N. T. Wright’s After You Believe: A Theory of Virtue, For Discussion

Regarding a theory of virtue,

Aristotle’s tradition [of working to achieve virtue] led ultimately to pride. … For Paul — and this was one of the most painful things he had to work out, as we see in 2 Corinthians — the Christian life of virtue was shaped by the cross of Jesus Christ, resulting in a quite new virtue never before imagined: humility. … The Christianly virtuous person is not thinking about his or her moral performance. He or she is thinking of Jesus Christ, and of how best to love the person next door.

(p. 240).

Wright commends to us what he calls “the virtuous circle,” consisting of five elements: scripture, stories, examples, community, and practices. These are designed to help us develop transformed hearts and minds. The presence of the Trinity is, of course, assumed, and its starting point is grace, and its end is glory — the presence of God, with justice and beauty are among its chief objects.

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One Response

  1. Of the 5 elements in the virtuous circle, 4 are centered in relation (stories, examples, community, and practices). The hardest of these 4 to see relationally is practices, but Alasdar MacIntyre has shown the relational aspect of practices (and virtues) as clearly as can be shown in his book After Virtue.

    Once these 4 are seen as relational, the question becomes is/should scripture than, also, be viewed (or understood) relationally in community. I would argue, again, that the answer is yes. In fact, it is the isolation and seperation of the scripture from the community and into a purely personal and idealized experience that leads to many types of perversions of Christianity (as seen in the splintering of denominations, enmity between denominations, etc).

    Going back to Aristotle, and to our own Greek heritage, it is that very influence of the “ideal” as seperated from the world that leads to the splintered and isolated interpretations that we have of ideas like “scripture”, “virtue”, etc. If we had a more Jewish view (like Jesus), maybe we could experience the “love of neighbor” in a richer and more meaningful way?

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