A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boundless Shenanigans

Albert Mohler, Steve and Candice Watters, and the Boundless staff in general no longer surprise me with their behaviors. In the last couple of weeks or so, they have been ramping up their predictable marriage mandate nonsense, gynocentrism, and misandry. Some developments ...

1. Candice skewers a young man who is going to be a pastor because he is not committing to a female friend. Read this excellent analysis from Puritan Calvinist on the matter.

2. Boundless staff showcase a series of posts by Tim Challies that excoriate men about pornography but downplay the problem of "female porn" (romantic novels, chick lit, and the such like). Ted Slater makes a point of telling everyone that he even deleted an article on "female porn" from the Boundless site. Well, fortunately we need not depend on Mr. Slater to find out the truth about how "female porn" is ruining relationships between men and women. Thank you, Ted, for being oh-so marriage-friendly that you've turned the other way while women indulge in destructive fantasies about men and relationships. This Boundless reader gets it. Ted doesn't.

3. Candice comes unglued when a Boundless fan writes in about a boyfriend not wanting to have children (see 33:55 of this broadcast). According to Candice, the lack of desire for children is right up there with being unequally yoked with non-believers as a "deal breaker." Of course, when I tried to make the Boundless folks and their readers aware about this post of mine, my comments didn't get published. Needless to say, Candice's rabid pro-natalist dogma is clearly an unscriptural addition to God's word.

4. Ok, this one takes the prize: Albert Mohler along with Steve Waters and Lisa Anderson of Boundless beat the drum about marriage on a radio broadcast. They claim marriage brings people back to Christ in a way that age "cannot." Also, receiving marriage, among other gifts from God, supposedly brings other issues of life into "alignment," giving people a "wholeness" they will never "find anywhere else." Listen to 31:30 onward in the broadcast. If I was standing next to Mohler and the others on a golf course while they said this, I would run for the sand pit and duck so I wouldn't get hit by the lightning. It borders on sacrilege. Marriage is necessary for a wholeness I can't find anywhere else? Marriage brings people back to Christ? Hey, folks! What about the plain preaching of the gospel (Rom. 1:16)? Or the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11)? Or Christ giving us "wholeness" through our relationship with Him (Col. 2:10)? I fear some people are really going off the deep end.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When She Asks About Your Past

In response to a recent Boundless post about recovering porn users, I wrote basically the following:
To any Christian man who has turned from using pornography ...

Don't count on forgiveness or trust from Christian women. If it is such a problem for them, they are better off not wasting their time or your time. They should find a man who hasn't struggled with pornography.

Men, work on being happy with your life. Your freedom from pornography is proof that you don't need women (because if you are practicing self-control over that, then you are practicing self-control, period). You'll be much happier by yourself than with someone who is going to hang your past over your head anyway.
I don't know if they'll publish my post, but I was thinking at lunch yesterday: It's hypocritical for me to come down hard on Christian women who slept around in younger years if I, as a man, was doing the same thing or championing men who do it. If a woman has a problem with me not being a virgin and/or using porn, that's her right.

Men, if and when the subject of your past comes up with a Christian woman, be honest and ask her if she is going to hang it over your head. Because if she is not resolute about letting the past be the past, then you and her are going to be miserable together. Cut it off right there and go your own way. You don't need women to play back your sins to you. If a woman thinks she's alright with it, then she needs to promise to not let it get between the two of you. If she does it later, call her out on her lying and broken promises. Remind her that fidelity is more than just the sexual part. She needs to be good as her word. If you are married to her and she is still pulling this garbage on you, she is sinning against you and the marriage bond. You probably need to take the matter to a church leader you can confide in. And men, you need to swallow the pill on this one: the rules of forgiveness work the other way, too, if you chose to marry the reformed bad girl.

I believe God can bring good out of a bad situation. Look it at this way, if you are a man and you messed up in your past, then your past sexual sins can help you separate those who really are caring from those who just warm pews. As a bachelor, if you got the nerve to be direct about this with people at church, you can find out quickly who is the real McCoy. The women, in particular, who have hang-ups about sex and won't put out in marriage are probably the ones that will freak when they find out your looked at porn or slept with a woman. Congratulate yourself on dodging the bullet. The woman who lovingly embraces you with a spirit of charity is only one you need to bother thinking about pursuing, if anyone at all.

There's another benefit if you are not in any hurry to get married. Marriage mandators and other anti-bachelor zealots won't have much of a comeback if you tell them, "Look, Christian women will probably have doubts about dating me because of my past. So why beat a dead horse, here? We should be considerate of their feelings." Your inquisitors will probably love the part about being considerate of the feelings Christian women have. Turn their own chivalrous impulses against them. Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (Matthew 10:16). Escalate the game. And, again, congratulate yourself on dodging the bullet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Defining Manhood (The Illogic of Socons)

Over a year ago, I wrote a post critical of something Albert Mohler said on the definition of manhood and masculinity. Like some of my readers, he tried to slip "father" and "husband" into the definition. I called him out on his illogical thinking, however. He wanted to make an exception for the Apostle Paul that he wouldn't make for ordinary men. Yet something is either essential to the definition of a certain class of entities or it isn't (e.g., the class of those we call men). It's has to do with the "law of the excluded middle" (and there is definitely no false dichotomy on this point). If you read the Wikipedia entry on the "law of the excluded middle" it has a quote from Aristotle the I find to be apropos to this discussion:
It is impossible, then, that 'being a man' should mean precisely 'not being a man', if 'man' not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance. … And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call 'man', and others were to call 'not-man'; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact. (Metaphysics 4.4, W.D. Ross (trans.), GBWW 8, 525–526).
You see, language is a powerful tool, and there those who want to abuse it to create falsehoods in the minds of others. I have to hand it to the feminists in particular for their acumen in twisting language to create imposed realities for social discourse. We most assuredly need to exercise due diligence to cut through the demagoguery, rhetorical legerdemain, and sloppy and imprecise thinking of others.

Anyway, I am revisiting Mohler's writings because of recent comments made by my readers on the subject of manhood and its relationship to marriage. Socons need to make up their minds about a few things when discussing this subject. In Mohler's post about manhood, he wrote:
In a biblical perspective, manhood is defined in these roles and responsibilities ["the role of father/protector/provider"]. A man is defined in terms of who he is and what he does in obedience to God. A society that rejects or sidelines these roles and responsibilities -- that does not honor fatherhood and hold it out as expectation -- will sow seeds of disastrous confusion. The damage to our language is among the least of our problems.

While the Bible clearly honors men who forfeit the blessings of wife and children for the sake of the Gospel (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 32-28), the history of the Christian church indicates that these represent a minority. The normative expectation is that a young man will mature to take on the role of "father/protector/provider" that Peters correctly sees as "not considered as necessary or desirable as it once was" within the secular culture. Those men who are faithfully living out these responsibilities are not likely to be too concerned about finding true masculinity. They are living it.
So, Mohler wants to define men in sociological terms.** It's akin to something one of my readers said: "'Manhood' is a qualitative judgement." Ironically, this same reader of mine compared the ideas of another reader to something a "liberal feminist" would come up with. Why do I say "ironically"? Read on.

Consider what Albert Mohler wrote in two other posts about transexuality. First this quote ...
Goodman's writing is crisp and concise, but she runs right over some basic issues that are hard to miss. The first is the assumption that "sexual realignment surgery" can actually change a person's sex. The other (and obvious fact) is that Thomas Beatie is still functioning as a woman, even to the extent of retaining her reproductive capacity.

In other words, she had her physical characteristics changed -- at least some visible markers of gender -- so that she would appear as a man rather than as a woman. But -- and this is crucial -- the baby did not emerge from a man's womb. There is no such thing. The baby, we might summarize, was not fooled.
So, a man is a man and woman is a woman, eh? But wait, there is this quote ...
Well, it is one inescapable question. After all, Boylan resists "binary" categories, yet when it comes to gender she offers only two options -- male and female. She changed her own legal gender from one to the other, but there remain only two designations. She is as "binary" as the rest of us. We cannot make sense of any conversation without using terms like he/she, man/woman, male/female, father/mother, son/daughter, and his/her's. We live in a stubbornly binary world.

