Introduction for the Orthosphere
I have a young son. I plan one day to talk to him about becoming a man. Of course, I currently mention the topic from time to time. But my son will need more systematic instruction, at least to lay the groundwork for thinking correctly about the realities of being a man. Thus the present work, which is a provisional script for what I plan to teach.
Introduction: One day, you’ll be an adult
Today you’re a boy. A child. But one day you’ll be a man. An adult.
Becoming an adult is a big change. As an adult, you’ll need to take responsibility for your own life. Now, what does that mean?
When you’re a child, your parents protect you. They protect you from the dangers that come from outside forces, and they also try to protect you from the harm you bring on yourself when you do the wrong thing. When you’re a child you get used to this protection. You learn to rely on your parents to protect you.
Of course, they don’t protect you perfectly. And even as a child, you learn to protect yourself in certain situations. But when you’re a child you know that an adult will rescue you (or at least try) if you get in major trouble.
But when you’re an adult people no longer protect you. When you’re an adult people expect you to protect yourself. Therefore as you grow up you must change your ways. You must learn to do things for yourself. Sure, even an adult must sometimes ask for help. Nobody can do everything for themselves. But most of the time, as an adult, you must take responsibility for your own well-being. To be an adult you need to understanding what must be done, and then do it, without someone else telling you what to do. If can’t do these things well, you won’t succeed in life.
So you need to begin understanding what it takes to be a man.
There is also the fact that being a child is often fun. You don’t have to work hard at a job to earn money; your parents take care of that. You don’t have to worry about inflation and recession and wars and earthquakes and other such things; your parents do the worrying for you. And even if your parents and your school push you to do schoolwork, you have plenty of free time, at least on weekends, to do all the fun things that children enjoy doing. Being a child seems to be more fun that being an adult and therefore many children want to remain children forever.
But that doesn’t happen. Children always become adults. The children who don’t want to grow up, grow up to be bad adults. And the children who understand that they must grow up, become better adults. You should want to be the second type of child.
As you grow up, it’s certain that you’ll become a man. But it’s not certain that you’ll become a good man. Good men, that is, men who do well what it takes to be a man, don’t develop automatically. They must work hard to become good. And, most importantly, they must know what makes a man good. You can’t work on becoming a good man if you don’t know what you’re supposed to become.
It’s a fact, not generally admitted these days, that becoming a man is a fundamentally different process from becoming a woman. And we don’t just mean that the final result is different! Becoming a man is an achievement unlike becoming a woman.
This is not to say that for a girl to become a good woman does not require hard work. A girl has as many sinful tendencies as a boy, and she must fight them just as hard as a boy if she is to grow up to become a good woman. In this respect, girls and boys are equal.
But to become a man you must prove to yourself and others that you have strength and ability. You must show others, and yourself, that you are able to work hard, that you have valuable skills, and that you’re able to defend yourself and your family. You have to prove that you have what it takes to be a good man. These abilities, and the respect from others that they bring, don’t occur automatically.
So your job, as a boy, is to work on becoming a good man. And you can’t wait until you’re eighteen years old to begin learning how to be an adult. By then it will probably be too late because the longer you practice bad habits, the harder it is change them.
You also need to know why you should want to be a good man. A boy needs a reason to want to do the hard work of becoming a good man. A reason to want something is usually called a motivation, so a boy (and a man) needs a motivation to do the hard work of becoming good.
This motivation must have two basic sources. One, you must know God and want to honor Him. You must come to know the true God, that is, the God described in the Bible, and you must know how properly to honor Him. And two, you must find at least one thing in the world (and preferably several things) that you love, for if you love something then you have a motivation to be a good man. Of course, you must not come to love something false, evil or ugly, for then you will become a source of trouble for yourself and the people around you.
How to receive advice
There’s a lot of advice I could give you. Enough to fill libraries. But just learning a bunch of rules is no fun. It tires you out. What you need is a way to understand the “big picture,” that is, the overall situation. If you know the big picture then it’s easier and more fun to learn the details that fill in the picture.
