"Four Cardinal Virtues", from the Phoenixmasonry (Freemason) website.
We continue here, in Lewis' third "book", where he is exploring the topic of Christian behavior.
In discussing behavior (a way of conduct), Lewis now turns to virtues (behavior showing a moral standard).
Lewis now calls upon the Seven Virtues, developed by "old writers", which are comprised by four Cardinal Virtues (Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice) originally posited by Plato, and three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) latter added by early church fathers such as Augustine, Ambrose, and Thomas Aquinas.
Lewis states, "the Cardinal Virtues are those which all civilized people recognize" (as evidenced by the Freemason example above), whereas the Theological Virtues are "those which, as a rule, only Christians know about".
In this section, Lewis is going to explore natural man's virtues (Cardinal Virtues), and then later in this third "book", he will take up each of the Theological Virtues separately.
Before we get started, it is worthwhile to point out that "Cardinal" has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal comes from the Latin cardo or hinge. The Cardinal Virtues as so called because they are the hinges upon which the door of moral life swings (natural man's philosophy).
Lewis defines prudence as "practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it".
Here Lewis is arguing for a discipline of thinking:
"...Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only 'as harmless as doves', but also 'as wise as serpents'. He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first class fighting trim."
"The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five year old."
"God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all."
Lewis defines temperance as "going the right length and no further", as opposed to those who might think temperance as abstinence.
"One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes golf or his motorcycle the center of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes, bridge, or her dog, is being just as intemperate as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals."
Here is the whole of Lewis' comments on justice:
Here again, a very short discourse:
Lewis closes this section with a very good point. There is a great difference between someone who acts in a virtuous way, and someone who is actually virtuous.
"...it is that quality rather than a particular action which we mean when we talk of virtue."
Lewis continues by saying that if we only focus on the action then we get three wrong ideas:
- right action + wrong reason = not necessarily a virtuous person
- God does not want simple obedience, he wants people of a particular sort.
- These virtues are not necessary only for this life..."the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a 'Heaven' for them -- that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us."
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what Lewis is saying in his third point here. Heaven is for those who are "born again"...period. It escapes me what he is trying to portend here.
Anyone else have any insight into his third point???
Next on Lewis' agenda is social morality. See you in the next post.