This page provides a range of key resources on virtue. Most, but not all, of these are available online (some though requiring a subscription to be accessed).
An opening section points to shorter dictionary articles and then there are sections in ethics textbooks. There follow materials focussed on Scripture, the Christian tradition and contemporary ethics.Last Updated on 4 October, 2021 by Andrew Goddard
“Character”, IVP Dictionary, Chpt 10, Part One, pp. 65-70.
“Virtue, Virtues”, IVP Dictionary, p. 881
“Virtue” in SCM Dictionary, pp 648-50. This article is by Hauerwas, the main spokesperson for Christian virtue ethics.
“Virtue” in Hastings, Mason & Pyper, Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, pp. 741-3.
Discussions in textbooks
- A number of textbooks are structured around the virtues notably these three whose opening chapters introduce the approach well:
- Mattison, W. C. (2008). Introducing moral theology: true happiness and the virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective especially chapter 3 “Why Virtue?”
- Cunningham, D. S. (2008). Christian ethics: the end of the law from a Protestant perspective
- Westberg, Daniel. (2015). Renewing moral theology: Christian ethics as action, character and grace from an Anglican.
- Neil Messer, SCM Study Guide to Christian Ethics, pp. 121-40 offers an introduction with studies relating to healthcare rationing.
- Stephen Holmgren, Ethics After Easter, pp. 103-18
- Kyle D. Fedler, Exploring Christian Ethics, chpt 3, pp. 33-48.
- Victor Lee Austin, Christian Ethics: A Guide for the Perplexed, chpt 4, pp. 67-90.
- Craig Hovey, Exploring Christian Ethics, chpt 4.
- The Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics has a number of relevant articles:
- D. Michael Cox and Brad J. Kallenberg on “Character”
- David Downs on “Vices and Virtues, Lists of”
- Jeffrey Greenman on “Cardinal Virtues” (and also on Courage, Prudence and Seven Deadly Sins)
- Nikki Coffey Tousley and Brad Kallenberg on “Virtue Ethics”
- Jonathan Wilson on “Virtue(s)”
- John Barton, “Virtue in the Bible” in Understanding Old Testament Ethics, pp. 65-74. He has a longer, later discussion (“Virtue, Character, Moral Formation and the Ends of Life”) in his Ethics in Ancient Israel, pp. 157-84.
- A good discussion based on the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount is in Stassen & Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, chpt 2, pp. 32-54.
- William C. Mattison has an even more detailed discussion in “The Beatitudes and Moral Theology: A Virtue Ethics Approach”.
- Tom Wright, Virtue Reborn argues strongly for a NT basis for privileging virtue (Ch 1 and 2 give general background to virtue and ethics). You can get a sense of his argument in the book from this interview and this video lecture.
- James Keenan and Daniel Harrington have two volumes containing a number of articles relating the New Testament to virtue ethics: Jesus and Virtue Ethics and Paul and Virtue Ethics.
- Outside the Christian tradition, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics [Full text on-line] is very influential (especially Books 1-4). A basic introduction to this from Christian viewpoint is Corbin Reuschling, Reviving Evangelical Ethics, pp. 51-63
- An excellent overview of Christian history on the virtues is W. Jay Wood, “Christian Theories of Virtue” in Oxford Handbook of Virtue, pp. 281-96.
- On Augustine and virtue see
- James Wetzel, “Consecrated Virtue: Augustine’s Theological Animus” in The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, pp. 127-38.
- Bonnie Kent’s “Augustine’s Ethics” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine.
- Jennifer A. Herdt, “Augustine and the Liturgical Pedagogy of Virtue” in William Werpehowski and Kathryn Getik Soltis (eds), Virtue and the Moral Life: Theological and Philosophical Perspectives.
- The classical Christian text if you are keen to do more detailed work is Aquinas Summa Theologica II/I q49ff on habits and virtue (see summary on virtue here) and II/II in detail on the virtues (outline of discussion here). On how to read Aquinas see here
- Helpful guides to Aquinas on virtue are
- Stephen Pope, The Ethics of Aquinas, pp. 116-27.