Armed with this realization, we face a clear choice: We will see this binary understanding of gender as a gift from God revealed throughout creation, or we will see it as a socially-constructed reality that we can (and should) deconstruct. Are we bound to these categories by a Creator? Or did we do this to ourselves?

The Christian worldview is clear at this point. The Bible presents gender as part of the goodness of creation. God reveals his glory in every aspect of creation, and this is abundantly true with respect to the two sexes. God glorifies himself in creating humanity in his own image, both male and female. To deny or confuse this distinction is to deny God the glory that is his due. And, that which brings God's greatest glory will also bring us greatest joy.
How strange that the last two paragraphs sound a lot like something I wrote recently about realmannspracht! It's just too bad that Mohler and others socons are so incredibly inconsistent on this matter.

What happens when a feminist or other liberal suggests that concept of "man" and "woman" is sociologically determined? The socons throw a fit and shout, "No! The concept of 'man' and 'woman' is rooted in creation, dummies!" Indeed. There have even been all sorts of arguments to show how biology drives behavioral differences between the sexes. You'll get no disagreement from me on that, folks!

But what happens when the socons want to shame a man into taking on certain social roles? Well, suddenly we get into talk about how being a "man," "manhood," and "masculinity" are driven by the expectations of others. In other words, people start resorting to the intellectually compromised language of realmannspracht. It's simply a case of socons talking out both sides of their mouths, a trait they have in common with the feminists.

Look, either the biological markers of manhood are sufficient to identify a man or they are not. If they're not, then it's open game on the concepts of manhood and womanhood! The feminists would just love that! Someone might say, "You're not really man because you have failed to do [xyz]." Well, the other person could retort, "Yeah. I decided to be a woman instead or embrace a fluid understanding of my gender." What are you going to say then, Einstein?

So where does that leaves us? Well, earlier this year, I wrote:
Manhood is the birthright of every adult, male human being, whether we respect that man or not. Biblical manhood is rooted in a relationship with God. This relationship is effected through the atoning work of Christ, not through performing duties and rituals (Eph. 2:8). Biblical manhood is a male state of being, which manifests itself in good works as God gives ability and opportunity to a man.
By the way, this quote answers the baseless charge that I have never defined "biblical manhood" on this blog.

Feminists want to destroy the differences between men and women. Socons want to impose the differences. I say let nature decide what the differences are. Adulthood and masculinity are biological; ergo, manhood is biological. Biblical manhood, consequently, is adult people with XY chromosomes living like Christ wants them to live. What about men who fail to live up to our expectations? Well, it's like I said in recent posts. You may not like what a man is doing, but he is still a man. If he's not doing something he should do or is doing something he shouldn't do, then tell him. But don't resort to realmannspracht. Leave that kind of talk to the misandrists, because now I've shown that such talk is not only unchristian, it's patently absurd, as well.

** Note: I take it that Albert Mohler is not discussing "biblical manhood" as one expression of masculinity, per se, but the definition of manhood in general from what he thinks is the proper perspective.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Your Marriage is Not a Ministry

Are you planning on getting married? What if I told you that a mate was already picked out for you? The mate picked out for you is physically unattractive and mean-spirited. What if I also told you that you cannot have kids but must instead adopt some children with severe behavioral problems? Do you still want to go for it? Why not?

For the married men reading this, what was the primary motivation that caused you to choose your wife? Did you think, "I am marrying this woman because she will help me teach alien sinners the Gospel"? Or did you think she would help you feed the hungry in Africa? Or was it something along the lines of, "She makes me very happy and I want to spend the rest of my life with her"?

You see, there is a very popular notion among Evangelicals that marriage represents some type of ministry or "kingdom work." We are told that unless you have a special gift as a single person for some notable work for Christ, you should get married. Marriage is your "vocation" or "calling" in this respect. Well, I've been wanting to write on this matter for some time because it is Pure. Utter. Poppycock. Your marriage is not a ministry. Period. Where did this idea come from? Luther? Calvin? I don't know, but it didn't come from the Bible. It's not there.

