Four Christian Virtues -- By: Everett L. Worthington Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 170:678 (Apr 2013)
Article: Four Christian Virtues
Author: Everett L. Worthington Jr.

Four Christian Virtues*

Everett L. Worthington Jr.

* This is the second article in a four-part series, “Virtue in Positive Psychology and Practical Theology,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship, February 7-10, 2012, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Everett L. Worthington Jr. is Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.

In the first article in this series I outlined both classical and psychological models of virtue. I identified pressures of internal and external factors that impinge on us as we seek to weigh the virtues within our hierarchy of virtues and choose the right one when faced with a strong or weak situation or a test of virtue. Christians rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit for those choices, but we still must make the choices during times of testing as well as times of peace.

I believe, like millions through the ages, that God revealed His divine nature and operations through Jesus and through Scripture, called special revelation. I also believe, like millions through the ages, that God revealed His divine nature and operations through humanity and through the study of nature (including the arts, literature, biological and psychological sciences, and untutored observations of life), called God’s general revelation. My approach to Christian psychology sees both special and general revelations as partners in dialogue.1

My theology is rooted in God’s creation, though our knowledge of the imago dei is warped and broken. Redemption and God’s indwelling Holy Spirit in believers are vital to improving that knowledge. Natural theology is a dialogue partner with Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The present article examines some of the ways psychological

researchers and particularly our team of Christian psychologists at the Virginia Commonwealth University have studied four of the virtues—justice, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. Rather than present detailed methods and findings, I want to show some of the ways psychological scientists study them. In the end I will conclude that the virtues are woven together and that humility is the thread that binds them.


Hardwired For Justice

Justice is interpersonal. People have an innate sense of justice, as we might expect because we bear the image of a just God. Neuro-economist, Ernst Fehr,2 of Switzerland, has shown that justice is hardwired into people. He sets up an economic game in which...

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