Hoping Against Hope

Just as Christian faith goes against the understanding by believing in possibility in the face of impossibility, Christian hope is a 'hope against hope' that also goes against the understanding by hoping at precisely that point where, humanly speaking, there is no hope and all purely natural hope has been changed into hopelessness or despair (EUD 94-5; FSE 82; SUD 18).21 Christian hope is thus a gift of the Spirit that comes only after one has 'died to' the understanding's merely human view of hope, which is associated with a multiplicity of expectations that often do not materialize but result in suffering and hardship that end in the loss of hope. In Kierkegaard's view, however, hardship does not take away hope but actually procures it (CD 106-13). Reversing Hegel's association of childhood with the inner and adulthood with the outer, Kierkegaard suggests that childhood is best characterized as 'a dream-life' in which our innermost being is asleep and we are turned entirely outward, open to every sense impression and confusing ourselves with it, so that 'inwardness is outwardness' at this stage of life (107-8). Although it is possible to remain in such a dreamlike state in adulthood, hardship helps in an indirect or repelling manner to awaken us to the possibility of eternity's hope by drowning out and

20 See further Walsh (2005: 29-32); Cappel0rn (2004: 95-124).

21 See also Gouwens (1996: 153-85).

silencing all external voices, enabling us to turn inward and listen to the voice of eternity planted deep within our innermost being:

People continually think that it is the world, the environment, the circumstances, the situations that stand in one's way, in the way of one's fortune and peace and joy. Basically it is always the person himself who stands in his way, the person himself who is bound up too closely with the world and the environment and the circumstances and the situations so that he is unable to come to himself, to find rest, to hope. (CD 109-10)

Kierkegaard thus asserts: 'The only person hardship can depress is the person who refuses to be helped eternally' and 'The only person from whom hardship can take away hope is the person who does not want to have the hope of eternity' (113). For the person who truly wants it, however, hardship procures the hope of eternity.

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