Manly Honor: Part II — The Decline of Traditonal Honor in the West, Ancient Greece to the Romantic Period

by Brett on October 16, 2012 · 65 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

Welcome back to our series on manly honor. In my last post, I explained the classic definition of honor: having a reputation worthy of respect and admiration in a group of equal peers. This reputation consists of both horizontal honor (your acceptance as a full member of the group), and vertical honor (the praise you receive from excelling more than other members within the group). This type of traditional, manly honor is a very public and external thing. It requires a man to belong to an honor group and suffer social consequences for not living up to the group’s code. When primitive tribesmen, knights, and the Founding Fathers spoke of honor, this is the type of honor they meant.

Over the centuries, for a variety of reasons we’ll explore today and next time, this traditional conception of external honor evolved into our modern idea of private, inner honor – a type of honor often used synonymously with “character” and “integrity.” Today, a man’s honor isn’t determined by a group of his peers, rather, it’s a very personal thing judged only by himself. Nineteenth century German statesman Otto von Bismarck captured this idea of private honor perfectly when he said in a speech:

“Gentlemen; my honor lies in no-one’s hand  but my own, and it is not something that others can lavish on me; my own honor, which I carry in my heart, suffices me entirely, and no one is judge of it and able to decide whether I have it. My honor before God and men is my property, I give myself as much I believe that I have deserved, and I renounce any extra.”

In today’s post, I’m going to begin an exploration of why this change from public to private honor occurred. The transformation was a long and complicated process, involving several political, philosophical, and sociological changes in the West. While I initially hoped to explain this history in a single post, the amount of dense, important information to cover really requires two. In part one, I’ll cover how the seeds of honor’s dissolution began to be sown all the way back in Ancient Greece and continued through the Romantic Period. Then in part two next week, we’ll see how those seeds came to full fruition during the modern era — beginning with the Victorian Era and leading up to today.

A Brief Road Map on Where These Avenues Are Leading

Before we set out on this romp through the history of honor, I think it might be beneficial to give a short primer on how all of the factors that will be discussed tie together.

There are two main factors that weakened the traditional idea of honor. First, over time honor became based not on courage and strength, but on moral virtues. Honor could have continued in this state – your public reputation could have been based on your honor group’s judgment of whether you were living a moral life (this state of honor was last seen during the time of the Victorian gentleman, which we’ll discuss next time.) But in the evolution of honor, it did not just become premised on moral virtues, it also became completely private – every man could create his own, personal honor code, and only he himself could judge whether or not he was living up to it. This dissolved any sense of a shared honor code (“to each their own!”), which meant shame also disappeared – there were no longer any consequences for flaunting the code of honor.

As just mentioned, in this post and the next, we will get into the political, sociological, and philosophical changes that fueled these two factors. While it may be tempting to read these posts as saying that these cultural forces are bad, and that personal honor is bad, my goal is rather to simply delineate as objectively as possible why the traditional ideal of honor disappeared and was supplanted entirely with private honor, and then, to argue that private and public honor need not be mutually exclusive, and can, and should coexist.

From Public to Private Honor: Ancient Greece to the Renaissance

Ancient Greece

While it’s easy to assume that the decline of public honor and the rise of private honor is only a recent phenomenon, the seeds of honor’s transformation from a public to private concept were actually sewn at the beginning of Western civilization.

In societies without formal legal systems, honor serves as a rough enforcer of justice. Thus, democracy and the rule of law, two important developments to come out of ancient Greece, are in some ways contrary to traditional honor and made it less vital to the functioning of a community.

This early conflict between traditional honor and democratic ideals was actually the principle theme in a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus. The Orestia recounts the curse that befalls the family of King Agamemnon after he returns home from the Trojan War. A series of inter-familial murders, all in the name of avenging and defending the honor of one slain family member after another, comes to an end when the goddess Athena establishes a jury trial to try Orestes for the murder of his mother. Personal and familial honor is replaced by obedience to democratic law as the governing force in Greek society. This isn’t to say that honor and revenge killings stopped occurring after the establishment of democratic juries, but they did begin to be more frowned upon.

Playwrights weren’t the only ones questioning traditional, public honor. The philosophers Socrates and Aristotle raised concerns about the ideal in some of their teachings. For Socrates, it was better for the collective that he subject himself to the rule of unjust state laws than to maintain his honor, or reputation, among his friends by escaping his execution. According to Socrates, concern for reputation was something only for thoughtless men. What mattered to the great philosopher wasn’t the opinion of others (the basis of traditional honor), but rather knowing he lived according to what he thought was just. Put another way, Socrates chose integrity to his personal ideal over the public honor of his followers.

Aristotle showed a similar disinterest in the opinion of others. While he spoke of honor as an external good in his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle was uncomfortable with the idea that it be based solely on the opinion of others. Rather, Aristotle made a tentative argument that honor be based on attaining personal virtue. Excellence meant fulfilling your potential. Instead of being loyal to a group’s code of honor, it was more virtuous to be loyal to virtue itself.

Early Christianity

Three aspects of the rise and spread of Christian philosophy would have a huge impact in weakening honor as a cultural force in the West: 1) its inclusiveness and universality; 2) its emphasis on inner intent rather than outward appearances; and 3) its pacifism.

Inclusiveness and universality. Traditional honor is exclusive. Not everyone is welcome to the club and the code of honor doesn’t apply to everybody – just members.  Christ and his disciples taught a doctrine that was just the opposite: inclusive and universal. Open to any who believed. This idea of inclusiveness and universality was summed up nicely in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Inner intent over outward appearances. Traditional honor is based on your public reputation. Christianity teaches that what the world thinks of you is not as important as what God thinks of you. Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of private intent and faith. For example, it’s not enough that you don’t have actual, physical sex with another man’s wife, you can’t even think about it. Because the chamber of a man’s mind and heart can only be seen by him, only the individual (and his God) can judge whether his intent and faith are adequate.

Pacifism. While countless wars have been fought “with the cross of Jesus going on before,” Christianity has also inspired many of its believers to devoted pacifism. Christ’s radical teaching to “turn the other cheek” and to “bless those that curse you” turned honor on its head; a Christian could find ample support in his scriptures that it was more honorable not to retaliate when insulted or attacked than to strike back. The example of Christ submitting willfully on the cross would inspire countless Christian martyrs to lay down their lives rather than fight back physically.

