Book Plunge: The Toxic War On Masculinity Part 6

Does Christianity need muscles? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Pearcey continues writing as to how when male behavior changed, Christianity began to be seen as less masculine. There was an attempt made to make Christianity more muscular. One way to do this is with sports, so you have institutions rise up like the YMCA. Interesting fact she shares is that the inventor of basketball was actually a Presbyterian minister who set up two baskets for that had been used for gathering peaches.

Such an idea is not unheard of. Paul used analogies of athletes in his writings. Not only that, but he used soldiers as an example even including the armor of God in the book of Ephesians. Thus, using “manly” interests to give examples of how Christians were to live is not unheard of.

Why bring up the military? Think about hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus.” We are told to fight for the faith and we are told to be good soldiers. Examples like this are appealing to men.

Many men take pride in their work and see it as a defining feature of their lives, but how often do preachers talk about work?

The biblical teaching on work and vocation should be a key part of the Christian message. Yet it rarely is. One survey found that 92 percent of churchgoing men have never heard a sermon on the subject of work. Christian essayist Dorothy Sayers comments that if Christianity does not speak to our work lives, then it is silent about most of what we do: “How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (pp. 181-182). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nowadays, I find many sermons just seem to be self-help therapy. I’m not saying that’s how it is with my church or every church. I am saying that we rarely seem to have sermons that have meat on them. We often preach at the lowest common denominator and send our church members out into a world above that. We train them on how to use bows and arrows while our enemies have rocket launchers.

I have a professor here who did a dissertation on Billy Sunday, an evangelist of the past who impacted Billy Graham. I was surprised to see how confrontational Sunday was as Pearcey says:

Sunday taunted his audiences, saying if they were hesitant to convert to Christianity, it was because they were “not man enough”: You haven’t manhood enough to get up and walk down the aisle and take me by the hand and say, I give my heart to Christ. . . . Oh you aren’t man enough to be a Christian! It takes manhood to be a Christian, my friends, in this old world! No man can be a man without being a Christian and no man is a man unless he is a Christian. Billy Sunday’s testosterone-laden style appealed to men, and he became the most influential revivalist of his day. Even H. L. Mencken, the acerbic journalist known for his attacks on Christianity, called Sunday a “gifted exhorter” and remarked that he was “constantly struck by the great preponderance of males” coming to the front to be saved at Sunday’s crusades.

Pearcey, Nancy. The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes (pp. 183-184). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Notice the emphasis on manhood.

Unfortunately, looking at our time, it hasn’t seemed to work in the long-term. If anything, men are now the object of ridicule. How so? That will be looked at next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Book Plunge: God’s Design For Man And Woman

What do I think of this book by the Kostenbergers? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I wish to thank Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger first off for sending me a copy of this book for review purposes. Ever since my marriage, I have been interested in reading material that can help me improve in that area. The book certainly starts off with a gripper. Andreas talks about coming home from being overseas and going through his old home and realizing his Dad’s things were gone. It hits him then. His parents were no longer together. His Dad had moved out.

That is a good motivator to make sure you get marriage right. No one wants to have that.

Now let’s be clear about something at the start. While this book is directly applicable to those of us who are married, the Kostenbergers have plenty to say for singles and it’s not just about how to get a mate. When they go through the Bible, they point out people who served God faithfully and who yet were never married. This includes men and women both.

They definitely go through the Bible as well! They start with Genesis and then give a look all the way through the Bible to see how the relationships between men and women are described. They note that the consistent position throughout the Bible is that in the family, the man is to lead and that this would apply to church and government as well. This does not mean women play no role whatsoever of course, but that the main position has been given to the men.

It’s towards the end that they say how this all works out and this is one area I would have liked some more expanding on. For instance, let’s go with the house rules of Ephesians 5 and the Kostenbergers argue for male leadership here. That means that a husband is to love his wife definitely as Christ loved the Church, and a wife is to submit to and respect her husband.

Okay. How does that work?

Because we know too often that there has been the abusive husband who has used the submission passage like a whip. I am absolutely convinced the Kostenbergers want nothing to do with that. There is never a place for a husband to abuse his wife. Yet knowing the misuse of the passage does not tell us the proper use. How would they recommend this be lived out? I would like to have seen more on this.

I was also surprised there was not much said about the sexual relationship between the two persons in marriage. How should they approach this? In light of Biblical submission, this is a topic that is important too. We wouldn’t want to say a husband has a right to sex on demand of course, but then there is the passage in 1 Cor. 7 about not denying your bodies to one another. Perhaps the Kostenbergers have written on this more elsewhere. If so, I would like to get to see it.

I also found the appendices to be quite helpful. The history of feminism was fascinating and it’s certainly led to where we are today. I had no problem seeing them go after Rachel Held Evans either for her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which I also found to be severely lacking. The Kostenbergers explain the hermeneutical mistakes that Evans makes quite well.

To which, it’s great to see a section on hermeneutics as well. They make it clear that this is not a science per se, but rather a methodology. After all, we may not reach 100% certainty on what a text means, but we can reach a case of high likelihood of what it means. It is not to be seen as an all-or-nothing game.

If you’re someone who disagrees with their view on male headship, you will find your position is treated fairly as well. The Kostenbergers are gentle on those who disagree with them. The book is highly approachable and you do not need to be specifically trained in Biblical studies in order to get a lot out of it. In fact, getting this book could be a great beginning to Biblical studies.

Those interested in male/female relationships and what it means to be a man or woman should get this book and learn it well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters