Read: The History of the Waldensians by J.A. Wylie

Reading The History of the Waldensians was a great experience for me. As a child, my favorite book was a book about the Valdese. While other boys were fighting Indians and dragons in their backyard, I was loosing the arrow that slew the Black Mondovi, defending Rora with Gianavello, and marching with Arnaud in the Glorious Return.

When I found Wylie’s The History of the Waldensians in the Kindle store, I immediately downloaded it and began reading. Wylie gives a far more exhaustive history than I had ever previously read, and draws heavily on primary sources in languages that I cannot read. The story of a people who took such a firm stand for truth in the face of persecution for so many centuries inspires like nothing else. The testimony of Barthelemy Hector prior to his martyrdom is just one of the countless examples of the boldness of these simple mountain farmers in the face of the persecutions of the dragon.

“You have been caught in the act,” said his judge, “of selling books that contain heresy. What say you?” “If the Bible is heresy to you, it is truth to me,” replied the prisoner. “But you use the Bible to deter men from going to mass,” urged the judge. “If the Bible deters men from going to mass,” responded Barthelemy, “it is a proof that God disapproves of it, and that mass is idolatry.” The judge, deeming it expedient to make short shrift with such a heretic, exclaimed, “Retract.” “I have spoken only truth,” said the bookseller, “can I change truth as I would a garment?”

Sant'Ignazio_Church_2013-09-16
Church of Ignatius Loyola (chapel of Papal semenary until replaced by newer, larger church), Rome

Reading this history brought back memories of Italy, and the dramatic differences I noticed between the ornate and opulent churches and statuary in Rome and the simple churches of the Waldensian valleys. While the idol of Peter has a worn toe from all the people worshiping it, the churches in the valleys were devoid of not just of idols but also of frivolous ornamentation. Climbing to the cupola of St. Peter’s was fun, but climbing Mount Castelluzzo to the precipice where so many gave their lives for their faith in Christ was truly inspiring experience.

College of the Barbes (Vaudois semenary), Pra del Tor
College of the Barbes (Vaudois semenary), Pra del Tor

Despite my joy in discovering and reading this book, I did have some frustration with the Kindle edition I read. It appears that the transcription of the original was not adequately proofread, as there are more doubled words and misspellings that I have ever seen in a print book. This is in addition to the expected archaic spellings. The prevalence of these typos was not so high as to impact the readability of the book, but was high enough to be annoying.

In short, I highly recommend this book. Both the church history and military history of this small group that maintained such unswerving faith in the face of centuries of organized persecution and military assault are amazing testaments to the power of God to preserve both His Truth and His people.

Actions beat words

 

Are you working in the vineyard? Or are you only talking about it?

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go.Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” —Matthew 21:28-31 (NASB)

Choosing technologies

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote: The opposite of manliness isn’t cowardice; it’s technology. ― The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms I think he oversimplified, but there is truth behind the statement. While technology in and of itself is not unmanly, dependence on it certainly can be. So how does a man evaluate the various technologies … Read more…

Read: Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

It’s been quite a while since I’ve finished this book, but I put off writing a review until now. And really, this will not be so much a review as comments predicated by the book. This book is not a light read. While the main gist is intuitive and easy to grasp, some parts of the book are quite technical and dense. Generally speaking though, it was an excellent book.

The concept of antifragility is something that gets stronger through uncertainty, disorder, or abuse. Think, for example, Christianity: the blood of the martyrs was the seed from which more believers sprang up. While the robust withstands insult, the antifragile is improved by it. Although Taleb does not really get into it in the book, I believe that the concept of antifragility is especially suited to discussing masculinity and manliness.

Manliness is the ultimate example of antifragilty. It thrives in chaos and disorder, and atrophies in peace and safety. Even today, the enclaves of manliness that exist are inexricably tied to increased danger and chaos. Thus, increasing antifragility will also increase masculinity. This is a fundamental concept missing in many modern analyses of masculinity–we think that we can preserve manliness somehow while simultaneously eliminating the chaos and danger that it thrives on. People lament “Peter-Pan man-boys,” but cheer the safety and stability that caused them.

Jack Donovan is one of the few who understand this, saying: “Manliness requires the opportunity for risk, and those opportunities are decreasing in our highly controlled, pacified society. Men need chaos to restart the world.” In fact, reading Donovan’s The Way of Men and Taleb’s Antifragile together makes the link between masculinity and antifragility very clear.

Chaos can not be held down forever. The longer it is held down, the more masculinity will decline, and the fewer men will be prepared to meet it when it rises again.