24 April 2009

Manly Men

by Phil Johnson



ots of people are talking these days about the church's failure to reach men. The problem is an old one. To a large degree it is rooted in the eighteenth-century tendency of post-puritan preachers to temper hard truths and cushion the message as much as possible.

Victorian-era preachers added an extra layer of complexity to the problem with their love of flowery rhetoric. Grandiloquence. Turgid oratory. Bloated, high-sounding language designed to impress listeners with the speaker's sophistication rather than rouse consciences with the power of God's Word.

Pulpits became soft places where men loved to show off their refinement. Manly passion was deemed vulgar and lowbrow.

Charles Spurgeon abhorred that trend. He exemplified the opposite style. In fact, when Spurgeon first took his pastorate in London, one of the earliest caricatures published in the London newspapers about Spurgeon pictured him casting the shadow of a young lion from his pulpit—and it contrasted him with a typical Anglican clergyman, who cast the shadow of an old woman.

Spurgeon hated the effeminate tendencies of the Victorian pulpit, and he did everything he could to model a different trend. He said it's OK to be meek, and we ought to work hard at being gentle. But, he said, don't be "indifferent to truth and righteousness. God [does not choose] milksops destitute of backbone, to wear his glory upon their faces. We have plenty of men made of sugar, nowadays, that melt into the stream of popular opinion; but [men like that will] never ascend into the hill of the Lord."

When Spurgeon lectured his students on preaching, he cautioned them strongly against adopting effeminate mannerisms. He said,
Abhor the practice of some men, who will not bring out the letter "r," such a habit is "vewys wuinous and wediculous, vewy wetched and wepwehensible."

"Mawwiage . . . "

Spurgeon went on. He told his preaching students:
Now and then a brother has the felissssity to possessss a mosssst winning and delicioussss lisssssp . . . . [That will] ruin any being who aims at manliness and force. I can scarcely conceive of Elijah lisping to Ahab, or Paul prettily chipping his words on Mars' hill. There may be a peculiar pathos about a weak and watery eye, and a faltering style. . . . Where [those things] are the result of intense passion, they are sublime; but some possess them by birth, and use them rather too freely: it is, to say the least, unnecessary for you to imitate them.


Spurgeon was a man's preacher, and his ministry reflected that. He influenced men—and he is still influencing men from the grave. And even though he was criticized and despised and belittled in his own time for being too aggressive in his defense of the truth, notice that we still read Spurgeon, and his words are still absolutely relevant to our times. But everyone has utterly forgotten all the effeminate preachers of that era who at the time were absolutely certain that they were more "relevant" because they were more in tune with their own times than Spurgeon was.

You know what? They were wrong. And they were wrong for the same reason people are wrong today to follow whatever is deemed stylish. We ought to let Scripture, not the trends of secular culture, define for us what the church should be like.

The Bible says the church ought to be led by men, and every man in the church ought to aspire to be like the perfect man, Jesus Christ. And that involves, among other things, the manly proclamation and defense of the truth of Scripture; as well as aiming to be living reflections of the kind of character He embodied—including, of course, the fruit of the Spirit, courage, conviction, compassion, zeal for the truth, and the kind of gentleness that keeps those characteristics in proper balance, as opposed to nullifying them.

Phil's signature

74 comments:

dan said...

not one mention of the gym, UFC, and large muscles??

seriously though, great post. proclaiming and defending the truth forcefully and with courage. now that's being a man.

Scott Holmes said...

HooAhh!

Tim said...

"Manly passion was deemed vulgar"

Nowadays, vulgarity is viewed as manly passion.

Good article.

Heath P said...

Does this mean that I can't have my latte at church anymore.

Boaly said...

Thanks, Brilliant post!
What an example Spurgeon is for us guys

C.B. Shearer said...

