Volume 46 - Issue 2

No Longer Humans, but Angels (and Demons)

By Daniel Strange

A colleague of mine once interviewed a retiring bishop during a weekly college chapel service. It was a pleasant, but to be honest, fairly anodyne back and forth. That is apart from the last exchange. My colleague asked what had kept the bishop persevering in ministry all these years. We were all expecting something uplifting yet predictable: ‘The glory of God’, ‘love for the sheep’, ‘my prayer life’, even ‘my wonderful family’, etc. What we got was somewhat different. The bishop paused, looked down at the lectern, looked up at us all, and responded with the following: ‘an infinite capacity for disappointment’. Suffice it to say, my colleague struggled to wrap up that part of the service with a neat little bow and an appropriate rousing hymn the band could start playing. (I could list a number of disappointing hymns and songs but few on the theme of disappointment!)

An infinite capacity for disappointment. While not a particularly welcome lodger, that answer has stayed in my brain over the years. What are we to make of such an utterance? Stoic? Sagacious? I’ve screwed up my eyes in concentration and tried to recall the tone and posture in which the bishop uttered those words. I don’t remember it being a cutting acerbic barb. Nor was it said tongue-in-cheek with a twinkle in the eye. Possibly the closest I can liken it to in mood is G. K. Chesterton’s description of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, a novel with the ‘quality of serene irony and even sadness’ written in the ‘afternoon of Dickens’s life and fame’: ‘at no time could Dickens be called cynical, he had too much vitality; but relatively to his other books this book is cynical; but it has the soft and gentle cynicism of old age, not the hard cynicism of youth.’1 Chesterton expands on this later in his appreciation:

When he sets out to describe Pip’s great expectation he does not set out, as in a fairytale, with the idea that these great expectations will be fulfilled; he sets out from the first with the idea that these great expectations will be disappointing. We might very well, as I have remarked elsewhere, apply to all Dickens’s books the title Great Expectations. All his books are full of an airy and yet ardent expectation of everything; of the next person who shall happen to speak, of the next chimney that shall happen to smoke, of the next event, of the next ecstasy; of the next fulfilment of any eager human fancy. All his books might be called Great Expectations. But the only book to which he gave the name of Great Expectations was the only book in which the expectation was never realised.2

Alternatively, take the 1919 American Tin Pan Alley hit “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Although covered many times, it’s a song now most associated as the anthem of my own (for better or worse) beloved Premier League Football Club, West Ham United, and belted out with complete commitment at the beginning of every home game. While it may seem a bizarre choice of tune when one considers the words, it’s very apposite in describing the perennial mood of many West Ham supporters:

I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

1. A Disappointing Definition

There seems to be a waft of disappointment in the air at the moment as we look back at the last eighteen months in terms of the pandemic, and as we look around at a church in which we’ve witnessed a string of public ministerial disappointments which might even stretch our bishop’s ‘infinite’ capacity. It merits a little musing albeit admittedly somewhat meandering.

On one level, defining disappointment is relatively straightforward. It is to ‘frustrate the expectation or desire (of a person).’3 Brian Rosner notes an equation to calculate the magnitude of any given disappointment:

Major Disappointment = High Hopes + Dismal Failure
Minor Disappointment = Inconsequential Hopes and Negligible Failure4

However, there are some immediate edges that we wouldn’t want to trip over. The first is cultural and temperamental. For those coming to Britain, a number of semi-serious cultural acclimatisation websites invariably note the following:

What the British say: ‘I was a bit disappointed that….’
What the British mean: ‘I am most upset and cross’
What is understood: ‘It doesn’t really matter’

It’s probably helpful to check that your ‘disappointment’ or your being a ‘disappointment’ really is what is meant in terms of how we hear and how we are heard.

