Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thoughts on Biblical Masculinity

Confessions had a few posts on Bibilical Masculinity and Why Men Aren't in Church that pretty much confused me.

Despite their well-intended post, I can't get over the fact that they continue to reinforce out-moded gender roles. Their ideas that men are protectors and the supposed "head of the house" and women have feminized the church to irrelevence I can't handle. It's this Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus crap that we really need to transcend.

So what do i have to offer to this besides criticism? Well two things, Carl Jung and Tao philosophies.

Jung states that the process of socialization has distorted all of us into incomplete beings. He claims all psychological maladies are in some form or another related to this distortion. He argues that men are socialized to suppress those dimensions of their humanity that our culture assigns to women (and vice versa).

The ancient Tao philosophy of Ying and Yang adds to this. Yin is akin to the feminine traits and Yang are masculine. We can achieve holistic health when yin and yang are in perfect balance with each other.

Tony Campolo uses these Jungian gender theory and Yin/Yang philosophy to illustrate Perfect Balance Illustration in John 8:1-11: The Pharisees drag out an adulterus woman before Jesus and remind him that Moses' law would have the woman stoned to death for her sins. The Pharisees were testing Jesus to see how literal he took the scriptures or if compassion would win out.

Jesus stoops down and writes something in the dirt and says "Let one who is without sin throw the first stone." We have no idea what he could have written, but many scholars have suggested that it could be the names of those in the crowd who were guilty of the same sin (Campolo, Anderson, Trible). The group disperses and Jesus tells the stunned woman "Go and sin no more."

In this story Jesus perfectly balances the masculine yang concern of "Theology and abstract thinking" with the feminine yin concern of "social justice and defending the downtrodden."

So this scraps the idea of men at the head of the household in terms of a more democractic team. If I told my wife that I was the head, she'd laugh and then she'd prolly let me try to prove it and we'd be in debt in a month (love you babe! no need to prove it!).

Where in scripture can i support this since 1 Tim. 2:11-12 says for women to shut up and submit to men. First I'd throw out the standard Gal. 3:28 passages saying that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female as all are one in Christ Jesus." Then i would state that in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came down on all and that 1 Tim was written to a group of women that were drunk with their new found power to speak to a group and they were prolly airing dirty laundry about their husbands. Paul wants to remind them that ALL learners must remain silent in the ancient Jewish world and this rule still applies.

Tony states in his book "Speaking my Mind" states that those who want to lead are to be the servants (Mark 9:35) and Eph. 5:22-25 makes the ideal Christian marriage then looks like this: Wife to Husband, "Honey, my dreams and aspirations are not as important as yours. I'm willing to sacrifice all that I am to help you live out your dreams and full-fill God's calling in your life."

Husband to Wife, "Oh, no! It's the other way around!"

Thus they have their first fight. Wouldn't that be lovely? Tony rules! Get the book and balance your yin and yang!

23 comments:

societyvs said...

I tend to agree with you on this - men and women need to have a balance in their household for harmony. There are traits in men and women that compliment one another (even oppose one another) - but this is needed for complete well roundedness and for the best decisions to be made.

I do not subscribe to the model Paul lays out - or maybe I do - but just not the way the church teaches it. All this submissive talk is really about communication. Men and women are to love one another - and the submission is like compromise in a relationship - which has to happen for any relationship to thrive.

Church is the same way. I am not sure where the COAS people attend church - but I am yet to see women leadership at the top of the pyramid in any churches I attend. Men run most anything in churches. I think the ideal scenario is women leading right alongside men - giving the balance we need for both sides.

Women leaders are not the reason churches are losing numbers - I find that ludicrous. Stats can be used for anything - this is a classic example of that faux pas. Someone likely noticed the trend and thought 'ah-ha' - women are to blame for declining congregants. I am sorry - one stat does not make it true...we need more tests/proof.

I think churches declining numbers are down across the board as far as I can tell - in all churches - no matter if men or women run them - or no matter the denomination - numbers are down period. Reason...church has not adapted very well to changes in society or has become a meaningless part of it (it has no role anymore).

Luke said...

"Reason...church has not adapted very well to changes in society or has become a meaningless part of it (it has no role anymore)." -SVS

exactly! and the numbers are also down in social clubs like the rotary, the jaycees, the elk and moose, not just the churches. We have netflix, facebook, Must-See TV to contend with. the home really has become the castle and we must storm the gates to get people out of their element and into the community.

always great to read your posts whether you agree or disagree. RAWK!

