The first lesson is: take responsibility for your walls. The virtue is: personal responsibility. Here Bertrand steers a much-needed clear course between personal autonomy and over-reliance on spiritual mentors:
Treat spiritual advice as you would a movie review. Draw upon the wisdom of others to form your own judgments – but form your own judgments (p 150).
In this section he also deals with discernment and makes an interesting distinction between engagers and discerners. The table summarises his views:
| Engagers ||Discerners|
| Descriptions|| Getting involved with culture|
Looking for ways to appreciate culture
Measuring cultural expressions against Christian norms
Looking for ways in which to screen books and films for objectionable or uplifting content
| Strengths||Look for something good|
Give more space to fiction
|Trying to protect from something bad|
More interested in testing the spirit of non-fiction
|Weaknesses||May end up christening some questionable stuff||May flip the baby out with the bathwater|
This is an interesting distinction but as Bertrand acknowledges, we all in some sense do both, but tend to gravitate to one or the other. I would want to say that both are important and that we need to engage with discernment.
His second lesson is that we should constantly repair the walls; the accompanying virtue is self-control. This sounds a little dull, but Bertrand describes self control as ‘stewardship of the passions’. If we see it in this light then self-control can become sexy!
Lesson three is ‘guard your foundations’. We need to have a worldview awareness and cease to be a passive receptor of others’ influences.
Plan for unexpected attacks – is lesson four. We can do this by being flexible:
… our confidence must be based not on circumstances (which change) but on the Lord of the circumstance (p 160).
The fifth and final lesson is ‘remember to close the gate’. An unclosed gate was the eventual downfall of Constantinople. Care is required at all times.
Bertrand concludes this chapter thus:
The defense of Constantinople was unsuccessful. By cultivating the virtues of personal responsibility, self-control, worldview awareness, flexibility and care, perhaps the battle for our own minds will yield a far happier result (p. 163)