|The Four Cardinal Virtues: From the Latin Word for the Hinge of a Door|
C.S. Lewis gives us a glimpse of what it was like for him addressing a nation at war on the BBC: "If you are allowed to talk for only ten minutes, pretty well everything else has to be sacrificed to brevity. One of my chief reasons for dividing morality up into three parts (with my picture of the ships sailing in convoy in the last chapter) was that this seemed the shortest way of covering the ground. Here I want to give some idea of another way in which the subject has been divided by old writers." The four cardinal virtues "are those which all civilized people recognize.... The word cardinal has nothing to do with Cardinals in the Roman Church. It comes from a Latin word meaning 'the hinge of a door.' These were called 'cardinal' virtues because they are ... pivotal." They are PRUDENCE, TEMPERANCE, JUSTICE and FORTITUDE.
Prudence = Practical Sense. This means "taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.... Because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are 'good,' it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of prudence about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St. Paul points out (Ephesians 4:14), 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' (Matthew 10:16). 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. God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian ... you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.... Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world" (John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress).
Temperance = Moderation in All Things. "Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.... One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.... A man who makes his ... motorcycle the center of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes ... is being just as 'intemperate' as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it doesn't show on the outside so easily ... but God is not deceived by externals."
Justice = Fairness. "Justice means much more than the sort of thing that goes on in law courts. It is the old name for everything we should now call 'fairness'; it includes honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises."
Fortitude = Courage. "Fortitude includes both kinds of courage—the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that 'sticks it' under pain. 'Guts' is perhaps the nearest modern equivalent."
"There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man.... A man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character.... It is that quality ... we mean when we talk of a virtue.... Right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal quality or character.... We might think that God wanted simply obedience.... He really wants people of a particular sort ... for ... the deep, strong unshakable kind of happiness [He] intends for us."
Pictorial Chapter Highlights
|First-Class Fighting Trim: Military|
|First-Class Fighting Trim: Boxing|
|A Book That Still Astonishes the World|
You Decide for Yourself!
Highlights from chapter 2: The Cardinal Virtues, book 3: Christian Behavior in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Click here for a clear view of how this chapter relates to the whole book.