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Character Matters
October 2010
Character Trait – Virtue:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
by Lori Coeman
Values vs. Virtue
The illustration that accompanies this month’s newsletter shows the pathway human behavior takes. It highlights the fact that all behavior is based on core beliefs. The illustration has been modified slightly - the core typically list beliefs and values.

The reason the word values was removed goes right to the heart of why character matters and why it is so important to include character training in our home education. I was thinking about this after a call from a secular organization devoted to teaching values in public school. The salesman suggested that the organization’s products would fit nicely into our homeschooling line-up. I disagreed and promptly explained why: as a Christian organization, we believe it is impossible to teach values without recognizing a Higher Authority and Absolute Truth. The salesman’s lack of response indicated that I had hit a nerve.

There’s more to the issue of teaching values – values education is a popular buzz word in public education these days – than secular relativism. Over a century ago, the word values (in the plural) was not even heard. It was used only as a verb (meaning to esteem something) or as a singular noun (referring to the worth or measure of an item as in the value of money).

The plural use of the word comes compliments of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher in the 1880’s who sought to undermine truth and ethics. Nietzsche taught that there should be no good or evil, no virtue or vice - only personal values. As one writer put it, “the old virtues have been demoralized and personalized to become values. Values have become whatever any individual, group or society chooses for any reason.”

Recognizing the problem with such subjective values and the breakdown in social cohesion in communities, the author – writing for a secular values education program – attempts to differentiate between two types of values. One he calls principles and the other preferences. The greatest difference is that preference values are something “to have” and principle values are something “to be.” The first is subjective; the latter objective and common to all human beings.

Ah, but there’s the problem. How can you recognize something objective without there being an observable standard by which to judge it? For Christians, of course, that standard is God’s absolute truth. Without recognizing the Creator of mankind, there can be no inalienable, inherent rights and no objective truth or principle values.

That’s why the word virtue has been replaced by values. The word virtue literally refers to the goodness of God placed in mankind when He created us in His image. It is God’s goodness and excellence displayed in human beings. That goodness can only be seen in our actions and behavior when virtue has been deliberately instilled in our thinking patterns and attitudes. Second Peter 1:3 tells us that God has made this virtue available to us. Verse five reminds us that we must add virtue to our life of faith and that knowledge of who and what we believe is the basis of that virtue. That is why character training counts so much.
519 words
Image Credit: © Craig Hanson -

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