By John Rist
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When Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics spoke of the virtue of a figure that is taken (at least by some) to represent an ideal precisely the opposite of the Christian notion of humility, he too spoke of truth. His great-souled man claims for himself no more and no less than he is worth. His standard of measure is other human beings, and he would be vicious not only in so far as he claimed more than his desserts but in so far as he claimed less. Such ideas therefore bring in the notion of truth; if it is wrong for me to claim less than my worth, that is in part due to the fact that I am not insisting on my true value; I am dissembling, in the attempt to mislead either myself or others.
We seem to have established thus far that the existence of God makes a difference both to the nature of the virtues in general and individually, as understood in a Christian framework, and to the very existence of at least one primary virtue as a special instance. The natural inference from this is that debate about the first principles of morality between theists and non-theists (and specifically Christians) would be unable to reach common first principles in essential areas of moral life unless one side or the other makes or slips into fairly drastic compromises about the actual content of its proposed moral vision.
Rist the God of the Christians both in the sense that such a God must be viewed as a creator (and probably also as a redeemer) and in the sense that God must be seen as a God of love, love being considered an essential, perhaps even the most essential attribute. 25) and the specifically Christian understanding of the virtue of humility, a virtue necessarily impossible in its Christian form for non-theists. If love itself is the basis of all the other virtues, then Christian ethics must be—at its root—quite different from all the other types of theory at present on the moral philosophers’ table.
On Inoculating Moral Philosophy Against God by John Rist