Thursday, September 3, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

We may have heard someone say "I hope God is there?" There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about hope nowadays. Any thoughts on how to better clarify this important biblical perspective?

9 comments:

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Seems to be a hard question! ;)

Hope is more than just the hope that the next day will bring good weather. It is - to stay with the picture - a trust that lets you even leave for the beach if the sky looks like some rain because you are convinced, that it will not rain.

Maybe this is a bad picture, but we can not decide the weather as little as we can decide the really important things in life.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Lukas,
Thanks. True, it is a hard question. I think I see your point. I want to say that hope somehow has to be tethered (connected) to knowledge so that it doesn't end up being hope in hope.

renea mac said...

In other words, we hope for what we know is true, what we know is to be. Is that what you're getting at Greg?

I'm not sure how to differentiate between hoping that something happens and hoping in a promise of something to come other than by simply allowing the context to do so. What I mean is, we don't necessarily need to stop using the word hope in relation to the weather, but we understand the profound difference between hoping that and hoping in.

Love is another good example. I don't think we need to stop saying I love this food; let context be your guide.

Greg said...

Renea,
Thanks. Good points. I was trying to take into consideration the someone who says "I hope God is there." So yes, as far as that goes knowledge and hope have to have an interface.

But there is a semantic issue here too. Hope might be used in a more contextual manner and without a certain referent - like the weather. Context, as you rightly underline, has to be our guide. Yet I do think that language can disintegrate. Hope can be reduced to being merely wishful guessing and love to a Big Mac. That is, everyday jargon so trivializes words that we're left with large holes in pools of meaning that eventually leads to no meaning.

Nita said...

"I hope God is there"
If I understood Greg's comments correctly, we should try to rescue the knowledge-belief semantic correlation in this statement. As Lukas put it, if one says "I hope it won't rain tomorrow" or anything like this, one is simply wishing that something will take place, such as a nice weather, and all contingent things we hope for, unveiling thus the subjective pole of this statement. Now, the difference between "hoping that" and "hoping in," as Renea pointed out, seems to open up the intersubjective horizon of meaning that is inherent in the hope-knowledge correlation applied to the proposition "I hope God is there." I entirely agree that the verb "hope" here does entail a personal commitment, very similar to the one we find in other Hebrew verbs such as "love" and "trust." (Sorry about this long spontaneous babbling, but I'm still attending a philosophy conference in Sao Paulo, and met several people from France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the US, and two guys from Lausanne who knew the Swiss L'Abri ! –and we couldn't avoid these polemic discussions about religion, politics, and soccer!) Anyways, to go back to the point, I think that "I hope God is there" must make sense of both the knowledge-belief and the hope-knowledge correlations, which to my mind come down to presupposing a personal relationship with the Wholly Other, in this case, God as a loving person, creator, father, savior, and mother (I'm not sure Greg would agree with this last one). When we say "I know p," it means that we have knowledge about p, or in epistemological terms, that we have a justified true belief about a certain state of affairs. In the case of the "I hope God is there" statement, I think that we are either already assuming (or presupposing) that God is actually there (which means, we know already that God is there) or, even if we cannot use the verb "know" in the same way that we say "I know that 1 + 1 = 2," we hope that God has to be there in order to make sense of math and everything else we get to know about nature and reality. This was somehow Descartes' argument for God's existence (or at least, one plausible reading of the Cartesian meditations), and that has been the way most Christians resort to Anselm's argument: "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Accordinly, if "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" existed only in one's mind, it would not be "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. It follows, according to Anselm, that "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" must exist in reality. Most Reformed epistemologists still resort to this kind of reasoning, but in my opinion they won't succeed in convincing any atheist or agnostic to embrace belief in God, hence my take on the personal trust element, which Renea rightly brought in. In effect, the Hebrew words "truth" (emeth) and "faith" (emunah) relate to "amen" and confidence (betach, hope) that G-d will always already be there. "Dasein" (which Heidegger interestingly used for human existence) does in effect unveil that "God is there" prior to any facticity or our being thrown into finite, existential situations. So, I hope God is there!
Shalom,
Nita

Greg said...

Nita,
Thanks for these helpful insights. Sao Paulo sounds like a blast.

"Hoping in" and "hoping that" would seem to need to be in a dialogue that has both eschatological and present day senses in mind.

A fiduciary connection of community with God, I believe, can be not only be hoped for, but also known as that "who" and "what" that reality is pointing us to.

Micha said...

Shalom,

We dont need to hope 'for a personal relationship'.
We dont need to hope for a 'fiduciary connection of community with God'.

But we do need to hope for justice and shalom and comfort for all the weak, innocent, shattered existences.

We do need to hope that one day this hope is real and we do not longer need it.

I apologize for my harsh and rough tone and I hope that - since you know that I respect you - apologizing is unnecessary.

Greg said...

Micha,
Thanks. I think I agree with some of your statements.

I would say that in the midst of hoping for justice and shalom, comfort for the oppressed and disenfranchised, there is sometimes a "doing for" that contributes to filling the gap between nothing and everything.

The hope is real because it is located in the God of hope and in this sense it is not hope that hope is real, but the reality that God is.

You're right - no apologies necessary.