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Seven Virtues & Seven Vices
on June 22, 2000
Peter Kreeft's new book, Back to Virtue, is the best introduction to the topic that I have ever read. Kreeft makes the subject matter appealing, accessible, and understandable.
In the book, Kreeft explains how our civilization has rejected the idea of virtue and why we desparately need to recover this moral vision in order to know true blessedness inwardly and good relationships outwardly. As Thomas Merton wrote, "We are not peace with others because we are not peace with ourselves, and we are not peace with ourselves because we are not peace with God."
Kreeft argues that we need a clear roadmap concerning right and wrong--and that roadmap is clearly discovered in God's Word. "The most striking feature of God's roadmap is the stark fact of the Two Roads. There is the road that leads to Life, and there is the road that leads to Death. There is Good, and there is Evil. There is Right and there is Wrong" (11). We must regain the wisdom of those who have gone before us in order to meet the challenges of the present and the future. C. S. Lewis concisely presents the modern problem: "For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique." Kreeft argues that we must return to a historic understanding of virtue and vice in order to confront the moral turmoil that surrounds us. "In an age of relativism, orthodoxy is the only possible rebellion left" (189).
With this historical backdrop in place, Kreeft introduces his readers to the four cardinal virtues of justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation. "Cardinal" comes from the Latin word for "hinge". All other virtues "hinge" on these four. He then considers the three theological virtues--faith, hope, and love. Finally, he considers the seven deadly sins and contrasts them with the Beautitudes.
In short, this book is well worth its weight in gold. It is a fine introduction to a subject that needs to be recovered in our society and--even more importantly--in our churches. We are to make every effort to add virtue to our faith (2 Peter 1:5). This book will go a long way in helping us do this.