Volume 20 Issue 8
The trousered ape, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, is a fascinating conceptualization of the state of education in modern society. In perhaps his most controversial work, The Abolition of Man, Lewis contends that certain approaches in education and training leave students clearly lacking depth of understanding. This deficit then allows the mind and heart to content itself with the anchoring of beliefs around feelings. Once feelings become the standard measurement of judgment it destroys life’s ultimate search for truth. Lewis points out that the product of such methodologies is merely a “trousered ape,” a man he describes as so shallow in soul and mind and beneath any real sensibility that he can look at the ocean and conclude it is nothing more than, “so many million tons of cold salt water.” In his limited conceptualization he misses the mystery of the sea, its living creatures, its exotic plants, its vast space upon the earth, and its possible secrets pertaining to life itself. Further Lewis posits that the eventuality of the dumbing down of man is the abolition of man. Wrong teaching leads to wrong values, wrong philosophical foundations, wrong purposes, wrong doctrine, and so forth.
Lewis’ horrific conclusion however is not that this tragedy is taking place, but that perhaps these “trousered apes” are being manufactured – that reducing men to utter mindlessness is a deliberate objective of certain types of educators. He suggests, “The urban blockhead may be precisely the kind of man they really wish to produce.” It is about power, and it is much easier for powerseekers to control people devoid of understanding, depth, and uninterested in the real meanings or consequences of their beliefs.
Sadly, if we dare to look we will find the seeds of abolition strewn about the Church. Undoubtedly, spiritual ignorance is rising rapidly. Substitution of truth, doctrine, and the searching of scripture in preference of religion based on how one feels about God is all too common, even among some Apostolics. There is a grievous loss of spiritual depth among us and it has separated those in its grasp from any ordinate considerations, basic points of reference, landmarks and most tragically absolutes. Consequently, these lost souls are left with feelings based on feelings – a prescription for carnality and chaos.
Is this the kind of spiritual man some want to create? For if issues are settled by how one merely feels about them then this allows both the teacher and the student to do their own thing and a playground of permissibility is created. Is the lust of false prophets and false teachers inspiring them to sacrifice truth so that they themselves can become the center of attention and manipulate sinners and weak saints for their own profit or egos? This possibility should not be ignored, as the scripture warns, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).
In today’s world we may be a bit uncomfortable reading 2 Peter 2:3, but ignoring such apostolic admonitions is to our own endangerment. It reads, “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Feelings are unreliable and too often leave the bearer as an easy target for deception. Similarly, learning and man’s wisdom can be shadowed by egoism that clouds true understanding. Therefore one must be willing to deny shallow emotion and the allure of our own understanding and deal with the heart. For it is in the heart where a right relationship with truth, God, and each other can be established. The “deep calls to deep” and although we are assured that, “the world by wisdom knew not God”(1 Corinthians 1:21) we are right to ask, “How then may we know?” We know by the Power of the Spirit, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Spirit desires for us to be “thoroughly furnished,” wise, filled with understanding and doctrine (2 Timothy 3:13-17). Without a foundation of scripture, doctrine, and instruction in righteousness there is great risk of abolition. Hearts may lose their appreciation and longing for the holy, the divine, the power of the Name of Jesus. When left with only a form of Godliness things destruction is imminent.
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalms 119:130). What if this generation blocks the entrance of His Word? Or worse, what if there are some who will attempt to deliberately misguide this generation away from the Word? Will our pews be filled with “trousered apes” that sing out mindless songs, amen predicable clichés, and practice rote forms of worship? Will we manufacture “saints” to line the church coffers in exchange for speaking smooth things that accommodate lifestyles in conflict with holiness and morals? It is possible. And, the great loss is that any possibility of reconciliation with God then becomes impossible because connection with God cannot be achieved in spiritual ignorance. Neither can it exist in human feelings. True oneness with God can only come through agreement with truth and spirit. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).
May we awaken our sensitivities to the depth of all that is about being a Christian. The life itself, the joy, the peace, the power, the meaning, the potential, the eternalness, the mission, the love and most of all, the walk with the one creator — God whose name revealed to us is Jesus.