Michael Emmanuel | Student of Redeemer
It has been said, “Our culture is characterized by men who are embarrassed to be men.” No doubt we have all heard at some point about the death of biblical masculinity in the Church today, the abandonment of men from church, the lack of male leadership, etc. But what are the standard responses to this problem?
Two years ago, there was a conference tour going around North America led Mark Driscoll and other popular pastors of the time. It was the “Act Like Men” tour, and my dorm at the time watched the video series they produced as part of our dorm devotionals. It was, frankly, disappointing. The passion was there, the intentions were great, but the material was negligible. We learned things like: be leaders, take spiritual responsibility, love your families, hold firm to your faith, and live up to your calling.
All excellent things, but nothing that pertained particularly to biblical masculinity. In other words, without trying to oversimplify it, the advice was: do things every Christian should do, just be better at it than women. More than that, the conference seemed to assume something I think most people today in the Church do: that men are somehow the problem.
I know it’s true men aren’t taking responsibility, that they aren’t taking on leadership, that they are being lazy, stupid, and insolent, but has anyone bothered to ask why this is? Did men one day just suddenly give up out of the blue? Why don’t we have this same problem with women? Are they somehow religiously superior to men? Are they more moral than men?
Certainly our feministic culture would love to tell us this is the case – one need only turn on a television sit-com or attend a public university humanities lecture to hear that. But I want to suggest that there’s a different answer. The reason men have abandoned the Church was because the Church abandoned them. The Church castrated men by abandoning an efficacious gospel in favor of a sentimental gospel. In turn men, who preferred not to be castrated, left the churches.
Of course we recognize that outside the Church, men cannot really be men. The Church doesn’t minimize our personality; the Church, through the gospel, gives us our personality back. As C.S. Lewis writes, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Thus, men are abandoning the Church, or at least abandoning the hope of being a man inside the Church: “Men are bewildered with the world around them and with the responsibilities that a man of God should bear in such a world. Some meekly submit to our cultural rebellion against masculinity; others silently fume, not knowing what to do.” (C.S. Lewis)
All the while these men have lost a genuine biblical masculinity.
This is all because the Church abandoned the efficacious gospel, the gospel found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We are usually taught that this passage is about missions. But what is missions? Most people seem to think that missions is all about global evangelism. However, the Missio Dei is hardly so small.
The Great Commission is Christ’s renewal of the cultural mandate given to man in Genesis 1. That was the command for man to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” and to “have dominion.” Man failed in that calling when he fell in the garden, but that did not eliminate the mandate, it only meant that men were now unable to fulfill it. Christ came that we might once again do what we were created for. Have you ever asked, “what is my salvation for?” It’s for the life of the world!
Meanwhile, the Church teaches us that the Great Commission, and thus the Gospel, is all a grand chain letter scheme. One theologian puts it like this:
“What do you tell a newly converted adult when he asks the question, ‘Alright, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Now what do I do?' Modern [Evangelicalism] says mainly all he has to do is tell someone else about what just happened to him. Then that person tells another, and so on, until the Rapture revokes the Great Commission.
“[Evangelicalism] looks at the gospel as if it were some kind of gigantic chain letter scheme. Nothing is of value in God’s sight except keeping this chain letter going. But the gospel is not a chain letter. It is the good news that Jesus has already overcome the world and gives His disciples authority to extend dominion over history before he returns in judgement.”
The Great Commission is not about 'going;' that is not the imperative verb in the passage, even though our English translations make it seem so. The Great Commission is about 'making,' that is, making disciples and baptizing the nations. We are to be culture makers, nation builders, civilization founders. That’s the greatness of the great commission!
What happens when we lose this? We lose manhood.
Men were created for dominion. That’s what Psalm 8 teaches us: “You have made [man] to have dominion over the works of your hands.” This was the reason God created Adam to work before He brought him Eve. The dominion covenant was given to the federal head of mankind before the marriage covenant. Dominion is thus a prerequisite for marriage and the family. A man’s calling is more basic than his need for a partner. Hence some men can live without marrying, but no man can live without work.
When you take the greatness out of the Great Commission and make it solely about evangelism, you castrate men. You say to him: your work is not as important as evangelism. You are a less spiritual person if you do not get involved in missions. Unless you lead in a church youth group, children’s ministry, or the worship band, you aren’t being a Christian man. Or to put it in the reverse; If today, right now, you committed to loving God more, what kinds of things would you start doing more of?
Who thinks to say, 'I’ll get good grades in school so I can get a good job as an accountant and bring glory to God by being a good accountant?' Who says, 'I’ll join a political party and run for office to bring glory to God in politics?' Who says, 'I’ll join a local soccer league and bring glory to God by winning lots of games?' Who thinks, 'I’ll get back to my parent’s farm and milk cows to produce the best milk for the glory of God?' Why do only 'spiritual' activities make our lists? Are these things mentioned any less dignifying, any less religious, or any less holy than doing something 'spiritual?'
Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” In Colossians 1:16-18 he writes:
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
All of life is religious. All of life must be brought captive to Christ. God cares about your work. The gospel is efficacious: it effects change in us. It effects the redemption of all of life, not the reduction of life in to a small compartment of spiritual things amongst an otherwise secular life.
But when you tell men that their work is somehow below the level of real spiritual work, you create two tiers of religiosity. In one tier you have the really spiritual people: the women, and the men who have castrated their manhood to focus their lives solely on 'spiritual things.' On the other end you have men who just aren’t spiritual. They must think of their work as inferior, or they must leave the church. Many men just leave the church.
The reduced gospel becomes a sentimental gospel. Christ’s work didn’t effect the redemption of all life and the consummation of the cultural mandate. Instead it makes us 'super-spiritual' people. Since spiritual life has no reference to daily life, it can only be expressed through feelings of transcendence. Thus, when we are called as men to imitate Christ’s love, love loses its content and becomes sentimental. Feelings replace knowledge, emotions replace doctrine, and passionate hysteria replaces being led by the Spirit.
The solution can begin with us. God is always faithful to his people, no matter how small the remnant. Biblical masculinity doesn’t have to die. We can revive it, with God’s help. But we must begin to refocus our thinking so that we see that all of life is religious. We must allow men the dignity of being a man whether he’s a pastor or a spiritual leader, or whether he’s a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. But we cannot reduce manhood to a limited view of spirituality.