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Faith, Hope, and Love in Theology

Apart from Jesus and the Apostle Paul, no single person has had a greater influence on Christian thought than Augustine (AD 354 – AD 430). When asked near the end of his life to summarize Christianity as he understood it, Augustine replied by citing Paul’s triad in 1 Cor. 13:13: faith, hope, and love. He writes,

“You would have the answers to all these questions if you really understood what a man should believe, what he should hope for, and what he ought to love.”

In this new book and course by Drs. Childers and Frame, you’ll explore an ancient, Trinitarian approach to the study of theology and spirituality found in the great theological works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. These thinkers have outlined for us a transformational way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural and involves our whole being – not only our minds, but also our hearts and lives.

In this first lesson, you’ll learn how to explain the heart of Christianity as faith, hope, and love. 

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:


Faith, Hope, and Love in Theology

By Steve Childers and John Frame

The Applied Theology series follows the ancient Greek and Christian tradition of Augustine’s Enchiridion. The word enchiridion is derived from the Greek word (ἐγχειρίδιον) that conveys the concept of a book that is “fitting in (en) the hand (kheir)” or “ready to hand” as in ready to hand someone.

The concept of the enchiridion was well-known in the ancient and medieval world.1 In the early 5th century, toward the end of Augustine’s life, when he was probably in his late sixties, he received a special request from a man named Laurentius to write a brief summary of the essence of Christianity.

This is noteworthy because it’s widely agreed that, apart from Jesus and the Apostle Paul, no single person has had a greater influence on Christian thought than Augustine.

By this time in Augustine’s life, he had already written all the major works for which he is best known, including Confessions, The Trinity, and The City of God. These were lengthy biblical expositions of Christian doctrine often written in response to the heresies of his day. But Laurentius wanted Augustine to write a concise, practical summary of Christianity that would give brief biblical and practical answers to the major questions about life.

We don’t have a copy of Laurentius’s written request, but Augustine reveals his request when he replies: “It is your desire, as you wrote, to have from me a book, a sort of enchiridion, as it might be called—something to have ‘at hand’ that deals with your questions.”

The Heart of Biblical Christianity

In response, Augustine writes his Enchiridion, a brief handbook of about 100 pages in which we find his most mature thought on the essence of Christian doctrine and its practical application to real life questions. Knowing that his written response would be published and read widely, he went to great lengths to give clear, concise answers to these ancient questions raised by Laurentius:

• What is to be sought above everything else?
• What is to be avoided more than anything else?
• How are reason and faith related?
• What is the beginning and end of everything we do?
• What is the most comprehensive explanation for everything?
• What are the foundational beliefs of universal Christianity?

Augustine introduces his enchiridion by praising Laurentius for his desire to be wise by learning the answers to these kinds of questions. “I cannot say, my dearest son Laurentius, how much your learning pleases me, and how much I desire that you should be wise.”

Augustine knew that the ultimate answers to all of Laurentius’s questions could only be found by him attaining godly wisdom. So he carefully distinguishes between godly and ungodly wisdom, referring to the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:20, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Then he summarizes the source of all wisdom with the phrase “Human wisdom consists in piety.” Godly wisdom, the wisdom that provides answers to all of life’s most significant questions, can only be found in knowing, honoring, and worshipping God. This is the wisdom spoken of in Scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov 9:10)

With this foundation laid, Augustine summarizes all of Laurentius’s questions into one single question: “Perhaps this is exactly what you wish me to explain briefly and to sum up in a few words: how God is to be worshipped.”

The Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love

Augustine then answers his own question regarding how God is to be worshipped by referring to the three virtues (faith, hope, and love) found in 1 Corinthians 13:13. He writes, “You would have the answers to all these questions if you really understood what a man should believe, what he should hope for, and what he ought to love. For these are the chief things—indeed, the only things—to seek for in religion.”

Therefore, the answers to all of Laurentius’s questions are found in the answers to these three questions:

• What should be believed (faith)?
• What should be hoped for (hope)?
• What should be loved (love)?

At the end of his introductory chapter, Augustine issues his readers a solemn challenge to not only put these truths in their hands, but also in their hearts resulting in great zeal for God. Before Augustine explains faith, hope, and love separately, he describes how they should be seen as interconnected virtues. He argues that faith cannot exist without hope and love, just as hope and love cannot exists without faith. The deeper you plunge into one of these virtues you’ll always find the others. Similarly, in Galatians, Paul links our “hope of righteousness” in Christ to our “faith working through love.” (Gal 5:5-6)

The Value of Creed, Prayer, and Commands

Augustine also emphasizes the primacy of the virtue of love, reflecting the Apostle Paul’s words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) Therefore, the ultimate goal of our faith and hope must be our love. Then he explains how all of Laurentius’s questions about life can be fully answered by knowing the essence of faith, hope, and love. The rest of his book is divided into three parts showing how:

• our faith is found in the Apostle’s Creed,
• our hope is found in the Lord’s Prayer,
• our love is found in the Ten Commandments, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, our primary focus in the books that follow in this series is to explain and expound the centrality of these three concepts as the heart of biblical Christianity.

Augustine argues that we must not see the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as separate but as interconnected aspects of faith, hope, and love. Therefore, the Apostle’s Creed is not merely something we believe with our minds, but it’s also the hope of our heart’s affections that we express in prayer. Likewise, our love for God and others described in the Ten Commandments must be deeply rooted in our beliefs about Christ found in the Apostle’s Creed and our hope found in the Lord’s prayer.

One of the reasons Augustine presents the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as practical expressions of faith, hope, and love is because he knows how easily accessible and practical they can be to everyone, everywhere. He writes, “For you have the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. What can be briefer to hear or to read? What easier to commit to memory?”

Even for those people who cannot read, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments can be easily memorized and integrated into weekly worship, strengthening the faith, hope, and love of God’s people.

Augustine’s Enchiridion soon became the basis for the education of clergy in the Middle Ages. In that capacity, history professor Gerald Bray writes, “It (Enchiridion) played a major role in shaping the spiritual outlook of the Western church for over a thousand years.”

As a former Augustinian monk, Martin Luther dedicated his life to cultivating the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love in his life and the lives of others, especially his beloved children. Toward the end of his life and ministry, he gives us a glimpse into his Augustinian-influenced view of spirituality when he writes:

Although I’m indeed an old doctor, I never move on from the childish doctrine of the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. I still daily learn and pray them with my little Hans and my little Lena.


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Introducing A Trinitarian Theology of
Faith, Hope, and Love

By Dr. John M. Frame

In this new book and course by Drs. Childers and Frame, you’ll explore an ancient, Trinitarian approach to the study of theology and spirituality found in the great theological works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. 

These thinkers have outlined for us a transformational way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural and involves our whole being – not only our minds, but also our hearts and lives.

You’ll learn how to cultivate the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love by having a faith that is grounded in the biblical truths of the Apostles’ creed, a hope that is based on Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer, and a love that is rooted in the Ten Commandments.

In this new book and course, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Explain the heart of Christianity as faith, hope, and love
  • Describe faith as believing in the Triune God as Lord
  • Articulate hope in God and for man in the Lord’s Prayer
  • Describe the superiority of love in the Ten Commandments
  • Understand how the Ten Commandments transform us
  • Explain the riches of a theology of faith, hope, and love

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Introduction by John Frame below
Take the Course (create your own private online study group)


Introducing A Trinitarian Theology of
Faith, Hope, and Love

By John Frame 

Theology is, as we’ve said, the application of Scripture by persons to all areas of life. That definition gives us a norm for our study (“Scripture”), presents a range of subject matter (“all areas of life”), and encourages our self-reflection as “persons” engaged in the study.

On this definition, theology is Scriptural, practical, and personal. But on this understanding, theology is universal in scope, and therefore a huge task. Are there any directions as to how we may divide up the task into smaller units?

Scripture itself doesn’t tell us to do this first, then this, then that. In one sense we can begin anywhere. When our enemies throw us into a pit, it is time for the theology of Ps. 40:2. When we are in trouble, or happy, or sick, we need to apply James 5:13-16.

That is theology, ourselves applying the word to the area of life we are presently experiencing.

But in this book, our task is not primarily occasional theology, theology for this or that experience. Occasional theology is perfectly legitimate; indeed it is necessary; but we cannot contain it all in a book, for our experiences, our “areas of life,” are too vast in number to include in a book. A book like this can only summarize the process.

