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Hope in Troubled Times

A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises

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Word Guild 2008 Writing Award

"Pulls off the difficult feat of communicating, in a gracious and nonjudgmental way, the dire straits in which our society finds itself today. Others have used the concept of idolatry as a category of social critique; no one has ever used it with such biblically-informed power and specificity. This is a remarkable achievement."--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University

We want to have it all: financial strength, secure homes, clean air and water for our children. With the latest technological advances available, we deserve to have every dilemma resolved. Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? Hope in Troubled Times dares to say "no."

Poverty, terrorism, and overtaxed land are planetary problems that make even believers despair. But the authors point to Christ as the source of hope. Our choice is obvious. We work together, learning to live unselfishly, or we watch civilization sink further into the abyss. With a foreword by renowned human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hope in Troubled Times provides real-world solutions to life-threatening problems. The authors show that with God's guidance we can knock down the idols that stunt clear thinking.


"At a time when so many in our fragile, fractured, and violent world so understandably succumb to despair, rage, indifference, or escapism, this unsettling book issues an audacious manifesto of hope. Fired by a stirring biblical vision of shalom, the authors deploy their ample social science expertise to diagnose the idolatrous obsessions driving our global social, economic, and political crises and blocking their resolution. And they invite all of us--people of faith as well as those who open the book supposing they have none--to take the healing steps that already lie at hand. This book certainly afflicts the comfortable, but only so that the afflicted may indeed be comforted."--Jonathan Chaplin, director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Tyndale House, Cambridge

"These authors are spot on. Their words should be read widely!"--The Most Reverend Njongonkulu W. H. Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop, Cape Town, South Africa

"The real struggle of our time is the choice between cynicism and hope. Hope in Troubled Times argues persuasively that the power and possibility of biblical hope offers a resolution to the problems of combating terrorism, global poverty, and environmental degradation. Its analysis and engaging narrative challenge us to find new solutions grounded in that hope rather than in the idolatrous ideologies of our times."--Jim Wallis, author, God's Politics; editor, Sojourners

"The authors bear no trace of rancor toward Islam and Muslims, only understanding and empathy. The book draws a line between Islam--the religion of peace--and the terrorists who have hijacked Islam. In a desperate post-9/11 world, it searches for answers by analyzing the actions and the psyche of the two warring sides, echoing the views of both."--Javed Akbar, director of outreach, Pickering Islamic Centre, Ontario

"Hope in Troubled Times pulls off the difficult feat of communicating, in a gracious and nonjudgmental way, the dire straits in which our society finds itself today. Others have used the concept of idolatry as a category of social critique; no one has ever used it with such biblically-informed power and specificity. The analysis is sobering; no punches are pulled. But the ultimate context is hope, not despair. It's a remarkable achievement."--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University; senior fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

"This truly is a book of hope--one that combines vision with expert analysis of the major threats to humanity. It should be read by all who care for our future."--Edy Korthals Altes, former ambassador of the Netherlands; honorary president, World Conference of Religions for Peace

"We have needed what this book provides--a balanced, intelligent, and biblically sound interpretation of the current events we read about in our newspapers. The authors also give us cogent Christian alternatives to political policies that are having disastrous consequences for millions of oppressed people in our global village."--Tony Campolo, professor emeritus, Eastern University

"If one form of insanity is doing the same things over and over while expecting different results, our world has gone hopelessly mad. More development, more progress, more sound economics, and more political will has not and cannot transform spiraling violence, terminal poverty, ballooning wealth, indifferent market forces, and technologies and systems with wills of their own. Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen, and David Van Heemst see all this with 'epiphany eyes.' Their account of reality and the concrete hope they see is an awakening for those of us too long and too comfortable in the asylum we call the status quo."--Peter Vander Meulen, co-chair, Micah Challenge USA; coordinator, Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action of the Christian Reformed Church in North America

"Hope in Troubled Times is masterfully done. In a society that increasingly replaces a sense of the sacred with the deadly lure of materialism and violence, our communities need desperately to hear the message of this book: that there are genuine, life-affirming alternatives to the destructive path we are now on."--John M. Perkins, president, John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development

"Hope in Troubled Times is a must read for our bewildering era, when accepted political and economic solutions no longer work. In naming ideology as the real culprit, the authors provide a deeper and more compelling analysis than Samuel Huntington does in his Clash of Civilizations. Ideology points beyond paradigms and civilizations to the no-alternative absolutes that threaten humanity's very existence today."--William F. Ryan, SJ, founding director, Center of Concern, Washington, DC; former General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

"A profound analysis of root causes of--and root solutions to--the problems that plague the modern world. A provocative compass for taking us, step by small step, out of the woods. This book offers powerful understanding to thinkers and doers alike."--Armine Yalnizyan, research associate, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

