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There are some persons who are incapable of estimating forbearance, and if you decline engaging in argument with them, they straightway conclude you have nothing to say for yourself, and that your opinions are groundless, and your conduct indefensible. —Thomas M’Crie
Is “neo-masculinity” the new error du jour? #
This may surprise you, but we are no strangers to controversy.
When we first launched It’s Good To Be A Man, we were screeched at by complementarians for being hyper-patriarchal, and we were denounced by hyper-patriarchalists for being closet feminists. (Shout-out to our favorite reader who still routinely reminds us that we are women-worshipers for claiming that our sisters in the faith are being transformed into the image of Christ just like our brothers.)
That has mostly settled down, but lately we have noticed pushback from a new sector. These seem to often be fairly strict confessionalists—Reformed people who are concerned that our focus on masculinity, in one way or another, is occluding the gospel.
To take one example, on the recent 17 Questions with Michael Foster (Canon+ subscription required), someone raised the concern that we take the purpose of marriage much further than the confessional, Reformed understanding. By emphasizing the need for a multigenerational perspective, and especially for raising up sons to replace us and expand God’s kingdom, in their eyes we swing the pendulum too far and drive a point that is isolating, dysfunctional, and unbiblical.
It seems these people are concerned that we are hyper-focused on masculinity, and read everything through that lens—including the gospel itself. We thus take a good thing, and turn it into a theological error—“neo-masculinity.”
This is odd given that in our book, it is clearly the other way around: we read masculinity through the lens of the gospel.
But it is also historically ignorant.
Behold the “neo-masculinity” of Martin Luther, in his “Sermon on the Estate of Marriage”:
But this at least all married people should know. They can do no better work and do nothing more valuable either for God, for Christendom, for the entire world, for themselves, and for their children than to bring up their children well. In comparison with this one work, that married people should bring up their children properly, there is nothing at all in pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem, or to St. Jacob [James], nothing at all in building churches, endowing masses, or whatever good works could be named. For bringing up their children properly is their shortest road to heaven. In fact, heaven itself could not be made nearer or achieved more easily than by doing this work. It is also their appointed work. Where parents are not conscientious about this, it is as if everything were the wrong way around, like fire that will not burn or water that is not wet.
By the same token, hell is no more easily earned than with respect to one’s own children. You could do no more disastrous work than to spoil the children, let them curse and swear, let them learn profane words and vulgar songs, and just let them do as they please. What is more, some parents use enticements to be more alluring to meet the dictates of the world of fashion, so that they may please only the world, get ahead, and become rich, all the time giving more attention to the care of the body than to the due care of the soul. There is no greater tragedy in Christendom than spoiling children. If we want to help Christendom, we most certainly have to start with the children, as happened in earlier times.
Or behold the “neo-masculinity” of J.C. Ryle, in Thoughts for Young Men:
The devil uses special diligence to destroy the souls of young men, and they don’t seem to know it.
Satan knows very well that you will make up the next generation and therefore he employs every trick to make you his own. I would not have you to be ignorant of his schemes.
You are those on whom he puts his choicest temptations. He spreads his net with the most watchful carefulness, to entangle your hearts. He baits his trap with the sweetest morsels, to get you into his power. He displays his wares before your eyes with his utmost ingenuity, in order to make you buy his sugared poisons, and eat his accursed treats. You are the grand object of his attack. May the Lord rebuke him, and deliver you out of his hands.
A lot of this problem has to do with people who can’t read as Scripture teaches us to read. In our work, we use plenty of proverbial, generalized statements—something we learned from Scripture. But there are people who seem constitutionally unable to interpret such statements correctly.
Social media seems to have greatly exacerbated this problem. E.g.,
“I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse."
Social media response:
“I highly doubt you could eat an entire horse. First off, where would you get someone to sell you the horse? Second, who would butcher it? Not you. Third, a horse weighs about 1000 lbs. It would take weeks to eat.”
“I’ve seen this movie a thousand times.”
Social media response:
“This movie is 3 hours long. So you’ve spent 3,000 hours watching this movie? I don’t believe that. That’s 125 days’ worth of this movie. If you watched this movie 5 times a week every week it would take you 200 weeks to watch it 1000 times. That’s just shy of 4 years.”
“It cost me an arm and a leg.”
Social media response:
“You clearly are lying. You have all your appendages. It’s also pretty rare that people use arms or legs as a form of currency in this country.”
“If we want to help Christendom, we most certainly have to start with the children.”
Social media response:
“Jesus and the apostles preached to everyone. They mostly preached to adults. You are denying the importance of evangelism. Why do you want to abandon the lost to their sins? We are not going to expand God’s kingdom by ignoring adults, and God is not going to bless an approach that confuses the household with the church.”
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
Social media response:
“So wine is evil now? Anyone who has even one glass is going to start getting into bar-fights? I have a whiskey every night, and my wife has a glass of wine. We never fight afterwards. Sometimes at a party I’ll even have several drinks, and never once have I been in a fight. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who has gotten into a fight because of alcohol. Stop calling evil that which God has called good.”
