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The Table Video

Center for Christian Thought

Love, Mental Virtues, and Civility [From the Table #8]

Does Jesus’s teaching on agape love suggest a better way toward civil discourse? Would changing our attitude or tone produce better conversations about tough cultural issues? How can we walk the fine line between being convicted in our beliefs while being open-minded and kind? CCT Directors Gregg Ten Elshof, Steve Porter, and Tom Crisp discuss “Intellectual Virtue and Civil Discourse” at the outset of our year dedicated to this topic.


Today at the table we went around the room and the different fellows of the epicenter this year shared what their projects are.

A theme this year is intellectual virtue and civil discourse. What habits of mind conduce to fruitful dialogue, especially in situations where there’s passionate disagreement.

These different to intellectual character traits can be conducive to developing civil conversation in the church, in broader culture as we talk about moral issues, political issues, religious issues.

It turns out that the idea of agape love is closely connected with the idea of civil discourse.

We value open-mindedness, we don’t wanna be close-minded, dogmatic thinkers. But we also have a high value for conviction, for standing with a belief that’s important to you or important to your community.

If we really want to develop a more faithful witness, a more attractive witness to Christ in our culture that Christian organizations oftentimes need to change their tone, change their approach. Maybe particularly as we become more of the minority voice in culture on some issues, that this combative tone, this aggressive tone ends up doing more harm than good.

When you move in a posture of agape love, when you’re relating to others in a posture of neighbor love of the kind Jesus teaches of in the Gospels, you will be involved in civil discourse. It occurred to several of us today that if we could get clear on the nature of civil discourse, what its boundaries are, what its rules are, what kind of virtues it requires, we’ll have made progress in understanding more deeply the kind of love that Jesus teaches. Love and civil discourse are closely related in ways that I hadn’t really appreciated until fellows introduced their projects today.

So I think we’ve got a good semester ahead.

It looks like it’s gonna be a great semester here at the center. [music fades]