Virtue: the Price of Faith

By David K. Clark.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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The question.
In this major election year, leadership qualifications are typically certified with reassurances about one’s personal faith. Some deference to God—to the sanctity of our faith—is crucially at the heart of such proclamations. Is this an essential insight, or is it a debilitating and crippling confusion?

The concluding thesis is that the life of faith and the life of virtue are fundamentally, logically, incompatible. It is not possible that the life which is dedicated to a deity is a virtuous life.

The argument can be summarized as follows. The classical portrait of the virtuous person, which I develop and defend, is of one who 1) knows what is morally right, 2) does the morally right, 3) does it for the right reasons (without undue struggle or overriding ulterior motives) and 4) authentically pursues the continuing development of the morally good life—is committed to nothing less than extending one’s knowledge of moral truth and acting accordingly. The life of faith (which is carefully defined, yet modeled on the Pauline doctrine of faith) is that of a life fully dedicated to a deity.

But the life of faith is logically inconsistent with the requirement of moral authenticity. One who is truly dedicated to God will, by definition, do whatever He wants, regardless of how morally obscene it may be. To suppose otherwise is to contradict the assumption that one is living the life dedicated to the object of faith. It follows of course that the contention: “My God wouldn’t do that” is unavailable, because it is irrelevant.

Keywords: Theme: The Politics of Religion, Politics, Faith, Virtue, Morality

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 341.756KB).

Dr. David K. Clark

Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Philosophy, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA

Obtained PhD from Purdue University. Currently teaches ethics, philosophy of religion, analytic philosophy and philosophy of the mind at University of Montana. Authored "Empirical Realism: The Generative Foundation of Morality" in 2003 (Lexington Books). The current essay is drawn from another manucript entitled "Jesus Saved," which seeks to recover the secular message of real-time salvation from Jesus' parables of the Kingdom of God.