Medieval Europe

As Christianity spread and became the state religion for kingdoms and empires, the competing demands of traditional honor culture and faith created a moral and philosophical quandary. Traditional honor still had a primal hold on men, but elements of their new religion seemed to run completely counter to it. To bridge this seemingly insurmountable divide, Christian rulers during the Middle Ages “Christianized” traditional honor by developing the aristocratic Code of Chivalry. Chivalry wedded together primitive honor’s emphasis on public reputation, but added new moral virtues to the code that had to be kept to maintain that reputation, and thus keep the honor of one’s peers.

Traditional honor found a place among a pacifist Christian religion by marshaling honor’s historic emphasis on the qualities of strength and courage towards the defense of the “least of these” in Christ’s kingdom. Knights swore oaths to protect the weak and defenseless, particularly women. Honesty, purity, generosity, and mercifulness — virtues taught by the Gospels — were part of the knightly code. In keeping with Christ’s admonition to lay up your treasure in heaven and not in the world, some groups, like the Templars, even required their members to take a vow of poverty.

Beyond these small adaptations, medieval Christian chivalry was still primarily a traditional code of honor. Knights vowed to defend their own honor and the honor of their fellow knights. If his honor, or reputation, was besmirched by an equal, a knight had a duty to retaliate. For the medieval knight, might still made right. A knight could indeed be lacking in virtue, but as long as he could defeat the man who brought to light his moral defect in “single combat,” he remained a man of honor. The story of Sir Lancelot’s adulterous relationship with King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, illustrates this; when the other knights discovered his sin, Lancelot insisted that his indiscretion didn’t exist because he was able to fight and best his accusers.

The Renaissance

Beginning in the 14th century in Italy, the Renaissance was a period of huge advances in art, science, and philosophy. Alongside these cultural evolutions, there was a transformation in the Western psyche that would eventually greatly weaken the classic concept of honor: the development of the idea of sincerity.

Sincerity demands that a person speak and act in accordance with his inner thoughts, feelings, and desires. It’s such a commonly lauded trait today (and has now morphed into an emphasis on “authenticity”), that it’s easy to think the concept has been around forever. But prior to the 17th century, people didn’t focus on having an inner life as we understand it today – in which you atomize and analyze all your feelings, emotions, and motivations. So as Renaissance men began to plumb the contents of their minds and hearts, they ran into a new contradiction between this inner life and traditional honor — which often requires an individual to place loyalty to the group first, and to speak and act in a way that contradicts his personal thoughts, feelings, and desires. Because traditional honor depends on the opinion of others, it doesn’t care if you feel like a hypocrite when following the code. So long as your outward appearances conform to the honor group’s code of honor, you maintain your honor.

For this reason, Renaissance writers and thinkers began to question this aspect of honor and advocate for sincerity as the true ideal. Shakespeare was a harsh critic of traditional honor and a strong proponent for sincerity in his plays. In many of his works, the characters choose being true to oneself rather than submitting to their tribe’s code of honor. See Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

The new societal demands for sincerity during the Renaissance began a rapid shift in how societies perceived honor. An honor based solely on public reputation didn’t seem all that desirable. It wasn’t enough that you acted truthful and others thought of you as honest, to be honorable, you actually had to be truthful to the core of your being.

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment’s focus on tolerance and egalitarianism further diminished traditional honor – which at its core is inherently intolerant and anti-egalitarian. If you live up to the group’s honor code, you’re given rights and privileges; if you don’t, you’re shamed and seen as inferior. You don’t gain respect and praise simply by existing – your honor must be earned by your keeping, and excelling, of the group’s code. But Enlightenment thinkers began to forward the idea that all people had certain inalienable rights that they were born with and which could not be taken away. They also revitalized the ancient Greek ideal of democracy as a superior form of justice to the rewards and punishments meted out by the eye-for-an-eye concept of honor.

The Romantic Period

While Enlightenment philosophy eroded the concept of traditional, public honor, another group of 18th and 19th century thinkers, the Romantics, took up the baton of sincerity passed from the Renaissance and advocated for a new type of honor that was based on personal integrity. The Romantics, led by French writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, believed that the individual and his desires should come before the group’s needs. Rousseau argued that honor based on the opinion of others (amour propre) was inferior to an honor based on what the individual thought of himself (amour de soi). For Rousseau and the Romantics, honor should be individual, internal, and private; not social, external, and public.

To justify this new definition of honor, Rousseau and his fellow Romantics fashioned a theory of human development that sentimentalized solitude. Before man formed tribes and groups, he lived independently in a state of nature, concerned only for his own happiness and well-being. It wasn’t until the Fall of Adam and Eve that man gathered in tribes and began to be concerned about what other fellows thought of him. This theory, of course, has been proven false by anthropologists. Mankind, like their primate cousins, have always been social animals and have always been concerned about their place in the group.

Despite being wrong about the history of human development, Rousseau and the Romantics created a legacy that lionized the importance of the individual, a drumbeat which intensified many times over in the 20th century, and would ultimately be one of the biggest nails in the coffin of traditional honor.

Despite the challenges created by the Enlightenment and Romanticism, traditional honor still had a strong hold on Western society in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Aristocratic gentleman continued to challenge each other to duels when they felt their honor, or reputation, had been impugned, even though the practice was illegal in most Western countries by then. Young soldiers, who had grown up reading epic poems and tales of battlefield glory, went to war hoping to capture that sense of honor that Homer and others wrote of. It would take the trenches of WWI to cool these deep reserves of martial fervor.

Conclusion, or Is Honor Making You Feel Kinda Uncomfortable Right Now?

As we can see, the transformation of honor from a public to private concept isn’t a recent phenomenon. The groundwork was actually laid at the beginnings of Western civilization. Ideals such as the rule of law, democracy, personal sincerity, egalitarianism and individualism fostered an environment antithetical to traditional honor. However, it wouldn’t be until the 20th century that honor would complete its transformation from meaning “having a public reputation worthy of respect and admiration” to simply meaning “being true to one’s personal ideals.”

As I said in the first post in this series, many people give a lot of lip service to honor, but don’t really know what it means, at least historically. Once they do learn more about it, they may begin to feel like it’s not such a good thing after all. Certainly, many of the seeds of the dissolution of honor, talked about here and next time, have become unquestioned Truths in our modern culture, and probably resonated more with you as you read than the idea of honor itself! But if you’ll stick with me, after this history, I’ll come back to explain that while personal, individual honor is a laudatory value, classic honor can also be a powerful and positive moral force as well.

