Men Without Chests

November 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Perhaps it’s because I’m married and have a daughter, or perhaps it’s because I’m feeling a little older lately — but I’ve become increasingly more aware of what can only be called small bursts of anarchy. It’s not the bloody guillotine or living-homeless-outside-Wall Street anarchy, but rather the small moments of the day to day that I see the tiny eruptions.

Andrew Walker pointed out an excellent piece by Mark Steyn entitled “Knockouts High and Low” in the National Review Online. In this article, he highlights for us C.S. Lewis’ book The Abolition Of Man: 

In his book The Abolition of Man, he writes of “men without chests” — the chest being “the indispensable liaison” between the head and the gut, between “cerebral man” and “visceral man.” In the chest beat what Lewis calls “the trained emotions.” Without them there is no honor or virtue, but only “intellect” and/or “appetite.”

Steyn describes the newest despicable “game” teens are calling “Knockout,” where a white (or Asian or Hispanic) victim is chosen on a street. A large group will roam the street looking for the victim, identify them, and attempt to knock him or her to the ground in one punch.

There’s a virtually limitless supply of targets: In New York, a 78-year-old woman was selected, and went down nice and easy, as near-octogenarian biddies tend to when sucker-punched. But, when you’re really rockin’, you can not only floor the unsuspecting sucker but kill him: That’s what happened to 46-year-old Ralph Santiago of Hoboken, N.J., whose head was slammed into an iron fence, whereupon he slumped to the sidewalk with his neck broken. And anyway the one-punch rule is flexible: In upstate New York, a 13-year-old boy socked 51-year-old Michael Daniels but with insufficient juice to down him. So his buddy threw a bonus punch, and the guy died from cerebral bleeding. Widely available video exists of almost all Knockout incidents, since the really cool thing is to have your buddies film it and upload it to YouTube. And it’s so simple to do in an age when every moronic savage has his own “smart phone.”

From here, Steyn leads us to Lewis’ brilliant comment that “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous” and also to Walter Williams statement that “A society’s first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions, and moral values. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct.”

The reality is, as Steyn says, “Restraint is an unfashionable concept these day.” This is not a new thing. But in our specific culture, I do believe it continues to be a increasing reality. The daily run-ins I have with seeming barbarism and anarchy seems to increase on a daily basis, as if the front-page news is trying to break into my daily life experiences. It happens in the grocery store check-out line tantrums (by adults), the fast-food drive-thru line (ask a fast-food worker), the movie theater (is it just me, or do more people think they can drink beer and talk during movies than ever before?), and the general disrespect for authority.

I’m really not trying to sound like a stuffed shirt who is shocked that people act like people. I am saying that it’s more prevalent than before.

Destroyed by What We Love

Another individual that Steyn highlights in his article but for a moment is Aldous Huxley. Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day.

Huxley’s Brave New World hit on the themes of the destruction of civilization. In contrast to George Orwell’s 1984, in which humanity was destroyed by what it hated and controlled by pain, Huxley’s World was one in which humanity was destroyed by what it loved.

As Christians, we ought not be surprised to find truth in both Lewis’ understanding that without “men with chests” we find ourselves drawn into and destroyed by what we love — that is, ourselves. Whether it be unrestrained “visceral man” or “cerebral man,” the root of it all is a giving over to either “appetite” or “intellect”   (see “Theology of ‘No Church in the Wild‘” for recent cultural and musical example of both sides of this coin).

Paul spoke about all of these realities in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

What Do We Do? 

I think anyone can decry the decay of society, and point out the root and heart at the debasement of our culture. Anyone with eyes can see the depths of our depravity and can identify both major incidents and small sparks of barbarism and anarchy. The real question is what do we do with what we see?

We don’t despair.

We don’t hate.

We don’t walk away.

Instead, we stand today as a prophetic minority in our culture. As Christians, we know the end of the story, and it’s not a doom and gloom story we’re told to be preaching. It’s one of victory over the very things we’re seeing in our culture today. As Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said, “We were never promised the culture would embrace us.” Instead, we have been called to be salt and light in a dark world, standing as defenders of an increasingly unpopular faith and moral system.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

 

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love.”

-C.S. Lewis

On Embracing Obscurity

“Universities that are bold enough to seek a new entrepreneurial model will become the ones that everyone else wants to emulate in the future.”

- Eric Ries

Lean Startup & Education

On my shelf at home is a big blue book filled with letters. When I turned thirteen, my Dad enlisted all of the influential men in my life at that time to write me letters as I entered “mahood.” He put them all in this wonderful blue book.

His letter along with all of those men’s words of wisdom and specific insight into my life as a young teenager continues to be influential. That book is one of my most prized possessions, something I reference on a regular basis.

Directly beside that book is a red and ratty notebook that I filled during my college years. It contains notes upon notes specifically about manhood, leadership, marriage, ministry, and wisdom I collected from professors, pastors, and mentors. I look to that book again and again as well.

