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Is there hope in our cynical age? An interview with Jason Duesing

When Credo Magazine first started, Jason Duesing wrote an article on the missionary Adoniram Judson for one of the first issues of the magazine. So we are delighted to have him back to talk about his new book, Mere Hope: Life in an Age of CynicismJason Duesing serves as the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author and editor of several books, including Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary and Upon this Rock: The Baptist Understanding of the Church.

In the words of J.I. Packer, how is the Bible “a book of hope”?

In Packer’s book, written with Carolyn Nystrom, Never Beyond Hope, he gives a helpful explanation of why he sees the Bible as a book of hope. From Genesis to Revelation, he explains, the Bible conveys hope. “The first recorded divine promise, that the woman’s seed would crush the serpent’s head, was a word of hope in the Garden of Eden, and the last recorded promise of Jesus, ‘I am coming soon”, was a word of hope for churches facing persecution.”  Packer concludes his point by saying, “Hope, the guaranteed expectation enabling believers to look forward with joy, is in truth one of the great themes of Christianity and one of the supreme gifts of God.”

C. S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien are regular conversation partners throughout the book. What have you learned about hope from their writings?

Both of these “Inklings” provide helpful illustrations for a discussion on the core of Christian hope. Tolkien, in particular, exemplifies this with his term “eucatastrophe,” a term he coined to convey the point in any story when out of the greatest tragedy, you see also the workings of the greatest good. He regularly employed eucatastrophes in his writing and saw them of echoes of the greatest eucatastrophe, and the fountain source of Christian hope, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I read these Inklings, the more I see in their work how they point to Christ and the more I wanted to use them to help Mere Hope do the same.

What is “Evangelical Stoicism” and how is it inconsistent with gospel hope?

The Stoic is one who approaches life and the universe with “a stiff upper lip” and a call to stand stalwart no matter what may come. The evangelical version of this is tempted to live the Christian life in much the same way. Click To TweetWe practice evangelical stoicism when we self-philosophize to “tough it out” or endure, or just manage circumstances to “get by.” Yet, this approach is empty and is absent of simple joy, faith, and thankfulness that are the fruits of resting in the hope of the Bible and trusting in God. To be sure, Christians are called to persevere and endure trials, but how they go about this makes all the difference.

How does a biblical understanding of propitiation bolster the Christian’s hope?

The biblical term propitiation has a tsunamic impact on the understanding of Christian hope. As J. I. Packer said in an essay called, “The Heart of the Gospel” that “Not only does the truth of propitiation lead us to the heart of the New Testament gospel, it also leads us to a vantage point from which we can see the heart of many other things as well.” In short, at the heart of understanding propitiation, that Jesus Christ took the wrath of God I deserved so I could have his righteousness, not only gives me hope, but compels me to share that hope with every human being on the planet.

Hebrews 10 connects “holding fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (v. 23) to “not neglecting to meet together” (v. 25) in the regular assembly of God’s people. How does covenant membership in a local church influence the Christian’s fight for hope?

While the believer must come to understand personally the hope that is available to them in Christ, mere hope is not something to be lived out in insolation. We have the local church and a body of brothers and sisters around to help us to remind us of our hope. When we gather corporately through hearing God’s Word, singing and praying, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering and proclaiming what we know to be true. We are calling one another to return to the “hope set before us” (Heb 6:18).

Brandon Freeman

Brandon Freeman is a pastor at Liberty Baptist Church and a PhD student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2015, he graduated from Ouachita Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies. He serves as the Executive Assistant To the Vice President of Institutional Administration at MBTS.

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