Friday, April 18, 2008

The "New Masculinity" in the Church

Those of you who know me, know this is one of those areas that really get me fired up. In part because it seems church leadership is sleeping at the wheel. How we've allowed pagan and fallen views of masculinity to be the savior of the modern church is a symptom of a larger disease that the pop-culture is alive and well in the Body.

And some of it has been fueled by stronger complimentarians, who say women are subordinate to men and then invent roles and attitudes for men to show how they are superior... all in the name of the Bible.

Jonalyn and I have an article in the pipeline we want to write on the masculine problem, in part targeting Wild at Heart for its pagan roots (drawing from Carl Jung and others) which has set off a whole new Christian men's movement in the 21st century. In the meanwhile, Christianity Today published an article today that is worth your attention (A Jesus for Real Men). The article names several players in the 'new masculinity,' including pastors, writers, and organizations. And while I think these people are well-intentioned, I think they dramatically miss the point. Even my own church has been celebrating a men's fraternity, delving into the resources of books mentioned on this first page. It concerns me and I don't know what to do about it without looking like a troublemaker (which, I find, accomplishes little to the victims of the problem).

What can be done? Remember, Paul admonished the elders in Ephesus to watch for wolves (which includes people and ideas). This is part of the work of apologetics. For my part, I wonder if the elders are the ones to watch for wolves or if the ones watching for wolves are the elders (a discussion for another time)... but let's all pay attention!

Here's the article: A Jesus for Real Men by Brandon O'Brien

Comments please!!


Paul F. said...

I'm excited to see what you two come up with concerning this new masculinity stuff. I would like to offer an insight that may be helpful in understanding some of its proponents.

Not too long ago there was a discussion on Anthony Bradley's blog ( about the need for what he called "Insanely Aggressive Men." I thought that perhaps 'aggressive' isn't the right word to use because there are is some definitional baggage that comes along with the word (overly assertive, unprovoked violence, etc.), and perhaps we should just talk about the need for men to be more assertive (of course that would apply to women too, but that wasn't the context of the discussion). I agreed with Bradley that many men in the church are too passive, but the opposite of 'passive' is 'assertive' not 'aggressive'.

Bradley seemed very upset that some (others made similar points) aren't willing to make use of that word for Kingdom ends. After a few exchanges (both on his blog and on mine), I think I've figured out why he thinks it is still a good idea to use 'aggressive.' Because Bradley (and many others) come from a distinctively Reformed tradition, they place a heavy emphasis on the need for everything to be redeemed, including language.

My suggestion was, why waste our time with words that may cause confusion when other words work just fine. But with a fully Reformed view, I'm leaving out our call to redeem even language. So instead of abandoning it, why not redeem it for the Kingdom?

I say all that just as an example of something you amy encounter when discussing this idea. I don't know the extent that this new masculinity stuff depends on Jung, but even if it does depend on it a lot, some may still just say we should go about redeeming Jung's work for the Kingdom.

Dale Fincher said...

Paul! I was hoping you'd comment. You're always thoughtful and sane with your approach.

On the Reformed thing... I think any Christian who has a serious understanding of Scripture and history knows that redeeming is part of turning death to life which began with God reaching out to Abraham and found a climax in Jesus' resurrection. This is Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, and, when paying attention, evangelical too!

No doubt words need to be redeemed (and refreshed). We need to get back, sometimes, to what was originally understood for the sake of understanding Biblical and historical contexts. Our "Lost Words" series with fledge has this idea in mind. But not all words need to be redeemed. Those who study language understand that language changes and shifts like a river. We can do our best to preserve certain things or stay the tide, but inevitably that's the nature of words. I know some would love us all to speak KJV English (and some in fundamentalist circles still do at church LOL), but we don't and we won't. Language changes and new content is carried with it.

Take the word 'men' for example. If you were to announce in a conservative church that you'd like all the 'men' to stand up, you'd see males stand up. That would likely not be the case 400 years ago. "Men" is no longer a generic word for 'mankind.' We now say 'men' for 'males' and 'human beings' for everyone. If certain groups demand we don't update how language is used and understood, then we'll lose some of our God-given gifts of communication for, sometimes trivial, demands for the past.

Yes, by all means, let's redeem Jung. But part of what needs to be redeemed is his disdain for the mother figure in boy's lives... and this is carried over into Bly and then into Eldridge who relies on Bly (as just one example).

Another example: Men were not created in their essence to fight battles. As a pacifist, you know that. Battles came as a result of the Fall. We fight them, sometimes, because of justice, but it is always ugly.

So 'aggressive' may be the wrong word for men these says. I think it hearkens back to an industrial model.

