Friday, June 27, 2008

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Have you ever lied? Ever stolen anything? You may recognize these questions as part of The Way of the Master, an evangelism method made popular by Ray Comfort's ground-breaking book, Hell's Best Kept Secret (HBKS), which focuses on effective, biblical evangelism through the use of God's law, The Ten Commandments.

In the book, Comfort observes that 80-90% of those who initially make a profession of faith in Christ eventually fall away, because they were never given the true gospel to begin with. Comfort observes that in prior centuries, preachers like Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards would openly issue warnings of the consequences of sin using a four letter word that began with the letter H. But in the modern church, the mention of "hell" is avoided for fear that it will seem offensive to the sinner. So the modern gospel is reduced to three words: "Jesus loves you." With no clear understanding of what sin is and why they will be punished for it, sinners cannot appreciate the magnitude of Christ's love. The point of Comfort's book is that both sides of God's character must be presented in order for an unregenerate sinner to clearly understand the gospel message. It is true that "God is love," (1 John 4:8, 16), but it is also true that God will judge us for our sins, and that He is "angry with the wicked every day," (Psalm 7:11).

So what does an evangelism method like The Way of the Master (WOTM) have to do with masculinity? Could an evangelism method hold the answer to unbalanced gender relations within the local church? I think it can, when you consider that the "soft" gospel described by Ray Comfort in HBKS has not only produced millions of false converts, but it has also feminized the modern church to the point of driving men away.

David Murrow's eye-opening book, Why Men Hate Going to Church encourages the reader to give consideration to some outstanding insights on the modern church and it's tendency to repel men. The book is ground-breaking in its attempts at pinpointing how many aspects of the modern church have become largely feminized, and therefore uncomfortable for many men. Murrow's belief is that a balance between the masculine and feminine should be present within the church, and uses the analogy of a thermostat to illustrate his point. If the thermostat in your home is set too high or too low, you will be uncomfortable. In the same manner, Murrow believes that the thermostat in most churches today are set too high on "feminine" and therefore are stifling to the masculine spirit.

Although Murrow does not ever mention Ray Comfort, HBKS, or WOTM in his book, it can be argued that there is a correlation between his observations about the feminized church and the inadequacy of the false (if not feminine) gospel used by many in their evangelism efforts as described by Comfort. A feminized gospel does not motivate false Christians to come to Christ, nor does it motivate male Christians to come to church. Consider some of the very valid points Murrow makes:

Ignore what is being preached from the pulpit and look what actually happens on Sunday morning. Almost everything about today's church . . . is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a largely female audience. Church is sweet and sentimental, nurturing and nice (p. 14).

What does today's church emphasize? Relationships: a personal relationship with Jesus and healthy relationships with others. By focusing on relationships, the local church partners with women to fulfill their deepest longing. But few churches model men's values: risk and reward, accomplishment, heroic sacrifice, action, and adventure (p. 15).

Jesus had no problem attracting men. Fishermen dropped their nets full of fish to follow Him, but today's church can't convince men to drop their remote controls for a couple of hours a week. The good news is, Jesus is alive today. He wants to speak to men. If only the church will let Him (p. 17).


Murrow describes how much of what Jesus offered the early Christians were principles rooted in men's values: competence, power, efficiency, achievement, skill, competition, challenge, and adventure. The early church was full of opportunities for men to be men. Many of these opportunities are found in proper biblical evangelism as outlined in HBKS. Yet most churches do not encourage their members to evangelize, and when they do, the preferred method of choice is "friendship evangelism." There is no challenge or adventure in establishing a "relationship" with someone for months in order to build up the courage to tell them "Jesus loves you." No, real challenge and adventure is rooted in circumventing the intellect to go for the conscience - to use the law to convict the sinner of their guilt before God. Is it any coincidence that most evangelism circles are dominated by men?

While Comfort has demonstrated the effect of a one-sided gospel on the lost, Murrow has demonstrated the effect of a one-sided gospel on the saved. When the church's values are overtly feminine, men are not the only ones who suffer. Women are at a loss to understand how they can help the men in their lives to cultivate more of an interest in church activities.

Although I disagree with most of the social and anthropological explanations for male and female behavior that Murrow provides, (I believe maleness and femaleness are divine assignments from God not rooted in psychology, sociology, or anthropology), the book is worth the read for the numerous recommendations Murrow gives for bringing the church back into balance. The answer to a healthy, balanced church is a healthy, balanced gospel. As women, we can do our part by allowing the fullness of God to speak through His creation. The Bible says He created them male and female. We should not discourage men from expressing the masculine traits of the Christian faith. Let God be expressed through us in completeness: the perfect balance of love and judgment, nurturing and discipline, submission and leadership.



References



The Way of the Master


Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2002). The way of the Master. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale.

Comfort, R. (1989). Hell's best kept secret. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Murrow, D. (2005). Why men hate going to church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thank You!