The second is biblical or rather ‘unbiblical’ in that the etymology of disappointment appears to be 14th century French (désappointer) in terms of undoing an appointment, with the sense of unrealised expectations only first appearing in the late 15th century.5 While the frustration of expectations is surely a biblical theme, and an important one, ‘disappointment’ cannot be read straight off of the text of Scripture and is rather an implication particularly in the psychological and existential sense we usually mean.6

2. A Disappointing Survey

With notable exceptions, initial searches for theological treatments of disappointment have been, well a little disappointing (I’ll leave you to guess whether I mean that in the British sense or not?). In his Grove booklet, Facing Disappointment: The Challenge for Church Leaders,7 James Newcombe lists a number of loci for disappointment: local church, wider church, individuals, family, self and God together with some consequences of disappointment: exhaustion, frustration, demoralization, burnout, and loss of faith. He then lists seven ways of dealing with disappointment: admission, lament, adjusting our perspective, understanding God’s sovereignty, knowing that ‘all things work together’; and realising that God shares our disappointment. Speaking into the pandemic, Abbey Wedgeworth notes that while the object of our disappointments reveal what love, ‘the magnitude of that disappointment can sometimes reveal an inordinate desire or disordered love, unmasking something we love or desire more than God himself.’ Through our prayers concerning our disappointments we are offered forgiveness for our disordered loves and Spirit’s help to reorder and reorient our hearts.8

In his article ‘The Reality of Disappointment’, Jeremy Pierre notes that like all emotions, ‘disappointment is a gauge of how a person perceives his life—what he believes about it and wants from it.’9 For Pierre the key theological dynamic is the relationship between the fixed reality of ‘reality’, and the more fluid less determined response to reality which we call ‘expectation’. Post-fall, ‘disappointment is an accurate response to a disappointing world’10 and is a pervasive theme throughout Scripture. Pierre lists some principles to process personal disappointments. First, our ‘specific disappointments are only the manifestation of a broader disappointment.’11 Ultimate satisfaction is not and cannot be found this side of the eschaton, and that our disappointments should not lead to self-pity or self-hatred. Second, our ‘disappointments may show that your expectations don’t line up with what God says about reality’. Third, and, conversely, our disappointments show a match between expectation and reality, ‘plagued with difficulty for now in order to sharpen your desire for the world to come. The grief of realizing the world is broken can be a platform to worship the God who even now is preparing an unbroken world.’12 Finally, our disappointments should provoke lamentation and seeking.

The aforementioned Brian Rosner has written a perceptive and moving chapter on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and disappointment.13 Bonhoeffer’s disappointment quotient was profoundly and tragically very high combining ‘prodigious prospects and devastating failure.’14 His expectations and plans first for ‘the renewal of the German church and people,’ and second, to marry his fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer, were never realised after he was imprisoned and then executed in 1945. From mining his Letters and Papers from Prison and Love Letters from Cell 92, Rosner traces a number of ways Bonhoeffer dealt with disappointment and how we might learn from his example. The chapter is well worth a close and careful reading, but Rosner summarises as follows:

In order to cope with setbacks and maintain hope Bonhoeffer warns us the false hopes of wallowing in regret, curbing desire, seeking a substitute, and merely hoping for the resurrection of the dead. Instead, he councils: (1) Focus on the invaluable; (2) Don’t give up on your legitimate desires; (3) Embrace a godly optimism; (4) Don’t pretend or minimize the failure; (5) Compare yourself with those less fortunate rather than more fortunate; 6) Find comfort in the God who ‘seeks again what is past’; (7) Remain cheerful; and above all 8) Give your disappointments to God.15

Rosner notes that these lessons emerge from Bonhoeffer not settling for false bifurcations and the holding together of things considered mutually exclusive:

He believes in both divine sovereignty and responsible action, both bold deeds and gracious forgiveness; both caring deeply and not despairing, both loving this world and eagerly anticipating the next. Bonhoeffer knows that he is not the author of his own life. Yet that does not stop him from dreaming and yearning and hoping and working.16

In a little piece, ‘I Am Disappointed in You,’ Ed Welch focuses not on the disappointed, but the disappointer.17 Stating that ‘forgiveness does not remove disappointment’,18 he comments that the ‘older you get, the more oppressive the word’19 because being a disappointment ‘makes you feel less that, lower than—lower than—the person you disappointed, ‘kids already feel like they are not quite in the same category as adults, so they don’t fall very far, but other adults and spouses are peers, and now you have slipped down the ladder into the child category, or that of the family dog.’20 Welch notes that if we are a disappointment to others, how much more do we feel a disappointment to God who is neither distracted nor forgetful (the usual ways disappointment is mitigated and managed in human relationships). However, noting the example of Israel (at times the disappointer par excellence), he reminds us that ‘The Lord turns his face toward them and delights in blessing them. In doing this he invites them to turn their face toward him. There are no doghouses in the Kingdom of God.’21 God’s turning towards his disappointing people is to be our model, ‘instead of turning away from someone who is rightly disappointed with you, imagine going toward the person (probably after you have asked forgiveness), and saying: “I know I disappointed you, and I hate that, so I want to understand your concerns—I want to really hear them and take them seriously—because my relationship with you is important to me.” Move toward people with humility rather than humiliation.’22