I covered some ground on this matter before in my book-length review of Debbie Maken's work Getting Serious About Getting Married, but let me repeat some things, if need be. The word "calling," "called," etc. is used in the Bible to refer to the Gospel invitation (Ephesians 4:1) or to a particular role in the Church (Romans 1:1). A "calling" is always made explicitly through a theophany or through the revealed Word of God. It is never used to describe a marital status.

Moreover, I want you to consider carefully the following verses because they most assuredly show some tension between our earthly loyalties (such as marriage and family) and our work in the kingdom of God ...

1. Luke 6:32 - "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (NASB)

The Lord asks a rhetorical question here. We need to answer it. What credit is it to you to love those that love you? Sounds like the marriage and family bond to me.

2. 1 Tim. 5:18 - "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (NASB)

Why is the neglect of your family worse than what unbelievers do? Because even unbelievers take care of their own. Tell me, are unbelievers engaged in "kingdom work" or ministry for Christ simply because they got married and had kids? You may say, "But I'm raising my children up in the Lord." I certainly hope you are doing that, but teaching others the gospel and encouraging others to be Christlike is something incumbent upon all believers anyway. As it is, there are lots of single Christians who have probably had a hand in "raising your children in the Lord."

3. 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 - "But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided." (NASB)

Note what this verse says. It doesn't say the married man has less time for church work than the single man. It says the married man's interests are divided. Between what? One type of "kingdom work" and another? No. Between "the things of Lord," on one hand, and "things of the world, how may please his wife" on the other. Okay, class, which category does married life fall into in this passage? "The things of the Lord" or "the things of the world"? This is not hard.

Or maybe a preceding passage might help you ...

4. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 - "But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away."

Look at the vocabulary of that passage. It all has to do with the things of this life. And where do you find marriage? Right smack dab in middle of it, along with such things as buying and selling.

So, if marriage is not a ministry or "kingdom work," then what is it? Simple, it is a gift from God (Prov. 18:22, 19:14). It is an optional gift (1 Cor. 7:27). Rejoice in your gift if it's yours (Prov. 5:18)! I am happy for men and women who shower one another with love in marriage. I surely hope there will be more unions like that. Marriage is God's idea and it is a good thing. He is compassionate and generous to many, even though they don't deserve the good gifts they get. He is also understanding about the demands and troubles people face as a result of the gift of marriage (1 Cor. 7:28). There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married. If you're scripturally eligible to marry, you want to marry, and you found someone good to marry, then go ahead and receive God's gift to humanity.

"But," you might retort, "marriage is not just a gift. It's not a lifestyle option! It's a labor of love! It's tough being married with children! You have to sacrifice! It's a lot of hard work!" Indeed it is, but that's the price tag, my friend. You see, you get something back from the transaction. A high-profile lawyer can say, "I work so many more hours that clerk in the front office" but if the lawyer spends his money on a McMansion, a yacht, and "many luxury vacations" with his svelte trophy wife, then why he is whining?

You married men have to sacrifice? Well, the Christian bachelor has to sacrifice. He can't sit in a sofa with a wife he doesn't have and laugh about things. He can't go out with her. He can't share his sorrows and tears with her. He can't make passionate love with her. He can't turn to her in the night to take away his solitude. He can't look into the eyes of any children and call them his own. He can't dream about what his children will become. There will be no Christmas photographs with a multigenerational clan of people surrounding him in his old age. It's uncertain if anyone who cares will show up at his funeral.

Do you want his life, married man? Well, look at the divorced man without his wife and kids. Is he happy he's unattached? No? Then maybe you got a good thing. I don't know; you'll have to speak to that. But please don't make yourself out to be religious martyr because your kid threw up and you had to take her to the hospital. Life is hard for you, but hopefully you are getting something worthwhile and it's for .... you.