God has blessed me so much through the creation of this blog. It is hard to believe that a year ago I was steeped in anger, and when I consider how God has taken my sin and turned it into this website, I am just speechless. And not 24 hours ago, one of our readers, Natasa of Croatia, asked permission to set some of my words to a music video. The following is taken from Helper By Design, one of the very first posts ever published on Reformed SHEology:



This is just beautiful! Never in a million years would I have thought that this blog would have such an impact on so many people, myself included. I just wanted to take a brief moment to extend my thanks to Geraldine for offering her insights to this site as a wife and mother, and to our readers (both of you). Okay, I'm just kidding. I know there are more than two people who read this blog. But seriously, I just wanted to take a moment to genuinely thank each one of you who reads the posts and/or has left encouraging words for us via your comments. In past months when I felt discouraged, this blog was one of the few things that brought me joy. Each person who has been touched by what has been written here has given greater meaning to those experiences that inspired the corresponding posts. Thank you again to everyone for your support.

This has truly been a work of God in my life, so naturally I would like to express my gratitude to Him for rescuing me from myself, changing my heart and teaching me the beauty of true femininity.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Respect!

Rodney Dangerfield is known by millions as the comedian who coined the catchphrase, "I don't get no respect!" Dangerfield's comedy act was basically a series of snappy, self-deprecating one-liners which often illustrated the type of reactions he solicited from women:

"I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

When I was a kid, I asked my Mother for a Bubble Bath, so she brought the water to a boil!

I'm so ugly - My mother had morning sickness. After I was born.

Are you kiddin'? I know I'm ugly. My mother breast-fed me through a straw.

I have good-looking kids. Thank goodness my wife cheats on me.

The other night I told my kid "Someday, you'll have children of your own." He said "So will you."

I tell ya when I was a kid, all I knew was rejection. My yo-yo, it never came back.

I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous—everyone hasn't met me yet.

I told my wife the truth. I told her I was seeing a psychiatrist. Then she told me the truth: that she was seeing a psychiatrist, two plumbers, and a bartender.

My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go keep an eye on it.

The other night I woke up and my wife was saying sexy things. I looked over and she was on the phone.

I don't play hard to get... I play hard to want!

That's the story of my life, no respect, ya know?"

Not every man feels as low as Dangerfield did, but an absence of respect -- or even worse, a blatant display of disrespect -- can make any man feel as though these one-liners were written for him. Respect is the single most important thing that a woman can give to a man. It is the primary way that a man feels valued and validated in his masculinity. In fact, in a survey of 400 men ages 21 to 75, 74% said that they would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected (Feldhahn, 2004). When she got the results back, Feldhahn was shocked to discover a note attached: "A lot of the guys fussed over [that question]. They did not feel the choices were different," (p. 23). Feldhahn notes: "Finally, the lightbulb came on: If a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved. And what that translates to is this: if you want to love your man in the way he needs to be loved, then you need to ensure that he feels your respect most of all," (p. 23).

Feldhahn's findings are evident in the comedy routine of Rodney Dangerfield. Notice many of Dangerfield's one liners involve some form of rejection or abandonment; in particular, many of Dangerfield's jokes involve a lack of faithfulness in the women in his life, especially when it comes to sexual infidelity. Yet how does Dangerfield sum up his plight? He doesn't say, "There's no love for Rodney." He doesn't whine, "Nobody loves me." No, Rodney Dangerfield's chief complaint is that he doesn't get any respect. When we consider respect from this perspective, it is no wonder God's word tells wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5;22), as submission is a sign of respect.

It is important to note that men can feel disrespected by women, but they can also feel disrespected by other men as well. And there is a telltale sign, a surefire way of being able to discern whether or not a man feels disrespected, which is also featured in these scenes. Feldhahn (2004) says that if you want to know when a man feels he has been disrespected, anger is a dead giveaway. Quoting Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Feldhahn tells us "crying is often a woman's response to feeling unloved, and anger is often a man's response to feeling disrespected," (p. 24). So what is the remedy for all this? It's very simple: unconditional respect.

Feldhahn states that just as women want to be unconditionally loved, men desire to be unconditionally respected. In our western culture, we have adopted one of the most widely accepted fallacies of all time as a way of relating interpersonally, and it is the belief that respect is earned. This mentality is not Christian. As Christians, we are to show our husbands -- and all people really -- respect, whether they deserve it or not.

For male female relationships, this means a woman must submit by respecting a man's judgment and abilities. She should not tell him she has a better idea, or try to tell him how to do something. Yes, this includes letting him figure out how to get there without stopping for directions. It means not expressing your disappointment when he's given you the best he's got. And above all else, it's about keeping your mouth shut when all the other women are telling their favorite "my-husband-is-such-an-idiot-because" stories. What's more important: your ability to tell the best embarrassing husband story, or your ability to protect his reputation in public as a competent, capable, and fantastic man?

