Light in the Darkness: Exploring the Path of Christian Hope

Added about 7 months ago by Peter Sills

GUEST BLOG: Taking to heart the petition in the Lords Prayer that God’s Kingdom shall come on earth as it is in heaven Peter Sills asks: What does it mean for human society, and for us individually, if we really want heaven on earth?

Light in the DarknessIn Light in the Darkness, I explore seven basic hopes: for truth, justice, freedom, a new beginning, enlightenment, peace and love. These hopes are beautifully expressed in the Advent Antiphons, the ancient praises of Jesus that mark the seven days before Christmas Eve, and I bring them together with the I Am sayings of Jesus showing how Christian faith offers a deeper and more insightful understanding than secular approaches. For some this will require a new look at what religious faith is about. The way in which faith has largely become a private matter would make no sense to Isaiah and the other prophets whose words inspired the antiphons. Their call is for a faith active in the public square, and not simply in our private lives, and it is their witness that guides us through the challenging issues considered in this exploration of hope, particularly the way economic ideas, our individualistic culture, and the legacy of the Englightment shape hope in the modern world.

Light in the Darkness offers a considered Christian response to these challenges that unites the political and the personal, the social and the spiritual, and the economic and the ethical. So, in this exploration we see truth as a quality discovered through a personal relationship, through making a journey, and not simply as a series of empirical propositions; we see justice as concerned with fair outcomes and not just fair procedures; freedom as given for personal and social fulfilment, not just from constraint. We see that a true new beginning enables us to take our past into our future healed, rather than hidden or denied; that true enlightenment is to live by the light of Christ rather than by the secular values of today’s world; that peace requires true reconciliation, moving into a new reality marked by the presence of justice not simply the absence of conflict; and that love is more than affection or sexual attraction, leading us on the path of self-giving, come what may, as God is with us.

These deeper understandings speak to the Age of Anger in which we live, where the vast majority of the peoples of the world live in conditions of poverty and deprivation, largely the result of the personal, social and economic values that have shaped the the world since the eighteenth century. Against those who say that this is because we have given up on religion, I argue that rather it is because we have adopted a new religion, based on the belief that continuous material progress would usher in the new age. The dominant spirituality today – our way of being in the world – is resolutely secular; the fulfilment of hope requires a change of heart, a new spirit, and the Christian faith, with its twofold hope for personal salvation and for the salvation of the world, offers the way forward. This two-fold hope is reflected in the antiphons; our hopes for justice and peace are one with our hopes for forgiveness and peace of mind.

While much seems dark and discouraging in today’s world, there is also much that points to the light, much that is both encouraging and hopeful, and this exploration of hope is written out of my conviction that the Christian understanding of both the human person and human society offers the best way forward out of our present confusions. At a time when Christianity is often portrayed in negative terms it is important to stress the positive vision that it offers. While Christians do not have all the answers, we remain the guardians of a treasure that offers hope both to individuals and to the world. In Christ we find the path that leads to the light. When we transcend the temptation to reduce religion to no more than a badge of identity, or to treat it as a source of power, and allow the love of God that Jesus proclaimed to shape our values and our perspectives we find, I believe, a deep source of hope.

I am delighted at how well Light in the Darkness has been received. Bishop Laurie Green described it as “an excellent study; insightful, scholarly, sensible and written in a style that is a joy to read. Erudite and full of wisdom, the connections it makes between scripture and todays world offer much for careful reflection.” And Dr Bridget Nichols commended it warmly: “A real achievement. Written with a relaxed ease, it is a delight to read. I warmed to the way that the themes are teased out with an impressive range of theological, economic, biblical and literary reference. This is a book for Christians to get their teeth into without feeling hampered by a lack of theological or biblical education.”

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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