And I think the passivity many see in the church come from both men and women. And I think it's jumping too quickly to conclusions to think it's a masculinity problem. The culture at large with its sensate pop-culture paradigm of entertainment, infotainment, etc., has put is in the habit of being passive. We are passive in every spectrum of life, from voting, to civic duties, to community service, to even helping our neighbors. We approach life with ease and selfishness. The very church system which encourages the Body to remain unheard why everyone faces forward to merely hear the hired pastor is part of the problem in the evangelical church culture, IMHO.

We all know there are passivity problems in the church. But I wouldn't blame it on gender anymore than I'd blame it on the ozone layer or blame it on Bush (which is always popular and get's an applause from some segments! LOL).

Journey said...

so much to say on this one...

1. It seems that the implied conclusion of the article is that we shouldn't be searching to be authentically masculine or feminine, but that Christ-likeness is more universal, and is exemplified in unique ways in each gender, and even in each person; that being authentically masculine or feminine will happen in the course of being a disciple (it will be a natural byproduct of walking with Christ.)

2. Attempts to become more masculine or more feminine presuppose that we have a model of both, which we don't have, not even in Jesus. This attempt to become more masculine or feminine, or authentically masculine or feminine , represents another attempt at "self-fixing" or "self-engineering" outside of union with God. It seems to reduce masculinity and femininity to tertiary concerns of the disciple.

3. As a male, I understand the motivations of these "man groups" that are rising up. I think men, in the last twenty or thirty years, have been under attack for a host of reasons. It seems that men have also been told that, because they are men, they are to "shut-up" and "take the beating", especially in relationships with women (Where women are running down the laundry list, compiled over many years, of the ways he has failed the family and herself). Typically men either withdraw, or they can become angry and defensive. The first is never really healthy, whereas the second is sometimes justified (when criticism is unjust). Either of these responses, al la Aristotle, could represent extremes, while the "mean" is something else. Moreover, the man must find this for himself: he cannot allow a woman to define it. What the universal nature of Christ-exemplification means, in accordance with the uniqueness of each gender, is that one has no authority to define the other, though they may be able to assist one another...What has led to resentment of women, and this Elderedgian lashing-out, is the feeling that men have to conform to an image that satisfies women(i.e., the one they are most deeply connected to), which is actually related to co-dependency . So on to the extreme men go (Harleys, hunting, and hanging out in "masculine" atmospheres), reacting to perceived threats to their "being". But men reacting this way MUST be given their space, and over time and by grace, they have the potential to find place in the "mean". Simply rebuking men in the wash of this "masculine" fervor is only to pour gas on the fire.

4. We must always and everywhere be careful of those attempting to universalize and project their own experience onto others, or of those that develop a theory born of woundedness and pathology. These members of the body are the "wolves" that can neither see their own fangs, nor can they smell their own fur, and are often unaware of when they have been hunting and who they have killed along the way...

Paul F. said...

I think you're correct to note that passivity is not just a problem for men, but do think it can be helpful to at times just focus on addressing how the problem affects men (they key is to not create other problems, e.g. how we understand women, when dealing with this problem).

I'm very interested to hear your thoughts about it not being in the nature of 'males' to look for battles to fight. (And by the way, I've morphed into a very unpopular hybrid pacifist/just-war position that we'll have to discuss sometime. Pretty much, I take a just-war theoretical approach, but don't think we can ever satisfy all the requirements of it... making me a pacifist in practice. Most hybrid positions are just the opposite, at least its novel!)

I think we should focus more on developing courage in both men and women instead of aggressiveness. This is mostly because I don't think you can have too much of a virtue. Whatever people might call "too much courage" just isn't courage, it'd be a vice. I think that would get what many of the "New Masculinists" (we've already got the "New Atheists" so why not coin another new word?) are after anyway. Instead of sitting in our church watching sin and injustice reign, let's develop the courage to go out and do what we can to stop it.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to think about this. This topic seems to always mill in my head. I need to process that article. By the way, let's get together. I still have Sunday/Mondays off.


Dale Fincher said...

Adam (Journey)! Thanks for your comments... great thoughts here.

I think many assume gender as a degreed quality. As if someone one male can be more masculine than another male. And the same goes for women.

On point 3, I think you've touched on what fallen femininity can do (and was pronouced in the judgment on Eve that the state of affairs in a fallen world is that 'her desire will be for her husband, but he will rule over her.') I think we see this played out plenty, an echo of Genesis.

I do think men need the space to work these things out as they follow Jesus (as do women). Like your splendid carrying of the wolf analogy, I hate to see it done with new prescriptions on what is 'more masculine' or pretending their is a 'masculine' way. We use these are cultural coping mechanisms but speak of them as transcendent values of the Kingdom of God.

I do think there is a human way... and our gender dies how we grow into godliness with aid from the Spirit of God. Our prescriptions for gender roles and stereotypes keeps each of us from being human and flourishing into our gifts and capacities. I find it interesting that the Scripture does not say Godliness means faithfulness to gender norms... but rather a growing up into Messiah who is the fountainhead of life. Out of that we begin to see what gender looks like, from image bearers, who reveal the multifaceted prism of who God is.

Dale Fincher said...

Paul, I love that word 'courage.' I do think it's a virtue we need to continue to grow into and keep talking about. It's invigorating for us all!

You write:
[I'm very interested to hear your thoughts about it not being in the nature of 'males' to look for battles to fight.]

I think a Biblical illustration will help.

The whole culmination of Messiah as the eschaton and the fulfillment of the Kingdom speaks immediately to healing and 'setting things right.' And in that, the longing of the Jewish people (who wrote both the Old and New Testaments) has been looking forward to the day when peace shall reign. The New Jerusalem will be fraught with all that we've been longing and hoping for... peace on earth, no more sorry or crying nor pain, and God will dwell with his people and he with Him.

In all of that vision, I do not find any men fidgeting in heaven saying, "It's my nature to look for battles to fight. I wish we didn't have all this peace stuff. I'm made for war. It's in the very fabric of my being."

Finally, in heaven, we see outbursts of praise that there will be war no more and that goodness and love wins!

If we make battling part of the essence of males, then we have to say it carries over into the original creation and the redeemed creation. It is the essence of males to have a mind, will, and emotions. Those are carried over. But to fight? To have battles? I don't see it.

That's not to mention women are fighting battles in this world too, to bring about justice. The swords may look different it is still battling.

Eldridge goes so far as to confuse the ontological property of God (of males and females ) with a functional property of God (and males and females), when he quotes the Scripture saying, "God is a warrior." God is only a warrior in the functional sense as long as justice needs to be dealt in this world. But it is not his essence. Justice is his essence because of Goodness, but battling is merely a function to bring that about. God will not be in heaven discontent because his enemies are vanquished and there is no one to fight.

I've love your comments on this.

jeff said...

One of my issues with some of the concepts around maleness, warriorhood, etc. is that the views they espouse are so flat, unimaginative, and boring.
The Jesus I worship is one who calls us out to new possibilities, options not previously considered, difficult possibilities, but infinitely enriching ones.
I think it's exactly right to notice that God, men, and women should fight when necessary: God's (and mens and womens) "warriorhood" shouldn't be something we need when there are no more battles to be fought.

For me, the question isn't whether to fight but how we should fight. Sometimes we fight by serving, or by simply serving. The failure to recognize that the peace-making path so often is the path which requires true courage is what makes it so appealing to consider being loud, rude, unhealthily agressive.
I think even within the movement there is some recognition of this. Half way through Wild At Heart Eldridge has this great passage about how he loves to just sit with his boys on his lap. I remember reading that and thinking "If this had been at the beginning of this book, as a way to set the context, the rest of this book would have been easier to swallow."
And while I recognize it's important to weed out the pagan elements within these traditions, I also think that folks like Eldridge and even Don Miller are engaged in an important, ongoing argument:
Joseph Campbell and co. are exactly right to notice that there are universal themes within faith, myth, folklore and Christianity.
They're reclaiming this work and asserting that the reason for these common streams is not that Christianity is just one more religion like all the rest; rather, Christianity is the source and all these other streams are but pale reflections.
Though they've accumulated unnecessary baggage, they are in the process of turning on its head a mind set that has (in the past) kept people from the gospel. In so much as this argument is true it ought to be encouraged.

Dale Fincher said...

Jeff, thanks for your input... I'm with you on the warriorhood issue, and I think you are right that the tone of Wild at Heart would have been better set with his boys on his lap at the start than insulting men for exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (in camouflaged terminology).

Campbell and Co's ideas of myth I think are worth noting. And Chesterton and Lewis and Tolkien brought that into the Christian consciousness in the 20th century more than anyone else. In fact, when my mom sent me the Sacred Romance (Eldridge) when I was in college, she said, "This reminded me a lot of you." And when I opened it, I saw he was borrowing extensively from Lewis, Chesterton, Beuchner, et al... and I realized why he sounded like me. We have both been influenced by many of the same authors.

Yet when it comes to psychology, the mythopoeic approach can become strangely dangerous. Eldridge relies on Robert Bly for this twist. After reading half of Bly's Iron John I had to put it down (the 'wild man, the 'wound,' the 'mother,' etc). It was so nauseating to see his hermeneutic of fairy tales and then translate them into his Freudian/Jungian paradigm. Then Eldridge relies on Bly quite a bit (the 'wild man,' the 'wound,' the 'mother,' etc) and borrows many of the same ideas. And he sometimes uses a similar dysfunctional hermeneutic with the Bible.

