The Turn on Virtue

Socrates stated that the unexamined life is not worth living. His result was to challenge the prevailing thoughts of his day. What resulted was a classroom of students who sought truth, and the guiding principles impact not only education, but faith and practice today.

Sitting at the feet of Socrates were two individuals who would debate and be debated for centuries. Plato and Aristotle took prompting from Socrates and developed a search for ultimate truth. The two looked to the particulars of the universe, working to discern ultimate reality by studying the world in motion. Eventually, their eyes raised to the heavens to ponder the ideals. A gentle mesh of the two is driving education at Hillcrest in a purposed fashion.

In their work to discern truth, Plato and Aristotle used their teaching from Socrates to form four Cardinal virtues. These four virtues are courage, prudence, temperance, and justice. Their focus was to carve a path to individual happiness and progress for society.

Ultimately, these three men held tightly that there was a need for a guiding principle or deity that sets the virtues in motion to create a productive society. They didn't develop the origin of the deity. Instead, the men focused on the virtues, and the result is the current system of education. 

All schools use stories to cast a light for virtues. Some systems have creative acronyms to call students to an ordered life. Others use inspiring stories from history that celebrate courage and temperance, where men order tyrants to tear down a wall; or delve into the depths of mathematics to discover ellipses. However, most students are never taught the guiding force behind the men who change the world.

In this, Thomas Aquinas found his education wanting. While he held to the need for habits to guide man to an ultimate good, withdrawing God from the conversation greatly restricted the work of the virtues. What was man being driven to if there was no organizing agent that was calling man?

Aquinas set out to understand this at greater depth. What he found is that a virtue, "disposes an agent to perform its proper operation or movement." Virtues are habits that orient man. Aquinas held to the concept of beatitudes, actions that drove man to greater relationship with God. In this, his work saw a split between the cardinal virtues, habits, and the spiritual virtues, that are grace.

What Aquinas developed were three virtues he believed were graced on mankind by the work of the Holy Spirit. The three virtues that drive man to ultimate meaning and a beatitude-like relationship with God are faith, hope, and love. In the coming weeks we will identify how God is using Hillcrest Academy to endue the three spiritual virtues into the hearts of our students.

Wayne StenderComment