
- 1 Corinthians 13:13: Faith, hope, love. What kind of “proof” can one expect for these three key aspects of human experience? To seek to “prove” them would destroy them, would it not? The NIV of Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” And Paul, in Romans 8:24 states that “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” When Christians want to “prove” their faith are they undermining key aspects of our relationship with God?
- Mark 9:24: “I believe, help my unbelief!” Where on the scale of doubt-to-certainty would we place the father who cried out to Jesus for the healing of his epileptic son? Did Jesus chide him for his lack of certainty?
- Matthew 27:46: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Is it possible that the cry of godforsakenness is also a cry of faith? Where on the scale of doubt-to-certainty would we place Jesus’ prayer?
- John 20:25: “Unless I see…, I will not believe.” Jesus gently chided Thomas for his lack of belief, but still was willing to give him tangible evidence to satisfy his “doubting” mind. Does this incident suggest that we should be more gentle with those who struggle to believe?
- Doubt: A stepping-stone to growth? In the following quote, George McDonald, C. S. Lewis’s mentor, suggests that doubt can actually be a stepping stone toward faith: “To deny the existence of God may…involve less unbelief than the smallest yielding to doubt of His goodness. I say yielding; for a person may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood…. Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.” (George McDonald, 365 Readings, #152, pp. 66-67). How can one put limits on doubt so that it can be constructive, not destructive?
- Believers vs. non-believers. In an attempt to shore up faith and retain hope, believers are sometimes tempted to be overtly hostile towards those who mock or attack faith. Some of the psalmists, for example, did not hesitate to condemn their enemies (e.g. Ps 139:21-22); Jeremiah was not always inclined to pray “Father, forgive them…” (cf. Jer. 18:19-23). How much latitude should the believer expect between Jesus’ ideal and the hard-core emotions of real life? Or should we, in fact, be outspoken in our condemnation of those who do not believe?