In the chapter on Hope, in Book Three of Mere Christianity, Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote, “Hope is one of the Theological virtues.” And that put me off right there.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire C.S. Lewis in many ways, especially his erudition and the conversational style in which he writes (he writes as he speaks, a a skill much praised by such luminaries as Fleisch).

As a Christian apologist, I’m grateful to him for introducing me to several key Christian ideas, and also some which are pertinent even withoutt the Christian theology, such as “Men without Chests” and “Punishment”.

No. I’m sorry, but hope is not  “one of the Theological virtues”. It is much, much more crucial than that. Would you say that food is a “theological virtue”? Or love? Or joy? I don’t think so.

Lewis may have meant well. He may even be technically correct. But to talk of hope in this way, trivialising this virtue (which it undoubtedly is), is almost unforgivable. And this sentence opens the chapter, for crying out loud: he really thought categorizing hope in this way was the single most important thing he could do right at the beginning of the chapter.

Hope: without it, humans curl up and die. There is a story about two Africans in a medical study who were diagnosed as HIV positive, and who promptly took to their beds. Some time later, they were tested again and this time it was negative. Did they stay abed? No! They started to “recover”. Nothing in fact had changed; the test had been defective (as is not infrequently the case, I hear). But now they had hope, whereas before they had none.

“There is no hope.” “What hope is there?” These are famous “last words” that usually precede abandonment of effort and struggle: what’s the point, if there’s no hope? Yet there are those magnificent words uttered by, I think, Aragorn, in the last part of “Lord of the Rings”; when Gimli the dwarf says, “There is no hope”, Aragorn counters, “Then we must do without hope.” A stout heart, indeed.

“Give them legitimate hope” counsels veteran speaker Gary North. The last part of a good speech should do this, he says.   Would it sound the same, do you think, if he said, “Give them a legitimate Theological virtue”? Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Here’s Gary North talking at Mises University, October 2010, about an opportunity for young Austrian economists and  at the same time teaching how to give a good speech.