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For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.


Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.


You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!


For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (ESV)

Separating Faith and Hope

Martin Luther's Birthday 

10 November 2014

The congregation I serve maintains a Lutheran School that teaches the trivia: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (logic). Children learn the basic building blocks given in grammar, that is, mastery of language, both their own and the language of others. As this is happening they learn to take what they can say or write and mold it in such a way that it is persuasive to others. They are also learning how to construct logical arguments (dialectic) according to the canons of formal logic. This education will make them truly free persons because it will keep them from being enslaved by invalid arguments, such as pure appeals to emotion, ad hominems, etc. This is what the western tradition calls the first three of the "liberal arts." The trivia are sometimes understood to be stages in education, as though they could be impressed on young minds one discipline at a time. And while young minds are more susceptible to considering the validity of arguments starting in the early teen years, all three trivia are taught simultaneously. In fact, they may not be separated from one another. One without the other is useless, like a stool with only one leg.


This is one of the failings of modern, progressive education; that rhetoric and logic could be left to be taught at a much later developmental stage, such as in college. We have a faulty folksiness about our views of the relations between rhetoric and logic. We are perfectly happy to allow young people to express themselves incompetently as long as they are sincere: "So, um, like, I wanna tell you about this, uh, thing, and stuff." No matter how sincere they are, such speech is incoherent. Sincerity is only one small component for being persuasive to other truly free persons.


Unfortunately, this faulty folksiness has had damaging results in other areas of human endeavor, such as the widespread belief that form and substance are easily separated from each other. Of course, this is why some churches have adopted the forms of the world (or worse) to deliver the substance of the faith, as though substance and form are completely divorceable. This would be nonsense to our forebears and it is incoherent to those trained in a classical curriculum (or should be).


Form and substance, while distinguishable, are inseparable. This inter-penetrating community of ideas is indicative of the western perceptions of Christian theology; the two natures in Christ, the simul justus et peccator, the real presence of Christ's body under the bread in the Supper, the heavenly nature of the earthly church, and others. In other words, the unity of logic and rhetoric is a witness to a greater uniting pattern of thought which is divinely-given and impressed by God on the western world through the divine Word. Martin Luther argued from this interpenetrating union of logic and rhetoric in western patterns of thought as articulated by Aristotle in his Rhetoric 1.1. Aristotle knew that their unity was wired into the universe. He just didn't know exactly why. Luther knew why.


Well constructed arguments must be winsomely and persuasively delivered. To misquote a misquote: "The devil shouldn't have all the most persuasive speakers." Luther saw unity in duality in the relationship between faith and hope. Faith and hope were distinguishable, but inseparable. Faith has the truth and is the judge of all things. Hope is the inner fortitude that comes of the divine Word and holds the truth against all comers. When we distinguish between form and function, we are in danger of separating faith and hope.


Martin Luther


"Faith is dialectic, which conceives the idea of all the things that are to be believed. Hope is rhetoric, which develops, urges, exhorts, and persuades to constancy, so that faith does not succumb in trial but retains the Word and clings firmly to it. For although dialectic and rhetoric are distinct arts, they yet are so closely related to each other that it is impossible to separate them from each other. Because without dialectic the orator cannot teach nothing firm, while without rhetoric a dialectician cannot move his hearers, but he who combines them both teaches and persuades, so faith and hope are distinct affects. Faith is something other than hope, and hope is something other than faith, and yet, because of the great affinity between them, they cannot be separated. Therefore just as dialectic and rhetoric perform certain tasks for each other, so do faith and hope. Thus the distinction between faith and hope in theology is the same as that between intellect and will in philosophy, between prudence and courage in the political realm, between dialectic and rhetoric in public speaking.


"In summary, when faith is conceived by teaching, there the mind is instructed about what the truth is; hope is conceived by exhortation, because by exhortation hope is stirred up in the midst of afflictions, which so comforts the man already justified by faith that he does not surrender to evil but rather dares all the more boldly. But if the torch of faith did not illumine the will, hope could not persuade the will. Therefore we have faith, by which we are taught, become wise, understand heavenly wisdom, apprehend Christ, and abide in His grace. By adhering to  Christ by faith and confessing Him, immediately our enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, rise up against us, hating and persecuting us most bitterly in body and spirit. By believing this way, then, we are justified through the Spirit by faith, and we expect the hope of our righteousness. We expect by patience, however; for we feel and see the exact opposite. The world and its prince, the devil (Jn 16:11), accuse us of every sort of evil, outwardly and inwardly. In addition, sin adheres within us and continually disturbs us. Yet in all these things we are not fatigued or defeated, but we encourage our will bravely with faith, which enlightens, teaches, and rules the will. And thus we remain constant and overcome all evils through Him who loved us (Rm 8:37), until He reveals our righteousness, in which we now believe and hope."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.5

Lord Jesus, You are the divine speech, the living Logos of the Father. Grant us clarity of speech that Your Word might persuade the world of the truth. Amen.


For Rachel Hunt, who is undergoing diagnostic medical testing, that diagnosticians would be granted wisdom and skill


For Christian congregations which have been bereaved of pastors to care for the flock of God, that they might receive shepherds to lead them into the divine Word


For the servants of the church who must travel to carry out their duties, that they would be kept safe in their labors
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057