Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Hope that is seen is not hope" (Romans 8:24)

This article in TIME has some interesting revelations about the inner life of Mother Teresa - about her doubts, her inability to sense the presence of Jesus, about her "dark night of the soul" which lasted some 60 years.

Does that make her faith sub-standard or even defective in some way ?

Some Protestants would be pretty quick to come to that conclusion simply because she is a Roman Catholic. Well, as a Protestant I was told not to trust in my feelings but to believe God's word. Our faith is therefore not in what we can see or feel or the circumstances around us but beyond that. Isn't that after all how Hebrews 11:1 defines faith ?

According to Hebrews 11:1 "faith is the conviction of things hoped for". Faith rests on and thus function in a very closely linked manner with Hope.

THIS particular YouTube video seems to capture the essence of the dubious attempts at humour which go under the label of "Christian satire" (H/T Sophia Kai Arete ).

You might note that Harry Gretzloff most perceptively puts his finger on why people generally get upset at this kind of so-called satire.

He says :"Most people hope that what they believe is true. And anything that threatens that hope is very scary".

One can see how scared or offended people can get angry, and even violent which reminds me of the Muslims reaction to the Danish cartoons about Mohamed or to the Pope's speech . I'm wondering if such offended Muslims are simply exhibiting a reaction to having their hope somehow threatened in the manner to which Gretzloff alludes. Of course, Muslims also seemed to seek out these cartoons and look for opportunities to be offended which is curious. They would then go way over the top in their reaction.

But why is it that Christians seem to have a higher tolerance level than Muslims in witnessing their faith criticised ? I think perhaps the answer lies in Romans 5:5 which says : "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

There are three things to note in this verse.

First, it says "hope does not disappoint us". The Greek word translated here as "disappoint" is sometimes rendered as "does not put us to shame". In the original biblical language it is defined as follows :

"one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived" (Blue Letter Bible).

Having one's hope disappointed is in effect suffering a repulse which may partially explain explains why the Muslims reactions were often so aggressive.

The reason why Christians are more confident in themselves and Muslims not so in the face of criticisms of their faith is given in the rest of the verse neither of which is true for any Muslim or Jew or any other person who does not have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ :

" because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

It might be observed that Jews more closely resemble Christians in their reaction to criticism of their faith. This is because Jews have Scriptural promises given to the Patriarchs about the Resurrection which they limit to the Israelite nation. So they have a sense of God's love toward them as a community if not as individuals or even in a personal way through the Divine indwelling in the heart.

Nevertheless, it is the same God who has made these promises to the Israelites which have found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ and thus in Christians by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Muslim, however, can enjoy no such confidence or derive no such encouragement from the Koran (which is not the Word of God)or even from God Himself because he has rejected God's testimony about His Son.

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