Horton: The Christian Faith 2: Hearing is Believing

In the last Horton post as we discussed The Christian Faith, we looked at Hear O Israel and today that theme continues in Part III. Hearing is Believing.  The last section made me think about the importance of hearing. “ ‘Hear I am’ corresponds to the Word of the covenant Lord; ‘I see?’ expresses our possession of reality. We hear promises: we see their fulfillment. Seeing is not believing ; it is possessing.” ( p 90) Both of these aspects are important but “there will be a time when we will no longer believe what we hear. Faith and hope will yield to sight…” (p 91)

In I Corinthians 13:8 -12 Paul says, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (ESV). “For us now, hearing is believing.” (p. 91) Romans 10:17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Horton provides this chart to help understand these concepts:

The Righteousness that is by Work


Our Ascent

Vision of Glory

The Righteousness that is by Faith


God’s Descent

Word of Promise

Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way,© 2011, p. 91

I have heard these things before but Horton brought them together so that I felt like a lightbulb went on in my head. “One day there will be no need for faith or hope, but for now, God is still “re-wording” creation.” (p 91) II Corinthians  5:7 says “we walk by faith, not by sight”.

I have read and even teach Augustine and Horton stated that unlike Luther, Augustine puts seeing above hearing. I am going to have to remember this when my class reads Augustine’s “Confessions”. After the Reformers , The Westminster Confession writers also understood this concept and said “that God blesses the reading ‘but especially the preaching of the Word’ of God as a means of grace.” (p 92)

Two others writers that Horton quotes also give insight. Hans Blumenberg said, “play metaphors of the ear against those of the eye. The eye wanders, selects, approaches things, presses after them, while the ear, for its part, is affected and accosted. The eye can seek, the ear can only wait. Seeing ‘places’ things’ hearing is places… That which demands unconditionally is encountered in hearing. Conscience has a ‘voice’, not light.’” “Stephen Webb goes so far as to suggest that the Reformation represents ‘an event within the history of sound,’ and event of ‘revocalizing the Word.’” (p 92)

This got me thinking of how churches present the gospel today. Is the speaking of the truth the central part of our worship? How does this go with so many modern churches where there are overheads of pictures, videos, and sometimes a shortening of the proclamation, the speaking of the Gospel? Are we short-changing our congregation? What about how we are teaching our young people in youth groups or our children in Sunday School? Luther said “We are not rational beings first of all; we are primarily speaking beings.”(p 93) I am thankful that I have sat under preachers who faithfully and clearly preached God’s truth and churches where the sermon was the most important thing and time was not an issue. I remind my pastor friends that the preaching of God’s truth is the most important thing, remembering that “The preacher, Calvin dared to say, was the mouth of God”. May we who sit at their feet encourage them and hear God’s truth with all ears.

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