The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics

The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics

The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics

The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics

Synopsis

Over the past decade a quiet revolution has been gathering momentum in the fields of moral philosophy and Christian ethics. These disciplines are undergoing a decisive shift as duty, obligation, and decision yield their central role in the understanding of the moral life to the long neglected concepts of virtue, character, and action. Romanus Cessario presents here a general introduction to the study of Christian moral virtues that reflects the emergence of this new and compelling vision of the moral life. The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics provides an account of the nature of the moral virtues by explaining how the virtues work in our everyday lives.

Excerpt

In order to explicate what Christians believe about the moral life, theological ethics has long employed both the vocabulary and the rhetoric of virtue theory. Arguably, one can discover the substance of a well-developed theology of virtue even in the earliest patristic writers. But a fourth- century Christian apologist, Lactantius, gave the subject of virtue in the Christian life its first embellished treatment in his Divinae Institutiones. Of course, justification for this practice derives from the New Testament itself. Even a casual perusal of the Gospels and the writings of the apostles reveals the specificity of Christian teaching on the virtues. In general, the New Testament presents virtue as an interior principle of the moral life which directs the individual's relationship with God and with neighbor. As such, Christian virtue remains a stable reality, something which firmly establishes in the believer the capacity to accomplish those deeds which are worthy of the Kingdom of God.

To cite but a single example, consider the parable of the wise and foolish maidens (Mt 25:1-13). Jesus compares those ready to welcome the reign of God with five prudent maidens, whose virtuous character primed them even for the unexpected arrival of the bridegroom. The principal point of the parable illustrates the kind of preparedness Jesus expects of his disciples, but the wise or prudent maidens also represent all those who possess the ensemble of virtues which characterize a complete Christian life. The burning oil lamps which they carry into the wedding feast . . .

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