Monday, June 29, 2015

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

A coalition of over 100 evangelical leaders assembled by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has released the following in response to the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage) (The Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministries (WACMM)) supports and has signed on to this statement):

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage.
The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman.
From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift.
Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness.
As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:
  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);

  • teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;

  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;

  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;

  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;

  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry.
Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

A.B Vines
Senior Pastor
New Seasons Church

Afshin Ziafat
Lead Pastor
Providence Church - Frisco, TX.

Alistair Begg
Senior Pastor
Parkside Church

Andrew T. Walker
Director of Policy Studies
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Bart Barber
Pastor
First Baptist Church of Famersville

Bruce Frank
Senior Pastor
Biltmore Baptist Church

Bruce Riley Ashford
Provost
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Bryan Carter
Pastor
Concord Church

Bryan Chapell
Senior Pastor
Grace Presbyterian Church

Bryan Loritts
Pastor of Preaching and Mission
Trinity Grace Church, Kainos Movement

Bryant Wright
Senior Pastor
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

Carmen Fowler LaBerge
President
Presbyterian Lay Committee

Christine Hoover
Author

Christopher Yuan
Speaker, Author, Bible Teacher

Clint Pressley
Pastor & Former VP of SBC
Hickory Grove Baptist Church

Collin Hansen
Editorial Director
The Gospel Coalition

D.A. Carson
Research Professor of NT
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

D.A. Horton


Daniel Darling

Vice-President of Communications
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Daniel Patterson
Chief of Staff
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Danny Akin
President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

David E. Prince
Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

David French
National Review

David Jeremiah
Senior Pastor
Shadow Mountain Community Church

David S. Dockery
President
Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

David Platt
President
International Mission Board

David Uth
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Orlando

Dean Inserra
Lead Pastor
City Church, Tallahassee

Dennis Rainey
President
Family Life Today

Eric Teetsel
Executive Director
Manhattan Declaration

Erwin W. Lutzer
Senior Pastor
The Moody Church

Fred Luter
Pastor
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Gabriel Salguero
President
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

H.B. Charles Jr.
Pastor-Teacher
Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church

Heath Lambert
Executive Director
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

Hunter Baker
Associate Professor of Political Science; Dean of Instruction
Union University

James MacDonald
Pastor
Harvest Bible Chapel

J.P. Moreland
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Biola University

J.D. Greear
Pastor
The Summit Church

J.I. Packer
Board of Governors’ Professor, Theology
Regent College

Jason Allen
President
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Jeff Iorg
President
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Jim Daly
President
Focus on the Family

Jimmy Scroggins
Lead Pastor
Family Church, West Palm Beach

John Bradosky
Presiding Bishop North American Lutheran Church

John Stonestreet
Speaker and Fellow
The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Johnny Hunt
Pastor
First Baptist Church of Woodstock

Jonathan Leeman
Editorial Director
9Marks

Juan R. Sanchez, Jr.
Senior Pastor
High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas

Justin Taylor
Karen Swallow Prior
Fellow, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention Fellow
Professor of English, Liberty University

Ken Whitten
Senior Pastor
Idlewild Baptist Church

Kevin DeYoung
Senior Pastor
University Reformed Church

Kevin Ezell
President
North American Mission Board

Kevin Smith
Teaching Pastor
Highview Baptist Church

Mark Dever
Senior Pastor
Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Marvin Olasky
Editor-in-chief WORLD Magazine

Matt Carter
Pastor of Preaching and Vision
The Austin Stone Community Church

Matt Chandler
Senior Pastor
The Village Church

Matthew Lee Anderson
Lead Writer
Mere Orthodoxy

Mike Cosper
Pastor of Worship and Arts
Sojourn Community Church

Mike Glenn
Senior Pastor
Brentwood Baptist Church

Naghmeh Abedini
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Revive our Hearts

Nathan Lino
Lead Pastor
Northeast Houston Baptist Church

Owen Strachan
President
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Paul Nyquist
President and CEO
Moody Bible Institute

Phillip Bethancourt
Executive Vice President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Ramon Osorio
Hispanic National Church Mobilizer
North American Mission Board

Randy Alcorn
Director
Eternal Perspectives Ministries

Ray Ortlund
Lead Pastor
Immanuel Nashville

Richard D. Land
President
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Richard Mouw
Professor of Faith and Public Life
Fuller Seminary

