Pistis, Elpis, Agape

October 6, 2004

Mood: Instructional
Song: Tourniquet (Evanescence)

"But now faith, hope, and love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:3)

Let's just deconstruct that idea in light of upcoming (and recent) events.

Observation number 1:

R. is coming in tomorrow, and although I look forward to seeing her, I am now entering that type of stress zone where you know if you just thought about the amount that needed to get done in a single night the fear would become paralyzing. I haven't had this type of experience since my first semester back home. Bad doesn't even begin to describe my near (okay, pretty much) nervous breakdown. I can't help but wonder if that last statement is akin to being sort-of dead or kind-of pregnant :).

Thus henceforthly (see, I'm a proper English major-I use transitional phrases 😉 😉 ;). Mircat will be so proud of me)…

I am typing in an effort not only to avoid the astronomical workload awaiting my arrival at home but also to focus my thoughts in more positive directions.

What are the meanings of Faith, Hope, and Love?

Here's what I know~


According to Hebrews 12, it is, "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". Let's break that down, shall we (like a proper Torrey socratic [more on that later]). In other words, some situations require a tremendous leap. Even Job never found out why he was suffering-just the presence of God (theophany, for Pastor Julie) was sufficient. His strength in our weakness-that's faith. Abram/Abraham, the subject of my ersatz Sunday School class, demonstrated as much when he left all he knew, striking out for the land of promise only because of the Word of God revealed to him. Would that he were as obedient ALL the time…. Dante saw faith as white, as did Spenser. In The Fairie Queene, faith is personified in Fidelia, holding a chalice "With wine and water fild vp to the hight, / In which a Serpent did himselfe enfold, / That horrour made to all, that did behold; / But she no whit did chaunge her constant mood: / And in her other hand she fast did hold / A booke, that was both signd and seald with blood, / Wherein darke things were writ, hard to be vnderstood" (1.10). The cup of faith holds many dark mysteries, some horrible; however, true faith is not altered. The locked book ties in to Paul's idea of the mirror, whereby we see only dimly the truths of God. Faith and hope must be partners, for hope alone can make us hold fast to belief even when it seems impossible. When I searched in the OED (oldest usage: n=300; v=1430), faith was both noun and verb; it is LIVING, ACTIVE even.

In Hebrew, the closest we come is "batach", to trust in something because of its intrinsic authority. Latin uses "fides", Greek "pistis" (note to self-ask Julie later)


If faith is a deep chasm into which we throw ourselves, hope (besides being Dr. Reynolds's wife, the "fairest flower in all of Christendom") is an anchor. Dante has her arrayed in green, symbolic of the promise of new life. In Spenser, she is Speranza, bedecked in blue attire. Like her elder sister, she is the daughter of Humilty. Now we Christians often think of humility as something vapid or self-demeaning; to the contrary, true humility shines as a brilliant beacon, ablaze with power and authority. Hope allows us to remain positive when the world around us is obliterated in a single stroke. Hope has assurance because it involves expectation. We realize that we have been promised and the one who spoke is faithful to fulfill it. Hope too necessitates action, since if we are hopeful our very lives will demonstrate that hope. Christians are told to "give an answer" for the hope that rests within us, and that requires careful study (the intellectual in me comes out). Hope will always rise, a welcome visitor in dark despair.

In Greek, the word is "elpis" or "elpidos", in Latinate languages "speranza" or "esperanza"


i.e. Charity, a flame that purifies in its intensity. There are so many words for love in Greek, but "agape" love is the love our Father has for his children: undeserved and often unrequited. Love can exist between many people and there is no better description than 1 Cor. 13 to prove that love is a verb. True love is often mistaken for lust, its counterpart. Dante points out that love's only proper object is God; any perversion (pride, envy, and wrath), deficiency (sloth), or excess directed towards another object (avarice, gluttony, and lust) is equally abhorrent. Our baser passions cannot begin to compare. When we love, in the words of C.S. Lewis, knowing that we are all superflous, that is charity's begining. It is not through worth that we merit love, but neither is love equivalent to pity. Love desires (and expects) the best of another person; it is perfected in mutual submission. Born of Humility as well, love (Charissa) is fertile; it produces perpetually. It exists in relation to others, and according to my thesis it can exist in friendship (despite the disapproval of Massinger 🙂 ). Courtly love is one expression, but it too misses the mark. In the end, love must die that it may be purified and reborn. False loves are many, and some are as easliy mistaken for Love Himself as brass is for gold.


Love is also known as "charitas" (Latin)


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: