"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the most confusing of these is hope."I've always wondered about Hope.-1 Corinthians 13:13, paraphrased.
Faith, I understand. Charity is easy. However, I was never quite sure how hope really differed from faith. It's probably been one of my longest-standing questions, and I've never really heard a satisfactory answer. Some of the confusion is probably due to the fact that faith and hope seem to be used interchangeably at times in the scriptures.
Then, a couple days ago, inspiration struck! A diagram came to mind, and Hope suddenly made sense in a pseudo-mathematical sense:
"Knowledge" is when you have enough evidence that you can say with certainty approaching 100% that something is true.
En route to any knowledge, however, you must pass through a continuum of faith. This holds whether it's scientific or religious knowledge. For many bits of knowledge, you may jump straight from one end to the continuum to the other with a single bit of evidence: your trigonometry teacher tells you that a2 + b2 = c2 and you believe her. For other bits of knowledge it takes much more evidence: your parents tell you that Education Is Good and it takes you through high school, college, graduate school, and finally making 20K a year more than your high-school dropout friends to really believe them.
However, key to this equation (Faith + Hope = Knowledge) is the fact that faith is based on evidence. I've always misunderstood this. I assumed faith was what you relied on when you had no evidence.
But that's hope's domain! Faith is based on evidence, while hope makes up the difference.
Alma's "seed" analogy is a good one:
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.Alma 32:28-34