Robert Sloan
President
Houston Baptist University

Roger Spradlin
Senior Pastor
Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, CA

Ron Sider
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Ronnie Floyd
President, Southern Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, Cross Church

Rosaria Butterfield
Author and Speaker

Russell Moore
President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Sam Storms
Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision
Bridgeway Church

Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver
President
Union University

Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Thomas White
President
Cedarville University

Timothy George
Dean and Professor of Divinity
Beeson Divinity School

Todd Wagner
Senior Pastor
Watermark Church

Tommy Nelson Sr.
Pastor
Denton Bible Church

Tony Evans
Senior Pastor
Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship

Tony Merida
Pastor for Preaching
Imago Dei Church

Tory Baucum
Rector
Truro Anglican Church

Trillia Newbell
Director of Community Outreach
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Trip Lee
Rapper, Author, Pastor

Vance Pitman
Senior Pastor
Hope Church, Las Vegas, NV

Dave Brown
Pastor and Director, Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministries

Neil Smith
Pastor
Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church
 

If you would like us to add your name, church or organization to our listing, contact us at dave@wacmm.org


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Case for Traditional Marriage and Human Floursihing and Against Homosexual Marriage

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in DeBoer v. Snyder, it’s worth asking the question: Is there any reason a decent, rational, non-bigoted American might oppose same-sex marriage? Just as important: Are there any decent, rational, non-bigoted Americans who are willing to consider why other Americans might have plausible reasons for opposing same-sex marriage? This blog post is my way of saying “yes” to the first question and “let’s hope so” to the second.

I’m a pastor, and my main concern is with the church—what she believes, what she celebrates, and what she proclaims. I don’t expect the world to be the church (and I pray that the church does not become the world). And yet, no one who lives in the world (that’s all of us) and no one who cares about the well being of those in the world (that too should cover almost all of us) can be indifferent about marriage. With everything that may divide us, proponents on both sides of this debate can at least recognize that something truly significant is at stake in this debate.

I’m concerned that many younger Christians—ironically, often those passionate about societal transformation and social justice—do not see the connection between a traditional view of marriage and human flourishing. Many Christians are keen to resurrect the old pro-choice mantra touted by some Catholic politicians: personally opposed, but publicly none of my business. I want Christians (who are, after all, the main readers of this blog) to see why this issue matters and why—if and when same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land—the integrity of the family will be weakened and the freedom of the church will be threatened.

I know this is an increasingly unpopular line of reasoning, even for those who are inclined to accept the Bible’s teaching about marriage. Perhaps you agree with the traditional exegetical conclusions and believe that homosexual behavior is biblically unacceptable. And yet, you wonder what’s wrong with supporting same-sex marriage as a legal and political right. After all, we don’t have laws against gossip or adultery or the worship of false gods. Even if I don’t agree with it, shouldn’t those who identify as gay and lesbian still have the same freedom I have to get married?

That’s a good question, but before we try to answer it we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s think about what is not at stake in the debate over gay marriage.

  • The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Since the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), same-sex intimacy has been legal in all fifty states.
  • The state is not going to prohibit gays and lesbians from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
  • The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together, profess love for one another, or express their commitment in erotic ways.

The issue is not about controlling “what people can do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as marriage. Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships and associations will inevitably exclude many kinds of unions in its definition. The state denies marriage licenses to sexual threesomes. It denies marriage licenses to eight year-olds. There are almost an infinite number of friendship and kinship combinations which the state does not recognize as marriage. The state doesn’t tell us who we can be friends with or who we can live with. You can have one friend or three friends or a hundred. You can live with your sister, your mother, your grandfather, your dog, or three buddies from work. But these relationships—not matter how special—have not been given the designation “marriage” by the church or by the state. The state’s refusal to recognize these relationships as marital relationships does not keep us from pursuing them, enjoying them, or counting them as significant.

Marriage: What’s the Big Deal?

In the traditional view, marriage is the union of a man and a woman. That’s what marriage is, before the state confers any benefits on it. Marriage, in the traditional view, is a pre-political institution. The state doesn’t determine what defines marriage; it only recognizes marriage and privileges it in certain ways. It is a sad irony that those who support gay marriage on libertarian grounds are actually ceding to the state a vast amount of heretofore unknown power. No longer is marriage treated as a pre-political entity which exists independent of the state. Now the state defines marriage and authorizes its existence. Does the state have the right, let alone the competency, to construct and define our most essential relationships?