As helpers, women should always be sure to obey God's word and offer respect to the men in our lives. Doing so provides men with the security of knowing that they are supported in their endeavors not only to live the Christian life, but to do so with the added weight of having the primary responsibility of caring for their wives and children. Hebrews 13:17 tells us, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you," (ESV). Our husbands, fathers, and pastors are doing all they can to watch over our souls. Let's commit to watch over theirs. Let's commit to offer our unconditional respect.


Reference


Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Multnomah: Sisters, Oregon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our Father

With this month on Reformed SHEology focusing on 'Man and Masculinity' and today being fathers day it only seems appropriate to post an article focusing on fatherhood. But as i prayerfully contemplated on what to write it came to me that this post would be a perfect opportunity to focus on THE Father, God. Following is a wonderful piece written by Thomas Watson (1620-1686), taken from his exposition on the Lords prayer. I love his style of writing! In everything he writes there is such beauty and yet simplicity for a writer of his time. I highly recommend his works which can be found freely Here.

He is the best Father


Wherein does it appear that God is the best Father?

(1) In that he is most ancient. ‘The Ancient of days did sit.’ Dan 7: 9. A figurative representation of God, who was before all time, which may cause veneration.

(2) God is the best Father, because he is perfect. ‘Your Father which is in heaven is perfect;’ he is perfectly good. Matt 5: 48. Earthly fathers are subject to infirmities; Elias, though a prophet, ‘was a man subject to like passions’ (James 5: 17); but God is perfectly good. All the perfection we can arrive at in this life is sincerity. We may resemble God a little, but not equal him; he is infinitely perfect.God is a most wise Father

(3) God is the best Father in respect of wisdom. ‘The only wise God.’ 1 Tim 1: 17. He has a perfect idea of wisdom in himself; he knows the fittest means to bring about his own designs. The angels light at his lamp. In particular, one branch of his wisdom is, that he knows what is best for us. An earthly parent knows not, in some intricate cases, how to advise his child, or what may be best for him to do; but God is a most wise Father; he knows what is best for us; he knows what comfort is best for us: he keeps his cordials for fainting. ‘God that comforteth those that are cast down.’ 2 Cor 7: 6. He knows when affliction is best for us, and when it is fit to give a bitter potion. ‘If need be ye are in heaviness.’ 1 Pet 1: 6. He is the only wise God; he knows how to make evil things work for good to his children. Rom 8: 28. He can make a sovereign treacle of poison. Thus he is the best Father for wisdom.‘He will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.’

(4) He is the best Father, because the most loving. ‘God is love.’ 1 John 4: 16. He who causes bowels of affection in others, must needs have more bowels himself; quod efficit tale [for he accomplishes the same]. The affections in parents are but marble and adamant in comparison of God’s love to his children; he gives them the cream of his love — electing love, saving love. ‘He will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.’ Zeph 3: 17. No father like God for love; if thou art his child thou canst not love thy own soul so entirely as he loves thee.

(5) He is the best Father, for riches. He has land enough to give to all his children; he has unsearchable riches. Eph 3: 8. He gives the hidden manna, the tree of life, rivers of joy. He has treasures that cannot be exhausted, gates of pearl, pleasures that cannot be ended. If earthly fathers should be ever giving, they would have nothing left to give; but God is ever giving to his children, and yet has not the less. His riches are imparted not impaired; like the sun that still shines, and yet has not less light. He cannot be poor who is infinite. Thus he is the best Father; he gives more to his children than any father or prince can bestow.None of those who belong to the election are so roughcast and unhewn but God can polish them with his grace


(6) God is the best Father, because he can reform his children. When his son takes bad courses, a father knows not how to make him better; but God knows how to make the children of the election better: he can change their hearts. When Paul was breathing out persecution against the saints, God soon altered his course, and set him praying. ‘Behold, he prayeth.’ Acts 9: 11. None of those who belong to the election are so roughcast and unhewn but God can polish them with his grace, and make them fit for the inheritance.

(7) God is the best Father, because he never dies. ‘Who only has immortality.’ 1 Tim. 6: 16. Earthly fathers die, and their children are exposed to many injuries, but God lives for ever. ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.’ Rev 1: 8. God’s crown has no successors.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Return of the Man!

I love the film Pride and Prejudice!



But I wondered why are Jane Austin’s novels so popular today? They have stood the test of time and are more popular than ever! But what has equally made me wonder is why, if the modern woman really is independent, strong, able to hold her own then why would she love such a film as Pride and Prejudice? Granted, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is a force to be reckoned with, and has a side women today can relate to. She is not afraid to speak her mind, refuse not one but two marriage proposals (practically unheard of then I’m sure) and in a society where women weren’t allowed to work and all inheritance goes to the male she wasn’t interested in marrying for the money. The answer, I believe, is the attraction seen in the conduct and fulfilment of the role of the man.

I’m certainly no expert but I do know that the women in that era were squashed and they weren’t always treated with the respect due from men. But in characters such as Mr. Darcy we see the masculine instincts being lavishly and appropriately being shown on the woman. We also see that the strengths of both Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet strengthen any weaknesses in one another. They complement each other, as how it should be in marriages. It is beautiful to see these roles being fulfilled while both the man and woman are in their rightful order, God’s created order.

Quite simply women (generally speaking) love Mr Darcy because he represents what has been lost in recent history. But if we want our Mr Darcy’s back we women must recover our own true femininity. However, In looking at the masculine man this month it has been easy to blame the women’s movement for the loss of true masculinity and femininity. But as John Piper so clearly put it:

If I were to put my finger on one devastating sin today, it would not be the so-called women’s movement, but the lack of spiritual leadership by men at home and in the church. Satan has achieved an amazing tactical victory by disseminating the notion that the summons for male leadership is born of pride and fallen ness, when in fact pride is precisely what prevents spiritual leadership. The spiritual aimlessness and weakness and lethargy and loss of nerve among men is the major issue, not the upsurge of interest in women’s ministries.

Pride and self-pity and fear and laziness and confusion are luring many men into self-protecting, self-exalting cocoons of silence. And to the degree that this makes room for women to take more leadership it is sometimes even endorsed as a virtue. But I believe that deep down the men-and the women-know better.

Where are the men with a moral vision for their families, a zeal for the house of the
Lord, a magnificent commitment to the advancement of the kingdom, an articulate dream for the mission of the church and a tender-hearted tenacity to make it real?


Where are the men indeed! Isn’t this what we so often hear women ask today? Yet unwittingly they are unaware of the fact they are hindering the return of the man they lost. But on the other side we need the men to rise up regardless! Men who do have a "moral vision for their families, a zeal for the house of the Lord, a magnificent commitment to the advancement of the kingdom, an articulate dream for the mission of the church and a tender-hearted tenacity to make it real."

In fighting for what they deemed as freedom (which as we will later see was not true freedom), they got what they wanted yet in the process they gradually lost not only true freedom but something else at the same time. Could it be women are having regrets and second thoughts, questioning whether it was all worth it and is it too late? No, not if true Godly men and women prayerfully seek to recover biblical man and womanhood. Ladies, our Mr. Darcy's may have been in front of our very eyes all along!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shoplifting Manhood

This little song is called, "The Man Song," but if you listen carefully, you will discover it is more a commentary on women than it is on men (I'd probably put the lyrics at a PG Rating):




"Anytime a husband starts to doubt himself as a man or feels that his manhood has been violated by a woman's expression of strength . . . it's her responsibility to figure out a way to adjust." -- John Piper


Feminism claims that at the heart of its goal is equality among men and women, however, when we trace the history of feminism (starting with the Garden of Eden) we see that it is not a matter of equality at all, but rather, it is a matter of usurping control. While some may see the unbiblical philosophy behind feminism and instead opt in favor of egalitarianism, it must be noted that egalitarianism is equally unbiblical.

An egalitarian view promotes the idea that we are all equal. The egalitarian philosophy therefore concludes that there should be no distinction between men and women other than their biological differences. Egalitarianism, although seemingly benign on the surface, is definitely malignant because God did not appoint women to exist as co-leaders with men. Just as a body has only one head, God has only appointed men to take on the leadership role.

One egalitarian argument is that men feel threatened by gifted women because they're insecure and should just get over it. They say that it's not really about the Bible, but that it is more a matter of feelings and emotions. The position is that because complementarians (those who support the traditionally biblical gender roles) are insecure men who feel threatened by strong women, they continue to make male leadership an issue when it is not (Grudem, 2004).

As explained in earlier posts, masculinity and femininity cannot easily be defined, but rather, there is an innate sense of knowing and distinguishing one from the other. In his book, Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, Grudem (2004) quotes author Sarah Sumner, who criticizes the work of John Piper as follows:

Anytime a husband starts to doubt himself as a man or feels that his manhood has been violated by a woman's expression of strength, Piper says it's her responsibility to figure out a way to adjust . . . My question has to do with why a man's "God-given sense of responsibility and leadership" [quoting Piper] is so fragile and susceptible to offense. A few months ago I explained to five church leaders Piper's definition of biblical manhood . . . all five men . . . responded to me saying, "You know what? We like this definition. And you know why? Because . . . it makes us feel secure. It feels so good to be told what it means to be a man," (Sumner as quoted in Grudem, p. 394).

Sumner's point is that Piper's definition is flawed because it is based on an emotional sense of masculinity, rather than a clearly intellectualized definition. Yet we challenge Sumner to come up with such a definition. If the difference between being a man or a woman rests solely on biology, why chose the genitalia to be the defining characteristic? Why not choose some other identifier, such as eye color? Imagine if we lived in a world that taught us: "Brown eyes make you male, and any other color makes you female. Should you feel threatened by a blue-eyed person being bigger and stronger than you, well, that's just a matter of your feelings and emotions. Blue or green-eyed people should not have to "hold back" in order to keep the brown eyed people from being offended." Truly, biblical masculinity is more than biological. It is a "sense" as John Piper put it. It can only be experienced through feelings.

The reason why a man feels insecure when his leadership has been usurped by a woman is simple: he is insecure! If masculinity is his very essence, then in a sense his very identity, his very self, becomes threatened. Anything that is in danger of being stolen is insecure. If your wallet is hanging out of your back pocket, it is not secure. If you don't lock your doors, your house is not secure. If you trust your heart to someone who possesses no integrity, it is not secure. Of course men are insecure. How else is a man supposed to feel if his leadership role is up for grabs?

Contrary to Sumner's arguments, feelings are often justified. Just ask anyone who has been robbed how insecure they feel after that robbery has taken place. "The Man Song" is a sad but true commentary on how many men feel in the context of their own marriages, the one institution created by God to be the most secure human relationship on earth. Despite the constant chorus: "He's the man! He's the man!" We "sense" that there is someone else in this song who is shoplifting this man's role. And I say shoplifting as opposed to "stealing" because shoplifting is a very specific form of stealing, performed by some of the most gutsy, narcissistic, self-entitled people who don't really need the item that they're stealing, but rather, are most often just stealing for sport.

Women who usurp a man's leadership are shoplifting manhood. They do not need it, but rather, are engaging in an unnecessary competition for the sake of competition. A man's sense of masculinity is so easy to steal. Is your husband falling asleep every night next to a thief? If you are stealing from the men in your life, repent and ask forgiveness from them today. Then start going in the right direction: pay them the respect they are due.


Reference


Grudem, W. (2004). Evangelical feminism and biblical truth. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Death of Masculinity?

With the recent release of a secular article titled, Death of the Masculine Man and this month's topic celebrating masculinity, I felt led to very briefly examine from a biblical perspective what it is that has left today’s man feeling as though he has lost his masculinity. The article was the result of "a study of the male psyche in Britain" and makes its observation over a span of 80 years. The results are very interesting in light of when women first began to protest for their right to vote, straight down to the feminist movement and modern day. As the article states;

"An average young bloke in the 1920's and 40's considered himself to be masculine and was at ease with his role as stoic provider and protector"

Even as late as the 40's men still considered themselves masculine. So what went wrong? In a nutshell ... man has gradually been robbed of his masculinity.

Biblical Manhood

It is interesting to note, at this point, that the article we are looking at is an observation from a secular point of view. As we begin to look at what it is to be a man from the biblical perspective, we can clearly see what it is that has robbed men of their masculinity. Referring, again, to Piper's book, interestingly and appropriately titled Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood , I will use his words to view one facet of the meaning of masculinity in order to paint a clear picture. Piper encapsulates biblical masculinity beautifully:

"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships".

He goes on to say;

"I use the word "sense" because to be masculine a man must not only be responsible, but sense or feel that he is. If he does not "sense" or "feel" and "affirm" his responsibility, he is not mature in his masculinity."

This is the issue modern man is facing. They (according to the article) "have steadily lost touch with their instinctual masculinity". Why? I firmly believe it is because since the feminist movement women are now leading, providing and protecting themselves (some feminists would say they are protecting themselves from the "bondage and slavery of submission to man"). Therefore with those roles now taken from them, men instinctively desire to fulfil their roles but cannot. And worse still, they are given roles they were not created to instinctively fulfill.

When the women involved in feminism thought they were liberating themselves they were in fact bringing women into real bondage. In her book The essence of Feminism, Kirsten Birkett points out;

"Feminism is a selfish movement, with no sustainable philosophy, a fabricated history, and an incoherent morality. It does not bring freedom and fulfilment for women, and it will not right injustices."

I want to look at this issue of true freedom in more depth in another post, but for now i just wanted to show that what has happened has not only brought women into true bondage but it has also selfishly robbed the man of what he was created to be. Not the man only but also the woman. Therefore we will with each successive generation reap the consequences.

If it wasn't bad enough that man has been robbed of the very reason for his instincts (to lovingly lavish upon the mature feminine woman), other sinful, options have become more easily, legally and openly accessible. Homosexuality is now considered the norm in our society and it is even being taught to each generation that it is "normal" to have instinctive feelings towards the same sex. The article also states:

"A bloke's masculinity used to come effortlessly and his place in the world was clear cut. Nowadays women are confident and men are confused."

Could it be that the reason men are confused is because his natural inclinations and instincts are more or less told to be questioned by what woman is today and even given alternatives? Men have at some point surrendered. Women were given the roles man were created to fulfill and as the article states, men have
crossed the line from just "changing with the times" to "committing gender surrender".Over the years man has not only been robbed of his masculinity but also of his 'help-meet' and women of freely exercising her right to truly be a woman.
The article makes another interesting point that really has been on my heart for some time which I'll write in the next post. But I want to end this one by saying that as we women on the margins of today's society (and even within the church), recover and become what it is to truly be a woman we can nurture and affirm man's true masculinity. Not that only but we have the opportunity teach the next generation and to even teach today's woman biblical manhood and womanhood. We women are unique in that we were created to be to man what no other of God's creation could (Gen. 2:18). Over the years man has not only been robbed of his masculinity but also of his "help-meet" and women of freely exercising her right to truly be a woman.

