"Hope for Africa" (in Swahili) by WRF Member Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher with an "Introduction: (in English) by WRF Member Dr. Thomas Johnson

WRF member Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher has written a small book entitled "Hope for Africa."  This book is available in its original Swahili form through the link below.  Dr. Schirrmacher may be contacted at drthschirrmacher@me.com .

Below the link taking you to Dr. Schirrmacher's book is an introduction to that book written by WRF member Dr. Thomas Johnson.  Dr. Johnson's "Introduction" is in English.

Here is the link to "Hope for Africa" (in Swahili):

http://www.wrfnet.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=20&name=DLFE-106.pdf

Here is Dr. Johnson's "Introduction" (in English) to "Hope for Africa":
 

Hope Seeks Understanding:

An Introduction to “Hope for Africa”


I sometimes open a lecture about the Christian faith with the famous words of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

Every time someone immediately asks, “Does comfort mean the same as hope?” I answer, “In the terminology of the 16th century, I think the word ‘comfort’ included what we call ‘hope’ today.” This means, adapting classical Christian terminology, “my only hope in life and in death is that I belong, body and soul, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

With this step we have begun the important process of contextualizing the historic evangelical faith in relation to the questions and needs of the 21st century, a time when people are looking everywhere for hope. We also see we have some serious thinking to do.

One of the important slogans of our Christian ancestors was “faith seeks understanding;” this principle was also phrased, “I believe in order that I may know.” These slogans were, at first glance, an exhortation: Christians should think deeply about the faith and think about all of life in light of the Christian faith.

But these slogans also contained an important observation about human life more generally: what people claim to know arises partly out of whatever faith they have. People constantly think about things in light of their previous faith commitments, even if they do not intend to think in light of their faith. The faith of a person or a community serves as a set of control beliefs that tells them what they are allowed to think. There is good evidence that this is true even of atheists.

Our Christian slogans are a way of being honest about what people of all religions and worldviews tend to do.

But faith is only one of the three spiritual virtues. St. Paul taught us, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) If faith seeks understanding, then hope and love should also seek understanding. If I believe in order that I may know, then I should also hope and love in order that I may know. And St. Peter taught us, “Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia in Greek) to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have,” (1 Pet. 3:15) a command to think in light of our hope.

Under the influence of modern culture, many of us have been inclined to act as if hope (like faith and love) has to stand on the basis of reason or reasons (our “apologetic”), but maybe it is not so simple. Maybe reason or reasons also stand on the basis of hope. A reasoned account and explanation can flow from hope as well as lead to hope. Our apologetic for hope includes the full application of Christian hope to all of life.

In Psalm 130:7 Israel was exhorted, “put your hope in the Lord.” In their context, if the people did not put their hope in the Lord, then they would put their hope in an idol, whether the idol was religious or political. “Putting one’s hope” is simply a normal part of human life we can hardly avoid, but where one’s hope is placed is closely tied to a whole way of life and a whole way of thinking about everything. Hope (including false hope) has tremendous consequences.

A couple generations ago many in Europe discussed the “philosophy of despair,” but this could hardly continue, since people always place their hope in something. It is important to place our hope in the right place and then to seek understanding of everything else in light of our hope. But how?

The less well-known second question and answer in the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “How many things must you know, in order to live and die in this comfort?” The answer is three, including knowledge of our sin, knowledge of God’s grace, and knowledge of how we should live. The knowledge related to hope is also complex and multifaceted. And the complex knowledge arising from hope can and should be applied to the whole range of problems and opportunities we face today.

For Christians it is extremely valuable to consider and to articulate the understanding that arises from Christian hope. Otherwise we may think about our world in light of false hopes or find hope from false sources. Everyone seeks to understand and guide the world in light of their hope. For this purpose I heartily encourage you to wrestle with the teaching of my trusted friend, Thomas Schirrmacher. Join him in the process of hope seeking understanding. I am convinced that hope found in the Triune God is real hope that leads to real understanding.


Prof. Pastor Dr. Thomas K. Johnson
johnson.thomas.k@gmail.com