And the quest for a summary is itself a theological question, often called “the question of method:” Does Scripture give us any help in summarizing the process of theological work? Does it tell us anything about how we (we persons) should apply the Scriptures to the events and settings of our lives?

Here the history of theology gives us some help. I have not been known as a historian of doctrine, though I have written a large book on the subject.[1] In my view, some theologians have been overly preoccupied by the history of doctrine, by tradition, to the detriment of the Protestant principle, “by Scripture alone.”

My own goal in teaching theology has been to encourage my students to focus on Scripture itself and thereby even to correct tradition if that is necessary. That was the goal of the Protestant Reformers. But there is also positive value in tradition. Scripture itself teaches us to honor our parents and others who have taught us wisdom (as Prov. 1:8-9). And as we ask the theological question of how to do theology, we should listen to them.

My colleague, Steve Childers, has found some helpful insights in the great theological work of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. These thinkers have outlined a way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural, avoiding some errors that have crept into other traditions.

When asked near the end of his life to summarize Christianity as he understood it, Augustine replied by citing Paul’s triad in 1 Cor. 13:13: faith, hope, and love. Expounding that insight, he wrote a little book, The Enchiridion, which described faith by means of the Apostles’ Creed, hope by way of the Lord’s Prayer, and love by way of the Ten Commandments.

This way of summarizing Christian theology was taken up also in the important works of Luther and Calvin, and in the Confessions of the churches.

Clearly this way of summarizing the work of theology meets the requirements of our earlier definition. It is Scriptural, for all its content is taken from Scripture.[2] It is practical, for it deals with our mind, our heart, and our decisions. And it is personal, for it engages everything that we are. It is the fundamental spiritual exercise by which we apply the Scriptures to all areas of life.

But though it is practical and personal, it is not “man centered” in the pejorative sense. Rather, it is God-centered, because focused on the Trinity: (1) the eternal plan of God the Father, (2) accomplished by the Son, and (3) applied to our hearts by the Spirit.

The Father’s eternal plan is the content of our faith; the Son’s application of that plan for our eternal salvation is the content of our hope; and the Spirit’s bringing that plan into our hearts is the content of our love.

In the book and course that follows, we seek to outline this method. As this is a Scriptural, practical, and personal approach, our book will differ from some others. The book will be informed by our academic study, but we hope you will not see it as an academic book. We intend simply to take the written word of God and apply it to the situations of life, as the Holy Spirit enables us to.

I turned 80 in April, 2019, much older than Augustine was when he summarized his life work in the Enchiridion. My own life work does not have anywhere near the importance of Augustine’s.

But I do pray that this book will summarize my own, in which I have tried to confess the same faith as that of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and above all the Bible itself.

Steve, who has done most all of the actual writing, has done a wonderful job in expressing that faith that is mine as well as his own. I give thanks to God for bringing me such a wonderful friend and colleague.

Dr. John M. FrameEmeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary


[1] Frame, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishers, 2015).
[2] The Apostles’ Creed was written shortly after the completion of the biblical canon, but Christians of all traditions have adopted it as a summary of biblical faith.

ABOUT JOHN FRAME

Dr. John Frame served as a seminary professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy for almost 50 years. His areas of speciality include systematic theology, apologetics, ethics and philosophy. Dr. Frame began his teaching career in 1968 on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He later served as a founding faculty member at Westminster Seminary California. In 2000, he began teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and retired in 2017. He now works with Pathway Learning and Steve Childers as co-author and theological editor of the Applied Theology Project. He’s best known for his prolific writings, particularly his four-volume Theology of Lordship series.

He is a graduate of Princeton University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Yale University. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, Dr. Frame is deeply committed to the work of ministry and to training pastors. Students appreciate Dr. Frame’s wealth of insight and his ability to communicate complex issues simply and clearly. Students also value Dr. Frame’s practical definition of theology as “the application of God’s revelation to all of life.” Dr. Frame is a talented pianist and organist as well as a discerning media critic. He and his wife Mary have five children, Debbie, Doreen, Skip, Justin, and Johnny.


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You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.

In the Applied Theology Project, former seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their more than 90 years of combined teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to real life and ministry.

Knowing God as Lord in All Areas of Life

The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level courses designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life.