John T. said...

I understand some of what confessions are getting at. The little experience I have had with church really does show more of a Feminine aspect. Whether we admit it or not, we are different. Though I may be sensitive and caring my body still is harder and more geared towards a protective nature. This is natural fact. I see the world different than my wife, doesnt mean Im better or the head of the household, but it does mean we do have roles that are not always the same. I can tell you this, My Wife is as tough as they come and very strong in her opinions, yet she still wants me to be her "protector".

Luke said...

"My Wife is as tough as they come and very strong in her opinions, yet she still wants me to be her "protector"."-John T.

yes, but are there times when you want to be protected? is this notion distinctly feminine or is it feminine because our culture says it is?

i get what their trying to say too, but how their saying it is rather ridiculous. i guess it rubs me the wrong way as i was raised by a single mother who also happened to be an auto-mechanic. my mom WAS rosie the riviter ;-)

John T. said...

Luke

"i guess it rubs me the wrong way as i was raised by a single mother who also happened to be an auto-mechanic. my mom WAS rosie the riviter ;-)"

I get what youre saying as I was raised by a single mother too, though she pretty much doesnt know what to do with a wrench ;).. The truth of the matter is I am physically better equipped to do the protecting than lets say 98% of the women in the world. I have on occasion run into that 2% though lmao.

Luke said...

"The truth of the matter is I am physically better equipped to do the protecting than lets say 98% of the women in the world." -John T.

that's physicallity and yes there are basic differences in physique. it's interesting to note that women are stronger in some areas than men and weaker than others... for example women are built for endurance of pain (like child birth) not the short-term bursts of power men are.

but how do these play out in culture? why does society say it's bad to be a woman in some areas and not others?

Jim Jordan said...

Interesting read, Luke. You know, by the end of the post you re-inforce the same principles the "outmoded" guys do.

So what do i have to offer to this besides criticism? Well two things, Carl Jung and Tao philosophies.

I like where you go with this but you do realize the congregation would be scratching their heads.

Mark 9:35) and Eph. 5:22-25 makes the ideal Christian marriage then looks like this: Wife to Husband, "Honey, my dreams and aspirations are not as important as yours. I'm willing to sacrifice all that I am to help you live out your dreams and full-fill God's calling in your life."

Husband to Wife, "Oh, no! It's the other way around!"


That's exactly where Adam and Eve failed in the "Biblical Masculinity" post.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus crap that we really need to transcend.

My wife and daughter love to shop and can spend hours at a Mall. Me, I need to be drinking something or reading something. The big mall near our house has no bookstore, so I drop them off there and go down the street to Borders. Men and women are different. I don't know if I would want to transcend that. I can't imagine spending hours in Macy's.

As for the complaint about the church, my understanding is that men aren't challenged enough. They might have a point there.

In this story Jesus perfectly balances the masculine yang concern of "Theology and abstract thinking" with the feminine yin concern of "social justice and defending the downtrodden."

Sounds like another bit of evidence that Jesus is as divine as he said he was. Only God could fit those two perfectly within his own character. Good post.

Luke said...

"My wife and daughter love to shop and can spend hours at a Mall. Me, I need to be drinking something or reading something. "

so if i'm the one that likes to shop in my relationship, does that make me less manly and my wife less womanly? that's the case! i love to shop and my wife loves to read and would rather be watching football than shopping... in fact she'd rather chew off a limb than shop.

"my understanding is that men aren't challenged enough. They might have a point there."

they absolutely have a point, my objection is how they prove it and blame the feminization of the church. i claim that neither sex is challenged enough and that's why the churches are dying. i say it's the irrelevance of the church that is causing the most distress.the churches that are relevant are growing, the churches that aren't, aren't. it has nothing to do with favoring one gender over another... if it did, there would be no women in church as the church was throughly male until the womens lib. movement in the 1920s, a movement touched off and supported by the evangelical churches at the time (the UCC ancestors being a massive part of this).

Jim Jordan said...

Are you a girly man? :-)
My example was shallow and easy to capsize, but I stand by men and woman being differently made. You said it yourself in the post, two natures that fill each other in.

I agree that churches fail when the people aren't chalenged, male or female. Cheers.

Brad said...

