Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unashamed Masculinity from a Woman's Perspective

by Gloria Furman - May 18, 2012

(Gloria Furman lives in Dubai with her husband Dave, a pastor. They are raising three young kids. Gloria is currently writing a book for Crossway on applying the gospel in the home)

I live in a culture that admires a man’s earning power, and his fertility, and his ability to rule his domain with an iron fist.

While Scripture certainly calls for a Christ-like masculinity that provides for and protects his family, the Bible takes a wrecking ball to the culture-based ideals of masculinity that are celebrated around the world.

By God’s grace, I enjoy the fruits of living with a man who demonstrates biblical masculinity. This is the kind of masculinity that emerges from the gospel, points back to the gospel, and celebrates the gospel in my home.


The masculinity I appreciate as a wife is of far greater value than wealth-earning power. It’s a masculinity that is unashamed of the gospel which is the power of God (Romans 1:16).

The unashamed masculinity I enjoy in my home leaves a legacy that is more enduring than prolific fertility. It’s masculinity that fervently loves others from a heart that has been born again, born not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable. True masculinity is reborn through the living and abiding word of God.

The unashamed masculinity I love to follow in my home is far more impressive than macho pride. It’s masculinity that is willing to take the painful shrapnel in the battle against his own sin, rather than run from sin and hide in the comfort of silence. It is a masculinity that willingly exposes its life to the iron-sharpening-iron of open and honest male accountability relationships.

The unashamed masculinity that guards the hearts in my home puts away rash, cutting words that pierce like a sword. My husband’s Christ-honoring masculinity understands the power of words, and he uses words to bring healing to me and our children.

The unashamed masculinity I cherish in my home is such that fixes its eyes on Jesus and turns its eyes away from all the vain things of this world that hold a potent charm over other men. My husband’s Christ-honoring masculinity flees from promises whispered by a hiss.

The unashamed masculinity I need in my home is concerned that others find their delight in God. Nothing quite says, “I love you” to me than when my husband is willing to humbly stand up to the things I pursue that obstruct my everlasting joy in God. His loving masculinity reassures me of Christ’s atonement made on my behalf, and of the privilege I have to boldly approach the throne of grace.

Unashamed masculinity has less to do with how many horses a man owns, or how fast he can run. Unashamed masculinity is about what a man does with the gospel.

Where can you see this unashamed masculinity? You see it whenever a man has peered into the empty tomb and found new motivation to lay down his own life to spread the gospel into the souqs of Casablanca, into the office spaces in Dallas, into the cafes in Geneva, into the shantytowns of Mumbai, into the barrios of Sao Paulo, and into the universities of Toronto.

My Unashamed Husband

My dear, godly, husband once explained to someone that he wasn’t able to shake hands because of the nerve disease in his arms. This person said, “That’s awful! Everyone can tell a real man by the firm grip of his handshake.”

I just smiled to myself.

I’ve watched my husband find his strength in the joy of the Lord. He has a firm grip on grace. And I can testify that he is “a real man” by his unashamed passion for the gospel.

When he cares for our family, our church, and our city with the gospel, he grabs hold of the gates of hell and shakes them without fear and without shame.

That is the kind of gospel-centered masculinity that I thank God for, and it’s the masculinity that I want to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horton, Wilson, Burk Spar Over Whether Cultural Expectations Should Shape Christian Views of Masculinity

Is Christianity masculine? Has ministry become effeminate? The consideration of such questions by leaders in the Reformed movement (for example, John Piper recently said that Christianity has a ("masculine feel") has initiated a debate about whether the modern resurgence of "muscular Christianity" is scriptural and, more generally, whether cultural expectations should shape Christian views of manhood.

Position #1 - In an article for Modern Reformation titled "Muscular Christianity," Michael Horton, a professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary, argues that "In the drive to make churches more guy-friendly, we risk confusing cultural (especially American) customs with biblical discipleship":
The back story on all of this is the rise of the "masculine Christianity movement" in Victorian England, especially with Charles Kingsley's fictional stories in Two Years Ago (1857). D. L. Moody popularized the movement in the United States and baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday preached it as he pretended to hit a home run against the devil. For those of us raised on testimonies from recently converted football players in youth group, Tim Tebow is hardly a new phenomenon. Reacting against the safe deity, John Eldredge's Wild at Heart (2001) offered a God who is wild and unpredictable. Neither image is grounded adequately in Scripture. With good intentions, the Promise Keepers movement apparently did not have a significant lasting impact. Nor, I predict, will the call of New Calvinists to a Jesus with "callused hands and big biceps," "the Ultimate Fighting Jesus."

