THE VIRTUE OF OUR NON-CHRISTIAN NEIGHBORS

Desiring God | 11/19/2019 | James McGlothlin
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ABSTRACT: The apparent goodness of non-Christians can sometimes confuse Christians. Is this apparent goodness actual goodness — and if so, how does it fit with the Bible’s teaching that, apart from God, “no one does good”? Pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards provides the categories for making sense of non-Christian virtue. According to Edwards, the apparent goodness of non-Christians is not merely apparent, but nor is it “true virtue.” Rather, it is limited virtue, which, though similar to true virtue from the outside, falls short of participating in the triune goodness of God.

For our ongoing series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers, we asked James McGlothlin, assistant professor of philosophy and theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary, to explain the nature of non-Christian virtue.

Imagine - Neighbor - Jim - Jim - Kind

Imagine you have a neighbor named Jim. You’ve lived near Jim long enough to know that he is generally kind and thoughtful. You know he spends quite a bit of time with his family, and he seems like a good husband and father. In addition, you know that Jim volunteers for several local nonprofit groups, including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter. He also gives of his time to a refugee community near the neighborhood. For all you can see, Jim seems like a virtuous man.

But you also know that Jim is not a Christian. In fact, Jim has made it clear to you that he does not like to “talk about religion.” He doesn’t seem exactly antagonistic toward Christianity, but it’s clear that he is not a believer, and he seems (at least at this point) to have no desire to hear the gospel. So, how are we to think about the apparent goodness of Jim? The Bible attests that he is an unrepentant sinner still guilty before our righteous Lord (Romans 2:5; 3:10;...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Desiring God
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