The second post in the series. I’ll link my post
Let’s get into it.
The human calling is not a gender-neutral one. By the very nature of the way that God created man and woman, the weight of the fivefold human commission—to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and exercise dominion over all of its creatures—would, though collaborative, fall very differently upon each sex’s shoulders.
In part this can be witnessed in the different ways that God creates the man and the woman in Genesis 2. The man is created in response to the need of the earth for a man to till it, while the woman is created as a helper to the man in their common human vocation, as one who will bring what he initiates to glorious completion. The man is created out of the earth for a task of mastery that chiefly moves out into it; the woman is later created from the side of the man for a task that principally focuses upon the bearing of human life and developing the realm of human community. The contrasting foci of their callings is further witnessed by their respective judgments after the Fall.
Relating Genesis 2 to Genesis 1, we might observe that the task of the man chiefly focuses upon the forming tasks that we find on the first three days: the tasks of taming, naming, structuring, ordering, dividing, and ruling. The task of the woman, by contrast, chiefly focuses upon the filling tasks that we find on the second three days: the tasks of filling, establishing life and communion, making possible succession and delegation of rule to children, glorifying, and perfecting. While both clearly assist the other in their respective callings, and neither is exclusively concerned with their own more immediate tasks, there are manifest differences of focus.
Agreed with the first paragraph. It is straight out of Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The second paragraph reaches a bit. God creates man in the garden for a few specific purposes:
Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
- Cultivate and keep the garden
- Obey God’s commandment(s)
Principally, Adam is able to be fruitful (cultivate and keep the garden) as well as subdue and take dominion (take dominion over and name the animals). However, he is unable to fulfill the multiply and fill without a helper. His helper can obviously help with the former, but is unneeded, but definitely needed for the latter.
To parallel this to Jesus and His Great Commission, we have the same thing for evangelism and making disciples. The reason why Paul designates singleness as preferred is that all of the commands (Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over) can be done without marriage now as winning and discipling people for Christ is also multiplying and filling the earth.
In principle, I agree with glorious completion, at least in some of the tasks. Developing the realm of human community is true in the perspective of being fruitful and multiplying. Though this can be misinterpreted.
When I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex…. Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire. -Albert Mohler
Renn notes of Mohler in the previous post to where women civilize men which is not an uncommon thought in the Christian community. I believe Driscoll had some similar comments on such.
The third paragraph makes this more clear, though similar wording can give some issues. Paul specifically talks about how woman is the glory of man, though not in perfecting in the way we think of it. However, you could arguing if you are using the NT definition of perfection (e.g. Matthew 5) it means completeness to which I would agree.
Modern Christians, accustomed to thinking in terms of abstractions and ideologies and assuming that social reality flows chiefly down from ideas and rules, tend to be unmindful of the degree to which our social reality is determined by material conditions—by bodies, by geography, by resources, by technologies, by economic conditions, and many other such things that constitute the under-considered material fabric of our reality. The sexual order of society largely flows ‘up’ from such realities, rather than ‘down’ from abstract ideas.
When considering God’s purpose in creation, we should consider not only his explicit commands or commissions, but also what he built into our natures—natural law—not least because Scripture itself often appeals to it. As the Apostle Peter observes, women are the ‘weaker vessel’: men were created considerably stronger, not merely in terms of their typical raw physical strength as individuals, but also in their ability to create and exert social and material power in male groups. The biblical teaching principally concerns a divinely established empirical reality that must be honored and upheld; it was never simply chosen or even divinely commanded—man is the head. The prescriptive teaching of Scripture is grounded upon a descriptive account of difference.
This is true but it is important to understand why.
Like I’ve discussed in some of my attraction posts, marriage is an earthly institution as there is no marriage in heaven. By parallel, this also means that the institutions that God created in the beginning are earthly institutions meant for earthly purposes. In other words, creation is constrained by the rules (natural law) that God implemented within its nature.
Women being “the weaker vessel” is logically consistent with the ordering of creation and the purpose of her being a helper. All NT truth builds on the foundations of the OT truth that we observe.
While it may be impolite to dwell overmuch on the fact (and contemporary society deems it pathological), men create, possess, and symbolize power much more directly in the world than women (women themselves exercise very considerable power and influence, albeit different and typically less direct modes of it). This is a reality that, though ideologized, institutionally enforced, and socially inculcated in various ways, is a stubborn fact of the world as God created it, replicated across countless cultures in different times. In those tasks that relate to human dominion—in gaining mastery over our physical environment, in the task of invention, in the establishment and exercise of political power, etc.—men’s pre-eminence is everywhere self-evident.
Take a moment to look around you right now and consider the degree to which you live in an immediate environment, and in a world more generally, that has been created by men’s exertion of dominion over nature in all of its aspects, as well as by fundamentally male power structures and endeavors in human society—in politics, resource extraction, trade, infrastructure, construction, invention, science, technology, and a host of other areas. While much is said about the ‘empowerment’ of women, it is important to note that empowerment typically presupposes a party with more immediate possession of power authorizing the empowered party to wield some of it.
Yup, men build civilization.
I think women’s place in churches is rather more complicated than Renn’s account suggests. While women are placed on a pedestal, not every woman is placed on such a pedestal. Many women’s experience in churches is one of the loneliness and the self-alienation involved in struggling to maintain the façade of having it all together that the pedestal requires, of the unpleasant ways in which women jockey for the limited space on that pedestal, of the painful experience of falling from it, or of the experience of being conspicuously denied a place upon the pedestal by virtue of being unmarried, divorced, or childless. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
While it can be an inhospitable place for many women, contemporary evangelical church life is nonetheless chiefly ordered around the women at its heart. The good man in such a context must greatly tone down his manliness. Headship is mostly characterized as a beholden-ness to the women and children in men’s lives. Men are to be the obliging mall cops upholding this domesticated realm and taming other men for operation within it. The man is much more figurehead than actual head.