Man, wish i had seen this post when it was posted... I've obviously tackled much of this in the stuff I've already written, but I'd still reiterate that it is not Men from Mars and Women from Venus crap, but actual biblical exegesis. It's all over from Genesis 1-3 to Ephesians 5. I'm not saying women can't be mechanics, at all. that would be the kind of crap you are talking about. The issue is not a cultural issue, but relational. That's the whole point.

Hopefully I will be able to bring that out in my next post on the topic (which I am working on).

Luke said...

"Are you a girly man? :-)" -JJ

it would appear as such. ;-)

"The issue is not a cultural issue, but relational. That's the whole point." -Brad

and i reitterate that we can't get beyond our cultue. relational deals with culture and vice versa, it dicates the HOW of our relationships.

plus i'm thinking of biblical masculinity and finding all sorts of fun stuff! like the dif. between Jacob and Esau where the "manly men" are not what is thought of when thinking of what a true Jewish male is supposed to be like. Jacob is not hairy, strong, nor does he work in the fields. so when describing biblical masculinity you run into the problem of which model are you going to choose.

Brad said...

Yes but Jacob is consistently portrayed as a "deceiver," as someone who provides a contrast to his (significantly more) righteous brother. His relationships are subversive and self-centered (stealing Esau's birthright), fear-based (putting his family between himself and Esau's men). God using him is not a result of his behavior (thus not approving it), but in spite of it. That's grace.

In short, you can't hold them up as equally viable options for masculine expression because Jacob was CLEARLY portrayed as having a critical lack of understanding of what it means to be a Godly man. Esau was not perfect, and do not want to set him up as the ideal image, but I think that his earlier behavior was far more in line with the honorable ideal we should strive for. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate image of a redeemed masculinity (selfless, truthful, loving, etc.).

Luke said...

"Jesus is the ultimate image of a redeemed masculinity (selfless, truthful, loving, etc.)." -Brad

i'd put 'Jesus is the ultimate image of a redeem humanity'.

Gotta get over that gender divide dude.

plus in Jewish theology, Jacob IS the label of a Jewish man mainly because he's the deceiver! he gets his way against a larger, more powerful opponent without violence. this sets up the paradigm of the Israelites surrounded by the super-powers of the day (Assyrians,Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans) and how they suffer but end up getting their way much of the time.

so that would make a Jewish understanding of what it means to be a man completely opposite from what you're suggesting for a Christian man... unless you realize that Jesus was Jewish and figure out how he out-smarted and flipped the Roman and Temple Power's authority on its ear, not through brute force... but through using their own interpretation, language and symbols against them.

looks like Jesus is following Jacob's example!

Brad said...

Luke,

"i'd put 'Jesus is the ultimate image of a redeem humanity'. "

Oh absolutely. But Jesus was still the God-Man. Not the God-Woman. Not the God-Androgen. The God-Man. Yes, he is the image and fulfilled promise of a redeemed humanity in general, but more specifically of redeemed masculinity. There is much overlap, but they are not one and the same. This is not an imagined "gender divide," but a basic and fundamental difference between genders. It is not a disparagement in value, but a difference in function. Why is it so difficult to except that men and women are different?

"Jacob IS the label of a Jewish man mainly because he's the deceiver!"

In what possible Jewish understanding is it acceptable to deceive and betray your own family? This is a theological stretch if I've ever seen one. Jesus absolutely accomplished the same thing, but NEVER through deception. The proclamation of truth was enough. You are bringing quite a few assumptions to the table....

Luke said...

"It is not a disparagement in value, but a difference in function. Why is it so difficult to except that men and women are different?" -brad

it's no difficult to accept that men and women are different... what's difficult to accept is that form follows a rigid function which i feel your model represents. it's abhorrent that you feel that the feminization of the church has caused its downfall... esp. when the primary methaphor given to us is that the church is the "bride of Christ."

"Jesus absolutely accomplished the same thing, but NEVER through deception. The proclamation of truth was enough. You are bringing quite a few assumptions to the table...." -Brad

absolutely! i agree with this and you're right... where your wrong is assuming that i said Jesus was EXACTLY like Jacob. I said "Jesus is following Jacob's example" and that means he doesn't make the same mistakes Jacob did.

Brad said...

"the primary methaphor given to us is that the church is the "bride of Christ."

Luke! You are using a double standard! This is exactly what I'm talking about!

