Intellect, Will, Passions
Teaching of Virtue
Inellect, Will, Passions
For thousands of years, teachers of virtue have articulated how to live a virtuous life through the illustration of the horse and chariot. Imagine a strong charioteer in a speeding chariot, arms out firmly grasping the reins, directing two powerful horses. The charioteer represents our intellect, the reins represent our will, and the horses represent our passions (referring to our emotions). One horse relates to our passions in the face of difficulties and trials; the other horse relates to our passions in the face of desires and temptations.
In this analogy, just as the charioteer directs the reins which direct the horses, the virtuous one’s intellect directs their will which directs their passions.
Unfortunately, many go through life being led by their passions and emotions, not their intellect and will, so their horses run them all over the place out of control. But not the virtuous one. They feel the same passions, but are able to remain in control through them, leading them down the path of becoming the character God wills them to be.
Passions are neither good nor bad, but if not controlled, often lead to vice, sin, and emptiness. However, if properly directed, they can be the superpowers needed to drive you to tremendous good—virtue, fruitfulness, and fulfillment.
The stronger your intellect in the teachings of virtue, the stronger your willpower to channel the power of your passions to do God’s will.
Scroll down for the related scriptures, quotes, and lesson plan associated with this teaching.
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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:2 (ESV)
“Human wisdom, brilliance, insight—they are of no help if the Lord is against you. You can get horses ready for battle, but it is the Lord who gives victory.” — Proverbs 21:30-31 (GNTD)
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…” — 1 Peter 1:14 (ESV)
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” — 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)
“...take every thought captive to obey Christ…” — 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” — Titus 2:11-12 (NIV)
“And your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,’ for my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!” — 2 Samuel 14:17 (ESV)
“If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end!” — Deuteronomy 32:29 (ESV)
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…” — Ephesians 5:15 (ESV)
“Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?” — Job 38:36 (ESV)
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” — Proverbs 19:2 (ESV)
“A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.” — Proverbs 21:29 (ESV)
“Now Jesus Christ has all these passions (He is fully man), but He is in perfect control of each one. He perfectly loves sinners. He perfectly hates sins. He was perfectly angry at the money changers with the precise amount of anger needed and only for the precise amount of time that the situation required. Sometimes Christians can assume that being holy is to lack passion. They think that Spock from Star Trek is the ideal. Not so. This belief is repackaged Stoicism. Thomas Aquinas rejected this Stoic idea of the passions as incompatible with Scripture. God wants you to be a fully passionate person. Yet he wants those passions submitted to right reason. If you are becoming a saint, people should see that you’re rightly passionate about God and your neighbors. Your passions will be like a symphony under a masterful conductor.” — Dr. Taylor Marshall
“Reason’s job, with the aid of thumos, is to discern the best aims to pursue, and then train his “horses” to work together towards those aims. As the charioteer, he must have vision and purpose — he must know where he is going — and he must understand the nature and desires of his two horses if he wishes to properly harness their energies. A charioteer can err by either failing to hitch one of the horses to the chariot altogether, or by failing to bridle the horse, and instead letting him run wild.” — Brett & Kate McKay
“The law is reason unaffected by desire.” — Aristotle
“The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution; who resists to sorest temptation from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is most unfaltering.” — Seneca
“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” — Aristotle
“The intellect of the wise is like glass; it admits the light of heaven and reflects it.” — Augustus Hare
“It is our choice of good or evil that determines our character, not our opinion about good or evil.” — Aristotle
“The acquisition of knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.” — Leonardo da Vinci
“If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.” — Aristotle
“Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Man, as an originator of action, is a union of desire and intellect.” — Aristotle
“The largest part of goodness is the will to become good.” — Seneca
“The truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow.” — Aristotle
“Virtue needs a director and guide. Vice can be learned even without a teacher.” — Seneca
“True happiness comes from gaining insight and growing into your best possible self. Otherwise all you're having is immediate gratification pleasure, which is fleeting and doesn't grow you as a person.” — Aristotle
“We should every night call ourselves to an account: What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abate of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.” — Seneca
“World hinges on moral foundations. God has made it so! God has made the universe to be based on a moral law. So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God. That’s what we need in the world today: people who will stand for right and goodness.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
For your family, small group, or personal reflection.
STEP 1: Introduction
Example: “I’m going to play a short video on the topic of the meaning behind the illustration of the horse and chariot. After the video, I have some questions to gather your thoughts and get the discussion started. We’ll then wrap up with a closing prayer.”
STEP 2: Watch Video (or listen)
Watch (or listen to) the video of the teaching (cast to your TV via YouTube). If time allows, also read the teaching, related Scriptures, and related quotes.
STEP 3: Discussion / Reflection
What does each part of the illustration of the horse and chariot represent (please explain, refer back to the teaching if needed)?
Why is it important to use our intellect and will to virtuously control and channel our passions and emotions?
What are some examples in your life where you are led by (or lose control of) your horses, and what can you do next time to better lead with your intellect and will?
How do you think prayer, reading the Bible, and learning the teachings of virtue will help you better direct your passions and emotions with your intellect and will?
Did any of the related Scriptures or quotes stand out to you (please elaborate)?
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
STEP 4: Wrap Up & Closing Prayer
Summarize and wrap up the discussion. Then, conclude with a sincere and humble prayer from the heart.