Are these really the images we have of men in the Scriptures? Furthermore, are these the characteristics that the New Testament highlights as "the fruit of the Spirit"---which, apparently, is not gender-specific? "Gentleness, meekness, self-control," "growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ," "submitting to your leaders," and the like? Officers are to be "apt to teach," "preaching the truth in love," not quenching a bruised reed or putting out a smoldering candle, and the like. There is nothing about beating people up or belonging to a biker club.
Position #2 -- In his reply (Michael Horton, Gender Stereotypes, and Me), Doug Wilson, pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho and Senior Fellow at New Saint Andrews College, says that Horton's critique appears to rest on a confusion about the role of what gender stereotypes from our culture means since creational differences are expressed in a cultural context:
Suppose you overheard one of the kids from your church telling one of the sweet little church ladies to "eff off." Suppose you confronted him about it, and he defended himself by saying that the meaning assigned to those particular sounds were assigned by our culture, and not by the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. Suppose further that he scoffs and says that the whole thing is "linguistically arbitrary." And, you know, he's right, and I suppose you also know that he is entirely and completely in the wrong. It is linguistically arbitary, and he still doesn't get to speak that way.

The Bible never tells us that men should take out the garbage, or that a gentleman holds a seat for the lady, or that opening a car door for your wife is a class act, and so on. Never. But that is irrelevant. Our culture gives us the vocabulary of honor, but the Bible tells us how we must do something with that vocabulary.
Scoring the Debate: Horton makes an excellent point that some Evangelicals---especially those within the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" camp---have created an unscriptural vision of masculinity that is built on "a Jesus with 'callused hands and big biceps,' 'the Ultimate Fighting Jesus.'" In an attempt to make church more appealing to men, some evangelicals churches have even promoted questionable "ministries" which focus on violent sports such as Mixed Martial Arts. These types of activities pervert the view of Biblical masculinity. As Horton correctly notes, the fruits of the Spirit are not gender-specific and are often antithetical to the popular hyper-masculine view of how Christian men should act.

Yet while this is a helpful and much needed corrective, I believe that Wilson is right to point out how Horton has gone too far in separating scriptural admonitions from their cultural context. My own view is best expressed by Denny Burk, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, who says:
In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul argues for male headship (1 Cor. 11:3), and he does so on the basis of the order of God's good creation (1 Cor. 11:8-9). Yet in the midst of laying down this creation norm, Paul also references a number of particular issues that are conditioned by cultural considerations. The one that immediately comes to mind is the bit about hair length.
The passage overall is concerned with men and women inhabiting their proper roles, and a part of that means looking the part. Men should look like men, and women should look like women. And so Paul says, "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her?" (1 Cor. 11:14-15).

So here is an instance in which the apostle Paul himself says that God-ordained gender roles must be lived-out with an eye toward cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity.
There are other texts that we could go to that illustrate this same principle (e.g., Deut. 22:5), but let's leave it at just the one for now. The point is that we have to live out our gender roles in the culture that we find ourselves in. The apostle Paul probably never wore trousers. But that doesn't mean that he was less masculine for wearing something that would probably have looked more like a dress to us. His own culture informed the way he obeyed God, even though the creation norm remained an ever-fixed mark. He had an eye to his culture's impressions about masculinity and femininity. I don't think we can do any different.
by Joe Carter is a Marine Corps veteran, an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gospel Men

I see four ways masculinity is expressed by Christian men today; three wrong, one right.

1. Soft exterior, soft interior. Effeminate inside and out, top to bottom. Yuck.

2. Hard exterior, soft interior. Posers. Macho. Insecure, covering it with how much they can bench.

3. Hard exterior, hard interior. Genuinely strong, willing to lay down their life for Jesus and family, but earnest to make sure everyone knows that about them. Not only wants to be strong in actuality but needs to be strong in image. Stiff not only in conviction but in demeanor.

4. Soft exterior, hard interior. Rock solid, responsible, risk-taking, calls heresy heresy, calls error error, willing to take shots for the good of the team, able to stick his neck out in elder meetings when the pastor is being maligned by fellow-elder-golfing-buddies--but all soaked in a gentle demeanor, seasoned with grace, someone the guy struggling with homosexuality would confide in.

The answer to the first two is not the third but the fourth.

Paul said 'Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men' (1 Cor 16:13) and he said repeatedly to do all things with gentleness (Gal 5:23; Eph 4:2; 2 Tim 2:25). I think in the past I've received the first thing to the neglect of the second.

A mature oak tree is immovable when the storms rage against it, but it's also beautiful, and invites shelter to others. Isn't that what gospel men should be?

By Dane Ortland, Bible Publishing Director at Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois.