Hope in an Age of Despair
Albert Nolan, Orbis
South African Dominican, Albert Nolan, has the rare gift of presenting the depth of wisdom in the Bible in clear, plain language.
His three previous books, Jesus Before Christianity (1976), God in South Africa (1988) and Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom were wrung out of the his personal struggles with the apartheid regime, the time of hiding while apartheid was being dismantled, and the post-apartheid situation respectively.
In these he shone a searchlight — I would say the blazing light of the gospel — on his own context.
That is not to say he has little to say to those of us who are not South Africans! On the contrary, theology forged in that context forces us to reflect on where God is active in Australia today and how we, who struggle to be disciples here, live out our faith.
Hope in an Age of Despair contains 15 essays, some of which have not been previously published. Particularly enlightening and challenging for me were his eloquent descriptions of the Christian life as living with gratitude, joy, hope and wonder.
He offers a clear exposition of the biblical notion of justice/judgment/righteousness as God righting the wrongs in the world, and our growth in discipleship from compassion to anger to discovering the strength of the disadvantaged and to real solidarity.
His understanding of spirituality as growth in personal freedom was also helpful, as was his understanding of church as embodying a structure of grace (as opposed to the structures of sin in the world).
With this fourth book, Nolan demonstrates that throughout his life he has continued to grapple with biblical faith deeply in a way that is challenging and liberating for us all.