No virtue without a miracle

“Walking around St James’s Park I thought intensely of the difference between Tolstoy and St Augustine. Tolstoy tried to achieve virtue, and particularly continence, through the exercise of his will; Augustine saw that, for Man, there is no virtue without a miracle.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, Like It Was: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge (London, 1981), page 434.

The work of the gospel includes doctrinal content, which is vital, but not doctrinal content alone, nor even doctrinal content plus human resolve alone. The true work of the gospel includes the miraculous power of God entering into our experience (1 Thessalonians 1:5), and especially our experience at its worst.

Authentic Christianity is not sporadically but pervasively miraculous, moment by moment. This inspires both humility and hope. Humility, for there is no progress for which we can take credit. Hope, for there is no defeat over which we must finally despair.