The real danger with the myth approach is when we couch it in existential experience alone. And this is another thing that Eldridge does. He draws up a feeling, claims it is there by God, claims it is the true masculine feeling, finds a Bible verse out of context to approve the feeling, and then goes forward.

He even does the same with God, saying God takes risks analogously to the way we do... and he's been accused of being an Open Theist and then denies in the paragraph... It'd be like me writing from Colorado and saying I'm not writing from Colorado. In short, I think Eldridge is over his head in many ways (and "Captivating" may have been an even worse treatment of women).

Almost every page of my copy of Wild at Heart has protesting marginalia on the side... logical fallicies, unsubstantiated claims, left-field conclusios... So it's just not one or two isolated things that concern me.

What we end up with is a strange concoction of thought that, I believe, is not worth reading just to find some mythic elements. Most lay people in the church don't know how to sift through this stuff. And who is educating them and informing them on it so they CAN sift through it? Pastors? They can't be, because they are injecting it into men's groups all over the country.

I'd rather men read Perelandra and Lord of the Rings and George MacDonald and not only get superior literature but a more robust Christian thought with myth well used.

Or if they need Eldridge as a starting point, at least not celebrate it! I fault the leadership in the church for allowing the celebration.

A pastor at my church just finished Wild at Heart with the men and started a new book for men. He said with a smile, "This new author is Eldridge on steroids!"

What do we do? How do we stand up and bring some sanity into the masculine discussions in the church? I need ideas!

Paul F. said...

I'm not sure about a general strategy that could be applied to all churches, but have you thought about seeing if your pastor would let you lead the next men's get together?

Would he be open to someone saying "Look, there are some really good things that Elderidge says, and we should value them, but that doesn't mean everything is good. In fact, some things he says are quite harmful." And then proceed to help them separate the wheat from the chaff.

I think a book doing just that would be really wonderful, but I think it'd face some resistance just because it has been so celebrated. People don't like to find out what they thought was awesome really isn't. I think it'd have to spend a lot of time saying what is good from the book, if for nothing else to make those that really enjoy it not feel stupid for missing the bad stuff.

I do find it interesting that when I talk about the book with people and say, "Look, on page he says such and such, doesn't that mean...?" They almost always says "Well he couldn't have mean that, that's crazy." But the problem is I don't know how to read it any other way (the God that risks is one where this happens a lot). Perhaps more people accept some post-modern hermeneutic than I thought, even if they don't realize it.

Dale Fincher said...

Paul, asking the pastor to teach his study for a week... that's a great idea, I'll see what conversations will arise to see if teaching an alternative view could happen. I'll honestly give it some prayer.

Then there's the larger spectrum of celebrity pastor... Can you imagine Mark Driscoll giving up his platform to hear a 'sissy, chickified' version of manhood being taught at his church?? How do we call someone out in the church triumphant who demeans men who aren't 'ultimate fighting' types?

The post-modern hermeneutic... yeah, I think it is quite ubiquitous. And sometimes I feel like people really do hunger for truth, but then again, I find so many requiring you to convince them in the matter instead of taking it upon themselves and their own souls. (Uh oh, there's that passivity theme again!)...

Now I know why people get involved with church planting. It's a new start, sounds dramatic, the leadership gets to set the agenda, and when things are up and running, they get out. What a life! LOL

I appreciate your feedback, Paul.

Philip said...

I'm way too late in the conversation to add much more but I'll say a couple of things I've been thinking as I read the post, article, and these comments.

"New Masculinity" seems to make a very bold statement that I think is impossible to justify: what we believe to be masculine in this age and in this culture is what true, God-given masculinity is.

Regardless of how much history Eldredge and others look back on, we still have to trust that they are not using their 21st century lens to view history. Moreover, that they can even know how every culture viewed masculinity.

If we decide to go to the Bible to find masculinity, we find too many odd balls to really make sense of it (not to mention women who exemplify the exact same characteristics with vigor). The only thing the Bible is completely clear about when it comes masculinity is its physical characteristics.

What this leads to is something I think we may need to come to grips with. The more we chase after masculinity and feminity the more it alludes us. Too many of us have gotten into to the trap of so many thinkers before us such as Kant, Leibniz, Hegel, and many more who thought they could make sense of things by making them into concepts. Unfortunately, as soon as we do that it stops being real, true things we are dealing with (only Ideals or substances after that).

The more I have chased masculinity the more I have realized what it is not, and, unlike most things, this does not get me any closer to what it is. I truly believe if we spend more time chasing after Christ-likeness we will become the greatest we can be, whether masculine or feminine.

The truth is that God made us as we are, and I doubt he tries to do so by measuring us to some standard of masculinity or femininity. There is neither male nor female in Christ; there are only redeemed human beings trying to get closer to God.

