VIRTUES &VICES: Countering the Deadly Vices with Godly Virtues

Vices and Virtues in the Scriptures

Scriptural references to vices and virtues are numerous. Some of the vices mentioned in the scriptures, especially in the prophets, Proverbs, and the New Testament, are the following:

(against God): idolatry, sorcery, impiety, blasphemy, opposition to God, pride, injustice, folly,

(against other persons and common life): murder, slander, flagrant insults, discord, evil intentions; passionate outbursts and wrath, jealousy and envy, covetousness, detraction, a quarrelsome spirit, divisions, double-dealing and lies, false witness, heartlessness, hypocrisy, hatred,
(against purity in the broad sense): impurity, immorality, loose living, unchastity, licentiousness, debauchery, depravity, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, orgies, drunkenness, carousing of every kind, foul tricks,

Lists of virtues in the scriptures include some thirty:21
faith, hope, love, prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, peace, joy, goodness, good-will, gentleness, harmony with others, sympathy, forgivensss, faithfulness, hospitality, humility, steadfastness, patience, self-control, sobriety, purity, godliness,
The "Seven Capital Vices"

There is a long Christian tradition of classifying the dispositions to sin into seven groups - the "seven deadly sins" or "capital vices''.22 The seven capital vices are: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth. The capital vices are the source of other sins. They are deadly because they result in bondage to sin. They are terribly difficult to get rid of once they have taken hold of us. They move us away from union with God and they deform the image of God within us. They are like a deadly cancer or a wasting disease that spreads or expands, and take on new forms. They result in death -spiritual death. They summarize the misery of a life of vice.23

The "Seven Capital Virtues"

The seven capital virtues are: faith, hope, love (sometimes called the theological virtues) and prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance (sometimes called the four cardinal or natural virtues). They summarize a life of blessedness or happiness.24

The theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) have their origin and their end in God. They are what puts us into a good relationship with God.

Faith is the character trait of relating to God rightly, with confident trust and reliance on God, because God is trustworthy, by believing and adhering to his word.

Hope is the trait of relying on God's help for those things which he has promised and so confidently expecting to obtain them, even in the face of difficulty or in the face of their being beyond our power.

Love is the character trait of seeking, choosing, and willing to do good to others in a way appropriate to the relationship we have with them.

The cardinal virtues25 (prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance) are the foundation of morality as a whole. The word "cardinal" comes from the Latin word "cardo" which means "hinge". These are foundational virtues since morality hinges on them.

Prudence is the trait of understanding what is morally good to do in a particular situation and how to do it (understanding how to act based on moral truth), the application of moral truth to directing action. Prudence is moral wisdom: the ability to handle the situations of life well and living a morally good way.

Courage (fortitude/strength) is the trait of persisting in or going after what is good or right in the face of difficulty (danger of harm or loss, toil, or suffering). Christian strength is the ability and readiness to undergo suffering or risk danger for the sake of doing God's will or of reaching some spiritual good (and the ability given by God in Christ and by Holy Spirit to do that).

Justice is the character trait by which we treat others rightly, that is, we give others their due or do not harm them or deprive them of anything they have a right to.
Temperance is the trait of being in control of one's one's approach to external goods and pleasures.   Its emphasis is on moderation and a balanced approach to life.

Temperance is a synonym for self-control, the trait of being in control of one's inner movements (desire, emotion, passions) so that they do not keep us from living well (in righteousness and love). It involves inner control: how you deal with things inside of you.   The New Testament uses the word "restraint" in describing temperance; it focuses on objective behavior and the importance of behaving rightly. The Old Testament describes lack of self-control as "folly". This sin is lack of wisdom or prudence.  [Go to "Countering the Deadly Vices with Virtues"]

| Next Page | Contents | Preface | Study | Formation | Vision | Image of God | Gifts | Habits | Scripture | 7 Deadly Vices |
| Pride | Greed | Lust | Anger | Gluttony | Envy | Sloth | Bibliography | Notes
(c) 1994, 2001 Don Schwager