Theological Virtues: Hope

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
-C.S. Lewis

Hope

Hope is the calling to look further than right front of you. To desire more. But what of the endless chase for the rainbow’s end, where does that leave us? C.S. Lewis talks of three ways to seek this out. The first, he calls The Fool’s Way: where they blame the thing itself. The thing that showed so much promise in the start but turned back on itself and did not quite deliver. The fool goes on thinking his whole life that if only he tried a new woman, a more expensive vacation, a more interesting study, that would bring him the satisfaction he desires. The second, he calls The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’: where they ‘discover’ there is no end to the rainbow and they come to expect less of things. While this type is less of a burden on society they often end up a ‘prig’ and looking down on those who have not come round to the idea. The third, he calls The Christian Way: that creatures are not born with a desire there is no satisfaction for. This does not mean that a deep longing for something complete that is not found in this world proves our existence in this world a big trick, but rather that we were not designed to only exist in this world.

I believe the definition of understanding is obeying God’s law. Ecclesiastes, one of the books of wisdom of the Bible ends this way: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Understanding is a form of wisdom and deals with knowing the future. We hear people say things like “That was wise, you played that well: going for the promotion rather the raise. That will pay off in the end.” Understanding how a thing will turn out ‘in the end’. Psalms 119:34 reads: “Give me understanding so that I make keep Your law and obey it with all my heart.” That is, show me what will come of my actions in the end so I can make the right choice now. More desire and delight in them. Most celebrate them and praise God! True understanding rests in the eternal. Christians are blessed to be afforded the understanding of eternal ‘gratification’. Eternal understanding means sometimes making decisions to do this or that when the reward will not come in this world.

Hope is fixed on the eternal gratification. This call of Christians to keep our minds fixed on the eternal helps us determine what to do right now. For the present is where eternity touches time. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “Aim at heaven and you will get the earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Next week, a study of the the Christian virtue faith I believe will show, very plainly, what exactly it is that everyone is searching for, why our soul longs for it and how it works.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Theological Virtues: Charity

Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’.
-C.S. Lewis

Charity wanting the best for others

Charity from caritas the standard Latin translation for the Greek word Αγάπη, meaning an unconditional love for others. Charity in old english was defined as a Christian love of one’s fellows. Today charity has come to be thought of mostly in the sense of relief by giving money. But it is much more. Unconditional is such a powerful word when we stop to consider it. Not because of anything. Not in return for anything. Non-negotiable, always, no matter what.

Unconditional seems to be a matter of will instead of feeling. So many times we hear people say things like “[they] are in love”. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about his belief that love is a verb – that love the feeling is the fruit of love the verb. C.S. Lewis notes a lesson in charity revealing one of the great secrets in life: “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them”. He goes on to explain that this secret also works terribly the other way round. Cruel acts produce hatred and more cruelty and on and on. His point? “Good and evil both increase at compound interest.” This is why the little decisions we make day to day are of such importance. The things we do, the seeds we sow, will come to harvest.

Christians by charity are called to unconditionally want the best for others. This is different from liking people. I do not think Christians are called to like everyone by the virtue of charity. I do however think that wanting the best for people, unconditional of your preference to the way they did so and so or that thing they said or what they think about such and such, produces a genuine and authentic liking of them.

We by our very nature afford perfect charity to ourselves. No matter the condition of our preference for ourselves, we want the very best for us. No matter how we fall short of what we think we ought to have done, that is: the degree to which we like ourselves at the moment, the desire for good things for us never wavers. No matter what. Charity I have come to believe is turning this phenomenon outward toward others.  A Christian, unconditional, love for our fellows.  A Christian, unconditional, desire to see others well.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude

Fortitude includes both kinds of courage – the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that ‘sticks it’ under pain.

-C.S. Lewis

Marine Corps War Memorial

Fortitude from the latin fortis meaning strong. Fortitude in the english defined as courage in pain or adversity. C.S. Lewis believes that “courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” He points out a lesson from history noting that Pontius Pilate was just until it became too risky. What good is temperance or prudence or justice if it breaks the moment it matters?

C.S. Lewis wrote of courage during World War II. Many illuminating writings on the matter come from war. From times when men are called to kill and die. And face the end of their existence in this world. In the new World War II movie, Fury, it is no wonder that when the protagonists have a chance to escape certain death but chose to stay and fight that they draw their courage from quoting aloud the truth in 1 John 2:15-17:

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The director of the movie is quoted saying of this last chapter in the film, “It’s fascinating that, because of his faith, he’s not unafraid of dying, but he’s able to accept it and doesn’t see it as the end of the road.”

So much of what matters in life and of the virtues comes around when there is something to lose. The most so: things of self. The most of this: life. Our life. Even the life of those we love. What of the life of our only son? If we can get past this the smaller things that are so large and do so much damage; our pride, our reputation, our prospects, our preferences become much easier to let go of. This may sound jarring, but it is just life. It is just a life. Let go. Give it to God. Trust all of self with God. Let go this world and hold fast to the next. May we all fall out of love with this world and break the bonds of slavery to it. Freeing ourselves to live in peace and do the will of God.

