Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NASB)
One of the Christian virtues listed here is “moral excellence” or “virtue.” The only place that Paul uses this particular word is in Philippians 4:8. Peter uses it three times (1 Peter 2:9 and 2 Peter 1:3,5). In 1 Peter 2:9 and 2 Peter 1:3 it is given as a characteristic of God. In the other two verses it is applied to us. Is it important that we develop moral excellence in our lives?
When our country was first being formed by groups such as the Puritans, society operated with a very deterministic atti¬tude. In other words, they believed that everything that hap¬pened was the direct result of God’s intervention and was there¬fore out of their control. Man was thought to be by nature evil. Although they were correct in focusing on salvation as the pur¬pose of life and on truth being found in the Bible, they had trouble grasping the roles of works and grace. And their belief left no room for the free will of each individual.
By the mid 1700s, however, we were entering the age of reason. According to this philosophy, God created the world but then left it to operate according to natural processes. The job of society was to understand these laws. Man could resolve all problems through reason. People were born neither good nor evil.
Our country was expanding during the mid-1800s. As the wilderness unfolded the emphasis turned to nature. This was the Romantic Age when people were seen as basically good. This philosophy ended abruptly with the Civil War. We weren’t as great as we thought we were.
Before long, we were building huge factories and our outlook changed once again. This was the Age of Realism. The purpose of life was not to be saved but rather to get through and understand what we could. Ideas were being shaped by Darwin, Marx and Freud. People were simply victims.
Most recently, we have been under the spell of existential¬ism. This philosophy holds that man is totally free and is responsible for his acts. There is no higher being or higher authority. If it is right for me, then it is right. Consequent¬ly, everything is relative. What may be wrong for you might be right for me. In this Postmodern Age, individuals are guided by situational ethics. There is no absolute truth.
Glenn Colley has an article in the July, 2010 issue of “The Spiritual Sword.” He suggests that, according to Romans 1, a person who takes a subjective view of morality experiences these results:
• He will give up his selflessness.
• He will give up his sense of reality.
• He will give up his wisdom.
• He will give up the object of true worship.
• He will give up his self-restraint.
• He will give up his sexual identity.
• He will give up his fear of hell.