Mere Hope

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

Mere Hope is a simple, encouraging book that encourages Christians to find our hope in the gospel of Christ. Jason Duesing defines biblical hope as "a patient, disciplined, confident waiting for and expectation of the Lord as our Savior." This book is a reminder that, although we live in a broken world where it's easy to become cynical, hope in Christ is foundational to the Christian faith. Rather than just positive self-help clichés, Mere Hope offers reminders of who we are in Christ and the difference that those truths should make in our lives.

If you are discouraged or if you see yourself becoming cynical, this book can help. I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.
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While this won't be my favorite book on hope, Jason Duesing does offer enough inspiring points to make this book worth reading. In an an era of cynicism, hope is a valuable commodity to invest in.

He explains that his title "mere" doesn't mean "barely" but rather "truly" or "really." In this book he outlines why his hope is a solid one based on his theology. 

I like his idea of four places to look for hope: 

1 - Look down at the foundation, the gospel
2 - Look look in for the fountain, Jesus in us
3 - Look out for flourishing, to share hope with the nations
4 - Look up to focus on what is true

I also appreciate his four ways to live hope: through remembering, praying, singing, and sharing.

My thanks to Net Galley for the review copy of this book.
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This is perhaps the most edifying book I have read in 2018. Many books that attempt to be uplifting or encouraging are often theologically shallow and full of emotional drivel. Mere Hope, despite its brevity, is heavy on gospel clarity (Duesing even devotes space to explain the difference between such words as propitiation and expiation) and is both logically ordered and well reasoned. But its depth does not take away from the fact that it is an immense pleasure to read. The author illustrates using carefully selected scenes from the fantasy-literary trifecta of Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling, alongside consistently faithful exegesis of the Bible. The whole experience is a rich and satisfying journey that will make the reader love Jesus more, live with greater confidence, and serve others better, all because of a deeper intellectual and experiential appreciation of what is his in Christ.
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There is an opinion that the bad side must be true, that people always have an ulterior motive. We are suspicious of people who help others for no apparent reason. Jason G. Duesing writes that we need to refocus on hope, hope that comes from Jesus.

In Mere Hope, the word mere is used in the sense of core or essential, not the minimum required. Hope is an important part of following God, as we don't know everything. However, hope is being traded in for self reliance. To combat this Duesing gives 4 places to look to have your hope strengthened: the foundation, the source, the growth, and the focus.

The writing style is easy to read and and can be read by most ages. The book would be a good addition for any Christian, as we are all going to face times where our hope is attacked. We can trust in the fact that our story, through Christ, will end in joy.

Before reading this book, I thought I had a good understanding of what hoping meant, but by the second chapter, I realized that cynicism was more deeply rooted in my life than I thought. Though I won't claim to have a total grasp on hope now, Mere Hope has helped me see areas in my life that need work.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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I was given an advanced copy through Netgalley for my review. I would highly recommend this book to family and friends and will buy a copy for myself.
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Mere does not mean "barely", but rather "true" or "real". The "thicker" hope that Duesing would have us see is that inextinguishable flicker that God ignites in our souls to keep us believing in the prevailing power of his light even when we are surrounded by utter darkness. Presenting a solid biblical theology of hope, Duesing demonstrates this in four key ways: "Look down" at the good news of the gospel as our foundation, "look in" to Jesus Christ as the hope within us, "look out" to see the flourishing of hope shared among the nations, and "look up" to the focus of our hope both now and in the age to come. This book was a great encouragement, but it also served to reinforce that gospel foundation on which we stand firm in these trying times. Recommended.
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The age of anxiety has given way to the age of cynicism. Among my generation, cynicism is no longer a bad word: it’s being celebrated, and it is often mistaken for intelligence … It is better to be wry and distrustful than to be open and trusting. — Mohammed Fairouz

This quote, employed early in Mere Hope to define the problem of cynicism. Fairouz is four years older than me, but I think we share a common definition of our generation. Cynicism abounds, and I am often caught in it myself. But while it may be on an upswing today, cynicism is not new. In the book of Isaiah, the people of Israel were “wry and distrustful” to the prophet when he told them of their imminent judgment. They answered cynically and sarcastically: “Let him hurry up and do his work quickly so that we can see it! Let the plan of the Holy One of Israel take place so that we can know it!” (Isaiah 5:19, CSB). C.S. Lewis makes a concise and intelligent case against cynicism in The Abolition of Man. He writes:

But you cannot go on “explaining away” forever: you will find that you have explanation itself away. You cannot go “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? … a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.
How often do I claim to “see through” the things of the world and call it wisdom? Yet, if I am not clinging to something instead, I am just an arsonist burning stuff down without any plans of replacing it with anything better.

C.S. Lewis is a fitting writer to quote in reviewing Mere Hope not only because he takes down cynicism and not only because C.S. Lewis quotes are as ubiquitous as a Russell Moore blurb in a Southern Baptist’s book (Moore writes the foreword to Mere Hope). I quote C.S. Lewis because Jason Duesing gleans wisdom and insight on hope from Lewis and his fellow Inkling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and employs their writings in most of the illustrations in his book. If you like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings, this book is for you. He even has the audacity to use Harry Potter (gasp!) in not one but two illustrations. The result is a work that draws on themes of recent accomplished writers to make a point about the Christian faith: the gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope that puts all the world’s problems in a different light.

The cover of Mere Hope features the feather of a Phoenix, the fictional creature that is said to combust upon its death only to be reborn from its own ashes. This is a perfect symbol for the message of the gospel. It also answers the question, “Is the world getting better or worse?” A biblical answer to this question must be nuanced, and I believe the metaphor of the Phoenix is a useful one. The world is both getting noticeably worse and ultimately better at the same time. God is bringing his redemption to the world. It is simply harder to see from our finite view.

