I believe that perhaps I should start with the least controversial part of my thesis here today, which is that a good deal of what we see around us in today’s culture is the result of a vast conspiracy calculated to make it possible for beta males to get laid. Thus far we agree? Perhaps I will return to this point later.
Character or Personality?
Let us begin with the observation that in the short term character costs and personality pays. But nevertheless both have a way of winding up in leadership positions somehow. Character is the slow and old school way of approaching it, the approach which pays its dues, while personality simpers its way to the top, shucking and jiving as it goes, glad-handing, sandpapering the hard edges, and of course networking.
In short, character climbs while personality floats. While every society gets the leadership it deserves—a thought which should be chilling to every loyal American who contemplates the current impeachment proceedings—the means for getting the leadership it deserves varies from one culture to another. Every society rewards certain behaviors and penalizes others. In our day, we are rewarding the floaters and penalizing the climbers.
Just as America has turned away from leaders through character, and toward leaders with personalities, so also has the evangelical church done the same thing. Far from providing a true spiritual counterculture, we have adopted the demented view that there isn’t anything the world can do that will not result in an evangelical knock-off. The deep driver of this is our imitation of the personality ethic instead of the character ethic. The personality ethic is all flash and show, and so everything has got to be on the surface. And if everything is on the surface, we cannot be shocked and dismayed at the superficial consequences.
Resultant examples range from the trivial to the tragically absurd. If the Calvin Klein logo is hot, we can reverse engineer our own Christ the King logo that looks just like it. And on the tragic end, if the world decides to plunge into the madness of woke, there we are, right on schedule. We decide, mysteriously, to strive for that holy grail of liberalism, the ultimate irrelevance of relevance. This is why Eric Mason calling for a woke church ought to strike us the same way that the band Stryper did back in the eighties.
We can also see this in the ubiquity of that loathsome word celebrities. Life coaches, rock stars, actresses, authors, agents, marketers, publicists—you name it, we got it.
About the only place where a celebrity is genuinely useless is on the field of battle. And guess where we are right now? Right. On the threshold of battle.
But Battles Still Happen Anyway
The virtues that seemed so dispensable during extended times of peace are suddenly in high demand when danger starts to appear. All of a sudden, the celebrity culture which had us so entranced—here in the evangelical ghetto of Vanity Fair—seems kind of lame. It had been so easy to sneer at heroics when heroics seemed unnecessary and passé. It had been the matter of a moment to dismiss the dark warnings of those who—for some reason—liked to issue dark warnings.
“And the king of Israel commented unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.”
1 Kings 22:8 (KJV)
Yeah. Let not the king say so. Let not the parade ground generals, quasi-celebrities in their own right, at least when there are no wars in sight, grumble too much about the arrival of actual soldiers. They may actually be needed.
In short, our evangelical establishment has been like the merchants of Dale, and the outsiders are like Bard, grim and unbending, but a lot more useful when it comes to killing dragons than the Dale Chamber of Commerce would be.
We are now standing on the edge of the field of battle, and the distant howitzers have begun to speak in that throaty way of theirs, and we are having trouble arranging our celebrities in a reasonable order. Nothing is working out, and a bunch of them already want to leave. I mean, we already lost Josh Harris. What are we going to do?
Thus we have a generation of leaders who do not know how to fight, wouldn’t want to if they did know how to, and who are fully prepared to vilify anyone who suggests that a fight might be in order.
The fighting spirit which is the screaming need of the hour is disdained. Our leadership acts like so many bowls of tapioca at room temperature. They have about as much courage as could be carved out of a peeled and overripe banana. The dauntlessness that we are now in desperate need of is a dauntlessness that has disappeared with the whistling wind. We are living in a post-dauntless era. The pluck that used to be admired back when your great grandparents were tots is the kind of demeanor that is admired no more. The spunk that used to characterize our people is a spunk that has been largely despunkified.
But Lewis said it well when he said that courage is not so much a separate virtue as it is the testing point of all the virtues.
But the fighting spirit is not just a spirit that is thoughtless pugnacious or belligerent. The kind of fighting spirit I am talking about is not the kind that gets into random bar fights. I am talking about a fighting Spirit, actually. Think of Othniel.
“And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.”
Judg. 3:10 (KJV)
This kind of fighting spirit is intelligent. It sees what is going on. It identifies how the enemy has arranged his troops. It sees and understands.
So who or what is the culprit in all of this? There are many contributing factors, and books could be written about each one of them. But I want to single out what I believe to be the central villain of the piece. We must see where the problem is, we must plead for the Holy Spirit to grant us boldness, and we must fight in that boldness.
Where is the problem? Why do we live in a time when people can seriously maintain—without being hooted from the stage—that there are no differences between men and women, between virginity and experience, between courage and cowardice, between freedom and slavery, between immigration and collapsed borders, between one tribe and another, between savings and debt, between the authority of the Constitution and the authority of courts, and so on. Why does Western Culture now look like a watercolor that somebody left out in the rain?
A reformation and revival would teach us how to paint with oils again.
We no longer believe that things have fixed essences; we no longer think that creatures have natures contained within boundaries and edges. Because of that, we are in a bad epistemological jam, and we cannot get out of it by ourselves. We—all together—need to call upon Jesus, who will bring us back to His Father (and at the same time back to our senses). His Father is the one who made heaven and earth, and when He made heaven and earth, He filled it full of discrete and bounded things. And these discrete and bounded things had and have essential natures. They were not just shaped to look like something, but rather were given the internal essence of those things.
So a woman is not just matter shaped like a woman—she is essentially a woman. All the way through. The same goes for a boy, and so on down the entire list. A boy does not just look like a boy. He has the nature of a boy. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .
We are in a battle, therefore, between a world made out of social constructs and the world made out of created essences. If the world around us is the former, then we have the authority and power to do all the dumb stuff we are currently attempting. If the world around us is the latter, then this explains why all these dumb attempts are so staggeringly lame. Which they really are.
In the world they think they are in, a sex-change operation is simply rearranging the furniture. In the world they are actually in, a sex-change operation is more like putting lipstick on a camel and calling it séduisante. Without an essential nature, the core of everything has been hollowed out, and this means that the meaning of the surfaces is up for grabs. So when we Christians say that a man cannot just declare himself to be a woman, that he is a man all the way through, this makes no sense to those who have been catechized in the belief that there is no such thing as a fixed and given nature. But returning to the point made earlier, we are well past the point where it will be sufficient to simply say that we have created natures.
Some of us, those who were created for fighting, and assigned by God to the fight, must actually fight. It is not enough to look like a warrior. It has to go clean through.
Today’s Giveaway Deal
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