The church being the bride of Christ is one of submission (on our part) and covenant faithfulness (on God's part). It is a promise and a relational comparison. We are called to submit to God, who loving sacrificed Himself for us. Paul then says "wives, submit to your husbands... Men love your wives as Christ loves the church" (i.e. sacrificial love). I am speaking within the context of relational gender roles and make no comment whatsoever about personality type, values, etc. The Bible doesn't, so I won't. To make qualitative claims about it WOULD be to mimic the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus crap. To say that the church has been feminized is NOT to say that being femininely relevant is wrong, only that NOT being MASCULINELY relevant is wrong. It is the expense of masculinity that I have a problem with. The church should be culturally relevant to ALL people (men and women) without compromising truth.

And I would still disagree that Jesus followed Jacob's example (perfectly or otherwise). Jacob tried to accomplish God's plan rather than submit to God's plan for him. Jesus lived in humble submission to his Father in heaven. Jesus didn't follow ANY example but his own. You are putting the cart before the horse.

Luke said...

Brad.. i think we're talking past each other... we both are concerned for the church's decline in numbers. you blame them on the feminization to the exclusion of the masculine. i think this is a flawed answer and has inherent sexist connotations in your language. i think the church is decline is due to the fact that it's not relevent any more and people have much more toys to keep them at home (netflix, i-net, iTunes, video games, etc.) and we're seeing this in the community organizations as well as the church.

as for Jesus being "his own man" are you serious? Jesus is called the new-Moses, Elijah come again, son of David, son of Abraham, son of Israel (Jacob), and God the father himself! Jesus is a combination of all the high points of these OT characters intentionally used by the NT writers.

certainly Jesus had lots of original things in his life, but to say he was completely original is willfully ignorant.

Brad said...

"you blame them on the feminization to the exclusion of the masculine."

Not exclusively, though. It is a significant factor in the lack of relevancy that you describe, and one that I expound upon often because it is one that I see frequently neglected and one that affects me personally. I have no illusions that everything in the church can be fixed by restoring masculine relevancy... but it is a hugely neglected factor that would significantly improve church relevancy, attendance, and family unity (i.e. marriages not falling apart).

"certainly Jesus had lots of original things in his life, but to say he was completely original is willfully ignorant."

Luke... "willfully ignorant?" Ad hominem, much? Why do you have to continually resort to name calling? I am not saying anything new. Assuming that Jesus preexisted with God the Father (John 1:1-5), Jesus was absolutely original (chronologically speaking). Abraham, Isaac, Melchizedek David, Solomon, Moses... they are all "types" of Jesus: typologies (Hebrews). We are made in His image, not the other way around (Genesis 1).

You see, we work on different assumptions here about the person of Christ. I would be "willfully ignorant" only if I believed as you do and still said what I did. But I don't. I believe that Jesus is God (and thus preexistent), and not MERELY a good example of love and selflessness. Within that framework, it is not "willful ignorance" at all. In fact, it makes perfect sense.

I enjoy our conversations very much, but only to the point where you start arguing with ad hominem fallacies and attacks.

Luke said...

"but it is a hugely neglected factor that would significantly improve church relevancy, attendance, and family unity (i.e. marriages not falling apart)."

and by family unity, do we mean a shoring up of clearly defined roles? because that's what i'm picking up from your posts. if you're not meaning this and i'm pulling it out of left field, please correct.

"Ad hominem, much?"

no, i don't think it was, but forgive me, it did come off very strong and i don't mean to attack you personally. i appologize.

here's what drives me nuts about thinking Jesus pre-existed. you can only do it looking backwards... sure hide-sight is 20/20 and i think there's a valid theological claim there.. what i'm fighting about this claim is that the people writing the bible, the people living in the first century, and much of the early church didn't hold this view. what you're doing is starting from here and working backwards and i don't think you can do that as it negates the process.

you can't start with the end (Jesus). One gets a much fuller view if you look at the process of getting there (Abraham, Jacob, Moses) and see why the answer is such Good News.

Brad said...

Hmm... that helped a bit.

"and by family unity, do we mean a shoring up of clearly defined roles?"

Not exclusively. It is one piece of it, sure. But even by clearly defined roles, I do not mean women should cook, clean, and raise children while men should work, burp, and grill meat. Right now, my role in our marriage is as a "House husband," and do all the cooking so that would be highly hypocritical of me.

By roles, I do mean that men are the servant-leaders of the family, who put their wife and children first and themselves last. Wives are called to submit to that leadership (ASSUMING IT IS BIBLICAL AND SELFLESS) and help support the family. If both are doing these roles (loving sacrificially and selflessly), then you are talking about a harmonious cycle of love. Within those roles there is almost infinite flexibility for personal preference and personality.

Does that help?

"i appologize."

Apology accepted. Thank you.

"what i'm fighting about this claim is that the people writing the bible, the people living in the first century, and much of the early church didn't hold this view."

This is definitely the crux of us missing each other... What about John 1:1-3? In John 8:58 Jesus identified himself with the "I Am" of Exodus 3:14. Paul taught it in Phil 2:6 and Col 1:15-16. The writer to the Hebrews also in 1:2, 10. It was also in the early church creeds...

Revelation is progressive, we see a fuller understanding of who God is as time goes on through scripture. It's pretty safe to say that David had a fuller understanding than Noah (at least based on what is recorded in canon). Why is it any different with the New Testament? Is it radical? Sure. Did it challenge it's hearers? Absolutely. But nowhere in the history of God's redemptive work does he shirk from challenging the views people held at the time.

Luke said...

you had me until "Wives are called to submit to that leadership"

you can't submit to leadership that is serving! you have an inbuilt democratic team!

i point you back to the article where it says " Eph. 5:22-25 makes the ideal Christian marriage then looks like this: Wife to Husband, "Honey, my dreams and aspirations are not as important as yours. I'm willing to sacrifice all that I am to help you live out your dreams and full-fill God's calling in your life."

Husband to Wife, "Oh, no! It's the other way around!"

"Revelation is progressive"

absolutely! so i read the bible as such. i don't start by saying "oh look, there's jesus in the garden!" I go with the ancient Eastern-Orthodox idea of the trinity versus the Latin (and later reformed view). the difference is that the trinity starts with One (God is one which is all over the OT including Exdodus and 1 Kings 8:60 and such like) and then revealed three distinct personalities of that one God.

A way to visualize it is to say that Jesus is the peak of the mountain but to look at the peak at the foot or looking at the foot from the peak misses a lot of detail.

"nowhere in the history of God's redemptive work does he shirk from challenging the views people held at the time."

yup! and God is still speaking.

Brad said...

"Wife to Husband, "Honey, my dreams and aspirations are not as important as yours. I'm willing to sacrifice all that I am to help you live out your dreams and full-fill God's calling in your life.""

"Husband to Wife, "Oh, no! It's the other way around!"

Oh Luke... This is such a caricature! It is not EITHER of their hopes/dreams/aspirations that they work toward, but God's. Why must this be so black and white? A few things:

1.) You assume that the husband and wife will disagree. Is it difficult to submit to something you already desire?

2.) Ephesians 5 makes no statement of value of them whatsoever.

3.) Mark Driscoll (I know, you probably hate him) has talked about the need for wives to feel called to church planting as well as husbands. He has a very complementary view of marriage, and even he says that "if your wife is not called, you are not called."

4.) The picture of Marriage is anything but totalitarian (unless of course you are reacting to personal experience of abuses thereof, militant feminism, or other misconceptions of the word "submit").

"A way to visualize it is to say that Jesus is the peak of the mountain but to look at the peak at the foot or looking at the foot from the peak misses a lot of detail."

Ya know... I really really like this analogy... I'll have to think on it more, and make sure we aren't reading it differently... But I actually really like that and intitially, I agree.

"yup! and God is still speaking."

Aye. But it is nothing new to, nor contradictory to, the message of scripture. Trajectoral theology is bad ju-ju.

Luke said...

"Oh Luke... This is such a caricature! It is not EITHER of their hopes/dreams/aspirations that they work toward, but God's."

now you're being excessively polemical. you said in your last comment "the wife must submit to that leadership" and i'm saying that BOTH the husband and the wife must submit to EACH OTHER'S leadership. it is not i that is black and white, but you. that's what i've been saying the whole time!

Both are called by God and BOTH must listen and lead when the time comes. it's not always the man leading, which is what i'm hearing you state. the "head of the house" is a title that is shared between the two, it is not solely own by the man. how can this be? in marriage, two become one.

"But it is nothing new to, nor contradictory to, the message of scripture."

no. the Creator is always creating. Listen to a U2 song, read "The Last Lecture", watch a science documentary, God is always revealing and creating if we take the time to look. there's always something new and in support of parts of scripture if you're smart enough to see it. of course this is coming from someone who sees that the scriptures contradict themselves.