We must consider why the state has bothered to recognize marriage in the first place. What’s the big deal about marriage? Why not let people have whatever relationships they choose and call it whatever they want? Why go to the trouble of sanctioning a specific relationship and giving it a unique legal standing? The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together. Hundreds of studies confirm both of these statements (though we all can think of individual exceptions I’m sure). Gay marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable.

By recognizing gay unions as marriage, just like the husband-wife relationship we’ve always called marriage, the state is engaging in (or at least codifying) a massive re-engineering of our social life. It assumes the indistinguishability of gender in parenting, the relative unimportance of procreation in marriage, and the near infinite flexibility as to what sorts of structures and habits lead to human flourishing.

But What about Equal Rights?

How can I say another human being doesn’t have the same right I have to get married? That hardly seems fair. It’s true: the right to marry is fundamental. But to equate the previous sentence with a right to same-sex marriage begs the question. It assumes that same-sex partnerships actually constitute a marriage. Having the right to marry is not the same as having a right to the state’s validation that each and every sexual relationship is marriage. The issue is not whether to expand the number of persons eligible to participate in marriage, but whether the state will publically declare, privilege, and codify a different way of defining marriage altogether. Or to use a different example, the pacifist has a right to join the army, but he does not have the right to insist that the army create a non-violent branch of the military for him to join.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships publicly validates these relationships as bona fide marriage. That’s why the state sanction is so critical to gay marriage proponents and so disconcerting to those with traditional views. The establishment of gay “marriage” enshrines in law a faulty view of marriage, one that says marriage is essentially a demonstration of commitment sexually expressed. In the traditional view, marriage was ordered to the child, which is why the state had a vested interest in regulating and supporting it. Under the new morality, marriage is oriented to the emotional bond of the couple. The slogan may say “keep the government out of my bedroom,” as if personal choice and privacy were the salient issues, but same-sex marriage advocates are not asking for something private. They want public recognition. I don’t doubt that for most gay couples the longing for marriage is sincere, heartfelt, and without a desire to harm anyone else’s marriage. And yet, same-sex unions cannot be accepted as marriage without devaluing all marriages, because the only way to embrace same-sex partnerships as marriage is by changing what marriage means altogether.

Enough Is Enough?

So why not call a truce on the culture war and let the world define marriage its way and the church define marriage its way? You may think to yourself: maybe if Christians were more tolerant of other definitions of marriage we wouldn’t be in this mess. The problem is that the push for the acceptance same-sex marriage has been predicated upon the supposed bigotry of those who hold a traditional view. The equal signs on cars and all over social media are making a moral argument: those who oppose same-sex marriage are unfair, uncivil, unsocial, undemocratic, un-American, and possibly even inhumane. If Christians lose the cultural debate on homosexuality, we will lose much more than we think. David S. Crawford is right:

The tolerance that really is proffered is provisional and contingent, tailored to accommodate what is conceived as a significant but shrinking segment of society that holds a publically unacceptable private bigotry. Where over time it emerges that this bigotry has not in fact disappeared, more aggressive measures will be needed, which will include explicit legal and educational components, as well as simple ostracism.

We must not be naïve. The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. The sexual revolution has been no great respecter of civil and religious liberties. Sadly, we may discover that there is nothing quite so intolerant as tolerance.

Does this mean the church should expect doom and gloom? That depends. For conservative Christians the ascendancy of same-sex marriage will likely mean marginalization, name calling, or worse. But that’s to be expected. Jesus promises no better than he himself received (John 15:18-25). The church is sometimes the most vibrant, the most articulate, and the most holy when the world presses down on her the hardest.

But not always—sometimes when the world wants to press us into its mold we jump right in and get comfy. I care about the decisions of the Supreme Court and the laws our politicians put in place. But what’s much more important to me—because I believe it’s more crucial to the spread of the gospel, the growth of the church, and the honor of Christ—is what happens in our local congregations, our mission agencies, our denominations, our parachurch organizations, and in our educational institutions. I fear that Christians are losing the stomach for principled disagreement and the critical mind for careful reasoning. Look past the talking points. Read up on the issues. Don’t buy every slogan and don’t own every insult. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.