I am not saying we should do away with masculinity or femininity though. I just think we should not be so quick to make a measuring stick out of these "concepts". Scripture does not once encourage me to be more masculine, only more holy. I have a feeling masculinity will find its way out when we do that.

And with all this said, Eldredge and Driscoll are great men who try to follow God as much as the rest of us. While we all may not agree with them, I encourage us all to be understanding towards them. I'm not saying that any hasn't been understanding, but just encouraging all of us to keep our heads and hearts in one accord.

I hope I did not come in too late or make too much of a ruckus.

JW said...

I thought that was a rather good article in Christianity today.

The other stuff (remasculization to testosterone overdrive) is crap-ola.

The problem I see, is the church mentioned, needing the books, are really only a mirror of the host culture of which they are more a part of than Biblical Jesus' teachings.

I wonder how much of this secular behavior is sociologically scattered and fragmented based on the civil planning of cities, the codification conditioning promulgated through media training/harvesting technique, and the philosophical stunting of capitalist market driven engines... I don't think a fire pit, a brewski, a bikini calendar, drum and tattoo are going to fix the problem where it is broken.

I just thought recently that every time we have the urge and run to the store to buy something advertised if it isn't a bit like catch and release. The question is, who is the fisherman catching and releasing?

Thanks for the topic. Go get 'em Tiger! ;)

Dale Fincher said...

Philip, I was hoping your weigh in! Not too late.

I appreciate your sense of ease in your writing and your approach!

I agree with you that masculinity is not a degreed property. We are born as we are and use what we have. If born male, you are masculine... period. And that means no more masculine when the same person is climbing a mountain, playing the piano, or working in a cubicle. And if you twist your masculinity, you are not acting 'more feminine,' rather you are acting as a broken masculine (and vice versa for women). Yet as you know, our language is laden with these unhelpful concepts.

But there may be more to us than mere body parts. I think Jonalyn's book makes an interesting case of this when it comes to femininity. And we largely see merely the body part difference in the Hebrew Scriptures because they didn't have a developed view of the soul... yet. After all, my body informs my soul and even when I'm in heaven, I will still be 'me,' a person whose experiences are died masculinely, even though I won't have a body at the time.

Even still, one distinction is that when men and women are cursed, the man becomes the ruler over the woman. So just that little clue, should give us pause as to what God created us to be pre-fallen and redeemed. That many force the curse as "Biblical" living is exasperating.

I'm not sure I understand you when you say Eldridge and others are looking through a historical and sociological lens... if they are, its a narrow one. After reading Van Leeuwen's book on masculinity (IVP, 2002), I realized there is way more to this subject than Eldridge and others are letting on.

We do want to be loving to these writers/speakers, but it is difficult not to at least name them, as these are public voices that practically weld their names to their views (though I'm less concerned about these men than I am about a church celebrating their views). And while I think these men do love God, I wonder if that really matters in this area if something they are saying hurts both men and women. If I had slaves and loved God and welded the 'new slavery' movement to my name, should I not be called out and my ideas criticized?

This distancing themselves from women, as Eldridge, Driscoll, and others do, is a form of patriarchy that I think threatens both men and women. Steven Tracy ("Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse"), who is a soft complimentarian himself, does believe most abuses to women come from a strong comnplimentarian view of men and women. This should make us pause. These are more than concepts we're dealing with, but brass-tack, real life dangers.

And I do think I often get closer to a thing by NOT knowing what it is. This was actually a theme in my work on Malcolm Muggeridge and a theme that carried him forward. And when it comes to gender, I think the Fruit of the Spirit is a good place to start.

In our seminars, we often disguise the Fruit of the Spirit among other words and ask a those attending to list which words in the list are 'masculine' and 'feminine' and 'neither.' The majority of the people list the majority of the Fruit as feminine. This is another clue. Now not only is it hurting men physically, but these modern views of masculinity are hurting them spiritually.

I don't know if it helps saying we should be more 'Christ-like.' This may mean different things to different people. When you read the men's literature, they enjoy highlighting those aspects of Jesus life that show him strong and and in-yo-face. And they say, "See, this is what Jesus is really like!" They talk about how Jesus was surrounded by gruff, 'manly,' fisherman (a detail not highlighted as significant in the text) also the solitary incident of Jesus throwing over Temple tables gets a lot of press. So the "Christ-like" model has been hijacked to a degree. So has the "just follow God" model. As I said in a previous comment, when God's functional properties ("Warrior") are confused as his ontological properties ("Just"), then men aren't getting a clear picture either. The very picture of God and his Messiah have been deconstructed.