This article came from observation and recent study in biblical manhood and womanhood. I do not claim to be an expert. I am only a woman whose heart's desire is to please God and to discover and fulfill her role in God's creation. As one dear friend said to me, "Today’s secular view of the feminine role is so way, way off the biblical, that there’s a lot for new, and not so new, believers to take on board, even basic principles." So true!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Masculinity, by John Piper

In January, I had stumbled across a fantastic article written by Elisabeth Elliot simply titled, “Femininity.” In this piece, she writes: “But what is this man, what is this woman? What are these elusive and indefinable but universally acknowledged qualities on which every culture and society has shaped its existence?” I thought she did a fine job of trying to explain the inexplicable, at least, far better than I could! So when we decided to examine the concept of masculinity this month, I certainly did not consider myself qualified to take on a task such as defining an equally elusive term. Instead, I sought the wisdom of John Piper. The following material has been excerpted from Chapter 1 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:


AT THE HEART OF MATURE MASCULINITY IS A SENSE OF BENEVOLENT RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD, PROVIDE FOR AND PROTECT WOMEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A MAN’S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.

“Mature” means that a man’s sense of responsibility is in the process of growing out of its sinful distortions and limitations, and finding its true nature as a form of love, not a form of self-assertion . . . His sense of responsibility will find expression in the ways he conquers self-pity, and gives moral and spiritual leadership for his family, and takes the initiative to provide them with the bread of life, and protect them from the greatest enemies of all, Satan and sin.

Benevolent responsibility is meant to rule out all self-aggrandizing authoritarianism (cf. Luke 22:26). It is meant to rule out all disdaining condescension and any act that makes a mature woman feel patronized rather than honored and prized (cf. 1 Peter 3:7). The word “benevolent” is meant to signal that mature masculinity gives appropriate expression to the Golden Rule in male-female relationships (Matthew 7:12).

Masculinity is a God-given trust for the good of all his creatures, not a right for men to exercise for their own self-exaltation or egosatisfaction. It is less a prerogative than a calling. It is a duty and obligation and charge. Like all God’s requirements it is not meant to be onerous or burdensome (1 John 5:3). But it is nevertheless a burden to be borne, and which in Christ can be borne lightly (Matthew 11:30).

1. Mature masculinity expresses itself not in the demand to be served, but in the strength to serve and to sacrifice for the good of woman. Jesus said, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26). Leadership is not a demanding demeanor. It is moving things forward to a goal. If the goal is holiness and Heaven, the leading will have the holy aroma of Heaven about it - the demeanor of Christ.

2. Mature masculinity does not assume the authority of Christ over woman, but advocates it. The leadership implied in the statement, “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23), is not a leadership that gives to the man all the rights and authority that Christ has. The analogy between Christ and the husband breaks down if pressed too far, first because, unlike Christ, all men sin. Christ never has to apologize to his church. But husbands must do this often. Moreover, unlike Christ, a husband is not preparing a bride merely for himself but for another, namely Christ. He does not merely act as Christ, but also for Christ.

3. Mature masculinity does not presume superiority, but mobilizes the strengths of others. No human leader is infallible. Nor is any man superior to those he leads in every respect. Therefore a good leader will always take into account the ideas of those he leads, and may often adopt those ideas as better than his own . . . The aim of leadership is not to demonstrate the superiority of the leader, but to bring out all the strengths of people that will move them forward to the desired goal.

4. Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative.In a family the husband does not do all the thinking and planning. His leadership is to take responsibility in general to initiate and carry through the spiritual and moral
planning for family life.

5. Mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance. In a good marriage, decision-making is focused on the husband, but is not unilateral. He seeks input from his wife and often adopts her ideas. This is implied in the love that governs the relationship (Ephesians 5:25), in the equality of personhood implied in being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and in the status of being fellow-heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7) . . . His awareness of his sin and imperfection will guard him from thinking that following Christ gives him the ability of Christ to know what’s best in every detail.

6. Mature masculinity expresses its leadership in romantic sexual relations by communicating an aura of strong and tender pursuit. This is very difficult to put into words. But sexual relations are so basic to human life we would be delinquent not to at least try to say how masculinity expresses itself here. It is the mingling of tenderness with strength that makes the unique masculine quality of leadership in sexual relations. There is an aura of masculine leadership which rises from the mingling of power and tenderness, forcefulness and affection, potency and sensitivity, virility and delicateness. It finds expression in the firmness of his grasp, the strength of taking her in his arms, the sustaining of verbal adoration, etc. And there are a hundred nuances of masculine pursuit that distinguish it from feminine pursuit . . . But there is a difference. A feminine initiation is in effect an invitation for the man to do his kind of initiating. In one sense then you could say that in those times the man is responding. But in fact the wife is inviting him to lead in a way as only a man can, so that she can respond to him.