Excellent. I've been foregoing a microphone recently, as I love to lift up my voice, it seems to bring more authority. (cf. Revelation 1:10,15)

One thing though, one of only two places I disagree with Spurgeon is his attack on people with imperfect appearances and speech. I don't know if he realized it or not, but he would have denied George Whitefield a pulpit...

Canyon
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 all the way.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Excellent post. Itis my prayer even as Babcock wrote, ''Lord, Give us men.''

Nik Papageorgiou said...

Great post! The Scripture gives us the true view of manliness, and we desperately need such Christians of courage and conviction in the Church today. Both men and women.

By the way, you know how hard it is to lisp in ancient Greek - especially with the acoustics on Mars Hill?

Solameanie said...

Phil,

I love it, especially the Spurgeon quotes. I'm also a bit surprised in that I never thought about this problem going back all the way to the 18th century. I learn something new every day.

On another note, I hope you realize that you will probably be called a misogynist, AND upset Bishop Spong very much with this post. Keep it up.

Johnny Dialectic said...

OTOH, in some circles, comes the Alpha male blowback (Eldredge, et al.), though I think this fad is about over. It made "manliness" an end in itself, not connected to proclamation of the gospel.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny -- you should meet John Eldridge before you go to far down that path. I'm not talking about his character at all -- I'm talking about the contrast of the alleged "manliness" of his writings to how he turns up in person.

At best, it's like Paul and the Corinthians: he's not at all what you'd expect in person after you have read what he's written.

stratagem said...

Rob Bell seems to me to be a modern-day example of the semi-androgenous preacher of Spurgeon's day.

DJP said...

The Bible says the church ought to be led by men, and every man in the church ought to aspire to be like the perfect man, Jesus Christ"Men."

Not just males.

Good point.

Justin Walker said...

Quit you like men (1Co 16:13).—Be men! In courage; not cowards, turning our back on the foe, or giving way in danger, or reproach, or evil days. In solidity; not shifting or shadowy, but immoveable as the rock. In strength; as the man is, so is his strength. Be strong! In wisdom. Foolishness is with childhood, wisdom with manhood. Speak and act with wisdom, as men. In ripeness. The faculties of men are ripe, both for thinking and working. They speak ripe words, think ripe thoughts, plan and execute ripe things. In understanding be men! In all things—what you do, and what you refrain from doing, be men. Act the manly part—let nothing effeminate, luxurious, sickly, childish, puny, little, narrow be seen about you. Christianity makes men, not babes. Adorn the doctrine of Christ by your manliness. In the Church, in the world, in business, in conversation, in prosperity, and adversity, quit you like men! Let no man despise thee; and let no man despise the Gospel because of thee.
-Horatius Bonar

In reality, things have not changed much in the almost two hundred years since Bonar wrote these words nor since Spurgeon wrote his! The need for men to be men has not diminished nor has the inclination of men to turn to childish thought and actions. May God grant the ability to our generation to stand for that which is honorable, that which is righteous, and be men!

Matt said...

I'm with Solameanie here in that I don't naturally think about the church being effeminate in the 19th century. Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

There's no shortage of examples today of (un-manly) males in the church who don't have the courage to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. McLaren, Bell, Shuller, Osteen, Robinson, Spong (do manly women count? If so, I'd have to add Meyer...).

It's at least somewhat refreshing that the avowed enemies of the church display a manliness that some on the inside don't.

Marie said...

Phil, this is a great article. Standing for the objective truth of the Gospel and refusing to bow the knee to compromise has nothing to do with being a "punch 'em in the face dude...out killing things", as some have portrayed the ideal men of God to be.

Spurgeon sure had a way with words. milksops destitute of backbone. LOL....in the Victorian era? Who wouldda thunk.

SelahV said...

As I read this post, I thought, "HooAhh!" then I saw that Scott Holmes said it first. Then I thought, maybe I should be silent, since I'm a woman. Then I thought, well, I'm not in church. So then I asked my husband's permission to simply say, Amen! selahV

Hayden said...

Tim nailed it!