"Hope in Troubled Times analyzes the profound seriousness of the planet's present crises and the pathetic inadequacies of the ideologies we have to address the situation. It concludes with an appeal for a complete change in values and behaviors. This compelling volume is a moving piece of writing that deserves the attention of every person who cares about the world they are leaving their children and grandchildren."--Walter Pitman, OC, former member of Parliament, Canada; past president, Ryerson University

"I agree with this book's learned analysis of the devastating effects on humanity and its natural environment produced by the globalization of the unregulated market, the political aspirations of American empire, and the ethical void mediated by the dominant culture, even if my own philosophical and theological categories are somewhat different. In the grave present situation, this book offers hope in the name of Jesus Christ, who has embraced the entire human family and summons people to testify to his truth in counter-movements stemming the tide of the dominant current."--Gregory Baum, professor emeritus, McGill University

"This is actually the book everybody should read, so that the West can stop and take stock before calamities come."--Elaine Storkey, senior fellow, Wycliffe Hall; Alan Storkey, author of Jesus and Politics

"Hope in Troubled Times appears to expose a deep pit of despair before it arrives at a glimmer of hope. But Goudzwaard and his colleagues are not offering cheap hope. They hear the genuine cries of despair from the billions who are caught in violence, poverty, and hopelessness. They see the dead ends we are running into in our blind scramble for economic and technological progress. Their analysis of the global situation aims to go to the depth of real problems. Only by facing up to reality--to our own idolatries and degradations--is it possible to find a way of life that builds hope and leads to hopeful building. The book is as profound as it is illuminating."--James W. Skillen, president, Center for Public Justice, Washington, DC

"If you are looking for intelligent voices speaking from a deeply rooted and thoughtful Christian perspective--voices that provide a fresh and constructive alternative to the Religious Right--here they are. They awakened hope in me, but only after awakening a profound sense of alarm. Here is perceptive social diagnosis and wise prescription, thoroughly researched and broadly accessible."--Brian McLaren, author, lecturer, activist (

"Without an in-depth struggle with the realities that render us paralyzed, numbed out, and fated, hope is mere sentimentality--a cheap wishfulness. Hope in Troubled Times grasps the nature of our troubles and the complex interrelatedness of the issues with a stunning and sometimes devastating clarity. . . . In the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, Goudzwaard, Vander Vennen, and Van Heemst deconstruct the ideologically loaded idolatries that plague us. And then, in a move of breathtaking audacity, they propose that paths of justice, love, and truth can be unshackled from their idolatrous chains and embraced as principles and directives embedded in nothing less than the very landscape of reality itself."--Brian J. Walsh, campus minister, University of Toronto; coauthor of Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire

"Hope in Troubled Times provides the kind of hope that can only come from seeing the darkness more clearly. It is a hope energized by the intellectual excitement of original insights into the nature of the ideologies and idols that hold us captive, and the possibilities for setting the captives free."--The Honourable Bill Blaikie, MP, Deputy Speaker, Dean of the House of Commons, Canada

The Authors

  1. Bob Goudzwaard

    Bob Goudzwaard

    Bob Goudzwaard (PhD, Erasmus University) is professor emeritus of economics and social philosophy at the Free University of Amsterdam and a former member of the Dutch Parliament. His many books include Globalization and the Kingdom of God.

    Continue reading about Bob Goudzwaard

  2. Mark Vander Vennen

    Mark Vander Vennen

    Mark Vander Vennen (MA, MEd, RSW) is a writer and social worker living in Ontario, Canada.

    Continue reading about Mark Vander Vennen

  3. David Van Heemst

    David Van Heemst

    David Van Heemst (PhD, University of Virginia) is professor of political science at Olivet Nazarene University and the author of two books

    Continue reading about David Van Heemst


Word Guild 2008 Writing Award

"Hope in Troubled Times is pointedly honest about the world's problems and assumes an educated readership. The foreword, by South African cleric Desmond Tutu, offers an inspiring vision of humanity and its ultimate hope, and is perhaps alone worth the price of the book."--Angela Childers, Christian Retailing

"The authors make an excellent case that many (if not all) of our cultural problems have ideological roots. . . . Unlike many similar books discussing global problems, these authors actually end with real examples of God's hope in action in the world, as well as ideas for both individuals and governments to make hopeful decisions that will affect the world positively. . . . Hope in Troubled Times is no light and breezy cliché, no cavalier request that the reader smile blithely in the face of global horror. The authors intelligently and carefully dissect the problems of the day, then propose about a hope that is not passive or blind."--Kristen McCarty,

"While it is true that Goudzwaard and his co-authors offer a penetrating analysis of the dominant global crises of our day, one could also describe this book as an assessment of the spirits of this age. The book is not primarily an attempt to weigh and measure all the technical details of these crises; instead, it is an attempt to expose what underlies them. . . . Is there no way out of the 'ominous spirals' into poverty, global warming, and violent terrorism? Yes, say the authors, there is hope, hope grounded in faith, in a way of life that challenges the false ideologies and idols of our times."--Center for Public Justice

