An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Theological Virtues

A virtue is the perfection of a human power or capacity. As distinct from the cardinal virtues which we can develop, the theological virtues are the perfection of human powers given by the grace of God. Cited first in 1 Cor 13:13, faith, hope, and love are described as theological virtues by Augustine. This tradition reaches its culmination in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica, Thomas places faith, hope, and love at the center of his understanding of grace and sanctification or the deepening of the person's relationship with God. Faith is a matter of knowledge of God which perfects the intellect. Faith thereby perfects all human powers by orienting them to the final end or purpose of life. Hope is a matter of the perfection of the will. What is known in terms of hope is not narrowly an object of knowledge but a power that animates and sustains human willing. Love is a matter of perfection itself as love is the perfection of all powers. Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and other Anglican divines of the seventeenth century assumed this framework in terms of the theological virtues. Kenneth Kirk also used this understanding in seeking the renewal of Anglo-catholic moral theology in the twentieth century.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.