This is bordering on wolf-like behavior as far as Scripture goes. We are in such an era where gender can finally be talked about openly and freely. And it isn't just women who are speaking out (and, thus, easily silenced in a patriarchal model which we've had off for thousands of years). Just like the councils had to sort and sift through other deconstructed Jesuses in the early church centuries, so we may be doing it again. Maybe not calling it heresy but at least continuing to point it out and stand up to it in voice and in print.

And I haven't even mentioned yet how the "new masculinity" often fueled by certain patriarchal forms of theology that have twisted the Trinity from its historical roots. The ripples of gender ideas influence a lot of areas, which is why both sides believe there is much at stake.

Dale Fincher said...

JW, thanks! And I agree with you. Many of the problems are 'host culture' issues, neatly packaged in "Bible" talk.

Thanks for posting up and broadening the discussion!

Paul F. said...

Somehow I missed the link to the CT article until today. After reading it, I'd really like to grow my hair out, buy a Cabriolet and a latte, and then drive to Seattle to punch Driscoll in the nose. I wonder if that would influence his stereotypes of what is masculine and what isn't?

Dale Fincher said...

Paul, I'm sorry you missed the link all this time!

Your comment is priceless... I'll edit the original post and make the link more obvious (as you are the second person to say you missed the link!).

Philip said...

That is a funny comment, Paul!


Your comments are helpful as usual. I hope you do not think I meant we should not name names when the situation warrants it (I myself did that). However, it is always good to treat them honestly (which I think we have done for the most part). These means not only be honest towards them but also understand they are trying to be honest as well. I hope that makes sense.

In regards to Christ-likeness and what that means to people, if anyone sees that as a hanging out with the same people Jesus did, or to be homeless as Jesus is, then they have missed it. Your Fruits of the Spirit expirement is a good example of this. We define most of them as feminine but Scriptures encourages us all to this. And right there, we find that it transcends gender specifications. So if you think that "Christ-likeness" is too subjective nowadays, then we need to either find a new term or redeem it.

I am skeptical of your statement about the Hebrew Scriptures being written when they did not have a detailed view of the soul. The 5 levels of the soul found in the Zohar are much older than the Zohar. Many scholars say that by the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. this teaching was around. The traditional view is that it was revealed to Moses at Sinai along with the rest of the Oral Teachings (I don't know what to think of that myself, but it is quite old I know). I am no authority on this subject though and I am sure you have a creditable source to say that.

Here are lyrics to a song called, "More of a Man" by Andy Gullahorn. This sums up maybe more of what we are getting at here:

I took my gradndad's twenty-two
When I was in the second grade
I shot a deer right in the heart
Rubbed his blood upon my face

The summer when I turned 16
I got up each day before the dawn
Was building barns and bailing hay
Worked harder than the day was long

Now I'm 30 and I have three kids
I watch dora the explorer in the morning
I feel sad truth sinking in
Maybe I was more of a man back then

I used to be daily fair
Chicken fried steak and barbeque
I had Dr. Pepper every meal
And ice cream when the day was through

Now I'm watching my cholesterol
My metabolism is obviously slowly
Now it's salad once again
Maybe I was more of a man back then

I used to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme
Killing guys on the silver screen
Now every night I put the kdis to bed
And watch Gilmore Girls on DVD

Surely I was more

So I suck in my protruding gut
on our monthly dinner night
You're saying something about the kids
As I watch these young men pass me by

I remember I was just like them
I was lonely but I called it independent
And if lonesome is what manly is
Maybe I was more of a man back then
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I think these lyrics show the juvenile concept of masculinity that Eldredge and others portray. If we are honest, being a man is not about being "manly," hairy, strong, or being able to kill a deer. It is not about ability or virtues such as responsibility, humility, gratitude, or love. At most, it may be a unique nuance that men have in expressing these virtues, but I am skeptical of that even.

I guess that is all for now; sorry for the length.

Cara Nilsen said...

I've really enjoyed reading your post, Dale, and all the back and forth comments. I love that you are discussing this topic and I really like the comments I've read. As a woman who has wounds from the church's ideas about gender and true masculinity and femininity, I always enjoy what you and Jonalyn contribute.

Lorijo said...

i love how thought provoking and challenging your posts always are! But I love it because it gets me thinking about stuff that I wouldn't otherwise think about.

as a female...I haven't considered this subject much. I have only read the Staci Eldredge book for women, Captivated. And that was several years ago now...

I do have a hard time swallowing the idea of Jesus being a Manly-man, or a warrior ready to march into battle or beat his if that is something to be proud of. I have always found those loving, tender, gracious men (not necessarily effeminate) but kindhearted men with more of the fruits of the spirit are what I am more drawn to. I can see what you are getting at, and I'm pretty much in agreement. I think some of the men's movements like promise keepers etc. has been good, to an extent in promoting faithfulness and encourage men to stay committed to their families..(right?) but to portray Jesus as something He isn't...or wasn't portrayed as in the Bible is mildly and concerning and frustrating.

