Knight Club: The Vicious Virtues

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I often feel I owe my success more to my “vices” than to my “virtues.”

What is a virtue? What is a vice?

  • Impatience
  • Anger
  • Rebelliousness
  • Restlessness
  • Infatuation
  • Daydreaming
  • Desire
  • Goofing Off
  • Subversive Activity
  • Laziness
  • Quitting
  • Boredom
  • Fighting
  • Delusions of Grandeur

Society — especially school, but the church is arguably worse — tells us these are crimes to be stamped out.

They’re half-right.  I call them the vicious virtues.  When misdirected, they can easily destroy both self and society.

But if you can master them — and through them master yourself — you can fix the world.

How do we create an alternative form of learning that embraces creative chaos and harnesses the vicious virtues, rather than fighting them?

LEAD! C.1 Desire and Discipline

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In Which Our Desire For God’s Name Inspires Us to Submit To His Discipline

In Part A of this class we began by studying the theological foundations of Christianity, with a focus on what it means to be baptized into the “name” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Part B we explored what it looks like to appropriate that “name” — God’s character — through the pursuit of wisdom, as contrasted with the simple, mockers, and fools. For Part C, our final module, we will be focusing on Skills for Servant Leaders — the spiritual disciplines necessary to cultivate those virtues in our lives without falling into pride or will-worship.

Our primary text will be Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster, which you are encouraged to supplement with one of the other books listed below. In addition, you are encouraged to actively practice the disciplines as we work through these studies, using tools like the memory verse (below).

However, it is essential to remember that the disciplines are only effective if they are not ends in themselves, but means to our greatest desire, which is Christ Himself…

Memory Verse: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • Introduction
    • 1. The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • Introduction
    • 1. The Spiritual Disciplines… for the Purpose of Godliness
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • Preface
    • 1. Discipleship: “What Makes You Think You Can Race Against Horses?”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • Introduction
    • 1. Longing for More: An Invitation to Spiritual Transformation

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LEAD! B.12 From Shame to Glory

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In Which God Is Glorified Amidst Our Shame, If We Choose His Glory Over Ours

As we finish this module, the most important lesson to remember is that wisdom and virtue are essential — but impossible! No matter how much we try or mature, we will never quite be able to fulfill everything God (or society, or even ourselves) expects of us. By God’s grace we may continue to improve, but we will never be perfect.

Western culture rarely admits the resulting sense of shame, but we still suffer its effects. The ultimate question is whether we will be “real” enough to submit our shame to the cross of Christ, so that He can heal us for His glory — or will we pridefully cling to our own glory, and remain simple, mockers, and fools?

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • In Conclusion: The Winsomeness of Virtue
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 7. The Wise

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LEAD! B.9 From Sloth to Fruitfulness

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In Which We Abide Fruitfully Instead of Vegetating Slothfully

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6

Sloth may seem like an archaic sin in our busy modern world, but our frenzied activity is itself a sign of sloth, which can be defined as a lack of vigor in pursuing God’s name — His character and purposes. In fact, the self-centered pursuit of our own “name” — especially under the guise of religion — is actually the worst kind of sloth! (cf. Matthew 23)

The antidote is to empty ourselves of worldly pursuits so that we become truly hungry for faith, hope, and love. Only when we abandon slothfully seeking our own comfort — which merely results in restlessness — can we experience the divine dynamism and peace that comes from abiding in Him…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 11. Hungering for Righteousness vs. Satisfied with Sloth
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.5 (Trustworthy) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.8 From Anger to Reconciliation

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In Which We Forgive Those Who Don’t Deserve It, Because We Don’t Either

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” — Matthew 5:5
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Anger is unique among the seven deadly sins in that, in general, anger isn’t even a sin (cf. Ephesians 4:26). At one level, it is simply an emotional reaction to having our boundaries crossed. And at the highest level, anger is actually a virtue, since it is a significant part of God’s character — i.e., the “name” to which we are being conformed!

At the same time, anger is also the name of one of the most violent and dangerous sins. We can define sinful anger as a self-righteous passion for punishing those who offend us. This is why anger is so empowering and so deadly: it magnifies the sins of others to the point where we ignore our own.

Because anger is so devastating, we need to combat it with both meekness — the ability to restrain our passions in submission to God’s rule — and peacemaking, which seeks restoration and reconciliation instead of revenge.

Of course, that is easier said then done…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 10. The Meek and the Peacemakers vs. The Anger-driven
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.4 (Gentle and healing) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.7 From Envy to Submission

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In Which We Submit To Our Place in God’s Creation, And Are Commended By Him

“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4

Envy is a close cousin to greed, though greed focuses on the thing desired while envy on the person who currently has it. It has been called the most miserable sin, since it doesn’t cause even temporary pleasure to those who commit it!

Envy can be defined as resenting those who possess what we crave. In contrast, mourners have processed the painful truth that this life will never fulfill our deepest longings. But as we submit to our place in God’s created order, we receive what the wise crave most: the comfort of His divine presence.

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 9. Blessed Mourner vs. Mourner at Others’ Blessedness (Envy)
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.6 (Modest) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.5 From Pride to Humility

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In Which We Humble Ourselves Before God and Our Elders, Who Exalt Us

This week we shift our study of wisdom from the “theological virtues” (faith, hope, and love) to what might be called the “blessed virtues” from the Beatitudes. We will follow Peter Kreeft (below) in contrasting them with the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with Humility vs. Pride:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:3

Pride is the first and deadliest of the deadly sins. It can be defined as “trusting our own name rather than God’s” — relying on our own character and identity as the ultimate authority.

In contrast, humility is recognizing the painful fact of our own poverty of spirit, so that we empty ourselves in order to receive our heavenly King.

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 6. The Beatitudes Confront the Seven Deadly Sins
    • 7. Poor in Spirit vs. Proud at Heart
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 8. Pride, Humility, and the Fear of the Lord
    • 3.2 (Truth) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.4 From Folly to Love

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In Which We Are Rescued from Our Folly by God’s Love

theo_love

Love is the primary virtue of the Heart. It is both a Decision that gives rise to Emotions, as well an Emotion that gives rise to Decisions — and it needs both to thrive. It can be defined as “the ability to pursue another’s glory — even at the cost of your own.”

Love is particularly needed by the Fool, whose emotional damage drives a cycle of self-punishment disguised as the pursuit of pleasure. The only way out is to purify our hearts by receiving God’s love and forgiveness, to the point where we love Him more than the false gods we’ve served — and discover what it means to genuinely love ourselves…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 5.C (Love) The Three Theological Virtues
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom

    • 6. The Fool

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LEAD! B.2 From Simplicity to Faith

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In Which Unseen Faith Transforms the Visible World

Faith for the Simple

Faith is the primary virtue of the Mind. It enables us to base Decisions on Reasons, as well as to deduce Reasons from Decisions (axioms). It can be defined as “the ability to believe what is true — even when difficult.”

Faith is particularly needed by the Simple, who otherwise would only trust what they can touch and feel. Yet God’s invisible wisdom is in reality more powerful than all the armies of flesh and blood which rail against it. And thus pursuing that wisdom, in faith, is actually the most practical decision of all…

[click to enlarge image]

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LEAD! Part B: Christian Character

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As mentioned earlier, the LEAD! Bible Study is a tripod, built on three legs:

  • theological education
  • character formation
  • skill development

Having finished writing the lessons for Part A, we now turn out attention to the second trimester (which the class will start in January). This blog post is for the initial outline; as before, the final version will be part of the living syllabus at http://2transform.us/lead/
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