This blog has been adapted from Appendix 1 of Kevin DeYoung's book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?


Since 2004, Kevin DeYoung has been Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near the Michigan State University campus


Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Voice of the Masculine

William Struthers’ book Wired for Intimacy made quite an impact when it was released in 2009. Struthers went deep into the human brain to show that God has hard-wired us for intimacy and relationships, and to show that pornography has disrupted the brain’s circuitry in dark and dangerous ways. He spoke about other matters as well, and one that still remains important to me is his discussion of the unique importance of the masculine voice. He distinguishes between the masculine and the feminine voice and insists that both play crucial and unique functions in relationships.

The voice of the masculine speaks to affirm. All children are carried and primarily nourished by the mother. Daughters and sons first know their mother as she carries them, delivers them into the world and then is their primary source of nourishment. In many ways the child moves from becoming an extension of the mother to their own person. All children, both boys and girls, develop their own sense of identity as they separate from their mother. For boys, this process is fairly straightforward. What makes them different from their mothers is fairly easy to see: their bodies.

Both young boys and young girls need to hear from both the feminine and the masculine voice. These voices can be spoken by both mothers and fathers. A father is not incapable of nurturing because he is a man, neither is a mother incapable of affirming because she is a woman. But the masculine voice alone speaking both affirmation and nurture is not enough. The feminine voice speaking both nurture and affirmation is not enough.

Does this mean that a child who grows up in a house where one of their parents is not present is doomed to a life of truncated emotional, psychological and spiritual development? Not if there is a male presence other than the father that is able to come in and act as a surrogate for those children. Boys and girls both need a masculine voice in their life that encourages, affirms, challenges, enables and stretches them. In an ideal set of circumstances both mother and father are present in the raising of a child. Both the masculine and the feminine speak to nurture, protect and grow, albeit in different ways.
There is something special about the affirming voice of the masculine father. This voice of affirmation is not just needed for young men, but also for young women. While it may be true that “only a father can tell a boy when he is a man” (and worthy to stand among his peers), it is also true that the father’s affirmation of a daughter’s worth speaks into her being in a way that others do not. … The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a man lets him know that he is worthy to stand in the company of his peers; he is loved because of who he is. The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.

When a boy realizes that he is other than his mother (his body is different and she acknowledges that he is different), who is it that tells him who he is, what he is to do, what he will become? His father. The father, the masculine voice, acts to inform, equip, instruct and model. In the absence of this voice, which at its best is loving, trustworthy and affirming, a boy is forced to look for whatever is available to discover who he is. He may look to his mother for instruction, and she rightly has much to say on the matter, her guidance on how a man should relate comes from a female perspective. He may look to another male figure in his life; a grandfather, uncle, elder brother or the media.


The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak to what he knows to be true. The Promise Keepers movement of the 1990s hit this nail on the head. When a man makes a promise, he is honor bound to keep it because his word is who he is. The degree to which a man keeps his word is the measure of his integrity and honor. When the masculine voice affirms, it says, “It is good.” It doesn’t say, “It is okay now, but it might not be later.” The affirming nature of God is evidenced in the first chapter of Genesis after the many acts of creation. God “saw that it was good.”



from Tim Challies serves as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, edits Discerning Reader, is a co-founder of Cruciform Press, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Sexual Detox and The Next Story and active blogger. 





Friday, March 27, 2015

What is the Meaning and Purpose of Manhood?

1. It’s foolish to ignore this issue
The work of every generation of Christians is to examine significant cultural issues through the lens of the worldview of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our job is to bring the sanity that can only be found in Scripture. The manhood conversation really does need an infusion of biblical wisdom.

2. God created men and women to be different
To the Bible believer, this may seem obvious. But our culture no longer assumes that it’s true. Amid the raging societal debate about gender and sexual identity, it’s not hard to see that many young men lack the strong, formative male influences in their lives that previous generations enjoyed. Gender does matter. Manhood and womanhood matter because the Creator decided that they should matter. By design, the self-image God planted in all human beings has a male and a female expression.

