In response to Alasdair MacIntyre’s and Brad Gregory’s claim—that the Reformation’s concept of morality in terms of obedience to divine commandments has been a major factor in a catastrophic breakdown in modernity of the teleological view of life and the virtues—this essay aims both to correct this criticism and to reread Calvin from the perspective of virtue ethics. Calvin’s utterances about the nature of the law, virtue, the self before God, one’s calling in the world, natural law and reason appear to be much more in alliance with a teleological, virtue ethical view than MacIntyre suggests. This opens up the possibility of a fruitful interplay between a Reformed account of law and Christian virtue ethics.
MacIntyre, Short History, 121. Cf. Gregory, Reformation, 201–205, who emphasizes the social divergence and dramatic disagreement in Christianity resulting from the doctrinal controversies of the Reformation.
Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983). Note that during the seventies—some years before MacIntyre published After Virtue in 1981—Hauerwas had already developed an ethics of character and virtue: Character and the Christian Life: A Study in Theological Ethics (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1975).
Calvin, Institutes, 2.3.4. In this section Calvin speaks of the personal qualities of people like Camillus (celebrated by Horace, Vergil, and Juvenal) in which nature is “carefully cultivated” as “gifts of God”, though their nature is still corrupted. Thus, instead of ‘special grace’ these “gifts” or “graces” are rather a matter of ‘common grace’.