An appeal for a Christian virtue ethic: Why Christians should develop a virtue ethic and the significance of the qualifier ``Christian''

Joseph J. Kotva, Fordham University


Over the last two decades there has been a significant return by philosophers and theologians to theories of virtue. This return is particularly evident among several eminent Christian moral theologians, and the number of Christian theologians adopting some form of virtue theory continues to grow.^ Despite this, there has been surprisingly little said about why Christians in particular should develop a virtue ethic. Although detractors occasionally put forward theological arguments against a Christian virtue ethic, proponents have done little to suggest why Christians qua Christians should develop a virtue ethic rather than, for instance, a deontological or consequentialist ethic. Are there reasons for supposing that Christians as Christians have a stake in a virtue ethic? Or, are nonvirtue theories equally good at giving expression to Christian moral insight? Moral theologians advocating virtue theory have failed to argue whether Christian concerns, convictions, and modes of reasoning find better expression in a virtue framework.^ This dissertation begins to rectify this failure by arguing that Christians have something to gain in adopting a virtue ethic. More specifically, this dissertation argues that virtue theory's structure and basic elements--as they are coming to expression in contemporary, neo-Aristotelian philosophy--promise a fitting forum for Christian convictions, modes of reasoning, and ongoing moral reflection. Said differently, this dissertation argues that a virtue framework is compatible with and is readily used to express Christian convictions about the moral life.^ These claims are supported by critically correlating neo-Aristotelian virtue theory with aspects of Christian theology and Scripture. This correlation highlights potential links and parallels between virtue theory and Christian convictions. It also highlights points where Christian convictions would alter and fill out a virtue framework Critical correlation is thus used to show virtue theory's parallels with and ready adaptation to Christian convictions. It is also used to suggest that Christian convictions are better expressed in a virtue framework than in other ethical theories. The argument for a Christian virtue ethic is further strengthened by addressing several common theological objections to virtue theory. ^

Subject Area

Biblical studies|Philosophy|Theology

Recommended Citation

Kotva, Joseph J., "An appeal for a Christian virtue ethic: Why Christians should develop a virtue ethic and the significance of the qualifier ``Christian''" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425199.