Bo White

Ideas and Grace over Coffee

The Ingredients of Hope

Cornelius Plantinga, in his book Engaging God’s World quotes Lewis Smedes concerning the anatomy of hope. Plantinga writes, “According to Smedes…genuine hope always combines imagination, faith, and desire. Those are the main ingredients,” (p. 8).

If you’re like me, you’re often missing one of the ingredients and like a cake that isn’t baked properly, our hopefulness, then, falls flat. And it’s been my experience that, at least in 21st century America, we rush straight to the third ingredient without much regard for the other two. We simply ‘desire’ things to be better or we simply ‘desire’ certain things for ourselves. And so hope has been reduced to only desire.

But, what happens if the other two ingredients get mixed back in? Hope become more and more real. Instead of simply wanting something, we imagine actually having it or we imagine what it would it would be like to live in such a world. Take poverty, for example. Can you imagine a world without it? Some people cannot, so there is no enduring action to fight against it. Without an engaged imagination, our desires are often too weak in and of themselves.

Faith, then, takes what we desire and what we imagine and gives it activities to do. I can window shop or channel surf and then desire something. I can even move beyond channel surfing and web browsing to an engaged imagination, but without trusting that a positive outcome can actually take place, I will simply burn with desire or distance myself through imagination. Faith grounds both and pushes us to actually live in a hopeful world.

Jack Miller, in his book entitled Repentance makes the point that faith is only used in verb form in the Gospel of John. In other words, faith does indeed solidify hope, because it mobilizes both our imagination and our desire through activity. So, what would it look like to live lives of imagination, faith, and desire? That isn’t the same as a campaign slogan that promises ‘hope’ or a concerned financial advisor saying, ‘I hope things will get better.’ All three ingredients give us a substantive hope that is far more impactful.

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