Subscribe to Christianity Today
By Lewis Smedes
Name It and Claim It
"Hope: The Heart's Great Quest"
By David Aikman
220 pp.; $9.99, paper
About 500 pages into "The True and Only Heaven," his expansive book about the life and death of optimism, Christopher Lasch wondered about the possibility for a rebirth, not of optimism, but of hope. Optimism's confidence in unending and universal progress, he had observed, lived on evidence that things were going well and were likely to go on getting better. With such a flimsy basis, optimism could not survive the persistent experience of tragedies that have so cruelly walloped the human family. Now the question is, can we find a hope to replace our lost optimism? What we need, Lasch mused, is "a more vigorous form of hope which trusts life without denying its tragic character." Is there such a hope?
Though he does not include Lasch's book in his impressive list of sources, David Aikman has written his own answer to Lasch's question. There is indeed the sort of vigorous hope that Lasch looked for. There is a hope that is based in God's promise rather than evidence of human progress. The promise is a new creation rather than gradual improvement on the old one. Thus, Christian faith offers a life beyond the "tragic character" of this world to hope for and Someone above our tragedy-prone existence to trust our hope in. It is, therefore, a hope that will survive adversity and tragedy. And, since our spirits need hope as much as our lungs need oxygen, I can only applaud Aikman's passion to show that Christian hope is the one and only true hope.
To support his purpose, Aikman, for many years a foreign correspondent for "Time" magazine, succinctly surveys the faith of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam in 21 pages and then--in 47 fast-turning pages--neatly reviews the major thinkers from the Age of Enlightenment to the New Age to show that other religious faiths offer no hope at all and that any hope that secular thought offers is a false one. This done, he reviews what the Bible along with selected theologians ...