In this Essentials of Theology Course, we’re explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life.” In this sixth lesson, our focus is on helping you learn what the Bible teaches about knowing Christ as Lord in all areas of life.

God’s purpose for the world is not merely the rebirth of human souls so they can go to heaven, but also the rebirth and renewal of all things lost in creation because of the Fall.

Your knowledge of God gained from the study of Scripture is meant to make a difference, not just in an isolated religious part of your life, but in all areas of your life – such as family, work, education, politics, art, and entertainment.

In this lesson, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Describe the relationship of theology to Christ’s Lordship
  • Explain how a true knowledge of God relates to all of life
  • Understand the relationship of the gospel to the kingdom
  • Expound how God’s kingdom has already come on earth
  • Illustrate what all things will look like when Jesus returns
  • Articulate a vision of Christ’s Lordship over all areas of life

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Listen to the Audio
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Knowing God as Lord in All Areas of Life

By Steve Childers and John Frame 

So far in this series we’ve been explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as Lord in all areas of life.” In this final session, our focus in on the last phrase in this definition, “in all areas of life.” The main idea here is that the knowledge of God as Lord we gain from the study of Scripture is meant to make a difference, not just in an isolated spiritual or religious part of our lives, but in all areas of our lives, such as family, work, education, politics, art, and entertainment.

1. God’s Good News that Christ is Lord Over All Areas of Life

Much of our focus in this series is on the good news that when God raised Jesus from the dead, he was not only proclaiming his ultimate victory over sin, death, and evil—he was also inaugurating his new rule on earth in all areas of life. The Apostle Paul describes the resurrected Christ as the “first born from the dead” (Rom 8:29b) referring to all those who would follow Jesus by their resurrection in the new age to come and rule with him in all areas of life forever.

The good news we proclaim is that, through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God demonstrates that his kingdom has already been launched on earth. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, he and the Father poured out his Spirit as a magnificent display that Jesus Christ is now enthroned on high as our Redeemer King carrying out God’s cosmic rescue mission to restore the Father’s rule over all things.

2. God’s Good News that Christ’s Kingdom has Come (Already)

When Jesus began his public ministry, he called everyone to repent and believe in this good news of the gospel. What good news? It was the good news that the promised kingdom of God was near. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).” Jesus is saying here, “Repent and believe in the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Later, Paul follows this same focus on the good news of God’s kingdom coming in the world through Christ over all areas of life in Colossians 1:20 when he writes, “For God was pleased … through (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Paul saw God’s purpose for the world as not merely the rebirth of human souls so they can go to heaven, but also the rebirth of all things, i.e. all creation.

When Paul proclaims the good news, it is about how God has exalted Jesus Christ as Lord over all things. He writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him (Jesus) and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).”

The good news of the kingdom of God coming to earth through Jesus Christ as Lord over all areas of life continued to be the primary message proclaimed by Paul, even when he was held in custody for preaching it. In the very last verse in the book of Acts, we see a fascinating glimpse into what Paul was doing while under arrest for the gospel: “he was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord (kurios) Jesus Christ (anointed) with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31).”

3. God’s Good News that Christ’s Kingdom is Coming (Not Yet)

At the end of the Apostle John’s life, while also being held in custody for preaching this good news of the kingdom, God reveals to John a vision of what it will look like when Jesus returns and God finally restores all things by creating a new heaven and new earth:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (Rev 21:1-5a).

Seeing Jesus as Lord in all areas of life, making all things new, presents us with Christ’s comprehensive and inescapable claims over all humanity and the world. This vision of God’s lordship shapes the definition of theology used in this series: “Theology is the study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life. At its heart this means that theology is the application of God’s revelation in Scripture to all areas of life.

Although John Frame wrote this definition, it is deeply rooted and influenced by theologians like Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper, and Bavinck, whose understanding of theology centers in a vision of the sovereignty of God as Lord over all aspects of reality, life, and culture. This God-centered, theological vision reflects that of the theologian, philosopher, and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, when he famously said,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

By defining theology as the application of God’s revelation in Scripture to all areas of life, we have set before us a theology of the gospel that is as wide as creation, reflecting the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s summary of redemption, as “Grace Restores Nature.” This is the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by humanity’s sin, is now being redeemed by Christ and restored by His Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.


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