Christian Virtue Theory

The Once and Future Christian Moral Tradition

I previously wrote about Aristotelian virtue ethics, a brilliant secular moral and ethical theory that I think has been tragically left behind in the wake of The Enlightenment and the hyper-individualism and universalism that came with it. But, as a Christian, I am inherently unsatisfied with secular morality and ethics — I see the value in Aristotelian theory and I have deep respect for how its application could benefit humankind, but ultimately his answers don’t satisfy the spiritual and metaphysical longing in me.

Classical Virtue to Christian Virtue

Greek philosophers were some of the first to try and understand what it meant to be virtuous. Plato and Aristotle especially agreed that the human telos, the ultimate goal, of human existence is to flourish. According to these Greek philosophers, having virtue leads ourselves and our communities to the telos of flourishing. Our ultimate purpose in life is to flourish and the only way to flourish is to have virtue.

The Fall of Christian Virtue Theory & The Enlightenment

Christian virtue theory was highly regarded by many Christians throughout the Medieval period. In many areas of Europe, Asia Minor, and North Africa, it was the predominant form of Christian ethical teaching. All that came crashing down with The Enlightenment however.

The Expert & The Painter

To summarize Christian virtue theory, it teaches Christians to be ethical people with Christ viewed as God and as our telos, with the end goal of flourishing and closeness with God inseparable. This system is not just about making moral decisions, it’s about being at your core a moral person.

Avid reader, compulsive writer | Tolstoy, Hauerwas, & D. B. Hart | “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

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