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Cardinal Virtues: Temperance

Temperance refers to all pleasures, and it means not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.  

-CS Lewis

Businessmen On Their Way To Work

Temperance from the latin temperare meaning restrain or temperantia, moderation. A most useful weapon against the deceiver in times of sorrow. C.S. Lewis suggests in his famous Screwtape Letters that devils deploy indulgence as a strategy when we are down. In the letters Screwtape writes to his demon understudy Wormwood and explains that they need be careful when dealing with indulgences. Pleasures he continues were in fact created by God and so when trying to distort them they are in fact on enemy territory. Screwtape goes on to say, “Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is the least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

Temperance is enjoying pleasure within the bound set by God. Not going where God has forbid us to go. It is, of course, best this way. That first piece of cake is always the best and so on. God created good things for us to enjoy and I have come to believe that when we enjoy them properly it brings glory to our Creator. Going too far or a full degree off the intended, perverting the pleasure, is where the deceiver would like us. Focusing on true and false will rescue us. God sends His Word to heal.

C.S Lewis closes a short stop on temperance in Mere Christianity by holding that one of the deceivers worst victories with temperance is its modern restriction to drink. C.S. Lewis notes that the man who makes golf or work the center of his life or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to her appearance or children can be just as intemperate as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, these do not show so easily. They do not leave you slurring your words or stumbling in the street. But God is not deceived by externals.

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Cardinal Virtues: Prudence

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.

-CS Lewis

Path Through Grass In Misty Sunrise

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” Matthew 7:13–14

Followers of Christ are called to take the strait way. Strait, a middle english word meaning a narrow passage, from the old french estreit meaning tight and narrow. The old french from the latin strictus meaning drawn tight. The closest modern english, strict. So then Christians are called to a strait path. But why? 

Here is one example. From the fourth principle of the ten commandments we see that reputation is a form of property. In the fourth commandment God tells us to remember the sabbath to keep it holy. Why? Why are we to keep it holy and what does that have to do with God’s reputation?

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:11

When we keep the sabbath day we uphold God’s reputation. We are called to take a different path from the rest of the world and observe the sabbath, we are a signal to the many that our God, the Creator, is real. This is just one way that one may or may not be called to take a strait path. To be different, not for the sake of being different but to the glory of God. I have come to believe that we are all called to different but each narrow paths. One to this, another to that, all headed the same direction of truth and goodness.

Darkness and light. Christians are called to be a light to the world. A city on a hill. Something people take notice of. Christians are called to be different. To take the difficult way that others do not. We are called to consider the things we do, the paths we take. Day to day there are things we do. Right. Well then, why? Why do we this or that? Because everyone else is, so we figure it the right? The wide path is easy mind you. The way of the many. The thoughtless way. What decisions have we fallen into all at once like an ox lead to the slaughter? God give us understanding so that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts.

When we stop and consider the things we do; what is God’s will, what will honor God, what will bring glory to God?, we find ourselves a narrow path very much different the path society in the whole.

May we all find each other on the narrow path that the Spirit calls each us to and may we all honor our God in righteousness and truth.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Cardinal Virtues: Justice

Virtue — even attempted virtue — brings light; indulgence brings fog.

-CS Lewis

Statue of Justice with sword and scales in front of a blue cloudy sky

Cardinal, in terms of virtue, I once thought a reference to the Catholic ordained.  It is not. Cardinal from the latin cardo, or hinge, like hinge on a door, seems to mean something more like important or critical or pivotal or to hinge on.

Justice, from the latin justus meaning uprightness. The nearest modern english fairness. We can hear it in the term righteousness. The Catholic Church teaches that this is the most important virtue and with good reason. The determination of right and wrong and then, of course, doing the right.  The knowledge of right and wrong.

The virtues are to be strived for.  Every bit closer we come, every bit more joyful we become.  The virtues seem to be concerned with others.  Not of self.  So much of what all the teachings are wrapped up in is the golden rule: treat others as you would have them treat you.  I find it interesting that this all hinges on how we treat ourselves.  Therein I suppose lies the mystery of the existence of God.

We all hold a distinct advantage in knowing that which is human, as we are, of course, human.  We all know that we ought to do so and so, yet we do not.  We all know when someone is being selfish; yet is it not just that which is the hardest to see in ourselves?  The hardest to admit perhaps.  Rationalizations abound of course, of course.  Still, I have come to believe that the brass tacks of the matter is this: we all know there exists a way we ought to act and we all know, if we admit it, that we ourselves, you and me, fall short.  The question then becomes where did this knowledge of the true way that seems to be within everyone us, this evidence of God, come from?

Perhaps the answer lies in the prophecy of Jeremiah:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.