By Warren E. Berkley
Virtue is “the quality of moral excellence” (American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, p. 1432). This definition immediately raises the question of standard. By whose standard will we regard a thing as morally excellent and, therefore, virtuous? The child of God doesn’t hesitate to answer: God’s standard. We can rely on His revealed standard of right and wrong to determine that which exhibits moral excellence.
For those who do not acknowledge the Creator, the definition of virtue is fraught with problems. Virtue, without God, becomes a relative matter left entirely up to the person using the word or giving the definition. And, out of this situation comes the manufactured virtues of men. You see, in the hands of men, vices have a way of becoming virtues. Two examples follow: There are some who have made avoiding controversy a virtue. These folks want everything to be sweet and peaceful. And, they have placed such emphasis on this desire – they refuse to face the fact of false doctrine, sin and wretchedness among men. They sweep all the bad stuff under the carpet of “love,” and make a virtue out of avoiding all controversy. (They will even argue against arguing!) Clinging to this “virtue” means disobedience to the plain statements of God’s Word: “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine . . . purge out the old leaven . . . have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness . . . withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly . . .charge some that they teach no other doctrine. . . contend earnestly for the faith” (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5; Eph. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:3; Jude 3).
Those who promote the human potential movement (an arm of secular humanism and New Age religion) have made exclusive positive thinking a virtue. They are convinced that merely entertaining a “negative” thought will cause an adverse influence in one’s life. They have become so absorbed in this positive thinking concept – they test everything by it! When some concept is proposed for their consideration, their first analysis is this: “Is this negative or positive?” Let me say, what actually matters is not whether something is “positive” or “negative,” but whether something is true or false, scriptural or unscriptural. Instead of thinking in terms of the negative-positive test, and making positive thinking a virtue, let us think in terms of the true-false test, and make sound, scriptural thinking a virtue (see 1 Tim. 1:3; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Jn. 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21).
When men leave the divine standard, and try to walk in their own ways, they cannot give virtue anything but a relative definition. And, they fall into the trap of humanly manufactured virtues.
Guardian of Truth XXXI :7, p. 209
April 2, 1987