- Candace Vogler, “Turning to Aquinas on Virtue”, which appears in various forms including in The Oxford Handbook on Virtue, pp. 224-36, a paper at a conference on varieties of virtue ethics, an audio lecture
- Shane Drefcinski, “A Very Short Primer on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Account of the Various Virtues”
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an articles on Aquinas: Moral Philosophy which includes discussion of his treatment of virtue
- Jean Porter on “Virtues and Vices” in Oxford Handbook of Aquinas
- Thomas Williams, “Aquinas and the Ethics of Virtue” offers a more detailed analysis relating his understanding of virtue to natural law and conscience.
- An accessible short introduction advocating a virtue ethic by Brad Kallenberg and 3 responses critiquing that position can be found in Christian Ethics: Four Views, chapter 1. You may also wish to read Kallenberg’s “virtue ethics” responses to the other three views to see how a virtue ethics advocate relates to those. A summary of each of the views in the book can be found in a series of blogs including the chapter on virtue but do try to read the chapter itself!
- A very helpful overview of virtue of ethics in recent Christian ethics is provided by David Cloutier and William C. Mattison III in 2014 edition of the Journal of Moral Theology devoted to virtue (pp. 228-259). An earlier 1992 review article by William Spohn on “The Return of Virtue Ethics” gets quite technical but opens with some helpful introductory comments.
- Alasdair MacIntyre is perhaps the most influential writer in the recent revival of virtue ethics (especially his After Virtue ) although not explicitly Christian or theological. His work is summarised in Vardy & Grosch, Puzzle of Ethics, Chpt 8, pp. 94-107 and by Brad Kallenberg in his “The Master Argument of MacIntyre’s After Virtue” which first appeared in Nancey Murphy, Brad J. Kallenberg, and Mark Thiessen Nation, eds., Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after Macintyre (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).
- James Keenan offers “Seven Reasons for Doing Virtue Ethics Today” in William Werpehowski and Kathryn Getik Soltis (eds), Virtue and the Moral Life: Theological and Philosophical Perspectives.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church – Part 3, Article 7 [pp. 399-407] helpfully summarises modern Roman Catholic thinking. A short commentary on it by William Mattison can be found here.
- An overview of virtue ethics can be found in Jean Porter, ‘Virtue Ethics’ in Gill (ed) Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics, pp96-108. She has also written a chapter on “Virtue” in Meilaender and Weperhowski, Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, pp. 205-19.
- The major Christian writer associated with virtue ethics is Stanley Hauerwas whose Peaceable Kingdom is on the general reading list and highly recommended. His ‘Toward an Ethics of Character’ in Vision & Virtue, pp. 48-67 is a good introduction.
- An excellent short introduction is Mark Coffey, The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas, esp ch 4 (pp. 11-13)
- Hauerwas is critiqued by Hays in The Moral Vision, pp. 253-66
- A helpful Lutheran engagement with his work is Joel D Biermann, “Virtue Ethics and the Challenge of Hauerwas” which is the first chapter of his A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. The Introduction of the book can also be read at Google Books and the thesis it arose out of is available online.
- For a fascinating and at points entertaining account of Catholic and papal teaching see Herbert McCabe ‘Manuals and rule-books‘ in Wilkins (ed), Understanding Veritatis Splendor, pp. 61-8
- Livio Melina, “Virtue and Catholic Moral Theology” in Oxford Handbook of Catholic Theology, pp. 373-85.
- Nicholas Austin, “Normative Virtue Theory in Theological Ethics” in Religions 2017, 8(10), pp. 211ff
- O’Donovan, Oliver, Resurrection & Moral Order, Chpt 10, pp. 204-25 offers an evangelical Anglican perspective.
- Jeff Mallinson, “Virtue Ethics and its Application within Lutheran Congregations” offers an overview and study from a Lutheran perspective.
- Two guides to Reformed approaches to virtue ethics are:
- Brewer Eberly and Brian Mesimer, “Reforming Virtue Ethics”
- Pieter Vos, “Calvinists among the Virtues: Reformed Theological Contributions to Contemporary Virtue Ethics”, Studies in Christian Ethics, 2015, 28(2), pp. 201-12.