The notion that married people can prance around like a bunch of star-bellied sneetches and assume they are more sanctified then your ordinary Christian bachelor is the biggest crock of elephant dung to be dropped in the Cleveland Zoo. Let's look at it another way ... I'll tell you what all the parallel talk about Christian bachelors being "selfish" and "immature" suggests to me. It suggests some people are less than happy with their married lives and think the grass is greener on the other side. It makes me think that some people are speaking out of bitter envy. Why don't these people just come right out and say it: "You bachelors have too many freedoms. You have to be miserable like us!" It's like H. G. Wells said, "Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."

When people say, "Marriage doesn't make you happy, it makes you holy," they ought to be slapped. God makes us holy, folks! That's what the Holy Spirit and the Christian life is for! If you don't think the Christian life is tough enough and sanctifying as it is, marriage or no marriage, then you got another thing coming (Luke 14:26). If marriage is not making you happy, don't construct some goofball theology around it and write books about your beliefs. If God didn't design marriage for people's happiness, then Proverbs 5:18-19 doesn't make sense:
Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. (NASB)
If marriage is not making you happy, then it's because you live in a fallen world, not because your marriage is functioning according to God's perfect plan. In the Garden of Eden, God did not say, "It's not good for the man to be alone. He is having too much fun. I'll give him a life of tedious responsibilities instead. I will a create someone suitable for not helping him." God made marriage to be a good thing, not a punishment.

When religious leaders talk about marriage as a "sanctifying work," basically spinning it as some arduous initiation into adulthood or a higher level of spirituality, it sounds a lot like a band-aid. That is, it's a band-aid to cover over the abysmal failures of marriages in the church. The whole "sanctifying" bit may be just some pep talk to make people feel better about their sorry lot. So instead of churches facing the epidemic of loveless marriages in their midst and asking what are the causes of the mess, we have the pseudo-spiritual psychobabble of positive thinking and semi-asceticism. "Is your married life a drag? Oh, but move beyond the thoughts of your happiness and realize this is the way the Lord is refining you!" Yeah, don't look at the underlying causes: wives with a post-feminist entitlement mentality, husbands who are insensitive ne'er-do-wells, children who are materialistic brats, employers who are tyrants, the lack of communal support for marriages, or a combination of these and other related factors. And whatever you do, don't look at the fact that some people just shut down their brains, think they need to marry no matter what, drink the Kool-Aid, and fall right into a Marriage 2.0 situation.

So is the married man's life harder than the Christian bachelor's? I don't know if that's necessarily true in all respects (Eccles. 4:9-12). Does the husband and father have to sacrifice and care for others? Yeah ... and the poor man can boast how he is being sanctified in his adversity the way a rich man isn't. But if the poor man's station in life is partially his own fault, then his boast sounds a little hollow. That's the way I view the boasting of some religious people about marriage.

"Oh, you just have no idea! The hassle of balancing work and family! The bills! The worry about what little Brittney and Carson are doing!" Yeah, the bachelor has no idea. Why should he? Does hardship give you a license to turn up your nose and look down on those who have it easier than you in some respects? What are you? Mother Theresa? The Patron Saint of Self-Mortifying Charity? Someone may tell me that married people care for others the way single people usually don't. Well, I can just as easily point out that single people can draw close to God in a way married people usually don't have to, especially in terms of dealing with rejection, isolation, alienation, loneliness, feelings of being unvalued and unloved, etc. What is this? A spiritual tobacco spitting contest? Anyway, it's not like a lot of people considering marriage have thought about doing without a spouse and living in some dirt poor country to carry on mission work. "Oh, but I don't feel a calling to do that." Yeah, you don't feel a calling, because you don't want to. Spare us the cloaking of your desires with prettified theology.

Granted, singleness has it privileges. The freedom. The choices. The fun things. The lack of worry. On it goes. Do you begrudge the carefree bachelor the perks and privileges of his station? What does that say about you? He picked door #2. You picked door #3. Everyone should be cool with the good things they got, and stop provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:26). What's the problem? Why do we have to be anti-bachelor Nazis? Needless to say, it's time for people to get real. Some of the ones who embrace marriage, that is.