We’ll come to the big picture soon, but first I have to give you some advice about advice.
I’ll be giving you lots of specific advice. Since children have a lot to learn, that can’t be avoided. But since a massive amount of advice can seem overwhelming, look at it this way:
In this essay, I’ll be describing many values, that is, things that are good and that you should want. A “value” is something that people want, something that has value. And the values I describe here are ideals. They are things that mankind can never have perfectly, but that a man should try hard to achieve.
Nobody achieves these ideals perfectly, but we need to know them and honor them. To begin following my advice, take small steps toward developing good habits. You can’t do them all at once, so do a few things that are possible right now. And as you get better and better at the things you start with, continue to add a few more ideals that you work on. This process will last your entire life, but that cannot be helped. Man is always an imperfect creature, but he can always work on making himself better.
But what’s more important than trying to follow all of the advice right now is to understand what you must do, and why. If you have this understanding, and if you have a motivation, then it’s possible to grow up to be a good man.
The big picture
OK, here’s the big picture. Here are the three most important things for a boy to know about being a man. The rest of this essay will fill out the meaning of these three points:
One, the world has a God-given order, and you must come to know this order, honor it, and take your place in it.
Two, the world is a battlefield. As a man you must do battle against the weak and sinful parts of yourself, and against the evil powers that are trying to ruin your family, your community, your nation, and your religion.
And three, a man is a leader. The battle of life requires leaders, and God designed men to take this role.
OK. Now that you know what they are, let’s talk more about each of these three points:
The order of the world
What does it mean to say that the world has an order? Most basically it means that all the things of the world were intended to be arranged in a certain way. This arrangement was designed by God, the world’s creator. But although things should fit together in certain ways, man, because of his sinfulness, does not always honor this order.
The simplest example of an order is the system of numbers. You learn about them in your mathematics class. Numbers do not just exist by themselves, they have an order. If you pick any two numbers, one of them is greater and the other is lesser. They have different values, and they belong in different places on the number line.
It’s similar with all the things of the world. They have different values, and each one belongs in a certain place. A husband belongs with his wife, not other man. Children belong with their parents, not with other adults. My son is more valuable than my dog, and my dog is more valuable than my rose bushes. People belong in church one day each week to worship God and learn His teachings. Those who commit crimes belong in prison or even in front of an executioner. And so on.
Of course, there is freedom within God’s order. But not absolute, unlimited freedom. Man’s proper freedom has limits, and to go beyond these limits is to commit sin and to earn God’s condemnation.
As a child who will grow up to be a man, it’s your duty to begin learning about the order of the world. And the most basic truth about this order is that it is divided into three large parts. One is the order of the natural world, called the natural order, which is studied by the sciences: physics, geology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and so on. [Yes, mathematics and philosophy are sciences, that is, organized bodies of knowledge.] Another part is the social order, the order of the human world, which has to do with what man is like and how he lives in a community with other people. And the third part is the divine order, which is learned from the Bible and concerns the things of God, especially how man is properly to understand God and honor Him.
Finding something to love
Learning the order of the world is not easy. It takes time and work. So it’s important to find something, at least one thing, which you love, because this love makes you want to learn more about the order of the world. Here’s an example.
When I was a boy my father gave me a book on the history of aviation. Although it was intended for children, it discussed aviation in a serious way and I became fascinated with aircraft.
But since it was a book on the history of aviation, it also discussed a lot of history. And this included World Wars I and II, which I also found fascinating. The book gave me a brief glimpse into the amazing and shocking events of the World Wars, and it made me want to learn more about them. So I began to read books about the World Wars, especially World War II, which had only been over for about 20 years at the time I first became interested in it.
And as I learned more about World War II, and grew older, I became interested in learning about how the nations of the world could have gotten themselves into the bad place of launching massive and disastrous wars that killed tens of millions of people and devastated entire continents. How could such awesome and shocking events come about? And this question made me want to learn about the history of the world and the ways that different nations, ethnicities and religions think and live.