3. Disappointing Dangers

The area of disappointment which has particularly caught my attention is not so much how we deal in a godly fashion with disappointment in terms or our general life circumstances, or disappointment in myself, but rather my disappointment in others. In particular how do we deal with disappointment in brothers and sisters who profess Christ? Perhaps most acutely, how do we deal with disappointment in those who often, but not exclusively, are in leadership of whom we expect much? Once again, if disappointment in other believers is what our bishop was referring to, how much are we to covet, learn from and pray for his ‘infinite capacity’ as a strategy and ‘answer’ for perseverance in our own ministry and calling? Is this a mark of wisdom or weariness? What does our disappointment in other Christians mean existentially for our coping with disappointment as Christians?

Being disappointed in others, both believers and unbelievers is a reality for all those living ‘under the sun’. It is not sinful to be disappointed. However, our refraction of it and reaction to it (into which I include our ‘capacity’ for it), is complex and somewhat paradoxical. Disappointment presents a realised eschatological challenge, the sweet spot of which is hard to find. It’s important we do not succumb to a subtle drift and find ourselves in unhealthy, ungodly and ‘worldly’ waters in our dealings with disappointment. Philosophically there are cultural sirens that can pull us in two different directions.

The first is disappointment with an over-realised expectation. Recently the website of celebrated novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie temporarily crashed after she published a stinging polemic on abuse she has received on social media. She finishes her essay as follows:

I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and re-read their tweets because they fear they will be attacked by their own. The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.23

In explaining this state we’re in, Charles Taylor has described Nietzsche’s ‘acid account’ of the sources of modern philanthropy and solidarity which captures ‘the possible fate of culture which has aimed higher than its moral sources can sustain it.’24 He notes that while ‘our age makes higher demands of solidarity and benevolence on people today than ever before’,25 there is a dark underbelly to a secular humanism which replaces the doctrines of sin and depravity for those of goodness and greatness. It’s worth quoting him in full here:

But philanthropy and solidarity driven by a lofty humanism, just as that which was driven often by high religious ideals, has a Janus face. On one side, in the abstract, one is inspired to act. But on the other, faced with the immense disappointments of actual human performance, with the myriad ways in which real, concrete human beings fall short of, ignore, parody and betray this magnificent potential, one cannot but experience a growing sense of anger and futility. Are these people really worthy objects of all these efforts? Perhaps in face of all this stupid recalcitrance, it would not be a betrayal of human worth, or one’s self-worth, if one abandoned them. Or perhaps the best that can be done for them is to force them to shape up.

Before the reality of human shortcomings, philanthropy—the love of the human—can gradually come to be invested with contempt, hatred, aggression. The action is broken off, or worse, continues, but invested now with these new feelings, and becomes progressively more coercive and inhumane… The tragic irony is that the higher the sense of potential, the more grievously real people fall short, and the more severe the turn-around will be which is inspired by the disappointment. A lofty humanism posits high standards of self-worth, and a magnificent goal to strive towards. It inspires enterprises of great moment. But by this very token it encourages force, despotism, tutelage, ultimately contempt, and a certain ruthlessness is shaping refractory human material.26