"Manly passion was deemed vulgar"

Nowadays, vulgarity is viewed as manly passion.

Jason said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This has probably always been a problem and if not watched will continue to be a problem.

steve s said...

Stratagem,
If you're going to single Rob Bell out as being an example of something you don't like, you probably should spell that thing correctly. ;-)

Eric said...

I believe a wise man under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit once said:

"That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecc 1:9)

Praise be to God, without whose grace and mercy we could never hope to reach any degree of godly manhood (or womanhood, for that matter).

stratagem said...

Steve - if you simply like what Rob Bell says and stands for, you should probably just say so rather than finding some grammatical point to nit pick and hide behind.

Are you are saying that Bell represents a masculine image, either in tems of doctrine or mannerism? Is that what you're arguing? Please come out directly with what you are objecting, like a man.
Stratagem

SolaMom said...

Preach it.

steve s said...

stratagem,
I hadn't realised that your post was a criticism of his theology. That's totally fair, and you're clearly more familiar with the effeminate nature of his doctrine than I am. I thought you were commenting on his appearance, which, imho, would necessitate, at very least, spelling androgynous correctly.
steve.

David said...

Were he living I would beg Spurgeon join me in my V8 Tundra and go for a cigar and pint.

Great post Phil.

If we're forming lists don't forget to add the pseudo-man, coiffed, pancaked, cool-shirt-wearing EYoung Jr to it...

stratagem said...

Steve
Not so much critical of his appearance, as his effeminized delivery and attendant defanged doctrinal leanings. Both, it seems to me, are engineered to appeal to a feminine and/or metrosexual culture.
Stratagem

David Rudd said...

i wonder if it's possible for someone who is nicely groomed, without facial hair, wearing hip clothes to preach the gospel in a manly way??? (by the way, i am rarely groomed, have too much facial hair, and am hopelessly unhip in my attire)...

but Matt Chandler comes to mind...

cjbaer said...

Becoming a man

stratagem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Should being a Godly man have anything to do with the way you dress? Unless of course you are wearing a dress... oh, nevew mind.

stratagem said...

David - why not? There's nothing unmanly about being well-groomed, unless well-groomed is broadly defined to include using props (makeup, eyebrow plucking, hair dye, earrings) to make oneself look more like the feminine gender.

I think the tragedy is that because of the modern divorce culture, we have a lot of adult males who never had their fatherly role model present in any meaningful way. That leads to identity confusion for mother-raised males. On top of that, we also have the feminist culture that has trained many fathers who are present, to cowtow to the feminist beliefs of their wives in order to preserve peace (or the marriage), which also fosters effeminate subservience on the part of the fathers (and sons).

So we end up with a class of preachers that attempts to market themselves to this fast-growing market segment of metrosexual males and feminist females. Which leads me back to Bell (and others rightly mentioned Osteen, McLaren, and so on).

David Rudd said...

strat...

i was mainly responding to the previous statement

If we're forming lists don't forget to add the pseudo-man, coiffed, pancaked, cool-shirt-wearing EYoung Jr to it...that one seemed to take the post in a direction i'm not sure phil intended...

(not speaking to Ed's theology, but to his appearance)

Phil Johnson said...

David Rudd: Exactly. I'm not concerned with appearance.

Well . . . except in the case of someone like "Sister Paula." But even for him, "appearance" is really the least of my worries.

Same with Spurgeon. When he decried "effeminate" preaching, he wasn't thinking of how the preacher looked, but what he said and how boldly he delivered it.

SolaMommy said...

Oh Phil, you need to warn people about clicking that "Sister Paula" link...some of us were eating lunch...

Excellent post today :-)

Phil Johnson said...

. . . so anyway, the comments about appearance got me thinking about one of the early Biblezine parodies we did 4 years ago: Product: The New Testament for Fancy Boys.Not to sidetrack the thread or anything, but the idea of packaging the NT as a magazine with fashion tips for teenage girls strikes me as a classic example of typical pomo effeminacy.

