Building the Chest

Men without chests. This phrase is coined by C.S. Lewis in response to what he found in his contemporaries' textbooks used in England. He comments on the chest and the lack there-of in his timeless book The Abolition of Man.

Lewis defines the chest this way:

As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the “spirited element.” The head rules the belly through the chest . . . of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments...for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.

A poster hanging in the Hillcrest hallway states: 

The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.
~C.S. Lewis 

The poster and the definition of the chest point to how Lewis views the heart, head and chest. From the heart, or stomach, come emotions and a driving force that resists the strongest opposition. The head operates the logic processing man does. The chest is what encapsulates the man to operate both as an intelligent being and also as a passionate resident of earth. The chest is what keeps mankind from being a machine acting out a program instilled within it and from being an animal acting on the wanton lusts of whatever is before it's eyes.

Lewis' fear is that education teaches strictly to the intellect and rarely considers the heart and stomach. He defines this in the teaching of right and wrong, noting that understanding right and wrong involves more than a logical and cerebral process. His driving force is that mankind would understand the indespible connection with nobility, joy and purpose in defining and acting on moral understanding.

Lewis notes that what he was finding in modern education was a cause and effect approach to moral instruction rather than a designed and passionate interaction with the Biblical character of God. It could be said that there is a need to instruct what makes something right and wrong rather than what is right and wrong. Teaching students how to think rather than what to think.

Commenting on the mechanistic drive of modern education, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University R.J. Snell echoes the passion of Lewis.

Snell makes the comment: the end, the intellectual life is not about the intellect nearly so much as is sometimes suggested. If my students end up as academic philosophers, that’s all fine and well; if they publish articles, as some former students have, I’ll be pleased and proud. But that’s not the point, which is to live well, and for that one needs a chest, one needs some spirit, and one must feel a whiff of contempt for the contemptible. This is, or ought to be, an education in liking and disliking, of having contempt the right way, for the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. 

A constant drive at Hillcrest is to explain the nature and quality of God. Because, as Image-bearers, we are designed to reflect his character. We find purpose and meaning not only in knowing the difference of right and wrong, a truth Adam and Eve pursued, but in dwelling and living the concepts. Operating as those who reflect right in the world and abhor the wrongs of the world. This is what equips students to live a life of Significance. 

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