And then there are the scientific and technological aspects to aviation and war, and the many other subjects that an interest in aircraft and warfare led me into.
My point is this: By coming to love and be interested in one specific thing (aviation), I was gradually led to become interested in many subjects, all of which combined to begin giving me an understanding the big picture of how the whole world works. (I say “begin giving” because coming to understand the big picture is a never-ending education.)
As an adult you, like me, will need to begin understanding the big picture. You will probably not come to love aviation as I did, but you need to start with at least one thing (in other words, one topic or one subject) that you love. Only by finding something that you love and want to know more about can you begin to get the motivation to study the workings of the world.
The battle of life
The second basic truth that a boy (I should say a young man) needs to know is that the world is a battlefield. That’s because things don’t always happen the right way. The world has a natural tendency to fall apart on its own, even if nobody is trying to take it apart. And there are many evil people, evil groups and evil ideas that threaten everything that you love (or should love), such as your family, your nation and your religion. There are criminals who threaten us physically. There are false teachers who threaten us intellectually and spiritually. There are organizations dedicated to tearing down the God-designed order of our nation and replacing it with a man-made and anti-God social order. And so on.
When you are a man, therefore, you need to protect yourself and the community of which you are a part by understanding the battle. Those who study the ways of war know that a soldier must understand his enemy. He must understand what the enemy is like, how he thinks, and how he fights, so that he can oppose him effectively. And the soldier must also understand how war is carried out. And what is true about literal warfare is also true about the war of life in which all people participate, whether they know it or not. As a man, you need to understand the war of life.
Yes, there is also a lot of good in the world. The world contains truth, goodness and beauty that you can enjoy and that can nourish you. There are beautiful sunsets, playful and loyal dogs, tasty and nourishing food, faithful friends and faithful teachers of God’s Word. But you must also understand what is wrong with the world so you can defend yourself and those you love.
You will be a leader
The third basic truth a young man needs to know is that a man is a leader. That’s because God made him that way. Somebody has to lead, and this responsibility naturally falls to men. Yes, women sometimes lead. But overall, men do a better job of leading.
So when you are a man you will be a leader, whether you want it or not. As a husband, you will lead your family. As a worker, you will probably rise to a position of leadership over some of your co-workers. You may be a leader in your church or other non-business organization. And there are many other positions of leadership that you may occupy.
But know this: Leadership does not necessarily mean having the official title of a leader such as a president, pastor, or CEO. More fundamentally, leadership means understanding how the world operates and then taking responsibility for doing your part to make things go better in your family, your neighborhood, your church, your job, and so on. If you are this sort of person then as you grow older people will recognize your abilities, and you will probably achieve positions of official leadership. But the “leadership” to which we refer here is a matter of your knowledge, wisdom and good moral virtue, and so it is something to which every man should aspire. And people everywhere naturally look to men to lead.
Your only choice, therefore, is whether or not to be a good leader. And as a leader you will be engaged in a battle, whether you know it or not. Your family will be threatened, not only by criminals but also by false teachings that come in by way of the media, by the natural laziness and sinfulness of all members of your family, including you, and by other threats too numerous to mention. Your religion will be threatened by false teachers, by organized oppression originating from certain parts of the government, and by other threats too numerous to list here. Your country will be threatened by bad political ideas, by hostile foreigners, by the natural sinfulness of its citizens, and by other threats. And so on and so forth.
The threat of liberalism
The threats mentioned above have existed in every age. But these days there is a specific battle going on about which you need to know. The two sides are generally called “liberalism” and “conservatism.” These two sides are not sharply defined, because most people are partly liberal and partly conservative, and because there are some good and some bad ideas and people on both sides. But in general, and although we acknowledge that there are exceptions, the liberals are dedicated to opposing God and establishing rules for society and government that oppose what God wants for man. The word “liberal” comes from a Latin word meaning “free,” and liberals want man to be free from God’s rule.
