In Season 2 Episode 3 of the Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould will discuss what the good lifeis and how acquiring virtues can helps us obtain the good life.
How Do We Bridge The Character Gap? How Can We Become Virtuous? How Do We Grow More Like Christ?
Four helpful strategies shared by Christian Miller in The Character Gap:
The first strategy for becoming virtuous is to have some moral rolemodels.
- We admire our role models and that emotion leads to elevation and emulation. We want to become like them. We want to do what they do (along some dimension of character).
- Notice—our role models can be real people or fictional, and they can be in our lives (a parent, a mentor) or historical figures (Abraham Lincoln); the point is, in admiring and entering into the lives of role models, we seek to emulate and become like them.
The second strategy Miller discusses is what he calls “selecting our situations.”
- The idea is that we seek out those situations that will encourage us to act well and avoid those situations that are fraught with temptation and folly. This is good common sense. Commit to habits that are formative in the right direction—toward godliness, toward goodness.
The third strategy is “Getting the word out.”
- The idea here is that it is important to explore how our desires drive us—sometimes we are aware of our desires, but often we are not. “Getting the word out” is the idea of becoming more informed about the empirical evidence regarding human psychology in general, and our own psychology in particular.
The first three are secular strategies and limited in their potential.
The final strategy is the most important for our purposes: the strategy of seeing divine assistance in improving our character.
Since most people in the world are religious, it is worthwhile to explore the resources found within religious traditions for character development. Miller focuses on Christianity, a religion with a rich history of thought on virtue, vice, and character formation.
Within the Christian tradition we find a moral exemplar par excellence, Jesus Christ, who Christian’s believe to be fully divine and fully human. How can we grow toward moral perfection? How can we become like Christ?
Miller offers three distinctly Christian strategies for character formation:
- First, we can grow in character by cultivating Christian disciplines.
- Engaging daily in prayer, study, confession, service, solitude, and more help us to embody the gospel and become virtuous. These daily embodied expressions of the gospel shape us and seep into our bones, forming our character.
- Second, Miller highlights the importance of community for character development.
- We are social creatures, created by God, on the Christian story, to exist in community with God and others. Being in community with others provides encouragement, role models, comfort, and accountability.
- Finally, and most importantly, God himself is at work in our character development.
- Sanctification – the fancy term from theology to describe the work of us becoming more like Christ, is a joint-project. God works with us for our own growth in Christ.
So part of the beauty of the Christian faith is that God works with us, and in fact his Holy Spirit dwells within us, so that we can work with him to be changed on the inside and the outside, so that we can grow toward maturity and learn to shun evil and do the good, and ultimately to enter into full communion with God.
- Christian B. Miller, The Character Gap
- Brandon Rickabaugh and Steve Porter, “The Sanctifying Work of the Holy Spirit: Revisiting Alston’s Interpersonal Model” (in The Journal of Analytic Theology)