Yes and no. While it is true that women do have some semblance of responsibility placed on them (e.g. virginity, modesty, propriety, etc.), it is definitely not to any of the level of degree that men have placed on them. The facade of having it together is the cultural milieu of the feminism rather than the Church, although we must admit that the world has highly infected the Church.
Yes, if you are single or divorced it can be an issue of mostly other women looking down on you in your Church, but if it comes up as a main Church topic such as through a sermon or message than even with men (or women) preaching they’re only going to say that the single women are daughters of the King or that the single mothers need help. Despite often times if they are living in sin. Heck, as we’ve seen before, single mothers get credit for being fathers too on Father’s day.
Men, on the other hand, are just demonized in general whether in small talk or through the Church pulpit. Maybe they get a golf clap on the occasional Father’s day.
Where the church has particularly failed is in effectively addressing man as the head. For many Christians, the concept of male headship is a culturally embarrassing biblical teaching that needs either to be rejected (the more popular egalitarian option) or qualified to virtual extinction (which is more common among complementarians). Concepts such as that of the ‘servant leader’ have been employed to soften the teaching. Where the concept is most emphasized, it can be attended more by blame than by honor.
What the manosphere and others of the teachers that Renn identifies recognize is the importance of manliness, of the traits that make a man apt for the exercise of dominion in various spheres of his life. A man who can act with mastery, competence, assertion, confidence, honor, courage, strength, nerve, and the like—especially if he acts as a skilled possessor of a behavioral repertoire, which he can deploy with discrimination, discernment, and self-mastery—compels respect as a man. Such traits, well-exercised, are manifestly attractive to women. Yet churches provide little training in, contexts for the formation or exercise of such traits, or purpose for their employment. This neglect results from and perpetuates a neglect of the broader, outward-oriented task of dominion. It also means that many Christian young men will turn to pagans to learn manly virtues, often picking up perverse notions of masculinity that glorify lording over others, or despising the weak, in the process.
The pre-eminent dominion given to the man in creation pre-existed the creation of the woman. The purpose of man’s dominion includes yet greatly exceeds the end of serving and building up the woman. To exercise such dominion effectively and appropriately, man needs to grow into various forms of mature manliness, requiring developing a constellation of qualities and virtues beyond the narrowly moral. A man who is kind, yet lacks strength of will and character is deficient in virtue—which limits even his capacity for true kindness.
The failures of the church in this area are related to dysfunctions in the way that its own life is ordered. If the church largely neglects the task of dominion and the development of truly Christian forms of power and mission in the wider society and mostly focuses on the internal concerns of its communities, it is unlikely that it will be a place that produces mature Christian manliness. In such communities, ‘male headship’ loses its outward orientation and tends to become either oppressive or pathetic. The man functions chiefly as the helper of the woman, rather than vice versa, as God established things in creation.
Excellent analysis, albeit it needs to be qualified with our ultimate mission: The Great Commission.
While women may favor manly traits in their partners, they generally do not favor such traits in the men in their immediate groups as individuals. It is one thing for a woman to have a strong and virile man in her corner (that can represent an increase in her agency); it is quite another to have to compete against such men. Nevertheless, because male groups are powerful and good at creating power, women desire empowerment from them. Contemporary politics between the sexes have much to do with the breakdown of marriage as the means by which male power served and empowered women and the rise of political and corporate structures for independent female empowerment and the limiting or discouragement of pronounced male agency.
The modern gender integration of society and of the church has tended to produce a situation where manliness is discouraged, where ‘good men’ are the docile and obliging men who can operate best on women’s terms. Changing this situation will require a reordering of the church’s life, where men’s virility and greater spiritedness are no longer treated as things to be house-trained, but as strengths to be developed and harnessed in the service of a newly prioritized outward church mission.
This would require a sharply counter-cultural posture towards men as agents of dominion, encouraging men to lean into and develop their aptitudes in this area, rather than stifling them in order to secure a more domesticated and equalized gender-neutralized society. It would also require the establishment of a very different settlement between the sexes, wherein men’s strength was not—as it has so often been—exercised at the expense of, without regard for, as a diminishment of, or as a lording over women, but where women more generally were strengthened by men’s greater exertion of their strength in the world. The manosphere will offer us little aid in that.
In my opinion, the big issue where this article falls short is that it fails to address the infiltration of cultural concepts into the Church and its subsequent destruction. It’s not so much that Churches need a counter-cultural posture, they shouldn’t had that in the first place.
“Being in the world but not of the world” means you are connected first and foremost to Jesus’ Great Commission. You don’t need to “counter” the culture because you already resist the culture. One is proactive and the other is reactive. The initial manosphere in itself is/was reactive by nature as well.
Part of this is the watering down of the gospel. If there’s no cost to following Christ, we get tons of false teachings out of it: prosperity gospel, soul mates, etc. Discipleship is based around men because they are innately better at dealing with the suffering that should come with following Jesus.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
As feminism infects Churches (and all of the underlying reversal of roles in marriages and pastors or women pastors), the gospel gets watered down and turns into basically self help groups where God becomes the cosmic vending machine to make you feel happy and accepted. No need to repent of your sin because God’s love overcomes all.
In conclusion, a counter-cultural posture is worthless because it’s reactive. Churches need to get back to the gospel with a mission focus. Most of the Church and its programs should be focused on developing missions for men. If you have a Church with strong masculine men, the women will follow as they will be naturally attracted.