Manly Honor Series: 
Part I: What is Honor?
Part II: The Decline of Traditional Honor in the West, Ancient Greece to the Romantic Period
Part III: The Victorian Era and the Development of the Stoic-Christian Code of Honor
Part IV: The Gentlemen and the Roughs: The Collision of Two Honor Codes in the American North
Part V: Honor in the American South
Part VI: The Decline of Traditional Honor in the West in the 20th Century
Part VII: How and Why to Revive Manly Honor in the Twenty-First Century
Podcast: The Gentlemen and the Roughs with Dr. Lorien Foote

_________________

Sources:

Honor by Frank Henderson Stewart

What Is Honor: A Question of Moral Imperatives by Alexander Welsh

Honor: A History by James Bowman

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Zahc October 16, 2012 at 2:21 am

Interesting post. A shame you jump straight from early Christianity to medieval Europe, ignoring the pre and post Islamic codes of honour/chivalry promulgated by the Arabs, who placed the idea of honour above almost everything else that was dear to them. Europe imported a lot from these Arabs through the crusades and Moorish Spain. Your ignorance of this important period in Europe’s renaissance takes some shine off an otherwise very informative post.

2 Andrew October 16, 2012 at 2:34 am

Good post. Credit granted…

3 Marc October 16, 2012 at 2:50 am

“You should not honor men more than truth.”
― Plato

4 Sam October 16, 2012 at 6:04 am

Amazing research! Great article, can’t wait for Part 2

5 David Isenhower October 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

Great post! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to next week’s installment.

The points you make put me in mind of the Last Airbender series. The original show (not the movie released last year) was written and produced for twelve year-olds, but each time I see an episode, I’m struck by the depth of humanity displayed by the characters.

One of the characters, Prince Zuko, spent the entire three seasons of the show searching for his lost honor. His father, the king, had exiled him when he was only sixteen for speaking out of turn during a war meeting. So, horribly scarred, Zuko embarked on an expedition to capture the avatar, his nation’s greatest enemy. After about thirty episodes of chasing the avatar and personal development, he ultimately rejects the traditional honor of the early Greeks, and embraces the personal honor.

Hope that doesn’t ruin the show for anyone…

Thanks again!

6 CraigD October 16, 2012 at 8:05 am

What a great series! This is a topic I have had many a discussion about but you have done a masterful job of laying it out in an organized manner. As you allude to at the end this is a far more complex topic than many would expect. I have often felt the conflict of personal vs public honor. I would say I find personal (or private) honor the most descriptive of my own views but I also think the lack of shame in society today is at the heart of our degraded culture and feel that both need to exist. I look forward to the next installment and seeing how you balance the scales…

7 Mark Ruddick October 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

A very interesting article exploring the dichotomy of honour and integrity. It is a timely piece as I have to deal with this very subject tonight. 3 of our Scouts were caught stealing from our fundraiser this weekend. (Separate incidents) They have lost honour for themselves and for the group. Consequences will have to be decided and lessons must be learned. I feel that my honour has been diminished as I have lead some of these youth for over 4 years and there must be something I didn’t do to have taught them better.

8 Heath October 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

@ Zahc

I wouldn’t mind you saying that the author should take a look at how the Arab world effected the West’s idea of honor, but the way you call him ignorant because he left out that point takes a helpful suggestion just makes you sound pompous and takes the air out of what would have been a helpful and respectful suggestion. Do you want to be helpful or just make yourself sound smart by tearing others down?

9 Abrecan October 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

I am really sorry to see you post about chivalry, since it is a myth. Dont’ get all bent out of shape, that is always what happens when people are first told this. I too, was surprised, to discover such a fact when I did.

I study Kunst des Fechtens, Armizare and other knightly martial arts as part of a group known as HEMA or WMA (Historical European Martial Arts, Western Martial Arts). Part of our studies include manuscripts from knights, lords, fencing masters, fencing instructors, cutlers, blacksmiths and the like. Thousands of people have been doing this for a very long time, and the facts are very well known about by know in the community.

In some of the manuscripts, especially 3227a, there is laid out a code of conduct for knights. It is entirely based on external honor within the peer group of the knight. It has nothing to do with chivalry or other romantic fantasies of courtly pursuits.

Much to our amazement, it turns out the chivalry was ‘invented’ during the renaissance as an avenue for playwrights. They needed new material to work with, and the myth of chivalry was created. All bibliography on ‘chivalry’ traces back to this.

Anyone who disagrees, I implore them to turn to their sources for chivalry, as we did. Every single book, every single quote, trace it’s bibliography back to the source.

You will find that the source is a fabrication, and that the true knightly arts can only be found in fencing and fighting manuscripts, manuscripts on codes of action and politics, indexed here for our study: http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Manuals

Most people get offended when we tell them this, and that is a shame. But the reality is that until these deniers of fact actually put their minds to studying what real material for knights and their actions we have, their position is merely an opinion without a scientific leg to stand on. I won’t entertain any arguments that don’t cite a historical manuscript or a translation of a transcription of a historical manuscript on knightly arts.

Brett, step up your game. This is the first time you have ever really disappointed. A little research would have led you a long way to discovering that chivalry is a myth.

For anyone who is actually interested in the real knightly code, especially after Master Johannes Lichtenauer, I can post it when I get home.

10 Fern Miller (@Fernwise) October 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

Very nice post! I wish you’d have gotten more into historical honor among other ancient groups – the Celts, the Norse/Germanic tribes, Eastern European tribes in the West, and then looked at the East (Bushido, babe!), middle Eastern, African, and the Americas as well. However, I realize that you’re not writing as a historian but really trying to get to Action.

11 Brian October 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Great post. FYI, Zahc (or Zach, I presume) this post is about honor in Western Civilization. By introducing Arabic philosophy, Brett would be taking it beyond the West, into the East. But if you stop there, you must then include the philosophies of those in the Indus valley, S.E. Asia, and what is now China. Never mind the Bushido Code of Japan. That would be appropriate for a book or PhD dissertation, not a blog. If Brett blogged such a piece, it would be TLDR.

12 Alexander October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I agree with Brian and some of the others comments above – people are forgetting that Brett is trying to write a short, concise, opinion piece about a subject that is extremely difficult. I still found value in the way that Brett has addressed the topic, but feel that a couple of the comments challenging this post are more about touting their own personal interests and opinions rather than addressing the topic in any way that would be of value to a large readership, such as Brett commands. Wonder why they don’t have a blog as popular as AOM?