Frank Turk said...

Sister Paula's not right, dude. That link's a dog's breakfast.

Respectabiggle said...

Just try saying, "Thus saith the LORD..." in a wuss-voice.

Respectabiggle said...

See? It's self-refuting.

Julius Mickel said...

Good post Phil, especially pointing out that this is seen in the person of Christ.
Not John Wayne, the Fonz, or Burt Reynolds, we are desperately in need of men who strive for integrity, zeal for the glory of God, tenderness and humility towards the church and compassion for the lost. Oh for men who will STOP passing the charge to their wives and STOP hiding from biblical confrontation in the church!!

Julius Mickel said...

In regards to boys becoming men, to step up in the church, in life, and in marriage I made this animated parody about a week ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4YbYy3dYTQ
not completely relevant to this post, but funny (i you don't find it funny because it fits you, then you wife or mom will)

Stefan said...

Just like everything else in Christianity, Biblical manliness confounds every worldly version of the same. Neither effeminate nor macho, neither dissipated nor violent.

Standing firm in faith in the Word of God, showing sacrificial leadership in the home and the church, unflinching on the proclamations of Scripture, and tender in counsel. Taking up his cross in servanthood, and contending for the truth.

Kind of like the One who is both the Lion of Judah, and the Passover Lamb.

Stefan said...

"Kind of like the One who is both the Lion of Judah, and the Passover Lamb."

I just wrote those words without thinking too deeply about them.

Off topic, but 2+ years as a believer, and I still can't get over how deeply rooted the New Testament is in the Old Testament.

steve s said...

Now, I wish I'd said that instead of getting into one with Strat about Rob Bell.
I always intended to suggest that we need to be careful not to overlay biblical 'manliness' with something drawn up either by or in our culture.
Stefan just said it better than I could have.

John said...

Brother, this is a great exhortation. If I might add, this problem goes back much farther than the 18th century. Satan has been subverting the role of men since Eden. A tempting sin too, because it is usually wrapped in the lie that we can shirk our responsibilities as men and still live the good life.

stratagem said...

Steve - yes, I think we all agree on that point. You can't let the culture set the standard for manly behavior, whether that is the coarse brand of manhood, or the effeminized brand.
But let's face it, in this "let's all get along," "there's no right or wrong" culture we're in, taking an unflinching stand on any non-PC position is definitely counter-cultural.

Mark | HereiBlog.com said...

I know I shouldn't, but...there's always a but... When I read

Abhor the practice of some men, who will not bring out the letter "r," such a habit is "vewys wuinous and wediculous, vewy wetched and wepwehensible."I thought "Barney Frank". Sorry.

Anyways, great article.

Mark

Solameanie said...

Once we listened to Martin Luther and "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Nowadays, we're liable to hear the Pet Shop Boys on Sunday morning.

Dave Sherrill said...

Phil,
Your post hits exactly on the kind of courage I've seen Machen display in his addresses. I believe he was diminuitive in stature but had the heart of a lion.

Julius Mickel said...

Since my 'living' paper pastors are not the usuals (though i respect some of the bigger names, I'm much more interested in less known)
Some that come to mind are
Albert Martin
Paul Washer
Conrad Mbewe
I'm thinking of men who at first glance may come off ferocious but upon meeting them they are gentle Shepherds whom you learn are as much fueled by grace-filled love when they rebuke or encourage you (kinda like how ridiculously common it is for people to be 'shocked' that Edwards could preach such intimate and comforting sermons---no way, preachers must be lions and lambs!


and two (that first came to mind)whom I couldn't argee with on several things but if I had met them when they were alive I would have shut my mouth and hoped I could gain some wisdom, Ravenhill and Tozer!

Sing-Along Steve said...

hip clothes, no facial hair and preaches like a man?

Easy... CJ Mahaney.

