These are interesting, exciting times in American Christianity. There’s a real reformation that’s been going on over the last decade or so, as young people are rediscovering the classic truths of the faith. Meanwhile, the segment of the church that is not reforming is becoming increasingly liberal in their theology and stepping closer and closer toward unorthodoxy. And it’s been pointed out before, that the voices of those who aren’t moving in either direction are becoming more and more irrelevant in the church at large.
Chances are, even if one does not hold to a Calvinistic soteriology, he/she is still very influenced by Calvinistic teachings. I know very few reformed people here in my community (Although I read that Calvinism is apparently exploding in China). But I rarely meet any Christian who isn’t well acquainted with the teachings of people like John Piper, Tim Keller, David Platt, Mark Driscoll, and a whole host of others. And if you listen to almost any Christian rapper today, you are listening to an artfully crafted sermon set to a beat and packed full of solid reformed theology.
I’m very pleased by all of this! This new reformed resurgence is doing so much for Christianity in the States right now. People are getting back to good, faithful exegesis of the scriptures. They have a high view of God’s Word and see it as authoritative. People are preaching a solid gospel and relying on and truly believing in God’s power to bring dead men to life! And people are intelligently and engagingly standing firm on the toughest issues of the day, because of this rich recovery of historic Christianity.
If there’s one hang-up I have with this movement, which I’m very much a part of, it’s the way we’re handling the issue of gender. Now I suspect that if any of my reformed friends are reading this right now, that last sentence may have just taken them aback. What could I possibly mean? The Reformed movement has been at the forefront of recovering biblical manhood and womanhood! I mean, our heavy hitters are the ones who wrote the book on it, who started the council on it, for crying out loud! How could I possibly have a problem with our handling of this issue?
Let me clarify:
I don’t take issue with the book by Piper and Grudem. I don’t take issue with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which I think is bravely doing good work in a culture in which their views are decidedly unpopular. As I wrote in my last post, I am a complimentarian. Also, the beef I have is not based on my natural aversion to that doctrine, which was a major point in that post. What really bothers me is not the theological position we are taking on manhood and womanhood; it’s more the attitude that we’re displaying about the proper way to express masculinity and femininity.
It’s become very en vogue as of late to lament the destruction of masculinity in modern America. You hear it in casual conversation, and you see it all over social media. Just the other day, I read someone’s status doing just that, and he suggested (I hope facetiously) that men go start a fight. Because that’s real masculinity, apparently. On the same day, several friends of mine participated in a lengthy Facebook thread ridiculing a model whose picture one of them posted, saying that he looked effeminate (I guess because he wasn’t wearing Wrangler jeans and a Faded Glory t-shirt).
This attitude goes pretty high up the ranks of the neo-Calvinist movement. How many jokes has Mark Driscoll made about men who don’t fit his narrowly defined ideals of manhood? Does anyone remember the Facebook post in which he invited people into a cyber-bullying fest and as this article makes a strong case for, to sin?
We’ve been very intelligent and very biblical in how we’ve addressed most social issues. So it’s perplexing to me that we are responding to the World’s very real attack on biblical gender identity with such a silly, reactionary approach. I’ve often wondered if those who like to hold up stereotypes of manhood as a sort of litmus test for masculinity would accuse women who enjoy those things of not being properly in touch with their femininity. If all real men drink lots of beer, play contact sports, go camping and hiking, and enjoy physically straining activities, is a woman who enjoys those things somehow too masculine? The angle is different in this post that I stumbled upon at Christianity Today, but I think it complements my point quite well.
As I bring this post to a close, I want to also bring to our attention that this cartoonish attitude about masculinity and femininity is not at all helpful for those who really do struggle with gender identity issues. For the millions of people who are trying to work that out and faithfully follow Jesus and surrender our own natural inclinations to God and His word, it is nothing short of a stumbling block when Christian leaders and Christians in general go around exalting their preferences and cultural distinctives as the pinnacle of manhood and womanhood. Instead, let’s use the Word of God to define the terms. After all, we as reformed Christians do believe in the sufficiency of scripture, don’t we? In the first three paragraphs, I celebrated the fact that the new Calvinists are the ones who are most influencing what American Christianity will look like in the coming generation. By God’s grace, let’s do this thing right.