True, not all liberals want man to be completely free from God’s rule. If a liberal has a part of him that does not oppose God, then that is the non-liberal part of him. Liberal people do not necessarily oppose God all the way. But liberalism, that is, the liberal way of thinking, opposes God.
And the people who mostly support what God wants for man and human society are usually called conservatives. There are varieties of conservatism, some of which are more infected with liberalism than others, but the good side of the battle, these days, is generally known as conservatism.
So there’s a battle going on. As a leader, you’ll need to support one side and defend yourself and those you love from the threat that comes from other side. The only question is which side you’ll support. And if you refuse to fight (or don’t know what’s going on), you’ll only be helping the strongest side to win. Everyone is on one side or another.
Being a leader
A good leader is not necessarily a man who issues orders that must be obeyed. Some leaders occupy positions like this, but in general a good leader is a man who understands what must be done and then makes sure that it is done. Leadership, therefore, requires two things: understanding and action.
In order to know what must be done, you must understand how the world works, and how it should work if all people honored God. A good leader must have a lot of knowledge about the world, especially since so many people are constantly trying to get us to believe things that are false. The most important battle is between truth and falsehood.
So as a leader-in-training, a young man must begin learning about the order of the world. We say “begin learning” because the process never ends. You cannot learn everything about the world and then sit back and relax for the rest of your days. Learning never ends.
[If you don’t like the thought of a never-ending process of learning, consider this: The most enjoyable type of learning is when you learn more about a subject you already know. Once you know something, it’s easier and more fun to learn more about it.]
The most important knowledge is knowledge of God, as He is revealed in the Bible. Knowing about God, like knowing about the world generally, is not done just by learning a bunch of facts. Yes, you do need to know many facts, but that’s not enough. You must also understand how the system works. You must understand how the many facts fit together to make one system that works in a certain way. This is true for the system of Christianity, and for the other systems of knowledge about the world, such as chemistry, economics, politics, psychology, and so on.
Here’s an example of why you need to understand things as a system. The Bible says that we are saved from God’s punishment for our sins only by repentance and faith in Christ. See, for example, Ephesians 2:8—9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
But the same Bible also says that faith without works cannot save us. See James 2:14—17:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
This seems to say that repentance and faith are not enough.
So one part of the Bible says that repentance and faith are enough for you to be saved, and another part seems to say that they are not enough. The Bible appears to oppose itself.
The man who does not care about Christianity as a system will just shrug it off and say “Religions isn’t designed to make sense.” But the good man will try to understand how the facts fit together into a system that makes sense.
In this example, the solution of the problem is that repentance and faith in Christ are the only things that cause us to be saved, but saved men and women always do good works. Therefore the one who has no good works is shown to be unsaved. Good works are the result salvation, not the cause of salvation.
The solution of this problem is not difficult to understand, once you’ve had it explained to you. [Difficult to accept, maybe. Difficult to understand, no.] But many people don’t make the effort to understand the system. They’re content just to know a few things about it, even if these things don’t make sense together. You should not be like these people.
Understanding the system of Christianity is also important because there are many Christians (or so-called Christians) who misunderstand Christianity and who teach these errors to others. The Christian world contains a lot of bad teaching, and you need to be able to recognize these errors and reject them. Therefore a good leader must be a student of Christianity.
Why is a man a leader? Because God created him that way. Men are especially interested in understanding how the things of the world work. And most men are also interested in working to make sure that the things over which they have influence work well.
In contrast, most women do not have these desires. Most women are mostly interested in having good relationships with their family, friends and acquaintances, and in having comforts at home. We do not say this to put women down; the world needs good relationships and comfort at home. But to be a good leader you must not have your highest goals to be achieving good relationships with people and comfort at home. A leader must be able to do what’s right even if other people don’t like it, and he must be able to endure pain when it’s necessary to do the right thing. Therefore most women are not suited to be leaders. That’s usually the man’s job.
So, my son, one day people will look to you to be a leader. On that day, if you’re not the type of man who can be a good leader, people will look down on you, even if they don’t say so to your face.
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