"What a combination of insights, passions, concerns, and dreams for our world! . . . With a foreword by Desmond Tutu, this may be one of the most important books of the decade. If you are confused or anxious, apathetic or uninvolved, read this book."--Byron Borger, Comment

"Hope in Troubled Times shines brightest in its discussion of Islamist terrorism and its American response. Here the authors adeptly untangle for us the roots of radical Islam as manifested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan, and Iraq. . . . Hope in Troubled Times offers a coherent theory of what is wrong in this world and why, and it is stimulating reading for Christians who are concerned about the world and their role in it."--Bruce Wydick, Prism

"I highly recommend [this book]. . . . [It is] excellent and thought provoking. . . . Its authors argue convincingly that modern society has replaced religion with four basic ideologies that are the ultimate causes of the global crises that we face today. . . . Catholics and Protestants have a lot in common. Indeed, what we see in Hope in Troubled Times . . . is a strong, shared appreciation and understanding of Christian ministry and worldview."--Di Paolo, Catholic Register

"An outstanding analysis of current crises--global warming, wars, depleting oil reserves, poverty, and rising debt levels. Arguing that our 'solutions' have become idols--economic 'progress,' the military, democracy--that control us, they end with some practical measures to reverse downward spirals."--Jim Romahn, Banner

"I am an enthusiastic fan of the book."--Brian McLaren, Deep Shift enewsletter

"The tone of hope is set by an inspiring foreword from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (which is worth reading for itself). . . . Most of the book is, of course, diagnosis, and the strange thing is that this produces not despair but a sense of relief. There is nothing as frustrating as seeing things that ought to work--like expensive international conferences--not working, and not understanding why there is so much intransigence and blindness to the obvious. . . . As with all such writing, in the end it is over to us to live the truth, and no book can do that for us. But the main theme, that the reason so many grand policies and pronouncements do not work is that we will not give up our illusions, gives us a place to go, and that place is life and truth. . . . Of all the many gloomy books I have read about the present age, this one, though it does not falsely put its faith in human solutions, is one of the more encouraging."--David Thistlethwaite, (John Ray Initiative, UK)

"Very astute. Dr. Goudzwaard . . . brings a wealth of deeply Christian thinking to bear on global issues and the worldviews that shape the history of the West. The lovely foreword by Desmond Tutu is pretty great, too. . . . A serious guide to rejecting what Bruce Cockburn has called in song, 'the ideology of idolatry' that so drives the dysfunctions of our broken world. If you want to dig in, we recommend it highly. If you're reading any of the other serious stuff about globalization or world poverty, this is simply a must."--Byron Borger,

"[The authors] insightfully argue, in Hope in Troubled Times, that all world problems are integrally linked to one faith or another. . . . This book is a cut above most Christian studies of culture because it offers tools--actually it offers something larger, it offers something larger, it offers an approach--for discerning and understanding the contesting faiths that influence the structures and patterns causing contemporary crises. . . . You will hard-pressed to find a recent book that so clearly, deeply and systematically explores the interrelationship of faith with contemporary crises. . . . [The authors'] view of ideology-forming and idolatry-making is itself, worth the price of the book . . . . [They have a] profound and groundbreaking understanding of practical action steps. . . . [This book] truly delivers a new vision for confronting global crises."--John Hiemstra, Christian Courier

"Every pastor needs to incorporate this prophetic call into the way they equip saints to live out the Gospel."--David Livermore, Outreach

"With unflinching realism, [the authors] examine worldwide poverty, environmental degradation and widespread terrorism. . . . While their analysis clearly has Christian roots, they go to great lengths to invite different perspectives into the conversation. It remains to be seen if the leaders of various religious and political communities will be able to agree with their diagnosis and, more importantly, come to a common understanding of truth and justice. Certainly the stakes are high enough to merit consideration."--Dustin Resch, Faith Today

"Hope in Troubled Times not only lives up to its name in offering hopeful ideas and practical courses for changing our current global crisis, but it delivers at a deeper, more systemic level as well. Often when you have a book that starts with the goal to offer hope, the expectation is that the book will end up being a little light-weight, but not so here. . . . I recommend this book as a well-made argument not only for what can be done in our troubled times, and who is doing it, but what sins need to be repented of and made right in the world."--C. Wess Daniels, Quaker Life

"Few books are as timely or as prophetic as Hope in Troubled Times. . . . This is one of the most challenging and readable books I have come across in many years. It is well written, logical, persuasive, and coherent. It inspires readers not to lose hope and to continue to work for peace and justice even though they cannot be assured of success. Hope in Troubled Times speaks with a common voice and effectively avoids the dissonance so often present in manuscripts with multiple authors. It is essential reading for anyone concerned about the rising tide of the seemingly intractable problems facing our globe--and the apparent impossibility that one person can do anything impactful about them. It could easily be used as a textbook in college or university courses."--Lowell Ewert, Conrad Grebel Review