After You Believe 6

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Tom Wright’s newest book is about virtue ethics, about how we move from where we are through habituation so we can arrive at the goal. This is all found in After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
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Having looked at virtue ethics in Jesus, Wright turns to Paul under the heading of “Three virtues, nine varieties of fruit, and one body” (chp. 6).
How important is “church” to spiritual formation? Who do you think teaches formation in a way that it is not individualism but genuinely corporate?
He focuses on the “perfect” coming in 1 Cor 13:9-10, and sees that perfect as the telos — the goal of the kingdom of God. Then three things will fall away (tongues, prophecy, gifts of knowledge) and three will abide: love, faith, and hope. Christian existence, he reminds us, is about learning to live the kingdom life now — which means learning to live in love.
The fruit of the Spirit, which particularize love in the one body of Christ, are gifts of grace and at the same time something at which Christians are called to work.


He reminds us that these virtues, in and of themselves — faith, hope, love — reveal that transformation is not simply an individual thing but something that drives us out of ourselves, that demand self-crucifixion, and that lead us to God and to others. 

In other words, the context of the virtues is the one body — the body of Christ — and the goal of the virtues is to create a community of unity, a body wherein these virtues are exhibited by individuals and the group.
The virtues don’t produce heroes, but communities of self-giving love.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Yes. I like this! We need to hear and read this kind of teaching again and again, because by default we nearly always lapse into some kind of individualistic spirituality which ends up missing the point for its existence, at least in large part.

  • jeremy

    “He that is perfect is come” – that would be Jesus Christ

  • T

    This may be a little off the beaten path, but the recovery/12 step groups are, in my mind, one of the best examples of a group that “teaches formation in a way that it is not individualism but genuinely corporate.”
    I think it’s because actual transformation in hard reality is their raison d’etre, they’ve been forced to be more communal in their approach–because it’s the only way that transformation really works. Not only do they strongly recommend that folks work the steps and re-learn life with a sponsor, they also recommend that new comers do “90 meetings in 90 days” as a way to completely immerse the new person in the new way of thinking and acting, learning the practices of honesty with self, God and others, wearing some grooves into a new way of life. The step of making amends (and continuing them as needed) to everyone wronged also “resets” the social norms with the person’s entire social circle, and serves to make all those relationships as spurs forward into the new way, rather than back into the old.

  • Bob Porter

    Scot,
    I bought the book and have been trying to follow along. This is my first exposure to Wright. I recently finished chp 5 and thought he did a great job of developing Paul’s repeated emphasis on the transformed mind.
    When I noticed that this post was about chp 6, I went back and reread the previous post. Is there some reason that you appear to have skipped chp 5?


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