7. Mature masculinity expresses itself in a family by taking the initiative in disciplining the children when both parents are present and a family standard has been broken. Mothers and fathers are both to be obeyed by their children (Ephesians 6:1). Mothers as well as fathers are esteemed teachers in the home (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; 31:1). They carry rights of authority and leadership toward their children, as do their husbands. They do not need to wait till Dad gets home from work to spank a disobedient child. But children need to see a dynamic between Mom and Dad that says, Dad takes charge to discipline me when Mom and Dad are both present. No woman should have to take the initiative to set a disobedient child right while her husband sits obliviously by, as though nothing were at stake. Few things will help children understand the meaning of responsible, loving masculinity better than watching who takes the responsibility to set them right when Mom and Dad are both present.

We should humble ourselves before God for our failures and for the remaining
tendency to shirk or overstep our responsibilities. The call to leadership is not a call to exalt ourselves over any woman. It is not a call to domineer, or belittle or put woman in her place. She is, after all, a fellow-heir of God and destined for a glory that will one day blind the natural eyes of every man (Matthew 13:43). The call to leadership is a call to humble oneself and take the responsibility to be a servant-leader in ways that are appropriate to every differing relationship to women.

It is a call to risk getting egg on our faces; to pray as we have never prayed before; to be constantly in the Word; to be more given to planning, more intentional, more thoughtful, less carried along by the mood of the moment; to be disciplined and ordered in our lives; to be tenderhearted and sensitive; to take the initiative to make sure there is a time and a place to talk to her about what needs to be talked about; and to be ready to lay down our lives the way Christ did if that is necessary.

Masculinity and femininity are rooted in who we are by nature. They are not simply reflexes of a marriage relationship. Man does not become man by getting married. But it is clear that the form which leadership, provision and protection take will vary with the kind of relationship a man has with a woman -from the most intimate relationship of marriage to the most casual relationship with a stranger on the street . . .The point here is that even though a man will not take initiating steps of leadership with a stranger or with a colleague the same way he will with his wife, his mature manhood will seek a pattern of initiative appropriate for the relationship.

The above material was excerpted from "What's the Difference?", Chapter 1 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by John Piper. You can read all of John Piper's works online at www.desiringgod.org.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Who Wears the Pants?

Recently, one of our readers asked me, "What do you think about women wearing pants?" Anxious to write about some other issues surrounding biblical femininity, I originally told this reader that I'd save that for another time, but I've changed my mind and decided to write about it now. In light of all the discussion surrounding headcovering, it would not be fair for me to postpone writing about this topic as well, especially since it also relates to masculinity.

I personally have never been convicted that pants are unfeminine or unbiblical. Perhaps that will change for me one day, but I currently don't see any biblical reason for women to be made to feel that wearing pants is wrong.

From what I gather, the entire issue surrounds a mandate given in Deuteronomy 22:5, which reads in the NASB as follows: "A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God". Other translations will make reference to a woman's cloak or a man's garment, but the meaning is the same from translation to translation -- men should wear men's clothes, and women should wear women's clothes.

The question is, what are women's clothes? Conversely, what are men's clothes? In my lifetime, most people have answered this by saying, "Skirts are for girls and pants are for boys. End of story." I am not so sure about that. I don't think there is anything in the scripture that makes such a distinction between pants or skirts. It just simply says, "clothes." I don't think God is saying "I want women to wear skirts and I want men to wear pants." Rather, I think God is simply saying, "I want women to look like women and men to look like men."

The real issue is that there is a distinction between male and female. God cares very deeply that we adhere to that distinction, because He created two types of people: men and women. When we try to blur that line, we are polluting His original design for the sexes. Things like cross-dressing, and the androgynous look that was so popular in the 80's are definitely examples of things that God is speaking out against in this passage. For example, God would be against this:


One of the things I will never forget is watching an episode of Beavis and Butt-head back in the 90's in which a Boy George video was featured. Upon hearing the lyric, "I'm a man," one of the characters said, "Uh, you're a man? Huh-huh. Huh-huh. Huh." It struck me that even two godless animated characters recognized that Boy George's appearance was unnatural and even confusing. When Boy George first came on the scene in the early 80's, I can remember countless debates in grade school as to whether or not he was actually male. We honestly did not know for sure!

Because God is a God of order and not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), I think God's intention for mandating how we are to dress is simply about making sure you can actually tell if the person is a "he" or a "she". No "its" or "she-males" allowed! That being said, I believe that women can wear pants, as long as they appear distinctly female while doing so.

There is even more compelling evidence that God wasn't even referring to pants at all, when we consider that pants did not even exist when Deuteronomy 22:5 was penned. In fact, pants are a relatively new fashion, even for men.

Kiltmen.com is a website dedicated to abolishing "Trouser Tyranny." The website does a nice job of advocating for a return to more traditional men's clothing, pointing out that men used to wear tunics all the time. It's true! Picture in your head all the drawings you have ever seen of male biblical characters such as Moses, David, and Paul. Did the artist's rendering ever depict these fellows in a pair of pants?

