Doug Wilson speaks frequently and accurately about the crisis of masculinity in the church.
And it’s no wonder there’s a crisis of masculinity in America and the west at large because the church hasn’t modeled biblical manhood for the world. So the world has no one to point them in the right direction and say, “Hey, this is how you do manhood”.
For my entire life as a Christian I have struggled to be at home in the modern church. There’s so much of it I just don’t understand. And one of the greatest mysteries to me is the church’s misunderstanding of manhood and the general shape of a Christian male.
To borrow from Voddie Baucham, we’ve largely convinced ourselves that Christian men are above all, “nice”.
It’s the ole 11th commandment and it trumps all the rest, “Thou shalt be nice.” At all cost. Even at the expense of the 10 other commandments.
The idea of a Christian man who speaks directly, truthfully and with authority is anathema in the modern church.
This man is a sower of dissention, a brut or worse, “unloving”.
So the result is a thoroughly feminized church.
What do I mean (and what do I think Wilson means) by that? Well if I could distill manhood down to one word it would be this:
Men take initiative.
So a feminized church is a church full of passive men.
And the tell tale sign of passivity in men is the spirt of avoidance. What do I mean by that? What is avoidance or passivity?
Avoidance and passivity is Adam, standing, watching, waiting and twiddling his thumbs while Eve chats up that serpent and ogles that fruit. He knows what the Lord said and what he gave him charge over but he’s gonna sit back and kind of passively watch how things go down without so much as saying a word.
Avoidance and passivity is reflected in the way that men refuse to engage and grapple with difficult issues. It’s the wolf at the door they refuse to acknowledge and if pressed to acknowledge it they quickly play it down as triviality or as a matter of secondary concern so as to be able to then avoid the issue altogether.
What are some examples? Just what Wilson’s explained here. There’s an elder’s wife who is acting outside her God ordained role within the body. Perhaps she’s insubordinate or insists on her own way. Perhaps she has a pet project that she wants to promote within the fellowship and the program itself is theologically or doctrinally questionable or even outright heretical.
Well the passive man’s first move is to avoids the issue altogether. His earnest hope is that every one else will be passive too and just kind of let Eve do whatever she wants.
Then if confronted with the issue by some brut within the congregation, “Yo fellas! That thing the dearly beloved Mrs Elder is promoting looks like a false teaching. Looks like an idol. Whatchall wanna do about it?”
Uh oh. Now the passive man has to respond. The issue’s been brought to his foot.
Well, being the passive fellow that he is, he wants to avoid having to deal with the issue in a direct way altogether so the typical second response after outright avoidance is to downplay the issue as much as possible so that it’s now seen as “not really an issue at all.”
Avoidance has a cousin named compromise and they both follow passivity around like a gaggle of miscreants.
Well what’s the root of this thing? Why are these supposed “mighty” men of the faith so invariably feckless?
What drives their inaction? What keeps their hands under their seat and their mouth shut when it ought to be open and what makes their words lying kisses when they ought to be a truthful sword that wounds.
They’re afraid of what taking initiative against hot button issues will result in and that result is battle. Spiritual warfare.
They all know Ephesians 6. They can quote it with the rest of the Awana kids.
But they don’t KNOW Ephesians 6, they don’t know it experientially. They don’t know what the sword of truth is because they’ve refuse to pick it up and enter into the fray. Heck they’re reluctant to even acknowledge there is in fact a fracas all about them.
And all of that is because they are afraid. Suffering, the noble calling to which all Christian men have received their clarion call is a cross they won’t bear.
What do I mean?
I mean this.
If they engage in the battle before them and they speak truthfully and directly, say to the Elder about his wife and her penchant for false teaching, well they’re gon get a response. And it’s probably not going to be, “Hey thanks brother, I know that Proverbs teaches us that the wounds of a friend are faithful, so thanks so much for telling me what I didn’t want to hear or have to deal with.”
No they’re prolly gonna be called a sower of dissension, a muckraker, a busy body, a false witness and worst of all, “unloving”.
If they really force the issue they’ll be disruptive enough of the power brokers that a coalition will be built and they’ll be “reprimanded en masse” or worse “cast out”.
Outside the church this looks like getting fired and loosing your salary, 401K or pension. It looks like being unable to pay your mortgage, having to sell your home and an unhappy wife who’s grown accustom to having nice things. Yikes. No fun.
It looks like largely fighting real battles, real spiritual warfare against real spirts in real high places like government and big business and even in your local church. It’s looks like doing it alone with no brother in arms willing to get in the foxhole with you.
It looks like praying so intently and with such dread about the cross set before you you sweat drops of blood while your buds can’t bother to stay awake and pray with you. It looks like, regardless of what it means for yourself, for your own skin, you utter those same words as the one who went before you, “not my will but yours be done.”
You see fear or dread of suffering is common to every man. No one really wants to hang on a cross. That hurts. Bad.
But if we want to be faithful men. Men of good courage. We’re going to have to steel our minds and set our faces like flint that we’re going into battle. We’re going to war and there’s a high chance we’re not coming out of that tumult without a scar to prove that “we were there”.
Okay but there’s still a problem here. How do we get men who are understandably fearful of the cost of discipleship, to anti up and kick in like men?
In a word. LOVE.
You see a man who’s compelled by duty will only go so far. He’s sorta faithful. He’s compelled to do the right thing. But when the going gets real rough that man will stumble. He’ll fall and eventually, like the Peter in us all, he’ll run and hide and deny he ever knew us.
But the man who’s compelled by love. This man is ready to die. He willingly embraces the cross that’s set before him for the hope of the resurrection to come.
Stack up hell and all her armies and this man will stare them down flint eye’d and wooly haired. He’ll not be moved. He’s compelled by the very character of the Almighty God. He’s motivated by God’s own love working in him.
So how do we deal with the rampant feminization in the church and the passivity it produces?
How do we get men to act like men?
We preach Jesus Christ and his cross to them and we tell them the truth. It was love that ransomed you from your sin and it was born of the cross of suffering. It’s love that will unbind you from your fear and passivity but it will not come with out suffering.
When you finally settle it in your mind to love the Lord as he has loved you, to understand and embrace the axiom that truth does not come without suffering; well, then you’ll take up beside him on a cross of your own.
You’ll take those idols of yours, your nice comfortable life, your nice car, your nice job, your nice vacations and let’s not forget, most important to all of us men, the respect of other men; you’ll take all those false gods, you’ll set them on the altar and light ’em on fire to watch them burn as you embrace the cross your Master has set before you.
In doing this you’ll be doing actual battle against actual princes and principalities, spiritual forces of wickedness in high places exposing them to open shame. Know this; they, those evil spirits, they won’t take it lying down. They will come hard against you.
But know also this. The cross is the place not only of your salvation but also of your victory.
Standing victoriously in the truth, which IS Christ Jesus the Lord, you will join him in the power of his resurrection as you obey the Holy Spirit boldly and without reservation speaking the truth in love to brother and pagan alike.
In doing this, we’ll stand with Jesus in victory holding those scoundrels to open shame as we triumph over them in Him.
So what’s it gonna be men?
Adam or Christ?