Ironically, therefore to idolise or ‘angelise’ humanity in general and any human in particular can quickly lead to a demonisation, which airbrushes over our God-given dignity and worth. As Christians, our disappointments in others, even in other Christians, must be measured and tempered with a healthy hamartiology which neither excuses nor ignores the consequences of sin, but is able to comprehend, is able to lament, and is able to offer forgiveness and potentially restoration. Not only does a ‘realistic’ realised eschatology help us ‘cope’ with disappointment, it could be and should be radically counter-cultural. For another recent example, the game of English international cricket has been embroiled in a heated and excruciatingly awkward controversy concerning the newly capped twenty-seven-year-old Ollie Robinson. On the day that the English Cricket Board had players wearing ‘cricket is a game for everyone’ T-shirts asserting their commitment to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism, several historic racist and sexist tweets were unearthed which Robinson had send when he was eighteen years old. Even though Robinson publicly apologised he was immediately suspended pending an ongoing investigation. Various commentators and politicians have waded in, some saying the punishment ‘over the top’, others deeming it appropriate. While it would be wrong to speculate (not knowing all the facts involved), it’s a high bar we’ve set when I hear one fellow cricketer Michael Carberry being interviewed on the radio and stating, ‘I don’t believe this is a problem where you can rehabilitate someone. If it was down to me Ollie Robinson would not be playing Test cricket. Robinson spoke about educating himself, but what is he talking about? I would be very interested to know. I am a black man and I have never needed any education to speak to my white friends.’27

The second danger is disappointment with an under-realised expectation. Cambridge academic (and fellow West Ham supporter) Andy Martin writes about living with disappointment and how the Stoicism of the first-century Epictetus is admirable. He notes Epictetus’s example of the servant who breaks your favourite vase. Rather than berate your servant you say to yourself ‘“The vase is not broken, it has only been restored.” Returned, in other words, to its pre-vaselike state. So nothing has been lost. The vase itself was only a temporary anomaly. So too, all human life, condemned to entropy.’28 However, Martin himself notes the internal problem with Stoicism: a dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction, ‘in the end you want to fix things and change the world, even if it’s only trying to stick that vase back together again or make a new one. Such is negentropy, a protest against the tendency of everything to fall apart.’ As this point, Martin reaches for ‘Reacher’:

In modern literary terms, the best case of the stoic who finally revolts is Jack Reacher. On a rooftop in Madrid, Lee Child, Reacher’s creator, says ‘philosophically, Reacher is a stoic. Stoicism is about all he has in the way of philosophy.’ He can put up with unbelievable amounts of pain without moaning. He disdains paracetamol and aspirin. He can re-set his own broken nose and tape it up with duct-tape. But is he really a stoic?

Epictetus urges us to see no distinction between an ‘is’ and an ‘ought’. Everything right now (no matter how bad) is just the way it ought to be. Nothing (tsunamis, volcanoes erupting, shipwrecks, Brexit, Trump or crashing out of the FA Cup) is that big of a deal, you say to yourself. Thus easing the pain and attaining the serene calm of ataraxia. Very cool. But hard to keep up.

Question: if the lone woman on the late-night metro in Paris is getting mugged or groped by some drunk, do you just sit there and lift up your copy of L’Equipe and concentrate on the day’s news? The Reacher response is an ascending scale, from indifference to a sense of injustice, to indignation and righteous fury. Sometimes a broken jug just cries out for fixing.29

Once again, transposing this into our disappointment with other Christians, do we baptise a Christian form of Stoicism which becomes a parodic version of William Carey’s famous dictum? Rather than the urgent and activistic, ‘expect great things, attempt great things’ we have a resigned and rather passive ‘don’t expect too much, and why bother attempting anything really’.

On hearing the latest Christian who publicly has fallen from grace, or the latest local church blow-up and break-down, I don’t think I want to be unmoved and impassive. I don’t want to be ‘wise’ if wisdom means a numbness that means I knowingly nod and say something like ‘nothing surprises or shocks me anymore’. I want to be surprised. I want to be shocked. I should be concerned when I’m not. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be! I want my disappointment to have in it high expectations, not only because sin does violence to our God-given worthiness, which is tragic and lamentable, but that Christians have been born-again:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:17)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)

As Christians, our disappointments in others, even in others within the Christian community, must be measured and tempered with an expectation of God’s work, which certainly recognises God’s disciplining, and refining by his Spirit, and yes a winnowing process which is painful but purposeful and predicted time and again in Scripture. Disappointment does not mean despair and should not lead to a passive stasis but a positive moving forward because God is building his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

It is within boundaries that neither over- nor under-realises our disappointment that the bishop’s ‘infinite capacity for disappointment’ could interpreted as wise for it is most importantly ‘real’.

4. Concluding Disappointing Thoughts

First, the way we use language and illustrations matter as was pointed out to me recently by one of my post-grad students.30 For a while I have been happily using the analogy of the church being like a show-home on a building site—the closest thing we have now to the new heaven and the new earth. The illustration is not original to me and I can’t remember where I picked it up. First, it was noted methodologically that when we the use illustrations, metaphors and analogies we need to ask whether the concepts we’re using are rendering the same patterns of judgements as the concepts of Scripture. Second, concerning the illustration itself, it is helpful when it is focussed strictly on the notion that something bigger and more complete is coming that is now only illustrated in part. However, it falls down as an analogy when one considers the central conceptual function of the show-home. The show-home should be complete and functioning perfectly which might lead people to expect too much of the church here and now. Clearly the church ought to be distinctive from the world in numerous ways including—but not limited to—people’s love for one another and the nature of leadership. Yet the church is also to be a model of repentance and forgiveness which in itself presupposes that it is not yet finished.31

A better illustration might be that of the church as restoration project, a ‘doer-upper’ in that there is a continuity of purpose between the original edifice and the rebuilding project. The project is not one of starting from scratch, but a renewal, whereby God comes in and takes possession in a new way to restore the building to its former glory (in fact, more than its former glory—to be something better than it ever was to begin with). And it’s a doer-upper where the work is still being done. To borrow the temple imagery, the foundation has been laid, and maybe we could say the walls are up. But there’s a gaping hole in the roof, the gutters are blocked up and the ’70s avocado bathroom suite is still in place. There is a lot of work to do, but because the work has been begun, and because we have access to the architect’s plans, anyone who watches seriously can catch a glimpse of how things are going to look in the end. This might be a truer and more real picture with which to frame our disappointment in God’s community.

Second, within the body of Christ, the global church, we would do well to learn from each other as we learn to be disappointed Christianly. Brothers’ and sisters’ different characters, temperaments, ethnicities, cultures, generations, and slightly different theological stresses should provide the checks and balances to drive us back to Scripture to make sure we haven’t been too over-realised or under-realised in our disappointment. For example, there can be an expectancy in the theology and practice of my more Pentecostal and charismatic sisters and brothers which forces me back to Scripture to ask whether I am too under-realisingly resigned in my patterned reaction to disappointments. Of course, the reverse might also be true.

Third, we can learn from biblical examples noting what I cautioned above concerning the recent history of the English word ‘disappointment’. I immediately think of Paul’s disappointments in ministry and with other Christians which contain a rich seem to be mined. ‘Disappointed but not despairing’ would not look out of place in Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 4:8–10. As Rosner noted about Bonhoeffer, Paul disavows false bifurcations. It seems, however complex, that one can face disappointment, one be both disappointed and a disappointment, while still being content (not Stoic!) in all circumstances (Phil 4:11–12).

And, of course, we learn from our Lord for whom disappointment one could list as an ‘innocent infirmity’.32 In Gethsemane, and with a certain expectancy given his own prophetic prediction in quoting Zechariah 13:7—‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt 26:31), one still senses the disappointment of Christ in his sleeping disciples when he asked, ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour? (v. 40). But this disappointment does not lead to Jesus turning his face away from his followers in either an act of demonization or Stoicism, but rather towards them in love and compassion as he headed determinedly towards Golgotha where the Father would turn his face away from him.

‘Life under the sun’ may feel like one disappointment after another, but life in the Son in faith union is the opposite. Jesus Christ is the one who never disappoints and whose blessings never disappoint. He really is the only one who, with fellow-feeling and sympathy, has an infinite capacity for disappointment in our dismal failures. And Jesus is the one who has secured disappointment’s end in the promise of the new heaven and new earth—that Greatest Expectation finally realised. In the reality of the resurrection and ascension of Christ we see the declaration of the Father well pleased with his beloved Son. This is the Christian negentropic principle: God has installed his king on Zion, his holy mountain (Ps 2:6). Commenting on this verse Spurgeon writes:

Is not that a grand exclamation! He has already done that which the enemy seeks to prevent. While they are proposing, he has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and man’s will frets and raves in vain. God’s Anointed is appointed, and shall not be disappointed.33

[1] G. K. Chesterton, ‘Great Expectations’, in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations with Appreciations and Criticisms by G. K. Chesterton, reprint ed. (Bristol: Read & Co. Books, 2020), 5. Chesterton’s introduction is taken from his 1911 book Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens.

