The three fundamental virtues of the Christian life in this world are faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Faith and hope express our reliance on God in our incompleteness. We have faith when direct knowledge is lacking—the glass is dark—and we take God at his word for ‘assurance of what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1). We have hope when we have not yet received what is promised by one we trust to deliver—'Who hopes for what they already have?’ (Romans 8:24).
It’s not surprising then, that in the context of a society in which autonomy, independence, skepticism and cynicism are celebrated, faith and hope are greeted with contempt.
That a relationship with God would require special faith is anticipated by God Himself as He withdraws His obvious presence in response to the rebellion of humankind (Genesis 3). As God re-establishes His relationship with the people of Israel, we are told of the great faith exercised by Abraham and Moses in response to His life-changing commands (Genesis 12, Exodus 20). Turning to the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the struggles, indeed hostility, of many in response to Jesus’ claims and promises. No one should be surprised by the skepticism to Christian faith in these present times.
Similarly, the Christian hope that God will one day set things right can seem counterintuitive. So much of what we do assumes that tomorrow will be just like today; a steady development from a singular moment in space-time some 13.8 billion years ago, and that no-one lies outside the physical constraints of space-time who can intervene.
Unlike faith and hope, love is held in great reverence, at least in popular mythology. Yet in practice, to love in this world of offence, abuse and violence can seem counterintuitive. Like Yossarian in Heller’s Catch-22, the most logical course of action seems to be to look after our own selves as best we can.
Christian love, the greatest virtue, finds its inspiration in Jesus who endured offence, abuse and violence to ransom humankind (Mark 10:45). Jesus calls us all to walk as He walked (Mark 8:34ff) and to see love of God and of neighbour as the most important things to do (Mark 12:29ff).
In these pages, we reflect on these virtues of faith, hope and love, following the theme of the 2019 New College Lectures which were presented jointly by the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Sydney. We include a summary of the Archbishops’ lecture material and their heartfelt concerns for Australia at this present time. The books reviewed in this issue were also recommended by the Archbishops to encourage people to think more deeply about faith, hope and love.
They are joined by Leisa Aitken who has been reconsidering how hope is understood in the clinical psychology literature, an important endeavour as an epidemic of anxiety and depression sweeps contemporary society. Andrew Sloane deepens our understanding of the theological virtues still further as he reflects on how faith and hope enable us to love in this fractured world.
Through these pages, it is our hope that readers will take the time to meditate on faith, hope and love, and that they will see their lives transformed as a result.
Comments will be approved before showing up.