Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Virtue

by Dan Jones

I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone use the word “virtue.”

I think some years ago I remember somebody saying, “Patience is a virtue.”

Which, if we were to ponder it at all, would tend to make us think that a virtue is any one of a number of positive character traits.  But the true definition of the word goes far beyond that.

Various dictionaries all have slightly different definitions, but the one thing they have in common is the concept of morality. Some dictionaries refer to good moral behavior, while many others actually use the words, “moral excellence” to define “virtue.”

When was the last time you heard a public debate where there was even a hint of someone advocating for moral excellence?

In Ancient Philosophy there were four Cardinal Virtues: Justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.

Prudence? Temperance?

Those are attributes about as popular these days as something like, oh say, “chastity.” Which, not coincidentally, is one of the synonyms for “virtue.”

Actually, in the time when the word “prudence” was used, it meant “wisdom” instead of our modern connotation of being a “prude.” Again, not coincidentally, that “wisdom” in the ancient definition did mean the wisdom to abstain from sexually inappropriate behavior.

And, then we come to “temperance.” For me, that carries the message of abstention from alcohol, as in the Victorian era.  But that’s not the definition in the original. “Temperance” is also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation tempering the appetition; especially sexually, hence the meaning chastity.

Undoubtedly, in our modern “enlightened” era, any thinking person would be bound to object to such obviously repressive, intolerant, and judgmental Christian views.  But the thing is, they are not. The “Cardinal Virtues” did not originate in Christianity. They are generally credited to Plato and are also associated with such familiar names as Cicero, Aristotle, and Socrates.

The word “cardinal” in this sense has nothing to do with Catholicism. “Cardinal” means “hinge” and it was used to mean that all other virtues are hinged on these four.

Now while these men certainly could have known of Judaism, their advocacy of virtuous living is not associated with religion, but with philosophical thought.

Yes, the Cardinal Virtues do indeed coincide with much of, at the time and to this day, was the Jewish moral code—which became the Christian moral code.  And, Christianity would come along after these classic Greco-Roman philosophers and add “faith, hope, and charity” to the list.

In fact, the Bible even says that God will write His laws upon the hearts of men, so it is really no surprise that thinking people who did not even know about the One True God would come up with many of the same moral truths that God told to the children of Israel.

For example, Plato is credited with the quote in the picture above sometime in the fifth century B.C., while Proverbs 16:16 was written some 500 years earlier: 

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver.

The point is, our society’s fascination and fixation with our human sexuality is not a new and enlightened way of thinking.  It’s a regression to an incorrect and harmful way of thinking that intelligent people corrected and changed thousands and thousands of years ago, not just in one culture but in multiple cultures in multiples places across multiple eras of time.

The Asherah Pole mentioned in the Bible was associated with pagan worship of sexuality. Pagan temples mentioned in the Bible had temple prostitutes. The worship of Molech included throwing live babies into a furnace shaped like a golden calf.

Yes, our God is quite specific about what and what is not allowed sexually and it is because the behaviors He told us to abstain from are harmful to us, to our families, and to our children.

The law was given in love, brothers and sisters.

Because when we forget what virtue is, we end up arguing about which bathroom a man in a dress should use.

Today’s Praise

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 KJV


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