Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christian Character: Seven Virtues

There are seven ‘virtues’. Four of them are called ‘Cardinal’ virtues, and the remaining three are called ‘Theological’ virtues. The ‘Cardinal’ ones are those which all civilised people recognise: the ‘Theological’ are those which, as a rule, only Christians know about. I shall deal with the Theological ones later on: at present I am talking about the four Cardinal virtues. (The word ‘cardinal’ has nothing to do with ‘Cardinals’ in the Roman Church. It comes from a Latin word meaning ‘the hinge of a door’. These were called ‘cardinal’ virtues because they are, as we should say, ‘pivotal’.) They are PRUDENCE, TEMPERANCE, JUSTICE and FORTITUDE....

There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man.agassi Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eye and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician’s mind has a certain habit and outlook which is there even when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of a ‘virtue’.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins 2001) 76, 79-80.

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