We all think virtues are qualities to wish, even strive for, but few have thought through the implications to our theology and Christian lives. Wilson has studied this well. He sees our culture changing from modernity to post-modernity thinking with virtue ethics a key factor. He shows first, in response to a books by Alasdair McIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, and Stanley Hauerwas, Character and the Christian Life. A Study in Theological Ethics, and others, how virtues are not traits we can muster or grow on our own strength, but gifts of grace from God, as part of our redemption, and for the purpose of living out our new life in Christ.
Faith, hope and love are central virtues of the gospel, Wilson argues, and describes in detail how each is so, and also a practice that forms and is formed by that virtue. Thus, faith is followed by the practice of education, hope by worship, and love by hospitality. At the end he admits they are not so narrowly defined but very much inter-related.
This is not a lite-read, but once through the introduction and definitions of words as used in this treatise, I found it educational and interesting. More illustrations as used in the chapter on hospitality would have helped.
The endnotes make for a lively interchange on Wilson's sources, and the adaptations he has made of other's thoughts. I think another read through, or to study the book in a class would be most helpful. In fact, I would highly recommend this book for Bible school classes, and adult classes in evangelical churches with a teacher who can help the non-intellectuals grasp these quite useful thoughts.
Jonathan R. Wilson is associate professor of theology and chair of the religion department at Westmount College in Santa Barbara, California.
(Reprinted with Permission from Provident Bookfinder)