13 Brett McKay October 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

@Abrecan-

I know what I’m about to write won’t do anything to change your mind, but here goes anyway….

You said:

“In some of the manuscripts, especially 3227a, there is laid out a code of conduct for knights. It is entirely based on external honor within the peer group of the knight. It has nothing to do with chivalry or other romantic fantasies of courtly pursuits.”

Yes, that is exactly what I said in the article. Let me copy and paste the relevant passages:

“Chivalry wedded together primitive honor’s emphasis on public reputation, but added new moral virtues to the code that had to be kept to maintain that reputation, and thus keep the honor of one’s peers…

“medieval Christian chivalry was still primarily a traditional code of honor. Knights vowed to defend their own honor and the honor of their fellow knights. If his honor, or reputation, was besmirched by an equal, a knight had a duty to retaliate. For the
medieval knight, might still made right.”

The only argument that I made (which is backed by scholars and primary source documents from the medieval period) was that knightly honor was Christianized to some extent by adding the public display of virute and marshaling the warrior code towards the defense of the weak and defenseless (See the “Peace & Truce of God” written in the 10th century). This was not a formal code that was entirely written out (traditional honor codes rarely are), but a cultural ideal understood by those who lived it at the time, and now lumped together and termed “chivalry” by modern scholars. That you cannot find this code written out anymore is not proof it did not exist! Again, traditional honor codes were rarely written down, and were simply understood by those in the culture at the time. That you cannot find the code of honor that George Washington, or any of his 18th century brethren ascribed to, does not mean it did not exist! It was real enough that they died for it.

While I didn’t mention anything in the post about “courtly pursuits,” I did mention that the knightly code required special deference to women. Heck, even MS 33227a which you site as a source proving that “chivalry” didn’t exist begins with:

“Young knights learn to love God and honour women that your honour may grow.”

While I agree that some of the romantic stories of knightly chivalry and princesses is a bunch of baloney, claiming that there wasn’t any ethical code requiring the respect of women ignores the influence of Mariology on knights.

If you’re looking for other sources that talk about the existence of a code of chivalry, how about “The Book of Chivalry” written by 14th century French knight, Geoffroi de Charny:

“Men who want to wage war without good reason, who seize other people without prior warning and without any good cause and rob and steal from them, wound and kill them … who use arms (dishonorably) behave like cowards and traitors … Indeed all such people who are thus doers or consenters or receivers in relation to such deeds are not worthy to live or to be in the company of men of worth … Cursed be these persons who devote their lives to committing such evil deeds in order to acquire such dishonorable fame! And indeed any lords who have such men under their control and have knowledge of their ill doings are no longer worthy to live if they do not inflict such punishment on them that would persuade anyone else who might have a desire for wrongdoing to draw back.”

That certainly seems like an ethical code of conduct to me. And the title of this High Medieval Period book even has the word “chivalry” in it to boot.

Anyway, on another note, thank you to those who have defended the content of this article. While there are many different variations of traditional honor around the world that could be covered, in order to make this series accessible and digestible (we are a magazine, not a scholarly journal!), I’ve chosen to concentrate on the West and even then to just hit the high points that are important to gaining an understanding of honor. Btw, we’ve covered the Bushido Code before, and hope to do it again. Thanks for reading, for digging what I’ve been putting down, and for the support.

14 Jan Broucinek October 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Jesus was quite exclusive. He hand-picked twelve men to concentrate his efforts on. Imagine being in the crowd while Jesus points and says, “I want you, you, not you, you, and yes, you…”

Paul wrote about having nothing to do with those who didn’t hold to the teachings of Christ. He insctructed the Corinthian church to throw out a person who was flaunting his sin.

There is a definite code of conduct, with consequences for failing to meet up to it in Christianity. And Jesus taught that a person’s outward life is expected to match his inward. The inward is not to the exclusion of the external. In fact by requiring the inner life to conform to stricter standards Jesus didn’t lower the bar, he raised it.

The modern age has emasculated Christianity, it was not always so.

15 Dan October 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Brilliant response, Brett. Though Abrecan’s comment hardly warranted it. As a graduate student in history, I find the idea that a man who dresses in tights and wields fake swords in city parks thinks he has uncovered something that has eluded trained historians laughable, embarrassing, and almost offensive.

16 Jay October 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Jan, I think the idea is that Christians think the gospel applies to everybody (every knee will bow…), while honor codes only apply to that group. Christianity is universal, “Catholic.”

And I disagree that Christianity has any consequences for not living up to its code. Maybe consequences from being shunned at church. But at the core, once saved, always saved. Even if you become a thief or a murderer after you’re saved. This idea always drove me nuts, as it doesn’t make any sense, and yeah, now that I think about it, doesn’t seem very “honorable” either. You can’t have honor if you can’t fall from grace, right? It’s one of those things that eventually drove me to atheism actually.

17 Gary October 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

If honor has cme to mean being true to one’s personal ideals then, by definition, Adolf Hitler was an honorable man. I have trouble accepting that.

I’m sure you will arrive at the conclusion that honor is actually a blend of personal integrity that engenders respect and admiration from others.

18 Marty October 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Jay, Catholic Christianity still teaches the fall from grace for serious sins.

Protestants invented the “once saved, always saved” idea which grew from Luther’s teaching that divorced faith from actions.

Not surprising that your faith faded into atheism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQNK0hPhHFs

19 Collin James October 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

@Jan

When Jesus Christ was choosing his disciples, he picked some prettyundesirable. Matthew was a tax collector, and he was hated by all Jews. He wasn’t allowed in the synagogues. His other disciples were fishermen, and regular folks. When he picked them, it wasn’t like he went through a crowd and picked some over others. Most of the time, they were alone. Most people didn’t really know who Jesus was.

20 Aidan C October 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm

@David Isenhower

Exactly my thoughts with the Last Airbender series. Although it’s a children’s show, its themes and characters resonate with many adults.

It’s an interesting concept to discuss, considering the two facets of a value heralded for so long. For me, a man who stays truthful to himself while helping those around him is honorable.

21 Jim October 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Honor is what you as a person makes it

22 Jay October 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Marty, appreciate the comment. I did not realize that only Protestants believe in once saved only saved. Video was definitely interesting…..