When I used to work at the Holy Land Experience, the men all wore tunics, even the actor playing Jesus. None of the park guests ever pointed to Deuteronomy 22:5 and cried "foul!" Not once did I ever hear a child ask, "Mommy, why is Jesus wearing a dress?" That's because it is understood by everyone that a tunic was the standard garment once worn by men. In similar fashion, women were also dressed in tunics, but theirs were distinctly feminine. The color, texture, and style of the tunic made it clear that it was a women's garment and not a man's garment.

(Sidenote: Although it is not a Christian site, Kiltmen.com does an amazing job addressing Deuteronomy 22:5 in its proper context. Not only does Kiltmen.com present its point from a historical/cultural perspective quite nicely, but it makes a killer argument from a biological perspective: kilts and tunics are actually better suited for men because they "do not confine the male genitals the way trousers do." Tight jeans have been known to significantly lower a man's sperm count because they create an uncomfortable and unhealthy environment for the testicles. The Bible states that children are a gift from the Lord and that we are to "be fruitful and multiply". The idea of men wearing tunics and kilts becomes even more sensible in light of the fact such garments promote a healthy sperm count and thus increase a man's chances of being a father. In this sense, the kilt is seen as a strong symbol of maleness and masculinity.)

Today, we have numerous examples of clothing being recognized as either men's or women's clothing by the color, texture, or style of those garments. Both men and women wear sneakers. Both men and women wear sandals. Both men and women wear jackets, button-down shirts, watches, sunglasses, hats, coats, and gloves. There is no distinction that says "Men wear sneakers and women wear sandals." The item is appropriate to be worn by either a man or a woman, provided that the man or woman is not wearing an article of clothing designed for the opposite gender. For example, I used to own a pair of pants in high school that were light grey with pink flowers all over them. Nobody asked me why I was wearing men's clothes. It was obvious by the color, texture, and style of my pants that I was wearing clothing designed for a female.

Finally, I will leave you with a cute little anecdote a Baptist preacher once shared with his congregation. It goes like this:

There was a certain pastor who decided once and for all he needed to enforce a strict dress code upon his congregation. He decreed that all women in his congregation immediately go through their closets and get rid of all their pants, because pants are "men's clothes." So all the ladies of the church got together and collected all of the pants and brought them to the church to decide what to do with them. One woman, who happened to be organizing the effort, noticed several pairs of pants that looked as though they were just the perfect size for the pastor. "It would be a shame to throw these away," she thought, so she took them to the pastor's home.

When the pastor opened the door, the woman offered him the pants. He asked her, "What am I supposed to do with these?" The woman explained that she thought the pants might fit him, and wondered if he might get some use out of them. The pastor looked at the woman in disbelief and said, "Surely you can't be serious! I can't wear these! These are women's clothes!"

This little story demonstrates that clothing can be recognized as either male or female, not for what type of garment it is, but for the way the garment looks. The Bible says God created them male and female. Unless your appearance is causing major confusion over your gender, I do not think God is displeased with your choice as a woman to wear pants if you so choose.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Best Years of Our Lives

This month's feature film is The Best Years of Our Lives, a story which follows three American servicemen as they try to adjust to life after war. Hailed as a classic masterpiece, the film portrays the challenges and crises of masculinity in society, in the home, and in the mind. In spite of the many battles fought and won overseas, perhaps the toughest battle of all is a man's silent fight for respect.

STATS
Year: 1946 (Not Rated)
Robert E. Sherwood (writer), William Wyler (director)
Starring Friedrich March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell.
Setting: Post World War II America.

Seven Oscars including Best Director (Wyler), Best Supporting Actor (Russell), Best Actor (March), Best Screenplay (Sherwood), Best Music Score, Best Editing, and Best Picture.

Content warning: Some scenes portray drunkenness. One plot line encourages the deliberate demise of a marriage that no longer seems to be working. This film also warrants a SEVERE KLEENEX ALERT.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The importance of biblically feminine support in a man's life. A woman can either make or break a man's spirit. In this film, we encounter both types of women.

2. The "Impostor" Syndrome: No matter how many awards and accolades are bestowed upon a man in an effort to acknowledge his greatness, he still feels like an impostor. The fear of being "discovered" as a fraud or failure can drive a man to either work harder or completely withdraw from others altogether.

3. The importance of respect in a man's ability to feel valued. This month's film not only portrays men crushed by disrespectful women, but also by society as a whole.

4. Body image. One man discovers that true love is unconditional, even when presented with a physical disability. One woman's constant dripping completely disfigures her otherwise stunning looks.

5. Perhaps the most valuable currency among men is loyalty. Loyalty to one's country, one's values, and one's family and friends can make even the toughest times we face feel like the best years of our lives.

TRIVIA
Harold Russell is a real life WWII veteran/amputee who lost both hands while serving in the United States Army. William Wyler discovered Russell in a documentary and cast him in the role of Homer Parrish. Russell went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The film is available for rent at most video stores and it is common for many public libraries to own a copy of it. The movie can also be purchased online.