Duesing uses J.R.R. Tolkien’s term “eucatastrophe” to further describe our hope in Jesus. Duesing writes:
A eucatastrophe is built from catastrophe — literally “to turn down” — and the prefix eu, meaning “good.” Thus, in a story with eucatastrophe, at the point of greatest tragedy, you have the workings also of the greatest good. In a later letter to his son, Tolkien wrote, “I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.”

This plot device is elemental to the best parts of The Lord of the Rings (think the Battle of Helm’s Deep or the climactic scene at the fires of Mordor), it is true of God’s redemption of me (“…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”), and it is true of God’s plan for the world as well. As we see the world’s worst, and we so often do, we have hope because of the God that is going to bring a sudden happy turn to the story, and we will stand before Him in tears. As the contemporary version of a classic hymn goes:

Through it all, my eyes are on you
Through it all, it is well.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of B&H Books and Lifeway, but my opinions are my own.
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Mere Hope
Life in an Age of Cynicism
by Jason G. Duesing
B&H Publishing Group (B&H Books, Holman Bibles, B&H Español, and B&H Kids)

B&H Books
Pub Date 01 Jun 2018

I am reviewing a copy of Mere Hope through B&H Books and Netgalley:

We live in a time of cynicism, a time of difficulty, a time of struggles and a time of hate but that is not to say we are without hope.

We are reminded too though that for every act of terror in the world today, there are a thousand acts of sacrificial service as well as gospel proclamation.

Mere Hope is a reminder that amidst all. The cynicism, there is hope.

I give Mere Hope five out of five stars! 

Happy Reading!
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“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” With these words the Preacher of Ecclesiastes opens up his address on life under the sun. The book of Ecclesiastes is about finding joy in this broken, sin-filled world, and the Preacher, full of godly wisdom, understands the frustrations we face and the cynicism we revert to when we put our hope and trust in the fallen things of the world that constantly disappoint. All is vanity when this world becomes ultimate. Yet, the Preacher instructs us to the path of joy. Joy, purpose, contentment, and hope abound, to the demise of cynicism, when we heed the “words of delight” given by our “one shepherd” and “fear God and keep his commandments” in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eccl. 12:10-13). Jason Duesing’s Mere Hope reminds one of the “words of delight” found in the resurrected Christ to help Christians live with hope in an age of cynicism.   

Accoding to Duesing, cynicism takes both an active and a passive form. Active cynicism is characterized by a skeptic distrust of people and things working for good that operates as a “functional, if not actual, atheism, where the ultimate end is despair and hopelessness” (9). Passive cynicism is “more of an idle indifference to the world and the people in it,” the idea that one is to live for whatever seems most pleasing now as if the biblical idea of eternity future is irrelevant (9). Neither active nor passive cynicism comports with the biblical idea of present and future hope in light of Jesus Christ, who is redeeming this cosmos and making all things new (Rev. 21:5). Therefore, Duesing aims to “remind and establish that hope still lives” so that Christians in an age of cynicism know how to live with mere (essential) hope that waits expectantly in the “Lord as our Savior” (12, 15). To live with mere hope, Christians must look downward at our gospel foundation, inward at Christ in us, outward with a flourishing hope to be shared among the nations, and upward to our sovereign God (17-18).

First of all, this book is needed. For Christians not yet glorified and nevertheless living as gospel witnesses in a cynical world, we are prone to fall into cynicism. Our sinful hearts are prone to live for the moment based on what we can see by making God’s good gifts—family, work, relationships, money, etc.—into gods. Yet these good gifts make bad gods because they never satisfy, and our realization of our passive cynicism (and active idolatry!) often results in some form of biblical counseling leading to repentance. Or, for example, we look at the moral failures of leaders and corruption in religious bodies and we become active cynics who throw the baby out with the bathwater in distrusting the church altogether. Like those early Christians to whom Peter wrote regarding our “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” we too need constant reminders of our mere hope in Christ to keep us walking in line with the gospel (1 Pet. 1:3).

The question has been asked whether one can be too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. The answer is no. Our problem is that we often aren’t heavenly minded enough because of our propensity to forget the gospel and to fall into imitating our surrounding culture. Therefore, Duesing’s charge to “do the chief work of remembering” our hope through Scripture memory, listening to sermons, reading books, singing songs, and by preaching the gospel to ourselves every single day in all circumstances is vital (151). Paul’s primary emphasis in the New Testament is an eschatology focused on our risen and reigning Christ because of the hope of the gloriously good eternal life in the presence of God apart from sin in a new creation found therein, giving purpose to our missiological efforts today. Like Paul, we must fight to remember our eschatological hope.

Relatedly, Duesing is also helpful by emphasizing the role of the local church in maintaining mere hope (154-158). Mere hope is not meant to be maintained individually; rather, it is a community project. Christians are called to build up the body of Christ to mature manhood and to bear one another’s burdens (Eph. 4:1-16, Gal. 6:1-5). This means that when we forget the gospel hope we have and when we are caught living in cynicism, often blinded to our own sin, the local church functions to shine biblical light on our wanderings and to guide us back to the truth as it is in Jesus. Hope thrives in gospel community.

Short and sweet, Mere Hope guides the Christian’s gaze from our cynical culture to the glories reserved for us in our crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning King Jesus who is at work in the world making all things new. May Mere Hope help Christians together look downward, inward, outward, and upward to find the joy, contentment, and hope of our ever-eternal, never-disappointing Christ.  


Note: A review copy of the book was provided to the Prince on Preaching blog in exchange for an honest review.
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