One of the best books I read while attending seminary was Peter Kreeft’s “Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion.” It feels like a classic, and it is a book that I continue to revisit from time to time. Kreeft begins with a simple question, “Is virtue out of date,” and continues the conversation by asking, “Whatever became of virtue?”
Christians like all other sinners, have always been susceptible to vice, but today we no longer seem to know what vice and virtue are.
The solution to the first problem is repentance and divine grace—something a book [and I would add, a blog post] cannot help much with. But the solution to the second problem is knowledge, and there a book can help.
The thing is: virtue must be learned, taught, and practiced. This is how we increase our knowledge. Parents of young children understand this full well. We are in a constant pattern of teaching, correcting, and providing discipline because we love our children, and we want them to grow-up to become virtuous people.
The same is true of our spiritual maturity. When we grow in our understanding of the very spiritual things that we lack, we can then practice what we have learned until that practice becomes a habit, that habit becomes a discipline, and that discipline shapes our character.
When I think of mentoring as intentional discipleship, specifically regarding my mentoring relationships with young people, so much of that service involves leading a virtuous life in front of them (i.e. leading by example), teaching them how to “be” in this world, and then giving them the opportunities to practice or “do” what they have seen modeled and taught.