But Nothing to Offer

The Western Evangelical Reformed church has been wringing its hands for some time now over the problem it has with men. And that introductory sentence can cut both ways. One way is that a good part of the church seems to think that it has a problem because men are masculine and toxic. The other way is that they have a problem because there are less and less men. It takes very little to see though that both of those are actually related. The tortured logic seems to be that we have to accept men in because of that niggling imago dei thing. But we want to force those masculine square pegs into some feminine round holes. And that the church has had some good success in the past letting the most effeminate men dominate the pastorate so why can’t the rest just conform? Unsurprisingly this has lead to an exodus of men from the church causing it to look about wondering what the problem is with the men.

On the heels of this bewilderment there is plenty of curiosity as to why secular figures rise to prominence among men. People like Jordan Peterson on the “safer” end,* and Andrew Tate types on the evil end. In the middle are the Mormon guys like Brett McKay which can be its own can of worms. Why, the church asks itself and writes think pieces on, are men more likely to follow these apostles from the world than to receive instruction from their pastor?

In one week TGC ponders the attraction of Stoic philosophy and and in a separate article, the Tate downfall (they were in favor, as am I). And it is a pretty predictable formula for this kind of article. 1. Raise the issue that is attracting men and perplexing Christians. 2. Locate and explain what it is about the personality/philosophy that draw the men to it. 3. Offer reasonable critiques of that personality/philosophy 4. Explain how Jesus is better.

Now none of those things are bad. TGC was reasonably insightful on stoicism. But a step is missed and it is one that it would appear that the current makeup of Western Reformed Evangelicalism is unwilling to take. To instruct pastors to be masculine and encourage men to be masculine. 

Often these kinds of think pieces have to insert a time out to remind everyone that when they are talking about masculinity they do not mean toxic masculinity, but Biblical or healthy masculinity. And this is the point where most men walk out. By ceding the ground, the control of the dictionary, to the world the entire article becomes gutless, pointless. The people those asides are supposed to appease will not be appeased because when they say toxic masculinity they mean all masculinity and prefacing with other descriptors tells them the author is not to be considered. And for the men, well we know that two games are being played, the weak appeasement game, and the we want you square pegs to suck it in and fit into this nice round hole game.

Masculinity is not only created by God it is his primary way of revealing himself. Too much is made of those few, very few, instances where a feminine trait is displayed by God. Lewis points out that even reality itself is divinely created masculine:

“If any message from the core of reality ever were to reach us, we should expect to find in it just that unexpectedness, that willful, dramatic anfractuosity which we find in the Christian faith. It has the master touch—the rough, male taste of reality, not made by us, or, indeed, for us, but hitting us in the face.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain Chapter 1

Masculinity is not only good it is a good gift. Male leaders were given to the church to serve by leading in a masculine way. And that way has been departed from in that the leaders do not devote themselves to prayer and study of the word but to being pastoral. Like victorian anglican vicars but in cooler clothing and haircuts. Most pastors work today more resembles the fantasy maiden of Dr. Chumley from Harvey “She would hold my hand and say poor thing, poor poor thing.”**

It also does not help that any time a masculine pastor rises to some prominence he is promptly shown the door because of his uncouth opinions. And this is not a criticism of all pastors, to pull from known names, it is not as if men like Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, or Sinclair Ferguson lack masculinity. But they are very careful to guild their lilies so as to avoid offense. Or in other-words they will never be an alternative to the Jordan Petersons or Andrew Tates of the world. The pastors that would be able to evangelize and disciple the men following Peterson or Tate are asterisked into oblivion by the respectable types. They are marginalized and intentionally misunderstood and misinterpreted. 

Consider this example. At the height of the Rona plague, John MacArthur lead 2000 people in civil disobedience against a tyrannical governor who had illegally overstepped the law and persecuted the church. MacArthur not only was unflappable but also won, because he was right He also posted an open letter calling the evil head of state to repent listing the numerous sins. It was manful, it was correct and it received no end if criticism from the approved reformed intelligentsia because he was rocking the boat and his tone was not nice. But to put a finer point on this illustration. The self presented macho hosts of Doctrine and Devotion decided to critique MacArthurs open letter on the basis that it had too much law and not enough gospel. 

I think that sums up the problem. I said above the consternation on masculine thinking ends its consideration on criticism and then jumping to the conclusion that Jesus is better. And that wile correct it omits the step where Jesus being better is displayed. If a man is watching John MacArthur be manful why is that guy gonna accept the critique of the two guys who didn’t fight that battle, they waved the white flag. It is illustrative of the problem. The Western Evangelical Reformed church has largely surrendered to the culture on the truth of masculinity, it knows there is a problem with men in the church but they just can not bring themselves to man up and actually do anything about it other than to usher out the people who are doing something. 

Jesus is better, but it is as if we are sitting on a mountain of gold telling a poor man what all his problems are but that we have nothing else to offer him but talk.

*When I put safer in quotes it is because I have grave concerns about Peterson and his pretension to teach Scripture to young men.

**To which the pure but masculine Elwood Dowd criticizes “Wouldn’t that get a little monotonous, just Akron, cold beer and ‘poor, poor thing’ for two weeks?” and saying it is a mistake to just have beer and no whiskey.

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