David Kettle 'May God, who is the ground of hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you lead the life of faith until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope'. (Romans 15.13) Hope - radical hope - is the gift of God to humankind in Jesus Christ. We are born into this hope through him (1 Peter 1.3,4); it is our calling, in which we must persevere by our way of life (Colossians 1.23; Hebrews 10.23; romans 15.4b). Thus paper urges that witness to this radical hope lies at the heart of mission in and to Western culture in the early twenty-first century. This possibility both invites reflection on the gospel, and calls for cultural self-awareness nourished by the gospel. This dual enquiry is especially important for mission in the context often referred to as 'postmodern culture'.
I shall reflect therefore upon the gospel on the one hand and postmodern cultural developments on the other, as they appear in the light of this hope. I shall begin by raising the question: how do postmodern developments appear relative to the gospel of hope? Do they signify a changein where people look for hope, or the birth of new hope, or the collapse of hope? It is the third possibility which I shall explore in this paper. I shall point to this loss of hope in a preliminary way by noting a widespread cultural failure in caring, respectful attentiveness towards the world. I shall then interpret this by reference to a theological understanding of hope as an attentive, faithful disposition and practice in which we give ourselves in an unqualified way to God and to others. Seen in the light of hope thus understood, postmodern cultural developments reveal the wounds of hopelessness. I shall trace these wounds in the cultural prevalence in the West of narcissism, neediness, credulity, sentimentality, tragic spirituality and escapism. Finally I shall suggest some implications for the task of mission in a postmodern cultural setting.
In such matters, mission challenges Western Christians to deep cultural self-awareness illumined by the gospel - to see and articulate things taken for granted at a deep level in their own culture. This awareness grows through deep and attentive immersion in the testimony of Christian Scripture and tradition. It is also be helped by listening well to brothers and sisters in Christ who bring non-Western Christian perspectives on Western culture.