23 Zach October 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Dear Brett,

I appreciate how you include source material at the bottom of your posts so I know where you did your research and have a starting place to find out more about the topics that interest me. May I suggest you do the same, when appropriate, for images you include on the site? Including basic identifying information for those images that are significant in art history such as paintings, sculpture, and architecture would be a great way to encourage readers to further their manly education in the visual arts. I remembered enough about Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer to dig up the information myself, but I don’t know how to find out more about the others in this post and would love a little help!

Sincerely,
Zach

24 Brian October 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

Jay,
The way you described “once saved, always saved” is a bit misleading. I’m not sure where that phrase originated, but traditionally it was “perseverance of the saints,” meaning those who are believers will persevere, thus, not allowing a believer to fall into a lifestyle of sin.

25 Rob Dyson October 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

Brett, I will not insult you as Zach and Abrecan have needlessly done. However, I do have some disagreements, mostly regarding Christianity.

First, I think it could be argued that Socrates actually increased his reputation with his followers by acquiescing to the authorities in regard to his unjust death sentence.

Second, universalism is a bad word among evangelical Christians. Jesus said the way to God is exclusively through him alone. Even your own statement admits it’s restricted to those who believe. Many don’t believe. Additionally, the bible has a lot to say about the moral code it’s ‘members’ are to live by. Also, you seem to describe inner intent as being less valuable than outer reputation. If your actions don’t reflect your inner motives, that’s called hypocrisy. If your inner values are good (not thinking about committing adultery) then the outer actions will follow (actually not committing adultery).
I do agree with your point on pacifism, the role of avenger is ultimately God’s. However, biblically it’s also the role of government to ‘bear the sword’ and protect it’s citizens.

Third, anthropologists have not proven the ‘theory’ of Adam and Eve false. Sin is our primary problem. We jockey for position and prestige within our ‘group’ as a result of our pride.

Marty: Luther didn’t teach divorcing actions from faith. That’s a Catholic teaching. He simply said (as did Paul) that salvation is by faith alone. What necessarily comes after salvation is good works.

26 LT October 17, 2012 at 11:48 am

GREAT ARTICLE!!!

27 Ryan October 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hi Brett,

Very good post – I enjoyed reading it very much.

The only slight criticism I would level is that your statement about the emergence of sincerity as being a Renaissance phenomenon is not quite right.
It’s true that the inner life was treated less extensively before that time period, but there are several texts which explore just the problems you identify in that paragraph of your post.
‘Gawain and the Green Knight’ (14th C.), for example, turns on the conflict between external and internal life as its central theme. It’s true that the Renaissance was in full swing in Italy at this time, but much of the rest of Europe was avowedly medieval during this period – especially England.
We can also go a little further back, to the Anglo-Saxon period, and find poetry such as The Wanderer (in which an exile muses both on honour and his own thoughts), or Wulf and Eadwacer (which presents a conflict between the symbolic [external] and semiotic [internal] modes of meaning, tribal honour, and the inner psyche).

As I said, I very much enjoyed reading your post, and thought that somebody as obviously intellectually active and erudite might appreciate some interesting reading.

28 Nathan Stuller October 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Jay,
As a Southern Baptist minister (and thus Protestant), I will add that I am firmly convinced that the idea of ‘once saved, always saved’ is unbiblical, and one of the worst memes that has ever infected American Christianity. In the churches I have been a part of, we hold people accountable to what we understand to be Biblical standards of conduct and excommunicate people who are living a lifestyle inconsistent with the Christian faith, and we believe that those who are put out, if they do not repent and return to the faith, are not saved.
A lot of Protestants (even a lot of Southern Baptists) do teach ‘once saved always saved’ just as you described it, but not all of us. We (the Christians I count myself a part of) still have an external standard of honor, even if it looks different from other traditional standards of honor (valuing service and self-control over strength and power, etc.)

29 Dave C. October 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Thanks for the article. It was well researched, and well written. Looking forward to the next part.

30 Nathan October 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Ryan, regarding your post:

“It’s true that the inner life was treated less extensively before that time period, but there are several texts which explore just the problems you identify in that paragraph of your post.
‘Gawain and the Green Knight’ (14th C.), for example, turns on the conflict between external and internal life as its central theme. It’s true that the Renaissance was in full swing in Italy at this time, but much of the rest of Europe was avowedly medieval during this period – especially England.”

I think that we have to draw an important distinction here: that to say the concept of “sincerity” or the conflict between the inner and outer world “arose from a certain time period” is referring to a specific sort of appearance.

I don’t think anybody here is reckless enough to suggest that no sincere thought nor conflict between one’s self and one’s image ever crossed a man’s mind previous to the named time periods. It’s impossible that most of those concepts did not occur to various people throughout the centuries beforehand.

However, they were not widespread or mainstream.

I hate to do this, but I would like to use professional Starcraft (the computer game- a handful of players make over $100,000/year amazingly) as an example: within the community the professionals refer to this or that player as having originated a certain playing style- for example, a player named Stephano is often named as the player who got the 3-base-roach, fast max-out, ZvP bulid up and running. However, we cannot pretend that he was the first to use the strategy/playing style. Hell, even I’ve done versions of it before I saw it in tournaments. He just did it better, and made it famous by winning a lot of tournaments with it, so that in no time at all everybody was doing it. Thus, we refer to Stephano and those tournaments as “when that play style appeared.”

So, we refer to a style of thinking as arising from a time period in a popular sense, not in an individual sense.

31 Jones October 18, 2012 at 12:50 am

I’m a PhD student in a highly relevant field and I also received an extensive training in European intellectual history as an undergrad. Brett, I think your work here is well done, and you present a really interesting narrative. I think Zahc also makes a valuable point, though I have no idea about the historical evidence behind it. One thing worth pointing out is that, certainly for the medieval period, you can’t rule out the influence of the Muslim world by saying you were focusing on the “West.” In that period the histories of the West and the Muslim world intersect.

Abrecan, on the other hand, is wrong. First of all, what do you mean by “chivalry”? The word simply derives from the french word for knight, “chevalier.” You seem to be referring to its connotations about relations between the sexes. Brett has already made a good point about how you have to read the historical sources, but it’s clear that, if courtly love was simply the product of imagination, then it was the imagination of people in the High Middle Ages themselves, not the Renaissance. There are plenty of sources from the time, and it’s from them that our understanding of “courtly love” derives.

32 Chris October 18, 2012 at 3:41 am

I don’t agree with the conclusion, honor is not at all making me uncomfortable. It resonates with me far more than the modern culture, which I see as decadent.

33 Doc October 18, 2012 at 5:55 am

And, on a simpler note “What you think of me is none of my business.” I don’t remember where I read that.

