Called to Character

From Baylor’s founding in 1845, the task of character formation has been central to its educational mission. 

In keeping with this historic mission, Pro Futuris affirms that “the University seeks to provide an environment that fosters spiritual maturity, strength of character and moral virtue.” Underwriting this vision is the conviction that “both intellectual and spiritual pursuits are not only partners in the quest for truth, but essential to the growth and development of the whole person.”

OUR CALLING: To establish classrooms, labs, offices, and residence halls—everywhere we meet our students—as places where education invites intellectual, social, and spiritual transformation.

OUR CHALLENGE: To understand ways our teaching, research, and scholarship can be opportunities to cultivate in our students and ourselves virtuous character and vibrant spiritual life.

To begin, we must recognize that for Christians, character formation is rooted in the person and purposes of Jesus Christ and is the result not just of human effort but of grace—the ongoing renewal of our persons through the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the aim of all Christian calling is found in Romans 8:29: “to be conformed to the image of God’s son.”

Second, we must understand what a virtue is and how it might be cultivated. A virtue is an excellence of character that enables one to strive towards well-being and happiness—to flourish as a human person. This life-long process of growing into virtue takes time and requires supporting structures, practices, mentors, and relationships. We grow into the virtues like we grow into skills and disciplines—through habituation. We practice.

Given all this, how can we foster a community of moral, intellectual, and spiritual significance, one that helps us become the faithful people God calls us to be?

 

Discovering Virtue

Virtues are excellences of character that enable a person to live a life of well-being and happiness. Virtues direct our actions because they allow us to love and desire what is true, good, and beautiful.

Seven virtues are generally recognized as those from which all other virtues flow. The theological virtues are imparted by God’s grace. The cardinal virtues are those that anyone might foster through diligent practice.

  • FAITH: The virtue by which one assents to the truth that is beyond the limits of natural intellect to affirm truths of revelation
  • HOPE: The confident expectation that one will achieve his or her divinely ordered end
  • CHARITY: The virtue by which one loves God and in so doing loves others rightly
  • WISDOM: The virtue by which one grasps what is good most generally and then acts accordingly in a particular situation
  • JUSTICE: The habit of rendering to each what belongs to him or her
  • COURAGE: The fortitude to act in accordance with right reason despite the costs
  • TEMPERANCE: The self-restraint necessary for healthy balance in body, mind, and spirit

The virtues do not stand alone; they are inherently bound together. One cannot be just without also being courageous or prudent. Likewise, one cannot lack temperance without also lacking justice.

Education as formation invites us to attend to the virtues: intellectual, moral, and spiritual.