3. It is a rejection of God’s plan for a man to reject his identity as a man
The blurring of gender and role distinctions is but another place where modern culture has walked away from the Creator’s design. If we as a culture have moved away from a street-level belief in the existence of God, is it really surprising that we would be less committed to his design for humanity? Whether he is aware of it or not, it is an act of worship for a man to cultivate and celebrate his manhood. In so doing, he is bowing his knee to the wise choice of his Creator.

4. Christian culture machoism is not the solution
Google “Tattooed Jesus,” and you’ll see how some Christians have chosen to respond to a culture that appears to have manhood under siege. Giving young men a muscle-bound, tattoo-laden Jesus to worship distorts both the nature of Jesus and the nature of manhood. It takes a limited, physical definition of a “real” man and treats the Messiah as its finest embodiment. This tends to introduce another form of cultural confusion to the rising generation of Christian young men.

5. The Bible doesn’t say much about what makes a man a man
Perhaps many of us wish we could open the Book of Man chapter 1, verse 1 and begin reading about what really makes a man a man. But the Bible doesn’t say much about this. The Bible clearly distinguishes men from women. It has essential things to say about God’s design for the roles of men and women. But when it comes to the fine-grained detail of masculinity and femininity, the Bible is largely silent. This silence is not some tragic omission. No, it is by divine intention. God’s Word really does give us everything we need “for life and godliness.” In this way the Bible is comprehensive, but it is not exhaustive. It is always dangerous to ask it to speak in places where it is silent.

6. Manly skills do not make a man
It’s certainly useful to know how to keep a journal, survive in the wilderness, keep yourself fit, plan a date, cook a steak, and do home repairs. But mastering these arts doesn’t make you a real man in the deepest sense. My father taught me how to polish my shoes, tie a tie, and match a shirt to a suit. He taught me how to shave and impressed upon me the importance of deodorant and cologne. He taught me how to look a person in the eye when you shake hands, how to safely handle and shoot a gun, how to look for a job, and how to keep the job you have. But ultimately, he lived a double life, and he left me unprepared for the weightier responsibilities of manhood.

7. Regarding the deepest issues of the heart, men and women are the same
As I read The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, (a book that would be helpful for all men to read) it hit me that Patrick’s advice applies across the board: The majority of what he rightly says makes a successful man would also make a successful woman. His advice to men is to “be determined, teachable, disciplined, hardworking, content, devoted, connected, properly emotional, forgiven and forgiving.” Isn’t this equally good advice for women? Sin pushes all of us in the direction of being selfish, entitled, lazy, demanding, and lacking in perseverance, patience, and love. These things rob men of their manhood, but they weaken women as well.

8. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer
The quest for true manhood ultimately drives us to the cross of Jesus Christ. We run to Jesus not just as the ultimate example of what a man looks like, but more importantly as our Savior.

Here’s the bottom line: As a man, I don’t just need to be rescued from the pressures, deficiencies, prejudices, and imbalances of the surrounding culture. No, I need to be rescued from my sin—from myself.

It is humbling to note that the greatest danger to any man exist inside of him, not outside of him. Sin makes me willing to be less than the man God designed me to be, and for that, I need forgiveness and transforming grace.

The next generation of men need may need to be challenged to be real men. But more than anything, they need to be introduced to the Savior who alone can make that possible.

By Paul Tripp is President of Paul Tripp Ministries (www.paultrippministries.org), a nonprofit, much sought after conference speaker, Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas, and has taught at respected institutions worldwide. As an author, Paul has written many books on Christian Living that are read and distributed internationally.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Man Does Not Live by Man Skills Alone

Three anecdotes (and one report) give us an unsettling glimpse at the precarious state of modern manhood:
  • My son came to me carrying the New Testament given to him by a popular men’s ministry. Sandwiched inside the pages were pictures and biographies of “great” Christian men. They were all rough-and-tumble men; Olympic champions and professional athletes. He was in art school. “If this is the definition of a godly man,” he said, “I don’t have a prayer. Where are the artists, the musicians, the authors?”
  • She was attracted to him because there weren’t many interesting young men in her church. He had a good job and seemed to take his faith seriously. She thought they had agreed to get together on Friday night, but when he hadn’t contacted her by Thursday she gave him a call. He said, “No, you misunderstood. I would never go out on a Friday night. That’s my video game night with my friends. Nothing could ever get in the way of that.”
  • A local private university spends a couple days of its freshman orientation week on gender and sexuality clarification issues. These exercises are meant to help recent high school graduates discover who they really are, without the constraints of what they’ve been told they are supposed to be.
The US Census Bureau reports that one of every three children in the United States is being raised without a father present. Millions of boys grow up without a dad to pass down what only dads can.

