What does that mean? It means that the modern mandate of dignity against honor undermines any aspiration to virtue. A world without honor is a world of competing claims to dignity. Simultaneously, it is a world without any culturally compelling notion of what it means to be a good person, worthy of honor. It is a world without any culturally compelling notion of what it means to be an honorable society.
The modern prophets of cultural deconstruction, fueled by Marxist critical theory and its many permutations, claim that human liberation can come only by overthrowing the very idea of honor. They point to wars of honor and even to honor codes as evidence of patriarchy, elitism, and moral coercion.
Christians understand all too well how badly honor can be corrupted and misconstrued. We understand that sin threatens to turn every virtue into a vice and that sinful human beings will distort even the virtue of honor. We confess that Christians often fall short of God’s command both to show honor where honor is due and to live honorable lives before the world.
And yet, a world without honor is a world without virtue—a world that has traded light for darkness. A world without honor is a cruel world of crumbling institutions, weakening societies, moral relativism, and a raw lust for power. Look around and see the fracturing of the family, the subversion of marriage, the political intrigues of governments unrestrained by the demand for honor. In a world without honor, the powers that be become deadly powers indeed.
A world without honor would be a world in which a soldier would no longer seek honor on the battlefield, in which a husband and father would no longer seek to deserve honor from his wife and children, in which parents would no longer be bound by honor to remain together in marriage, in which there would be no earthly explanation for why anyone, given the right opportunity, would not lie, cheat, steal, destroy, disparage, defile, commit adultery, or even murder.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells Christians to prize “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” In a world without honor, nothing is honorable, nothing is true, nothing is just, nothing is pure, nothing is lovely, nothing is commendable. In such a world, no one aspires to honor, so no virtue survives and no one is safe.