34 Brett McKay October 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

@Jones-

In saying I was focusing on the West, I did not mean to imply that I was ruling out Muslim influence, simply that in writing a 2,000 word article covering a history from ancient Greece to the Romantic period, I would only be hitting the biggest factors shaping the Western idea of honor during that time. None of the 3 sources I consulted, which are some of the main texts on the subject, discussed the way in which Islam had influenced Western honor, so it was not included. I would definitely welcome more information on the effect Islam had if anyone has studied the subject and knows. As I mentioned in the first post, scholarly work on honor is surprisingly sparse, so that might be a rich vein for a student out there to tap. A dissertation idea for you perhaps, Mr. Jones? :)

35 Leo October 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Seems to me Christianity had a rather specific honor code. If I remember correctly there were 10 rules. If you didn’t follow those 10 rules other Christians for expected to see you as lesser than they were, or possibly be removed from the group. Could be wrong.
I doubt Zach or the other guy wants to delve into the topic of modern Muslim honor codes either.

36 Anthony October 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

A touchy subject to explore Brett, I commend your efforts thus far. Interesting to note the number of readers who have ‘called you out’ on your exclusion of particular honour codes or your interpretation of texts. Once upon a time the condecending tones of Zahc and Abrecan would been grounds for demanding satisfaction via pistol or sword-ironic that modernity perhaps saved these two from an untimely demise. None the less, great read and i’m keen to read your next installment on this topic.

37 Noel Coleman October 20, 2012 at 6:42 am

@Rob Dyson:

A thought on 2 of your points:

- When you mention that universality is a bad word with evangelicals, I think you’re attaching meaning to that word which Brett has not. He simply meant that the opportunity for gaining membership was open to anyone. Not that all are included by default. This is important from his post on traditional honor which did not allow for anyone to join the group. Jesus’ proclamation that all people were loved by God and were able to come to him as his children was a radical idea at the time.

- When you mention that science has not proven the theory of Adam and Eve wrong, I think you’ve misread the text. What Brett stated was that anthropologists have proven wrong the idea that we were once solitary people without social ties. i.e., we are and have always been social in nature. (Which I’d imagine you’d agree with based on Christian theology.) Origin of the species hasn’t come into this post as it isn’t relevant to the topic at hand.

@Jay:

I can completely sympathize with you on your sentiment about once saved always saved. That is a hard thing to swallow when the implications of it are thought out. But I think there is more to this topic than you’ve found so far. Some of the comments to yours reveals that it is far from universal teaching in Christianity. (Catholic or Protestant) Keep digging!

@Brett:

Nice work. It’s really good to read and understand more of the historical context as I raise 3 boys into men. The information will help me to teach them the right understanding and balance of public and private honor. Looking forward to your next post.

38 Rob October 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Very informative article, but the responses are too academic for my taste. I’m just wondering what honor is to me? What does it mean? What’s the practical application of it? I’m 40 and in the navy. We are suppose to live honor, courage & commitment but I often feel I have none.

39 Andrew Webster October 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Kudos sir, you gain much honor with this very well done blog post.

I have to believe a man’s honor is both personal and external. Man is a social animal who seeks a place within his community, but there are times when all around him others choose to do wrong, in such an event a man must break with his peers and do what he thinks right, regardless of what others think.

40 Gary October 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Loving this article-logged on specifically to catch up on it, very well written and not in the least bit intimidating-as historical articles can often be, I do have to wonder though how a re introduction of an honour code, and group honour would affect the growing dissolution and disassociation in young people (males particularly) in the UK-as seen by the growing number of unemployment and crime for males aged 18-25. I wonder if a movement to an honour code, therefore, causing a person to be judged by others, and placing an importance on shame would go some way to correcting behavioural patterns. (obviously it would not put jobs where jobs aren’t to be found)

41 Mark October 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Great post. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

42 Thom Gressman October 22, 2012 at 9:36 am

I will make one point regarding pacifism and Christianity.
Luke 22:36; “And He (Jesus) said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”
Christians are to make every attempt to live in peace with all people, but that doesn’t mean we are supposed to be sheep to lay down and die before tyranny. Yes, the early church had its martyrs. But about 1800 years later, the fires of the Revolutionary war, and 60 years after that the fires of the American Civil War were ignited in the pulpits. The British called the Revolution “The Black Rebellion” because of the color of the robes worn by pastors at the time. (Just like in “The Patriot”; sometimes you have to “fight off the wolves”.)
I teach safety classes in my home church. I believe it is incumbent upon us all – and particularly men to be able to defend our loved ones, our neighbors, our country and ourselves. That to my mind is part and parcel to my honor – defense of the defenseless.

43 Rob Dyson October 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for the clarifications Noel.

Good points Thom. I wouldn’t hesitate to forcefully defend my family. I was thinking more of what my personal response should be if challenged. I know what it most likely WOULD be, but I don’t think that’s probably what it should be.

44 Jake October 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

You can always tell a good article by the passion in the comments.

Good work brother, keep it up. I appreciate the sources too!

45 Nick October 23, 2012 at 9:11 am

I don’t understand how the “universality” of Christianity causes problem for traditional honor. It still excludes people, it’s just an open invitation to join.

Am I missing something?

@Jay:
“Once saved always saved” is a Protestant teaching, and I agree, makes no sense. Catholic doctrine doesn’t teach that, otherwise the Sacrament of Confession would be superfluous.

46 Jeremy October 23, 2012 at 9:43 am

@Noel/@Jay,

RE: Once Saved Always Saved:
While some protestant churches believe in ‘once saved, always saved’, as if one can go forward at an altar call be ‘saved’ and then live as he pleases, spreading murder and strife, and still be saved (Hitler) is seriously flawed. Once saved, always saved is actually a serious misinterpretation of “Perseverance of the Saints”, one of the five points of Calvinism, which basically states that once a person is truly saved, his life’s actions will generally demonstrate it through the power of the Holy Spirit. That person naturally cringes at the though of sin because it would offend the one he loves – God. It teaches that a person who at one time appears to be a Christian, and then ‘falls from grace’ was essentially never saved in the first place, even if he thought he was.