Dale Fincher said...


I will check out Zohar!

And I did sense you were "keeping us in line" for our comments, so thanks for clarifying. :) No worries.

And, you know, when I look at my own life there's a lot of diversity into stereotypically "masculine" and "feminine" things. I enjoy the outdoors as well as the theatre stage. And when I shot an elk I didn't feel more masculine or "doing what I'm supposed to be doing" any more than when I'm doing a lot of other things. The time I feel most 'alive' is when I'm being creative, using my gifts, loving and connecting with others. I get a similar pleasure out of performing a poem as I do out of wrenching on my Jeep. It is sad that 'activities' get labeled with gender-types.

Like Jeff said previously, I think the issues have little to do with gender per se and have more to do with our host culture. I also find it unfortunate that cultural apologetics, research psychology, and the arts are largely left untapped and unconsulted in the men's church movement today. Critique and applause is largely left up to lay-people and pastors with little historical background. I know thoughtful male and female philosophers (some of whom posted on this thread) who are quick to point out that the masculine distinctions are fraught with irrationality and inconsistency. The truth will set us free; but a lie will tie you up.

That men need a safe place to unload their issues is great. Let's have those. Let's get all the porn and adultery and insecurity and curses from poor parenting out on the table. Let's confess and be cleansed. But let's not pretend a new masculinity needs to be invented in order to do that.


Cara, thanks. That means a lot coming from someone as thoughtful and savvy as you.



Thanks for commenting. Captivating is fraught with many of the same problems as Wild at Heart. In fact, it defines women on a similar model. Beauty is the essence of woman? That is so foreign to the history of ideas it is difficult to even swallow. So Michaelangelo's famous "David" statue doesn't show us that men are also beautiful? Humans are beautiful. That's the Biblical idea. That women are "pursued" is quite different than beauty. And the culture of masculine pursuit fuels much of a woman's need to be 'attractive.' I think this, at the end of the day, is another example of how we do not view women as dignified image-bearers of God. (That could stir up a hornets next with some, but I think some thoughtful reflection and observation will show that the pressure of women to be dolled up is an example of unhealthy gender stereotypes. It hurts teens and adults alike.)

I could go on, but I think Captivating is a decent starting point for women to think about the gender, but if left at that, it is potentially poisonous if swallowed. Women do not need to be rescued by a man. They need to be rescued by Jesus. Men need healthy, undistressed women. And women can have adventures of their own. They weren't designed to be only adventurous with a man. The knight in shining armor bit has never helped the cause and dignity of women.

So there's a soapbox for you! :)

You are right that Promise Keepers, etc., have done a lot of good to encourage men into virtue and faithfulness. That is fantastic. My only gripe with the newer masculinity movement is how masculinity has to be redefined in order for men to find virtue. And, on top of that, virtue is not a gendered quality. For all the calls for men to be courageous, we also need women to be courageous. Courage is not a male or female thing. It's a human thing.

Whatever is uniquely masculine and uniquely feminine about humans I am pretty sure it isn't the confusion coming out of the "new masculinity" movement. Men are not more spiritual mature, morally virtuous, or thoughtful by nature of their gender. Only certain men are better at it because they have worked at it. And certain women are better at these qualities because they have worked at it. It's a matter of a human working at it. Not a matter of being born as a certain gender.

Did you know that in colonial America, when a divorce happened, children were awarded to the fathers because they were viewed as moral leaders. A hundred years later, children were awarded to the mothers because they were viewed as moral leaders. Cultural attitudes shift through the generations. Today people want to be careful to say men and women are both morally capable (though children are more awarded to mothers still). Yet many streams of conservative evangelicalism still say men are spiritual superior when they say that men are the spiritual leaders of the home (a concept I'm still trying to find in Scripture.)

I'm with you when I see Jesus transformed (deconstructed) into the image of the most recent movement to hit the marketing airwaves. Few have taken Jesus in his breadth. Richard Foster's Steams of Living Water does a good job showing that.

Lorijo said...

wow. I need to read much more critically. Thanks for the thoughts, once again =)

Dale Fincher said...

Lorijo... you're always so humble in your approach. That goes a long way. Thanks for all the time you spend hanging out on my blog! Feel free to comment anytime! :)

Anonymous said...

A wise friend of mine, let's call him Dale, told me to be myself, to be who I am where ever I am. I've discovered it is futile to try and choose guns or flowers to define me as a man. I've chosen to be who I'm comfortable with, some days (yesterday for instance) it was guns, some days it's "flowers." I think I've been distracted by trying to pick items that define me, rather than what gives me the most happiness at that time. I've searched for the stereotype man in me and he's not there. It is unfair for who God has made me to pigeonhole myself into one type of man. God was aggressive and he was sensitive - why shouldn't I be both as well? I like black coffee and violent movies, I like chocolate tastings and tree hugging.