Recently I received a copy of Reformational Manhood by Greg Gibson, who I consider a friend. Greg is a man whose life reflects everything he teaches, and his new book is no exception.

I couldn’t help but think about my big blue book full of letters and my ratty red notebook as I read through Reformational Manhood. Greg’s journey into understanding and practicing manhood according to Scripture has been similar to my own. Reformational Manhood was just like sitting down with one of my pastors or mentors and having them “teach me their ways.” It’s an experience that is both refreshing and convicting all at once.

One could argue that I say that only because I’m a friend to Greg, but I say it with all sincerity and honesty. I’ll speak clearly: this is a book worth putting on your shelf.

I have very few hesitations in handing this book to a young man. My complaints are few and far from condemning this book.

My concerns are two-fold: the book should be more concise and the layout is distracting. When I picked up Reformational Manhood, I tried to read like (I think) the target audience of young men whom I might pass this book on to. I know many who are avid readers and can tear through any amount of pages, and anyone can argue that 121 pages is not difficult to read. I felt incredibly comfortable when Greg opted to short and concise lists – but when he talked extensively about statistics and had other extended portions of the book without much breaks it became difficult to read.

That is tied to the second issue: perhaps a reformatting of the book might solve some of those issues. It’s more of an aesthetical complaint, but I felt that the font and formatting made the book unnecessarily hard to read. I would have liked something formatted in the style of Don’t Waste Your Life or another book similar in length and content.

All of that said, the strengths of this book are overwhelming. Few books dive deep into both Scripture on manhood and have such an extensive amount of practical advice. Greg strikes the balance well: I felt like I was sitting across from him as he opened up the Scriptures and offered specific advice to me. His chapters on being protector and provider were timely and convicting to me. I learned how to honor my wife even better because of Greg.

However, most importantly this book does not lose sight of the gospel and the example of Jesus Christ. Too often books like this can stray from the foundation of manhood and make it all about wearing camo hats and shooting guns. Greg consistently brings out the eternal, biblical and lasting definitions and shoots down cultural stereotypes.

Get this book for the young men in your life. They will thank you one day as they put it beside their often referenced blue books and red notebooks.

// Purchase Reformational Manhood on Amazon //

A Productive 2013

January 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

One of the beauties of technology is the ability to have a vast amount of tools that equip us to be productive. I believe God is greatly honored as we work, and we should be pursuing excellence in everything, including the way we use technology. CoolHunting.com has provided an excellent list of productivity tools including Flow and Smartr. Go ahead and view the full list here.

 

“A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.”

- Dr. Keith Ablow

Insignificance Subdued

“This recognition of smallness is like finding childhood again. Stars are more dazzling this way, sleep feels more peaceful, and the breezes are sweeter. I am small; yes, small enough to see that my continued humming along in this vast expanse is a miracle.”

Hannah Farver

Smallness

Hannah Farver has published an excellent piece dealing with that feeling we’ve all had: incredible smallness.

I’ve never looked at Facebook before and felt small. Bored, annoyed, intrigued—yes. Never small. But as a couple hundred diverse lives updated their statuses on my feed, I suddenly felt, working from my couch, that my life was very unimportant.
Businessmen in Korea are signing deals in right now. Children in Saudi Arabia are scurrying to school, as some hikers are probably lost in the woods somewhere in Wyoming, and some boat is probably taking on too much water while tuna-fishing in the Bering Sea.

The world is like one gigantic beehive, with all our lives crammed together, humming away. I sit here, simply breathing, as lights flicker on And I am very, very small.

It’s not so bad. I don’t mind being small. The whole spinning universe looks all the more magnificent when you know you’re an unnecessary part.

But there’s the catch. Knowing we’re unnecessary doesn’t exactly give the warm fuzzies.

This is well worth taking the time to read as you consider the difficulty of “being small” in such a large world.

// Read “At Once I Knew” Here //

Top Posts of 2012

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s always good to look back on 2012. There are great gains to be had and exciting things ahead for 2013. Here were my top five blog posts from 2012. Apparently we’re all into reading, iPhones, and gender roles. Don’t worry, we won’t stop talking about those things in the coming year.

1. Essential Books for High School Seniors

Absolutely one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever posted on the blog. I’ll try to update the list over time, especially after some fantastic new books that have come out in the past year.

2. I Learned Feminism From Jesus

It’s worth the read. There should be many more blog posts this coming year dealing with gender roles and human sexuality.

3. My Favorite iPhone Apps and Why I Use Them

I love my iPhone and I love my apps. My phone has changed dramatically from the time I wrote that post, but there are some great iPhone apps listed there.

4. My Summer Reading List 

Because I love reading. Made it through most of those books and more!

5. Challies’ Disagrees with Piper about Christianity’s “Masculine Feel”

A short post that highlighted a disagreement “in the ranks.” I added some of my favorite responses.