View Full Version : The Letter Killeth

02-19-02, 11:36 PM
In a previous thread, it was said that the letter killeth, but the Spirit bringeth life. I will concede that these two thoughts are found in scripture, but I doubt that scripture advocates that these two be separated.

I am reminded of a conversation that I had with a co-worker at a previous job. Our discussion was along the same lines.
Each day, I noticed that he always zoomed past a certain stop sign. One day we were discussing the difference between the letter and the spirit of a The Law. I brought up his constant refusal to stop. I asked him why he never stopped for it. He told me that he never saw any reason for it, because each time he came to it, no one was ever there. Seeing the opportunity I said, "What do the letters S.T.O.P. mean"? He said that the letters meant to stop. But, he added that is only if another is there. So, I added, why was that sign put there, what is it's purpose? He said to get people to stop. So, I said, "the letter and the spirit of the law is the same thing. The letter tells you to stop, and its purpose (spirit) is to get you to stop".

The letter and the spirit work in unison to get you to do a specific action for a specific purpose. Taking the spirit away from the letter, exposes one to the same danger as taking the letter away from the spirit.
We can no more rely on the letter without its spirit as we can rely on its spirit without the letter.

The true purpose of God's Spirit is to lead you to His Word (the letters) and the true purpose of God's Word (letters) is to lead you to His Spirit. They work in unison for the same end result.

So, let's not separate them..either of them!!!

02-20-02, 04:01 AM
Good topic.

There is perhaps a more fundamental concern underlying the interpretation of the 'letter and the spirit' issue. It is a concern that cotinues to divide Christians and is therefore quite important.

The thesis of your post seemed to be:

"That the letter of the law and the spirit of the law are inseparable".

I think this is an important point. However, I don't think it covers the relationship between the two adequately. Consider an extension of your stop sign analogy:

Imagine that the stop sign was erected during a time when traffic was heavy in the area and a school for young children operated on the same street. The school had since closed down, a new highway had diverted the flow of traffic, and the stop sign could easily be replaced by a give way sign that was more convenient for travellers. Now imagine that a policeman sat hidden behind a bush every day and ticketed drivers who rolled through or only slowed down around the stop sign.

The point of this analogy is that the purposes of some laws change as the context in which they are formed changes.

Not many people observe the contextual Levitical laws of the Hebrews in the present day though perhaps they made some sense for a particular time and place. The difficulty is, knowing which letters of the laws are applicable in modern society in order to keep the spirit of those laws - the letters could change if they expressed the same spirit in a more relevant, understandable way.

There are two damaging difficulties:

- first: that by protecting the letter of the law we forget about the spirit and,
- second: that we change the letter and inadvertantly change the spirit.



02-20-02, 06:44 AM
Nicely put.

Isn't interesting how important the balance between spirit and law is.

Down one road you get pharasaic legalism and down the other you get ultra loony pseudo-pagan nonsense.