What do all of these stories have in common? They point to an important cultural conversation taking place both outside and inside the church: Is manhood under siege? What does a real man look like?

What do we do about the growing cultural dynamic of protracted boyhood? Who will teach our boys to be men? In teaching boys to be men, how do we avoid narrow cultural stereotypes? What does the Bible say about gender distinction? What does it teach about a man being a man? How different are men from women?

These are ongoing debates whose conclusions will shape the lives of thousands of boys who are in the process of becoming men. The "manhood" conversation is something no serious Christian can avoid.

Books on Manliness
The contemporary conversation on manliness is unfolding on a myriad of blogs, websites, and books. Perhaps the most popular and influential work on manhood right now is The Art of Manliness, a website founded by the husband-and-wife team of Brett and Kate McKay. (The McKays have also written a book with the same title, which features similar material as the website.)

The Art of Manliness offers the ultimate one-stop shop for tips on staying in shape, dressing sharply, unleashing your inner handyman, and many other street-level skills that every man supposedly needs. Articles feature step-by-step instructions on how to tie your neck tie with a four-in-hand knot, how to shave like your grandpa, how to give a man-hug, to how to teach your kid to ride a bike, and everything in between. But reading this work made me sad, and I’ll tell you why: I learned many of these things (at least the more practical ones) from my dad. He taught me how to polish my shoes. He taught me to look in a man’s eyes when I shook his hand. He taught me the value of hard work. He taught me how to grill a good steak. I wonder if the reason The Art of Manliness is so popular is that fathers just aren’t passing these things down to their sons anymore.

In recent years, evangelical publishing houses have released several books touching on issues and challenges of manliness. Jonathan Catherman’s The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl, & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive (B&H) covers similar terrain as The Art of Manliness. Also contributing to the conversation are Darrin Patrick’s The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits (Thomas Nelson), Stephen Mansfield’s Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men: An Utterly Invigorating Guide to Being Your Most Masculine Self (Thomas Nelson), and Eric Mason’s Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole (B&H).

If you ask Darrin Patrick (lead pastor of The Journey church in St. Louis) what makes a man a man, he won’t give you a set of skills. No, he’ll immediately say that it’s all about character. You respect a real man because of who he is, not because of what he’s able to do. Patrick captures the essence of manhood with catchy phrases: “Get It Done.” “Train, Not Just Try.” “Feel Something Without Crying at Everything.” “Find the Right Arena.” Each of these phrases is the doorway to a discussion of crucial areas of character in the life of any serious man. Patrick says in a hundred different ways that it’s what’s inside of a man that counts, no matter how much he knows about tying a four-in-hand knot.

Stephen Mansfield, the bestselling author and biographer, sees manhood in strong, active, heroic terms. His book is built on four maxims: Manly men do manly things. Manly men tend their fields. Manly men build manly men. And manly men live to the glory of God. Mansfield illustrates these maxims with a hero’s gallery of men: Winston Churchill, George Patton, Jedediah Smith, and Theodore Roosevelt, to name a few. Mansfield’s list of character traits is quite helpful, and his biographical sketches were convicting and motivating. But deep down, I kept thinking, “If these guys are examples of ‘real’ man, then I’m cooked! I’ll never measure up.”

Eric Mason is pastor of an urban Philadelphia church in a very tough neighborhood. He is both a firsthand witness to how manhood is broken down and a driven and articulate champion of seeing it rebuilt. On the sidewalks he travels every day, he sees evidence of the destructive power of sin on the lives of boys and young men. The experience has convinced him that only God’s grace is capable of reversing the tide. In many ways, Mason’s advice is not unlike Patrick’s or Mansfield’s. But his book stands out in that it contains a strong “something has been broken in men and only God’s grace can restore it” emphasis on every page. Manhood Restored is not so much a work of cultural analysis, but a pastor’s heartfelt plea to see men in his care living out their manly callings once more.

A Biblical Response
I would love to eavesdrop on a conversation between Brett and Kate McKay, Darrin Patrick, Stephen Mansfield, and Eric Mason and listen to them discuss what makes a man a “real man.” They’re all concerned with the present state of “mandom.” But they approach the topic from very different places and with very different priorities. It would be a charged and informative conversation, to say the least.

