Red beef. Strong beer. Things of substance and weight. Intoxicating. Energizing. Things consumed by men who know they are men, as an intrinsic part of living their vigorous lives.
This line–one of my favorites–comes from C. S. Lewis’ description of his early life, when he encountered a singular man to whom the two Lewis brothers privately awarded a distinctive moniker:
The Great Knock.
The Great Knock was a tutor paid by their father to “cram” the two boys for the Oxford University entrance exams. Lewis describes him as “the most purely logical entity I ever met”. As part of their training, he knocked the two boys’ thinking about until they learned to use proper logic.
Logic is falling out of fashion these days. Most boys don’t like it.
In the last century of secular thought, while logic brought about many scientific and technological breakthroughs, it did not bring about the much anticipated personal peace and well-being. Worse, it seemed to hasten the apocalypse of nuclear war; at best it predicted the eventual heat death of the universe and the ultimate insignificance of man. Logic only led to depression. Hope began to die. People began to turn to other less rational ways to think in their desperation to find some hope and personal peace.
In the first “The X-files” movie and TV series, Agent Mulder is the post-modernist, the anti-logic, feeling-and-intuition character. He is in constant debate with Agent Scully, the modernist, the logical character. “Forget logic, Scully! Use your feelings!” says Mulder.
But the modernist’s problem was not with logic; it’s just a thought engine, and if maintained properly, it runs well. The problem is what the modernists fed the engine–the assumptions and presuppositions that serve as starting premises. If you start the engine with invalid presuppositions, as Renaissance Man does, you get invalid, grim results like a depressing future of nuclear war and heat death.
It kills the significance of our daily thoughts, choices and feelings.
Not so for Reformation Man.
For him, logic is a core part of lifelong training, a daily exercise, for several reasons. First, the God presented to us in the Bible, if He appears a bit eccentric, is clearly rational. He says things like “Come and let us reason together.” He points out ludicrously illogical human thinking, and mocks it. He offers sound logical arguments for people to consider, demonstrating how a properly maintained logic engine works.
Second, we have a bitter enemy whose weaponry consists entirely of lies. They work like bear traps and anti-personnel mines. They are carefully camouflaged, and some are crafted to have a delayed effect: years later, they mangle our lives. If your enemy is the Father of Lies, it behooves you to know a lie when you hear one–or think one.
Third, we all have a parasitic sin nature that loves to cuddle up with lies. Mine has never found a lie it didn’t like. It rejects truth as if it were yesterday’s bran muffin. What it can’t reject outright it attempts to distort or suppress. We experience this in two forms: bizarre assumptions we adopt without ever pausing to question them, and as a host of logical fallacies we use as readily as we do paper towels.
Fourth, we all have broken hearts. In Western culture, that terminology usually means we have painful regrets. In the Jewish jargon of the Bible, it means something far more profound: the core of our being, from which arise our thoughts, our choices and our feelings, simply does not work right. We have difficulty thinking correctly. We choose foolishly, selecting choices that are clearly not in our best interest, in what Barbara Tuchman called “the march of folly”. We feel emotions that are misfires: loneliness may not feel like loneliness–it feels like anger or depression. Worse yet, sometimes we feel nothing at all.
Logic is a kind of brace, like a cast put on a broken limb, providing stiffness where our thinking process is weak, broken and prone to fail. God provides His word as the means by which the Son of God binds up the broken hearted.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
For example, in the Bible God prohibits His people from lying or even “dealing falsely” with each other. He directs them to work at making the logic engine run well, and demonstrates how to do it. That means Reformation Man avoids using logical fallacies, even in his private thoughts; relentlessly, he hunts them down as dangerous enemies that threaten his well-being, and that of his fellow men.
But the God of the Bible also provides the right fuel for the engine, the valid starting premises we can’t figure out by ourselves. Some of these premises, when we first encounter them, seem completely outrageous. After years of thinking about them, some seem more outrageous than ever. But they are the essential fuel.
Agent Mulder needs to embrace logic, but Agent Scully needs to fuel her logic engine with His truth.
Forgetting logic, and ignoring His truth means that Western popular culture is headed back to the Middle Ages, when superstition reigned supreme. Combining the true presuppositions from the Bible with the biblical imperative to think logically, Reformation Men like Bacon, Kepler and Newton led Western culture to develop and implement the scientific method. It actually resides intellectually on presuppositions found in the Bible. These men used it as a reliable way to know how the material world works. They led the way out of the dark.
But today, Western popular culture applies the term “science” to just about anything, including wild speculations about the past, as the certification of what is popularly acceptable to believe. Something called Chance has been awarded god-like powers, and made a fundamental part of “science”, in spite of the fact that the term is shorthand for “man’s ignorance of governing causes”. Superstition is growing unchecked. The flow of events has grown into a dense fog in which Renaissance Man finds himself careering from one near catastrophe to the next.
In contrast, Reformation Man experiences what Christ was talking about:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
As in the late Middle Ages, today Reformation Man collaborates with Christ, who is binding up his broken heart; he works at thinking logically, and deliberately feeds his logic engine with the valid truths found in the Bible. As he does so, his mind sees clearly, perhaps for the first time, and he is able to build up the devastated ruins left by a flailing, superstitious culture, the handiwork of Renaissance Man.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Most boys don’t like it.
To Reformation Man, it’s red beef and strong beer.