Secondly, regarding the emasculation of Christianity: while NT Christianity is all inclusive (women are included through baptism, whereas they could not be circumcised in OT Israel), Christianity itself is NOT exclusively effeminate. There are very clear distinctions between the roles of men and women, slaves and free, etc. It generally falls along the lines that the more fortunate, more strong, more blessed should show condescension (the classical definition of condescension, not a bad thing) toward those who are less fortunate, weaker, etc. This means that the man should protect the woman, the master should treat his slave kindly and protect him, the rich should take care of the poor. Therefore, I think the Bible supports manliness, not in the ‘beer drinking, chest thumping’ manner, but in a gentlemenly, chivalrous manner, after the example of George Washington, Robert E Lee & Stonewall Jackson (surely there are others, those just happen to be my personal ‘man’s man’ heroes).

@ Brett: Very good article. There are so many denominations/sects of Christianity, it’s hard not to offend when broaching the subject. I thought that while your sources may have been slightly off, or didn’t take the whole picture into focus, you did an excellent job. Similar to my pastor this Sunday preaching about marriage & divorce! Tough subject on which to opine without kicking someone out of the big tent.

47 Jonathan I. October 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Great summary of honour’s history. My impression though, is that the brevity of this article has prevented us from exploring honour in the the greatest sense. Up until now, this article’s focus has been on honour among men. With the advent of Christian philosophy, honour became not an individual or society based concept, but God centred.
There is a conflict between the honour of the Greeks and the honour of Rousseau (not really honour, but that’s a whole different issue), but the third player of religion should be considered.

48 Lukas October 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

I don’t think that the saying of “turn the other cheek” is a sign of christian pacifism. I once heard an interesting theory I want to share. Reading Matthew 5:39 it says, that you’ve been hit first on your right cheek. The majority of people are right-handed, so when they slap you with their right hand on your right cheek, they can only do it so with their back of the hand, which let you feel more humiliated (and it do hurts more because of the rings with jewels) than with the palm of hand, then obviously on your left cheek. So when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, it was more a saying of “get up and be equal to the man who slaps you”.

49 Carla October 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Rather inadequate to associate Rousseau with the Romantics, when he was a theorist of the Enlightenment. His work though was a source of inspiration for the romantic generation and the French revolution.
Just don’t call him a Romantic, that would be one big anachronism which would make him turn in his grave!

50 Quinn October 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

If honor was originally “having a reputation worthy of respect and admiration in a group of equal peers,” how then was it achieved? From reading Honor: A History, I gathered that the basis of this was the concept that one would not accept insult or injury without reprisal. If one were willing to avenge any injury or insult and one did so successfully (usually through combat), then one would be well of and develop a reputation worthy of respect within the honor group. There are two main parts to this that cannot be divorced from the concept: the honor group, because honor could not be achieved alone, and a willingness and ability to fight, first to develop, then to maintain the status. Both are directly at odds with Christianity as it was taught by Jesus. The idea that the meek would be celebrated and one would not strike back at an attack was revolutionary in human history.

Though many have mentioned examples from times prior to the Renaissance when individuals wrote about the dichotomy between the accepted practice of honor as understood at the time (externally) and how he felt about it (internally), these examples merely show that even though honor was socially accepted and a standard more, the recognition of its flaws (e.g. living a lie, like Lancelot) had been progressing from the advent of Christianity at least, if not before.

Brett, well written article that highlights many of the major points in the development of honor in the West.

51 Kire Du'Hai November 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Excellent article, well-researched and well-written.

I’ve one comment to make, however.

While I agree the decline of external honor led to the relativism of internal honor, Plato and Aristotle both adhered, from what I can tell, to an absolutist internal honor, which is neither.

Platonist honor comes from aspiring to a higher standard than oneself can apply; higher, even, than one can reach. It assumes an external code of character and integrity that is not made up of the opinions of other men, nor by oneself.

This is what Christianity is *supposed* to advocate – not internal, self-composed honor, nor external, society-composed honor – but Honor, capital H. An absolute standard beyond what men can create, know, or understand. Rules applied by a higher power.

And this Honor, I say, trumps both. Because when you get down to it, both internal, self-made codes of honor and external, society-based codes of honor are fickle and relative. They are mutable, temporal, and unstable. True Honor is not.

52 Caz November 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm

If you have access to facebook, I’d encourage a read of these articles on just what chivalry is and where it came from. It’s simply a term for honor in a particular honor group, and did exist (there were many treatises written on it at the time), and did not come from Arabs. The articles can also be found on lessonsontheenglishlongsword.blogspot.com, but the search functionality is difficult to get results from.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/lessons-on-the-english-longsword/on-chivalry/522188367797306

53 Caz November 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I suppose the articles I just referenced actually parallel these, but from another perspective.

54 Stengel99 November 13, 2012 at 12:19 am

WOW! What great insight. This is not your typical “how to tie a windsor knot” post! While some points might be debatable, the whole of the article is very thought provoking.

55 Dave November 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

As a Christian, I do not subscribe to the common misconception that Christians must be pacifists. As an earlier post mentions, the example Jesus uses of being struck on the cheek, and not responding in kind, refers to what the Christian’s response to insult should be. This in itself contradicts the ancient concept of “reflexive honor”, which demands retaliation upon the receipt of insult. It does not, however, prohibit the Christian from defending himself or his family, or his community or nation. On an international level, this can be illustrated by our national response to the 9/11/01 attacks. Had we merely been insulted by the Islamists (which was frequently the case), military retaliation certainly would not have been justified. But in the case of an actual attack upon our homeland in which innocent lives were targeted, a strong response by use of force was certainly justified.

56 Xenius November 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Muslim traditions may have entered into the West from the eighth century. But, look, their own ideas of honor derive from the same semitic sources as Christianity and thier notions of science come from the Greeks. Much of what we know of the Ancient , Pagan world comes from Al Andalus. Raymond Llully, a uniersal genius and author of some of the greatest ethical texts from the Middle Ages, recognized this and hoped to infuse the West with lost traditions but also attract the Muslims to Christianity. In other words, leaving the Muslims out of a discussion of honor is as justifiable as leaving out any other specific group.

57 Austen November 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Although I grant that this article’s scope may not cover this; I was intrigued at the casual dismisal of Roussoues’ theory on the solidarity of man. It seems unlikely that any anthropologist could have in any way proven that man has always been a social creature to the extent implied by the end of your article. Even if you took the oldest remains of man ever found on earth and examined conclusively identified jewelry, nearby stone drawings, and tents, could anything you find absolutely confirm that man was a social creature even at that time? It seems like a more inconclusive theory as opposed to a conclusively deniable social proposal.

