Chivalry: The Quest for a Personal Code of Honor in an Unjust World
Zach Hunter (Tyndale, 2013)
Zach Hunter’s book, Chivalry, is not, in fact, an attempt to recover classical chivalric ideals and apply them to contemporary life, but his project is nevertheless an admirable and well-meaning one. Using the language of older chivalric codes to stand for more general moral principles, Hunter has put together a book aimed at forming virtue in adolescent generations that may have never been taught to think in virtue categories at all. While Hunter himself does seem to present the project as a modern application of medieval honor codes, his “ten principles” come across as ahistorical and thinly researched. Nevertheless, this inconsistency does not hinder him from going ahead toward his goal of instructing young readers in the arts of doing justice in their communities.
This mission, praiseworthy as it is, leads Hunter onto slippery ground in some places. The chivalric codes he presents is valuable, he argues, in so much as it teaches readers how to value and perform justice. Such an emphasis naturally includes a concern for social justice. Charitable attitudes toward social groups like homosexuals are rightly emphasized, but concepts like tolerance and pluralism are left vague and undeveloped so that, in an attempt not to say “too much,” Hunter comes dangerously close to not saying enough. One wonders whether this is the result of constraints placed upon him by a big publisher (leaving the door open for liberalism can be good for sales numbers), or simply an artistic oversight. The imperfection sustains, but it does not ultimately make the book a less successful one.
Chivalry’s tone is popular and devotional, not quite achieving the programmatic, transformative nature the author clearly intended. Nevertheless, in an epoch where even the Church has cut itself loose from historical moorings and no longer enjoys access to older, established paradigms of virtue formation, Hunter’s book is a well-meaning step in the right direction.
I received a copy of Chivalry gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.