Tyler Newberry (dot com)

Amy Wevodau said...

So, my friend Dale's not a surprise to find you (and Jonalyn) engaged with a topic that I have long been wrestling with. And the more I wrestle, the more I believe that living out of our essential male-ness or female-ness is integral to being a unique God-reflection into this world...or as I've heard it said, integral to being more "appropriately human".

As I've worked in varied educational settings over the past nine years, I see the question of gender identity as one that is foundational--and largely missing from the identity development of the youth I have taught. I appreciate how Eldridges have pushed this into the public arena, and how you and many others aren't content to leave their shallow theology unquestioned. And yet I believe that if we leave definitions of masculinity and femininity to the realm of the cerebral only, we too are missing the mark.

This is a whole-person question which must be addressed with all of who we are, continually learning to submit this development to a Biblically informed Lordship of Christ. For me, asking what does it mean to be a woman--with my heart, soul and energies as well as my mind. Why did God create me to be a woman, to reflect my unique reflection of my maker into the world at this specific point in history? How do I more fully live into this as an expression of authentic discipleship--not out of some cultural or institutional mandate, but to answer the call of the Shaper and Lover of my soul?

While in Chicago a couple of weeks ago I went Salsa dancing with a friend. I am a novice dancer, but had a marvelous time learning from the different men who asked me to dance, from one how to turn, another how to hold my torso still, and still another how to understand what direction his hand was indicating for me to move. I was reminded that Lewis explored this metaphor of the dance when talking about the difference between maleness and femaleness in his "Preface to Paradise Lost". It takes a different kind of strength to follow...and that doesn't mean that I am defined by having a partner, but there is a special mystery in this dance. As parts, and as a whole, it is a mystery much worth exploring.

Dale Fincher said...

Tyler.... no kidding. Don't be pigeonholed, be yourself, and the image of God in you will emerge as you love him. It's good stuff!!

Dale Fincher said...

Hey there, Amy! Good to hear from you!

I'm with you that if we leave our discoveries of gender to the cerebral alone, much will be lost. And even my approach to the "new masculinity" is one born out of community and an invitation into community (like my post and these comments).

And I think the 'dance' is a gentle metaphor for the genders. There is only one deficiency God said Adam had in the garden and it was that he was alone. So he put another, a dance partner so to speak, in the garden to help him with that (not be his servant nor his underling, but his partner). And as we learn the dance of love, those who better know the steps, whether male or female, instruct and teach those who don't, whether male or female.

I hope you didn't get from my post and this discussion that the pursuit of appropriately gendered humans is only one of the mind. Indeed, it involves every human faculty in community and every gift of the Spirit available to us. Jonalyn's got a great approach in her book (Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home), including exercises that move into deeper soul formation and the meaning of the body with a gendered soul.

Good stuff, if you haven't read it yet!! I hope all is well!

Anonymous said...

Dale - it was great to have you in San Antonio this week... just browsing through your blog and was intrigued by the commenting on this article.

You mentioned something originally that I wanted to respond to... not knowing what to do about a "new masculinity" emphasis even in your own church. My observation is that at the root of this need is a real identity crisis. Men struggling with the sufficiency of an indwelling Christ and the fullness of what we have in Him, will try to define themselves by some external performance measure. Of course we see this with all identity crises: women's femininity, pastoral authority, teachers' credibility or scholarliness, etc, etc.

My prayer is that we would move away from anything that we would like to define us, and move towards Christ Himself who gives us uniquely powerful identity as original expressions of Himself within each of us.

Anyway - on the issue of what's to be done, there are two direct ways for refuting any lie. The first is to irrefutably show that it's a lie. The problem that arises here is that when someone's perceived identity is at stake, he or she will fight pretty hard to preserve the lie. The second approach is to saturate ourselves in the Truth. Knowing who we are in Christ, and discovering the sufficiency of His grace (as if we can really grasp the fullness of "every spiritual blessing" seen in Ephesians 1!), will increasingly call us all to the revelation of false identity in each of our own lives. The Truth really is embodied in Christ Himself, and sets people free. Which is to say, continue to relate pertinent Truth as you are now doing, even looking and praying for opportunities within your church community to teach relevant truths of identity in Christ, and I believe that truth often will do it's own work in people's lives (if authentically received).

By comparison to the Truth of who we are in Jesus, a false identity based on poorly founded performance measures of masculinity (or anything else, for that matter) will seem paltry and insubstantial.

Enjoying this and the Narnia discussions greatly.

ridiculously graced...
(Luke & Shannon introduced us after the LWW on Thursday).