Seriously, though, there are all kinds of foppish sissies out there... it comes with the theological territory they inhabit. Start replacing "sin" with "broken relationship" or "alienation" and see what happens. Start talking about "not God's best" instead of "wrath" and see if you don't get a little marshmallowy before too long.

The only thing worse than a sissy preacher is one who is bold in the pulpit but a weakling in discipline and shepherding his people, because they PAY him to preach loud and bold but they refuse to let him run the show otherwise. He's their hireling.

Sing-Along Steve said...

oh, and as to the "lion and lamb" duality of imagery, think, too, of the One who wept over His friend's death AND bodily threw grown men out of the temple courts.

My pastor growing up used to say that modern people likes their 'Jesus' to be "mamby-pamby and milquetoast'.

gatogordo said...

"No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save."

This post reminded me of this quote by James Denny.

Thanks for the great post.

christianlady said...

Men need to step up because the children need this leadership. The boys especially. I wonder what would happen to Christian marriages if pastors were manly? What about the churches themselves? What of the children in rebellion and the current "emergent youth" talk? We NEED grandfathers, fathers, older brothers, uncles, pastors, elders, and the like to be real men. I really love this post!

jmarinara said...

Awesome! Great article. I'm glad I'm not alone in this world desiring that Christian men embrace manliness.

May God raise up more men like C.T. Studs.

jmarinara said...

Errrrr, sorry guys, I meant C.T. Studd. I'm sure you knew that though.

:-/ Such is the spelling habits of a man who writes on his iPhone. *grin*

christianlady said...

I would love to see a post about how women in the church should be women...how would that go? I am sure many of us "loud mouth" types would be very convicted(myself included)!

Marie said...

Christianlady: somewhere, deep down inside all of us, there's a quiet and gentle spirit just dying to get out.

It's progressive sanctification...that's what I keep telling myself.

Julius Mickel said...

In reference to Christianlady and her request,
TEAMPYRO you man enough for that challenge? :)

Sir Aaron said...

funny...when I read the lisping part I immediately thought of Barney Frank and why anybody would want to be like him.

Sir Aaron said...

man..I missed it, but Mark beat me to it!

Christopher Lake said...

Solameanie, you wrote:

"Once we listened to Martin Luther and "A Mighty Fortress is our God." Nowadays, we're liable to hear the Pet Shop Boys on Sunday morning."

All I can say is, not at my church, and I am thankful! :-)

Mark B. Hanson said...

From Dorothy Sayers:

"The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore; on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies." (from Creed or Chaos?)

C.B. Shearer said...

I'm loving the comments as much as the original article. One of the things I enjoyed about the article was that I wrote a somewhat similar Sunday School lesson at the beginning of the week; http://netwetters.blogspot.com/2009/04/april-26th-smyrna.html

There is certainly a call for men to be men and for us to quit trying to please men and instead be servants of Christ.

Canyon

Chucky said...

Awesome post, mate!

Susan said...

(Who knew that Elmer Fudd came from a long line of Victowian pweachers?? Or that Hans and Franz had specific people in mind when they spoke of the "gerly mahn"?

But I digress....)

May the Lord indeed raise up more manly preachers to lead His flock!

Solameanie said...

Not at my church either, Christopher, and I am also thankful. However, I do know that some churches in the movement that shall be nameless often uses secular music during their services.

Hmm. I guess the Pet Shop Boys did have a song called "It's a Sin." (cough cough)

Solameanie said...

Sorry. I meant "often use."

I hate having to be grammatically correct on Saturday mornings.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Sorry I was a bit oblique - the reason for posting the Sayers quote is that the feminizing that our preachers are doing to themselves, they first did to Jesus to make him "fit" for the modern age.

I remember Larry Norman talking about modern pictures of Jesus, walking around like he'd "just had his nails done."

Chris said...

Thank you for posting this excellent commentary on the sissification of the pulpit--one of my favorite yet!

