I hope to engage this matter further in a subsequent post when time allows, but I've been deeply disheartened of late by the online antics of some Christian men, including some office bearers in the church. These brothers have reacted reprehensibly to recent books by sisters in Christ who have the courage to raise questions about the biblical integrity of particular conceptions of manhood and womanhood popular and popularized among conservative evangelicals in general and the Reformed community specifically. And yes, it takes courage to raise such questions publicly. Look no further for evidence than the condescending and sometimes just crass comments that have erupted against them via social media, sometimes from men who haven't even read their books, and from some published critiques. I'm thinking of responses to books by Aimee Byrd and more recently, Rachel Green Miller.
Not content to let these works stand on their own to receive the scholarly scrutiny to which any published work is subject, some of our brothers have subjected these sisters - who operate firmly within a Reformed and even Westminsterian framework, no less! - to ad hominem attacks ad nauseam. The insults range from passive-aggressive in the more formal critiques to just plain aggressive in the comments sections of social media pages. Sometimes the latter features sheer, blatant mockery of women in general and of these women in particular. Misogynist bloviations meet bawdy applause among men who are ostensibly championing real manhood over and against the "liberal" "garbage" anthropology which they slanderously claim these new books posit. (If the irony of their behavior is lost on them or anyone else, it suggests all the more forcefully our need for such books). It's gotten so bad that Pastor Todd Pruitt, host along with Aimee Byrd and Carl Trueman of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' "Mortification of Spin" podcast, recently threw together some pertinent thoughts on the subject at the MOS blog site.
Links to any of the above are easy to find. I'm not providing them here - sorry! My primary purpose in this post is to call us out of the fray for a bit. I'm going to link instead to one of the finest sermons I've ever heard broaching the topic of biblically-defined masculinity. Full disclosure: it's been over a decade since I've listened to it in full! But that only bespeaks its enduring quality; and time and memory lapse notwithstanding, I'm happy to pass it along for your consideration and edification because it comes from one of the finest Christian men I know, someone as conservative and kindhearted as they come: Dr. C.J. Williams of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Have a listen.
In tone alone, let alone content, this sermon is a refreshing, unintentional yet no less applicable rejoinder to the aforementioned vile, unmanly, dehumanizing tendencies against which each of us men, especially office bearers in the church, need to pray with regard to our hearts and to the words we speak or publish as the outflow of their abundance. May we commit to thinking deeply about our faith and to asking good questions which, like those being raised by Aimee and Rachel, aim to drive us back to and deeper within the Scriptures. May we hear such questions respectfully, honestly, and then search the Scriptures thoroughly. May we have the integrity to apologize to people we've publicly slandered, and may the Lord protect our hearts from hidden sins (Psalm 19). May we be willing to purge our faith from unbiblical cultural accretions, no matter what the cost to our social status among friends and peer groups that (perhaps unknowingly) prize them. May we demonstrate a humble willingness to be corrected and not a stubborn will to be correct at the cost of Christlike character. After all, aren't we in the Reformed community supposed to be all about Semper Reformanda? And aren't we men who bear office in the church supposed to lead by example?