Courage

Assumed Audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

First, consider with me how much courage is a virtue we hear a great deal about in public discourse of various sorts on especially the right, including the religious right. Then read:

In our corrupt state, our capacity for contemplative knowledge of our moral nature is damaged: by hatred of God and others, by inordinate self-love, and by ruinous desire through which we are drawn to or flee from the wrong things, to the wrong degree or in the wrong way. Ignorant, deficient in charity, and with our desires disordered, we need instruction and illumination, the renovation of our loves, and the moderation and ordering of our passions. We need, that is, the work of God which renews the spirit of the mind as part of the creation of the new nature.…

Having knowledge of these things  —  knowledge acquired by contemplation of God and God’s works, and reinforced by the exercise and application of courage in face of difficulties and disappointments  —  courageous persons will be able to evaluate threats to their well-being, to make discriminations about when and how to act in face of evil, to moderate the emotions generated by objects of dread, and to act in obedience to the divine summons.

 — “Courage”, in God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology  —  Volume II: Virtue and Intellect, John Webster, pp. 88 – 89

How little the courage” called for by so many pundits has to do with courage as Webster describes it here! Indeed, much of what has gone under the heading of courage” in recent years would be better described as fear, motivating as it has the abandonment of the other virtues.

It is not enough to see that there is evil in the world: there has always been evil in the world. It is not even enough to discern rightly the threat that a specific evil poses: though that task is also rather more fraught than many a pundit might wish you to think. It is equally necessary to judge rightly how to respond, and that requires instruction and illumination, the renovation of our loves, and the moderation and ordering of our passions.” Or, as the Apostle Paul has it: to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.