In Christ, the virtuous man is one who has been renewed in Faith, Hope, and Love and can think according to the Wisdom of God, act with the Courage of the Spirit, and Temper his appetites unto the Beauty of Christ. It is no accident that David, the man after God’s own heart, was architect, warrior, and poet.
The Virtues: Philosophical and Theological
In the classical world, there were four recognized virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice. These were known as the pagan or philosophical virtues. They were classified and analyzed by Greek and Roman philosophers beginning with Plato.
Plato’s schematic for understanding these virtues and their relation to each other was a man. He analyzed a man under three elements: the head, the chest, and the belly. Wisdom was located in the head and corresponded to intelligence and rational capacity, but did not stop there. Wisdom reached it highest expression in the love of wisdom, philosophy. Courage was located in the chest and corresponded to volition and resolution. Courage reached its highest expression in choosing the good, true, and beautiful under the direction of Wisdom. Temperance was located in the belly and corresponded to the appetites and affections. Temperance reached it highest expression in “hungering” for the good, the true, and the beautiful under the direction of the will (Courage) as guided by the mind (Wisdom). Justice was a virtue of the man as a whole, not of any one part, and corresponded to the harmonious operation of the other three in proper order: Wisdom in the mind directs the will as expressed in courage which tames the appetites in temperance. This was Justice to Plato.
More could be said about Plato’s schema, but this is enough for entering this topic. According to this schematic, the Just man was a man who possessed each of the virtues in the proper balance and regulated all his conduct according to Wisdom. But the justice of the just man was not exclusively seen in his wisdom. He was also a man that could act with courage through a choice of will at the appropriate time. Finally, he was a man who had tamed his appetites to submit to his will, thus bringing his whole person into a just harmony of proper function.
The Christian tradition added to these four philosophical virtues the three theological virtues; Faith, Hope, and Love. These three, and their traditional order, are found in 1 Corinthians 13:13. The temptation among moderns is to pit these two sets of virtues against each other and privilege the Christian over the Pagan; the theological over the philosophical. This is even more of a temptation in those circles where Van Til holds sway. For the antithesis demands that any product of the philosophical/pagan world arising from a fundamentally unbelieving noetic position, is tainted by that unbelief. Being tainted by the unbelief makes it “unclean” for the epistemologically self-conscious Reformed Christian and is, hence, driven from the camp.
The proper way to understand these two sets of virtues, though, is to see them corresponding to the inner and outer man. The Christian/theological virtues refer to the inner and unconscious life of the heart. In the Bible, the heart is the seat of the whole person and receives from God regeneration. This regeneration changes the heart from rebellion to obedience; unbelief to belief. But this is all unconscious to the man and happens without his knowledge or participation. It is an act of God by the Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ. It is the new birth.
But the reality of the new birth, of regeneration, is known by its fruits. “Fruits” in this sense are the conscious products of the renewed heart that arise like the sapling from the seed. These fruits are evident to the conscious activities of the man and can be discerned by him. He believes things he did not before, he chooses things he before rejected, he thirsts for things with a spiritual thirst which he had no savor for before. The three primary fruits of a renewed heart are the theological virtues; Faith, Hope, and Love.