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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Declensions of Virtue

Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, writes the Apostle Paul. In the development of theology in the church these three became known as the theological virtues.

But while grouped together both in scripture and tradition these three have often been separated by theological disputes and the disposition of believers.   Some shout for salvation by faith alone and it's companion--solo scriptura. Some place all their marbles on hope, as if salvation were a gift of humanist psychology.  Others, using some mangled near universalism,   seize on the smallest charitable act or sentiment of brotherhood as absolute proof that people totally alienated from the gospel are just as saved as the greatest Christian saints, and that what you believe has absolutely no bearing.

The last is a rootless love, destined to topple as surely as a tree whose roots have rotted through.  The sentiment of love without a relationship with God is dying.   Faith without hope and love is a dark dead end  alley, where we box ourselves in thinking God is there.  Hope without faith and love is merely despair on Prozac.

True faith is a walk, like a marriage; an ongoing relationship that bears fruit.  We have to view faith, hope and love in the nature of the Trinity:  That the Father loved the Son and the love that existed between them was the Holy Spirit.  These three theological virtues are declensions, in human terms, of the relationships within the Trinity, which is always, ultimately, love. Hence, because faith and hope are never divorced from ,love, the three are declensions, each of the other. 

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