Well, I’ll probably never get them all in the same room, but examining their work—examining it alongside Scripture, the ultimate resource on the meaning and purpose of manhood—has left me with the following conclusions:

It’s foolish to ignore this issue. The work of every generation of Christians is to examine significant cultural issues through the lens of the worldview of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our job is to bring the sanity that can only be found in Scripture. The manhood conversation really does need an infusion of biblical wisdom.

God created men and women to be different. To the Bible believer, this may seem obvious. But our culture no longer assumes that it’s true. Amid the raging societal debate about gender and sexual identity, it’s not hard to see that many young men lack the strong, formative male influences in their lives that previous generations enjoyed. Gender does matter. Manhood and womanhood matter because the Creator decided that they should matter. By design, the self-image God planted in all human beings has a male and a female expression.

It is a rejection of God’s plan for a man to reject his identity as a man. The blurring of gender and role distinctions is but another place where modern culture has walked away from the Creator’s design. If we as a culture have moved away from a street-level belief in the existence of God, is it really surprising that we would be less committed to his design for humanity? Whether he is aware of it or not, it is an act of worship for a man to cultivate and celebrate his manhood. In so doing, he is bowing his knee to the wise choice of his Creator.

Christian culture machoism is not the solution. Google “Tattooed Jesus,” and you’ll see how some Christians have chosen to respond to a culture that appears to have manhood under siege. Giving young men a muscle-bound, tattoo-laden Jesus to worship distorts both the nature of Jesus and the nature of manhood. It takes a limited, physical definition of a “real” man and treats the Messiah as its finest embodiment. This tends to introduce another form of cultural confusion to the rising generation of Christian young men.

The Bible doesn’t say much about what makes a man a man. Perhaps many of us wish we could open the Book of Man chapter 1, verse 1 and begin reading about what really makes a man a man. But the Bible doesn’t say much about this. The Bible clearly distinguishes men from women. It has essential things to say about God’s design for the roles of men and women. But when it comes to the fine-grained detail of masculinity and femininity, the Bible is largely silent. This silence is not some tragic omission. No, it is by divine intention. God’s Word really does give us everything we need “for life and godliness.” In this way the Bible is comprehensive, but it is not exhaustive. It is always dangerous to ask it to speak in places where it is silent.

Manly skills do not make a man. It’s certainly useful to know how to keep a journal, survive in the wilderness, keep yourself fit, plan a date, cook a steak, and do home repairs. But mastering these arts doesn’t make you a real man in the deepest sense. My father taught me how to polish my shoes, tie a tie, and match a shirt to a suit. He taught me how to shave and impressed upon me the importance of deodorant and cologne. He taught me how to look a person in the eye when you shake hands, how to safely handle and shoot a gun, how to look for a job, and how to keep the job you have. But ultimately, he lived a double life, and he left me unprepared for the weightier responsibilities of manhood.

Regarding the deepest issues of the heart, men and women are the same. As I read The Dude’s Guide to Manhood, (a book that would be helpful for all men to read) it hit me that Patrick’s advice applies across the board: The majority of what he rightly says makes a successful man would also make a successful woman. His advice to men is to “be determined, teachable, disciplined, hardworking, content, devoted, connected, properly emotional, forgiven and forgiving.” Isn’t this equally good advice for women? Sin pushes all of us in the direction of being selfish, entitled, lazy, demanding, and lacking in perseverance, patience, and love. These things rob men of their manhood, but they weaken women as well.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. The quest for true manhood ultimately drives us to the cross of Jesus Christ. We run to Jesus not just as the ultimate example of what a man looks like, but more importantly as our Savior. Here’s the bottom line: As a man, I don’t just need to be rescued from the pressures, deficiencies, prejudices, and imbalances of the surrounding culture. No, I need to be rescued from my sin—from myself. It is humbling to note that the greatest danger to any man exist inside of him, not outside of him. Sin makes me willing to be less than the man God designed me to be, and for that, I need forgiveness and transforming grace. The next generation of men need may need to be challenged to be real men. But more than anything, they need to be introduced to the Savior who alone can make that possible.

Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and president of Paul Tripp Ministries.