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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