[2] Chesterton, ‘Great Expectations’, 7. To my mind this comment is even more pertinent if one chooses the original ‘unhappy’ ending to the novel (which appears as an appendix in the Penguin and Oxford editions). For those interested in this heated Dickensian debate see Edgar Rosenberg, ‘Putting an End to Great Expectations’, in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Norton Critical Editions (London: Norton, 1999).

[3] ‘Disappoint’, in The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (London: Book Club Associates, 1979), 1: 403.

[4] Brian S. Rosner, ‘Bonhoeffer on Disappointment’, in The Consolations of Theology, ed. Brian S. Rosner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 108.

[5] See once again The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 1:403.

[6] I am aware of Romans 5:5—‘And hope does not put us to shame’—where some versions translate καταισχύνω not as ‘shame’ but ‘disappoint’. I’m unsure as to whether ‘disappoint’ in the way I am using it in this piece is exactly what is been referred to in this particular verse.

[7] James Newcome, Facing Disappointment: The Challenge for Church Leaders (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2016).

[8] Abbey Wedgeworth, ‘Everything’s Canceled! Dealing with Disappointment in Pandemic’, The Gospel Coalition, 24 March 2020,

[9] Jeremy Pierre, ‘The Reality of Disappointment’, Tabletalk Magazine, May 2018,

[10] Pierre, ‘The Reality of Disappointment’.

[11] Pierre, ‘The Reality of Disappointment’.

[12] Pierre, ‘The Reality of Disappointment’.

[13] Rosner, ‘Bonhoeffer on Disappointment’.

[14] Rosner, ‘Bonhoeffer on Disappointment’, 108.

[15] Rosner, ‘Bonhoeffer on Disappointment’, 128.

[16] Rosner, ‘Bonhoeffer on Disappointment’, 129.

[17] Ed Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’, CCEF, 5 November 2012,

[18] Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’.

[19] Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’.

[20] Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’.

[21] Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’, emphasis original.

[22] Welch, ‘I’m Disappointed in You’, emphasis original.

[23] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “It Is Obscene: A True Reflection in Three Parts’, 15 June 2021, For the debate surrounding this essay, see Alexandra Alter, ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Sparks Controversy in Online Essay’ The New York Times, 16 June 2021,

[24] Charles Taylor, ‘A Catholic Modernity?’ Marianist Award Lectures (The University of Dayton, 1996),, 29.

[25] Taylor, ‘A Catholic Modernity?’, 29.

[26] Taylor, ‘A Catholic Modernity?’, 31–32.

[27] This comment by Michael Carberry is cited in Simon Burnton, ‘Boris Johnson Joins Oliver Dowden in ECB Criticism over Ollie Robinson’, The Guardian, 7 June 2021,

[28] Andy Martin, ‘Singing in the Rain: The Philosophy of Disappointment’, The Independent, 13 January 2017,

[29] Martin, ‘Singing in the Rain’. See Andy Martin, Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me (Cambridge, Polity, 2020).

[30] My thanks to Iain Lingwood for these observations.

[31] One might pose the question: Does describing the church as a show-home imply a fundamental newness to what the church is expected to do? As in, the purpose of the church is to demonstrate the glory of God to the watching powers. But that is what humanity was designed for to begin with. In this sense, the church is very much a restoration project.

[32] I take this term from the 19th century theologian Henry Melvill: ‘But whilst He [Christ] took humanity with the innocent infirmities, He did not take it with the sinful propensities. Here Deity interposed. Christ’s humanity was not the Adamic humanity, that is, the humanity of Adam before the Fall; nor fallen humanity, that is, in every respect the humanity of Adam after the Fall. It was not the Adamic, because it had the innocent infirmities of the fallen. It was not the fallen, because it never descended into moral impurity. It was, therefore, most literally our humanity, but without sin.’ Melvill, Sermons (New York: Stanford & Swords, 1850), 47.

[33] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, I should note it is the end of this Spurgeon quotation that is quoted as an historical example of the entry ‘disappointed’ in the 1979 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and I note referenced wrongly(!) as ‘Psalm xi 6’. Disappointing.

Daniel Strange

Daniel Strange is director of Crosslands Forum, a centre for cultural engagement and missional innovation, and contributing editor of Themelios. He is a fellow of The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics.

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