Before God's providence directed us to our present church, wherein we hear solid, Biblical, manly (or I should say Biblically manly) preaching occur every week, I vividly recall in contrast one of our prior churches that was "led" by a man who was actively pursuing and incorporating emerg*** ideas, along with other forms of theological liberalism. It was so disheartening to hear his angst over stating anything with certainty each week, as he was doing anything but preaching. His "style" immediately came to mind recently, at the Shepherd's Conference, when I heard Al Mohler's excellent description of such an atrocity: "in too many pulpits today, exclamation marks have curled into question marks and periods have slouched into commas"

Well said, Dr. Mohler!

jmarinara said...

Yeah, I remember attending a church at one point in my life that "experimented" with secular music as worship. (They "experimented" a lot actually, about a lot of things).

They whipped out the Monkees "I'm a believer" right in between "Shout to the Lord" (don't get me started) and "Awesome God" (Yeah, that one. The one officially sponsored by the new Watermelon Slurpee at 7-11). Only they changed the words to "When I saw HIS face. . . "

Yeah.

I knew right then and there that it was time to leave.

Now that said. . . *opens up the can of worms* . . .

I'm a rock musician. I play bass guitar, mostly, and tinker with guitar, piano/keys, drums, and harmonica. I play bass guitar in our decidedly UN-Rock worship team at my church, and I have played in Christian rock bands in the past (of various genres) and write my own songs. I prefer a bit of a harder sound.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a particular style of music, it's whats DONE with that style that is problematic.

I also think that certain styles of music have no place in corporate worship. Many people struggle with music, particularly styles of music, causing them to sin, or to at least be tempted to sin. The last thing that should be done in worship is putting up a stumbling block for those around you, so, I'm more than happy playing the Getty's, the occasional Chris Tomlin tunes, and the good ole' hymns I grew up on while helping to lead worship. (All music I LOVE, BTW.)

But, as far as my own personal iPod is concerned. If I'm not tempted to sin, if it's not blasphemous and filthy, if it doesn't place a stumbling block in my life or those who are listneing with me (namely my son), and I like it. I'm listening to it.

Solameanie said...

Jmarinara,

I didn't intend to imply any position on whether it's okay to listen to secular music or not, or whether any style was somehow sinful or evil. That's never been a big bugaboo with me. I'm not Bill Gothard.

I was talking about it in the sense of using secular music in the worship service, and in the cases I'm referencing, no lyric changes. I'll leave it to others to explain why they do it.

P.S. For the record, I should say that I'm not a huge country fan. I used to have to play six hours of it every Saturday night on the radio, and by the time the end of my air shift came along, I was ready to jump off the nearest bridge.

jmarinara said...

Solameanie,

Not a problem. I wasn't singling anyone out or trying to pick a fight, I was just adding to the conversation that, somehow, has turned to music.

You and I agree, I'm fairly certain, on the proper use of music in worship. And, judging from your profile, I'm guessing we could have an enjoyable conversation about music in general, secular and otherwise.

Actually, in retrospect, I was taking us further down a rabbit trail. Still am. *grin*

The internet is fun. :-)

KM said...

This is a great post. I do want to add one thing as an adult woman with only woman as demonstrators of... well, anything in my life. There is much talk about the fact that boys need this kind of example. But, girls need it equally as much. Those girls would not have become women who hold onto feministic ideals and cram them down society and their husbands throats if they had seen an example of godly masculinity once in a while. It’s pretty hard to ignore the feminist ideal when you are a woman who saw women do all the hard work alone and make all the hard choices alone and pray the hard prayers for their loved ones alone, etc. But, it’s impossible for a woman to instill in her daughter (or son) anything other than what she knows. And, many, many women do not know what godly masculinity looks like as a result of this kind of upbringing.

donsands said...

"..and by the time the end of my air shift came along, I was ready to jump off the nearest bridge."

Did you ever have to play this song Sola? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt5Q-u4crc