03 October 2008

Faith and Hope, Prudence and Fortitude

It's been a while since I last shared anything from Dr. Luther, but I found this portion of his Lectures on Galatians (discussing chapter 5) to be timely and compelling in several respects. It touches upon preaching and politics and perseverance in the midst of great adversity. I find it to be both comforting and encouraging, and I hope and trust that it will be so for others, also:

"Faith and hope differ first in their subjects, because faith is in the intellect and hope is in the will; yet they cannot be separated in fact, just as the two cherubim of the mercy seat cannot be separated (Ex. 25:19). Second, they differ in their functions; for faith commands and directs the intellect, though not apart from the will, and teaches what must be believed. Therefore faith is teaching or knowledge. Hope is exhortation, because it arouses the mind to be brave and resolute, so that it dares, endures, and lasts in the midst of evils and looks for better things. Furthermore, faith is a theologian and a judge, battling against errors and heresies, and judging spirits and doctrines. On the other hand, hope is a captain, battling against feelings such as tribulation, the cross, impatience, sadness, faintheartedness, despair, and blasphemy; and it battles with joy and courage, etc., in opposition to those great evils. Finally, they differ in their objects. As its object faith has truth, and it teaches us to cling to this surely and firmly; it looks to the word of the object, that is, to the promise. Hope has goodness as its object; and it looks to the object of the word, that is, to the thing promised or the things to be hoped for, which faith has ordered us to accept.

"Therefore when I take hold of Christ as I have been taught by faith in the Word of God, and when I believe in Him with the full confidence of the heart — something that cannot happen without the will — then I am righteous through this knowledge. When I have been thus justified by faith or by this knowledge, then immediately the devil comes and exerts himself to extinguish my faith with his tricks, his lies, errors and heresies, violence, tyranny, and murder. Then my battling hope grasps what faith has commanded; it becomes vigorous and conquers the devil, who attacks faith. When he has been conquered, there follow peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. In fact, therefore, faith and hope are scarcely distinguishable; and yet there is some difference between them. To make this difference clearer, I shall explain the matter by means of an analogy.

"In the political realm prudence and fortitude are different; for prudence is one thing, and fortitude is another. And yet they stick together so closely that they cannot be easily separated. Now fortitude is a steadiness of mind, which does not despair in the midst of adversity but endures bravely and looks for better things. But unless fortitude is directed by prudence, it becomes rashness; on the other hand, unless fortitude is added to prudence, prudence is useless. Therefore just as in the political realm prudence is vain without fortitude, so in theology faith is nothing without hope, because hope endures and lasts in the midst of evils and conquers them. And, on the other hand, just as fortitude without prudence is rashness, so hope without faith is presumptuousness about the Spirit and a tempting of God; for since it lacks the knowledge of the truth or of Christ, which faith teaches, it is a blind and rash fortitude. First of all, therefore, the believer must have a correct understanding and an intellect informed by faith, by which the mind is governed amid afflictions, so that in the midst of evils it hopes for the best things that faith has commanded and taught.

"Therefore faith is like dialectic, which conceives the idea of all the things that are to be believed; and hope is like rhetoric, which develops, urges, persuades, and exhorts to steadiness, so that faith does not collapse in temptation but keeps the Word and holds firmly to it. Now just as dialectic and rhetoric are distinct arts and yet bear such affinity to each other that neither can be separated from the other — because without dialectic the orator cannot teach anything that is sure, while without rhetoric a dialectician cannot move his hearers, but he who combines them both teaches and persuades — so faith and hope are distinct feelings; for 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 fortitude in the political realm, between dialectic and rhetoric in public speaking.

"In other words, faith is conceived by teaching, when the mind is instructed about what the truth is; hope is conceived by exhortation, because by exhortation hope is aroused in the midst of afflictions, comforting the man who has already been justified by faith, so that he does not surrender to evil but acts even more bravely. 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, by which we become wise, understand heavenly wisdom, take hold of Christ, and abide in His grace. Once we cling to Christ by faith and confess 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. Believing this way, then, we are justified through the Spirit by faith, and we wait for the hope of our righteousness. We wait with patience, however; for what we feel and see is the exact opposite. The world and its ruler, the devil (John 16:11), accuse us of every sort of evil, outwardly and inwardly. In addition, sin still clings to us and continually saddens us. Yet in all this we neither faint nor falter; but we encourage our will bravely with faith, which illumines, instructs, and rules the will. And thus we remain constant and conquer all evils through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37), until our righteousness, in which we now believe and hope, is revealed.

"Thus we began by faith, we persevere by hope, and we shall have everything by that revelation. As long as we live meanwhile, because we do believe, we teach the Word and plant the knowledge of Christ in others. As we teach, we suffer persecution, in accordance with the saying: ‘I have believed, therefore have I spoken; but I am greatly afflicted’ (Ps. 116:10). But as we suffer, we are bravely encouraged by hope, and Scripture exhorts us with the sweet and very comforting promises which faith has taught us. And thus hope is born and grows in us, ‘that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Rom. 15:4).

"And so it is not without reason that Paul (in Romans and elsewhere) joins patience and tribulation to hope; for hope is aroused by them. By contrast, faith is prior to hope; for it is the beginning of life and begins before any tribulation, since it learns about Christ and grasps Him without having to bear a cross. Nevertheless, cross and conflict follow immediately upon the knowledge of Christ. When this happens, the mind should be encouraged to find the fortitude of the Spirit — since hope is nothing but theological fortitude, while faith is theological wisdom or prudence — which has its place in endurance. So these three abide (1 Cor. 13:13): faith teaches the truth and defends it against errors and heresies: hope endures and conquers all evils, physical and spiritual; love does everything good, as follows here in Galatians (5:6). Thus a man is whole and perfect in this life, both inwardly and outwardly, until the revelation of the righteousness for which he looks, which will be consummated and eternal." (Luther’s Works, Volume 27, CPH 1963; alt.)

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