The Three Theological Virtues

Recently on The Inner Life, Father Michael Hurley joined Josh on the show to talk about the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, how we acquire these gifts, and how they allow us to start living the life of heaven before we get there.

“We often think of virtue as simply being the manifestation or the living of something that’s particularly in our control,” began Father Hurley. “For instance, an athlete will have the virtue of being able to excel in whatever kind of physical enterprise that they’re in. Or if someone has a certain intellectual acumen, he has the virtue of study or the virtue of being able to figure out or discover whatever academic discipline he’s in.”

So, when it comes to our spiritual life, we want to gravitate toward that same type of control with theological virtues. We want to curate them ourselves. And while there are ways we can connect to God, know about God, and learn about God via our human strengths and virtues, it is not within our power to ascertain and practice these virtues without divine intervention.

As Father Hurley said, “They are nothing less than a share and a participation in heaven, that is, in the presence of God.” We want to think of our earthly existence as separated entirely from our heavenly existence, but they are intimately linked. We are capable of previewing paradise through these virtues, but they require a relinquishing of control, humility, and an admission of powerlessness. Through that, God will open our eyes to the Theological Virtues.


Each Theological virtue is a sharing in some part of who God is. Faith is the participation in God’s knowledge of Himself. Faith permits us to know truths that go beyond the realities of the material world. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) It is not immediately apparent to our five senses, but Faith allows us to access a new dimension of existence, that is the presence of a loving God.

Father Hurley explained that there are three tiers of faith. On the first level, we acknowledge that God exists. That first tier is good, but not sufficient. Even the devil and his demons participate in the first step of faith. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24)

The second step of faith is trusting in God. It’s not just believing in God, but believing God Himself. “‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13) “‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

The third step in faith is to follow Christ. Rearrange your whole world and life so that you are perpetually oriented around the will of God. Father Hurley recalled the story of the young rich man.

“‘You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, ‘Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:19-22)


Hope is the sharing in the goodness of God as our final end. Hope is confidence in the word that Jesus gives. As the second step in faith is trusting God, hope points toward the content of that trust; that we will join Him in heaven for eternity if we love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind.

At the Last Supper, Jesus explained that He will be betrayed, put to death, and He will leave them for a time. The apostles are naturally horrified. But Jesus reminds them of what they hope and trust in. “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way.” (John 14:1-4)


And finally, love (or charity) is the sharing in the life of God Himself. God is love. We are animated by God’s life. In other words, by giving of ourselves, we are allowing God to make us “more alive”. The ultimate form of charity is when it ceases to be “I” doing the good works for others, but God working entirely through us.

Josh pointed out that it’s important to distinguish human love from this divine love that we receive from God. While we might like to think that we love selflessly and unconditionally, it’s very difficult to separate our emotional attachment to someone from the benefits that we get out of that person. God doesn’t love in that way. His life that He voluntarily fills us with is born completely of His goodness. We are not worthy of His love, but He loves us unconditionally anyway.

Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.