To be more substantialy arguable, I find it interesting that you suggest christianity as contributing to the deconstruction of the honor concept. I can definitely see how that perception of Christian values would effect the honor concept, but I do not believe that christianity necessarily promoted inclusiveness and inner intent over outward appearance. The verse you quote from galations is in the context of sin and salvation, implying rather that all men are sinful in God’s eyes as well as welcome. There is still a concept of honor required, you cannot enter ‘the club’ of chrisitanity (I am referring to it as conveyed in the sense of the book of Acts) without making yourself accountable and subject to the scrutiny of your fellow christians. If you choose immorality over the christina way(i.e. the way of Jesus) then you cannot be welcome in their fellowship. The ‘exclusivity’ is present, but it has transformed from an accountability based on pride and physical strength to one based on humility and love.
My apologies if I didn’t notice any comments above for similar arguments….

58 Brett McKay November 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

@Austen-

Every anthropologist who had studied early man has concluded that he was a social creature. It would not have made sense to live way off on one’s own when survival depended on the pooling of resources. There could have been men who went off on their own, and probably were — honor means the possibility of being shamed and left outcast. I don’t suppose there’s anyway of proving 100% if man has always been a social animal, but all evidence certainly points to that, so it’s pretty close to certain in my book at least.

As far as Christianity goes, what you and others above have missed is that traditional honor is an entirely public thing. You are initiated publicly by the group, and whether you are living the code is judged entirely by your peers. And yet anyone can make the decision to become a Christian (at least when it comes to some varieties of the faith), and can even do it in the privacy of your closet. A man could convert to Christianity in a Communist country and keep it a secret his whole life, with only his conscience to guide him. And would not his fellow Christians say he was a Christian too? It is possible to join the “Christian honor group” and have it be a completely private thing. That God is the ultimate judge of how you have lived the code is in direct contradiction of traditional honor’s requirement that one’s peers are the ultimate judge of your behavior. There’s no way around that fact. Traditional honor also requires an intimate group with face-to-face contact, so that each member can monitor who is out and who is in. It is specific, not universal because the code only applies to the group, and you can’t just decide that you want in. If you’re not in already, others may invite you in, but it’s not up to you. Yet the “Christian honor group” numbers in the billions, and anyone can join whenever they decide to — it’s universal. Now a church can actually be a honor group, because it has the face-to-face intimate component where you are judged by your peers. But here we are talking about Christianity as a cultural force. In asserting that there is a universal code of behavior that all should adopt, that applied to all people, in all times, in all cultures, that was a higher code that one should choose above the code of one’s “tribe,” when its code and the Christian code contradicted, and that could ultimately only be judged by God himself, traditional honor was weakened.

59 Joshua December 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Brett,

Overall, excellent post and series. This is a subject that all men need to dwell on until we get it fixed. Thanks for your efforts to help us do that.

One critique: The fact that humans have always been social creatures and that relational problems entered into the human family after the fall of Adam and Eve are not mutually exclusive. Rousseau and gang weren’t working with the best scientific info, but then again, neither are the anthropologists, etc. who argue humans are descended from apes. The very thought is destructive to an objective basis for honor in my opinion.

Kudos to Jan Broucinek’s October 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm comment. Well said.
“Jesus was quite exclusive.” Still is.

To Jay and Marty: I’m not Protestant, or Roman Catholic. Just Christian. It never ceases to amaze me how people can read the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and come away thinking it supports the idea of “once saved always saved.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

60 Joshua December 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

One more thing concerning Christianity and traditional honor. I have no argument against the fact Christianity is incompatible with pure traditional honor. Christian honor, understood according to the Bible, is a blend between some elements of traditional honor, and the inward form of it as observed by God.

However, following your last comment above. True Christianity (i.e. according to the Bible) isn’t something one can get in his closet or practice all alone. It requires the public initiation rite of baptism (Acts 2:37-38; 1Peter 3:21) and observance of communion (which is exclusive), and requires assembling together with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25) (which assemblies in the earliest days of Christianity were occasions for public church discipline, and should be still if needed -1Timothy 5:21). Both medieval Roman Catholicism and post-reformation forms of Christianity, while hopefully still acceptable to God by grace, are sub-biblical.

61 Conner March 29, 2013 at 4:05 am

I am a pagan and mostly all of the tenents of traditional honor are a part of my faith

62 Gene Jarr April 13, 2013 at 7:30 am

Actually, Joshua, medieval Roman Catholicism is POST-biblical, as has is every church, today and back through history – Christianity is a work in progress. Christ is perfecting His Church, in order that on the last day, “Eph 5:27…. he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

As for Christian Pacifism, it is true, as Thom Gressman says, that Christian men have a holy obligation to defend their families, but it is also true that Jesus Himself did not lift a hand to defend Himself, nor do those who emulate Him most closely.

This is one of the rationales behind the voluntary celibacy practiced by the holy men of old and of today – as Paul pointed out, the married man has earthly obligations in addition to his obligation to God, whereas the single man is less encumbered. Wives and children must be supported and when needs be, defended (and a married man who refuses to support and defend his own is “worse than an infidel!”), but a single person is free to more completely pursue Jesus’s personal example of poverty and nonresistance.

63 Juan June 12, 2013 at 6:39 am

Great post. I think that both types of honor, private and public are necessary for true honor. One cannot let themselves get away with something in private that they would not do in public. This is integrity both to yourself and to your public reputation. Otherwise, as Mr. McKay pointed out, one would be a hypocrite if one was honorable in public and not in private and that is not truly honorable.

64 Lancer June 13, 2013 at 12:13 am

Great article, I think I’ll print the whole series out , to read, and to give to some young men I’m mentoring. I have never seen or read an article that I have agreed with entirely. and this one is no exception. However I do love a good discussion and we get that in spades. keep up the good work and I look forward to more articles and topics.

65 Bjarke December 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I’d like to comment about Socrates:

“What mattered to the great philosopher wasn’t the opinion of others (the basis of traditional honor), but rather knowing he lived according to what he thought was just. Put another way, Socrates chose integrity to his personal ideal over the public honor of his followers.”

I don’t think this is entirely accurate. What Socrates was talking about (in what I’m sure you’re referring to: Plato’s apology) wasn’t what he thought was just, but what was just. A perfect universal justice which exists “outside” the everyday world. A good analogy would be the perfect world of mathematical truths, which he also refers to in Gorgias. It wasn’t about following his personal ideals, but about doing what was right – something which isn’t relative or up for debate.

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