Recently an Internet religious discussion forum hosted the question of hope’s power to sustain faith. The following is my somewhat modified reply, in which I deny the notion of
"Spe enim salvi facti sumus unum" [Wiki translation] or the principle which, like Luther's "sola fide",
proposes that hope alone is or can be the basis of faith.
Depending on a religious person’s perspective, I do suppose that some few people can sustain their faith on the principle of “Hope Alone”.
However, from my own perspective, faith should only be a secondary interpretive tool which helps the intellect delineate a primary, “foundational” religious experience. Without that kind of hands-on, immediate spiritual encounter, faith is just empty words about a doctrine, or else about some other person’s experience (e.g. a founder of a religion, a saint, a guru, etc.), but not one’s own experience, which is the only decisive matter to those for whom “faith” is equally “gnosis” or “knowing”.
So, for me, one’s interpretation – one’s “faith-in” or “faith-about” – of a core spiritual experience or experiences must be based on that initial and initiating experience of the Sacred Transcendent … or it will be absent its most cogent and driving factor – spiritual experience – and it will consist of nothing but mere words combined with wishful thinking – wishful thinking being one aspect of “Hope”. So a faith and/or a hope that is not based on a liberating sacred experience is bound to be nothing but a shell whose missing core is its central, crucial, essential “gnosis” – at best an empty faith and a pointless hope.
This issue is illustrated in Jodo Shinshu/Shin Buddhism’s teaching of Shinjin – Amida Buddha’s sheer, unearned gift of “perfect faith” – a faith that is at one and the same time “gnosis” because the gift of faith is itself the living experience of the living Buddha’s activity in oneself. In the reception of Shinjin, spiritual faith is conveyed in-and-as spiritual knowing. And so is spiritual hope, which is based on the received experience. But sayings like, “Our hope is in Amida Buddha delivering us to His Pure Land”, while emotionally true, still don’t cover the experiential nature of Shinjin.
Yes, Shin people are hopeful about their ultimate destiny of being transformed into Buddhas in the Pure Land, but that hope, because it is based on the prior experience of Shinjin, is far more than “mere” hope as cheerful, blissful anticipation. On the contrary, because it is based in the Shinjin experience, Jodo Shinshu “Hope” is expressed in the adherent’s own perception of the Shinjin-mind and the state of non-retrogression, both of which preclude a “falling-back” into pre-Shin modes of thinking and living. Once embraced by Amida, the Shin person is never let go. And that security, of course, extends far beyond both the secular and the standard religious connotations of Hope. Shinjin permits us to actually, in this life, step aboard “the Raft from the Other Shore” – the “vessel” which will safely transport us over the storm-tossed ocean of samsara to the shore of the Pure Land, where Faith and Hope together merge into Amida’s infinite compassion and find their true original nature in Buddhahood itself.