What do I think of Peter Kreeft’s book published by Ignatius Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We often talk about people being good today. We have debates about morality and the nature of it. Something we don’t often talk about is virtue. The word seems dated most often. My main introduction to the word virtue was back when I played Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. It’s an oddity in that the goal of that game in addition to being an RPG with fighting monsters, was to gain virtue. Sure. You could trick that blind shopkeeper and pay less for what you needed and get it, but you would lose virtue. Sure. You could run from that enemy you could defeat, but you would lose virtue. Show enough virtue and you can go to a shrine and get recognition for it to complete the game.
Maybe that’s why I saw it there. We think of virtue perhaps as a medieval concept. Our notion of character is that so much of morality that we need to abandon is restraining. How can you have any fun?
So ditch that Christian morality on sexuality and have at it! As long as you both consent, what’s the harm? Don’t worry about pride. Think highly of yourself. Know that you’re the best. Greed is good! About the only exception to this would be envy, because envy is the one deadly sin that has no pleasure to it.
Kreeft thinks we need some of this system back. If we do not have virtue, then our civilization will die. As a big fan of Lewis, Kreeft uses Lewis’s account of ships on the water. Ships on the water need to know three things, how to stay afloat, how to avoid hitting other ships, and why you are there in the first place. Our culture often works on the first two, but we don’t pay attention to the third.
Our approach is utilitarian. If it feels good, do it. Does it bring us what we call happiness? Then do it. Too often, we see what we call morality as a bad thing to an extent. Why do we use terms like goody two-shoes? A fuddy-duddy is someone who is spoiling our fun.
Kreeft tells us that the virtues are actually more enjoyable. The way of righteousness might cause us to abandon some short-term pleasures, but in the end, we will have more true joy than anyone else. Perhaps part of the problem in our culture is that we don’t know what happiness or joy are.
Kreeft takes us to the Sermon on the Mount for this and gives it as a real sermon that Christians today are to really follow. He also sees the beatitudes as being in contrast to the seven deadly sins. He walks us through each sin and then explains the counterpart to it in the beatitudes.
What he says, I leave to you, but Kreeft is always a stimulating writer. He speaks on an everyday level and at the same time, if you have heard him speak, it’s hard to read the book without hearing his tone and voice with it. While Kreeft is a Catholic, I have found his writings quite enjoyable as a Protestant and in some ways, he seems more Protestant than a lot of Protestants I know.
Kreeft in the end lays down what is at stake. We either go back to virtue or our civilization perishes. We cannot turn back the nuclear clock. Nuclear weapons are here to stay. We can do something about the people who have access to them.
Christ called us to be a virtuous people. It’s not an option for us. I recommend getting this book to learn more about how to do that.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)