It’s not the tone. It’s never the tone #
Tone matters…but “concerns” about tone are invariably insincere.
The problem isn’t how you said it. It’s what you said, or who you said it to. Tone is just a way to side-step the actual issues.
A simple way to deal with efforts to shut you down because of tone is to ask: “So, you would agree with the content of what said, if I said it differently?"
Then watch them squirm and try to wiggle away.
The goal of most calls for unity is quiet, not peace.
Quiet only hides conflict.
Peace only comes when conflict it is dealt with straight on.
Men excel when the stakes are high #
This week on Facebook we shared a video of Nick Bostic, a 25 year old pizza delivery man, who ran into a burning house and saved four children.
They told him another child might still be in the house. So he ran back in to the inferno, found the girl, jumped out a window with her, and carried her to a cop who captured the moment on his bodycam.
This is an extreme example of a broader principle: men excel when the stakes are high.
Crisis compels competence.
If you want to push a man to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, you can appeal to him, or exhort him, or even rebuke him. You can try to lead by example, and you can teach him what God requires.
But probably what will have the most effect is throwing him into the deep end and making him swim.
There is nothing like having the heat turned up to force men to action. Rise to the challenge—or fail completely. Sink or swim.
One of the reasons men today are so lethargic is not just that they have been numbed by the various pleasures of the world—although they have—but that there is simply no crisis to spur them into action. No challenge to stimulate them. No dragon to face down. No gauntlet to take up.
Actually, this is not really true at all.
The problem is not the lack of crisis, or the lack of challenge, but rather the slow motion and confusing appearance of it all. The world is collapsing—the very time when men should be their best. But there is no battle to fight, no clear enemy to defeat, no obvious plan to implement, and no urgent mission to accomplish.
Instead, there is a gradual crumbling into the void. Sure, there are plenty of specific events that require action—but usually the action is expressing outrage on the internet. No practical steps are taken. No personal growth is achieved. Men are sapped of their potential one flash in the pan at a time.
Start seeing the crisis as it is. The dragon is eating you and your family and your household and your future in slow motion.
So you must leap into action in slow motion. Build a legacy that is prepared and able to bring order to chaos when things speed up. Every day, be your best. Every day, drive your sword a fraction deeper down the dragon’s throat.
New content this week: #
Michael drops a new podcast where he talks about regrets, nostalgia, survivor’s guilt, and the journey out of dark valleys. This is not like our usual episodes; it is a more personal, pastoral approach, focused on Michael’s own story, and how he worked through the kinds of issues that many men have to face. We’ve had a lot of listeners reach out to tell us how helpful it was, so give it a listen.
Bnonn preaches on the nature and duties of elders in the church. This is not your standard “run through the list of qualifications” sermon. Worth checking out, since elders should be models of biblical masculinity.
Here’s an extract from Bnonn’s notes, dealing with one important theme:
Moreover he must have good witness from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:7)
So if an elder is reproached by anyone outside the church, he is disqualified?
Not necessarily. We must distinguish between ordinary unbelievers, and enemies of the church.
Elders must indeed be the sorts of men who tend to be well spoken of by ordinary unbelievers. They ought to be men, for instance, who wait staff at a restaurant would like to have back. However, by nature, they simply cannot be the sort of men who are well spoken of by the church’s enemies.
Elders must be respected by common folk—and yet also hated by their enemies. This is the only way to make sense of what Scripture itself says, without turning it into a hot mess of contradiction. To require that the church’s enemies praise its elders would disqualify the very man upon whom church eldership is modeled: Jesus himself, the great shepherd of the sheep, who was crucified as a criminal. In the same way, his prophets and apostles, whom we are to imitate (1 Cor 11:1)—they were whipped, imprisoned, stoned, and killed for boldly preaching God’s law and gospel, for fighting for the sheep against the wolves.
Elders must act as guardians of doctrine, piety, and ultimately people—as Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets did. And this should produce a reputation with our enemies like that of Jesus with the Pharisees, Elijah with the wicked Ahab—“here comes this troubler of Israel”, John the Baptist with Herod, or Paul with Festus. Elders should be troublers of the ways of the wicked. Elders represent Christ himself, and should never be ashamed of receiving the same treatment as Christ. No, they should be ashamed to be well thought of by the wicked.
- A book worth checking out: Strong and Courageous: Following Jesus Amid the Rise of America’s New Religion
- Study: Marry Young, Marry Your First, Stay Married | National Review
- But make sure your wife is really committed; this study shows that the long-term success of the relationship depends much more on the woman’s commitment than the man’s: Weak and Strong Links: Asymmetrical Commitment in Unmarried Relationships | Institute for Family Studies
- 1965. Effect of emotional deprivation and neglect on babies. Subtitled in English - YouTube
- One to file under Cow Says Moo: After COVID: Unhappiness Is Worse Among Single and Non-Religious Americans | Institute for Family Studies
- DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office > U.S. Department of Defense > Release
Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael