It’s not a secret in the medical community that levels of testosterone, the hormone which men typically possess in much higher quantities than women, have been falling precipitously for decades. A Forbes article detailing the issue put it bluntly with this headline: “You’re Not the Man Your Father Was.” We don’t really even know what it means to be a man, and even if we did we might be physiologically incapable of doing so.
Not only is the church not really addressing the issue… we’re actively helping make it worse.
The church is racked with misconceptions about masculinity which are keeping us from facing the problem.
First, there’s a widespread yet unspoken belief that naturally feminine qualities are Christlike qualities and naturally masculine qualities are unChristlike. Don’t take my word for it – in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow shares how he has given thousands of Christians two lists of characteristics and asked which is more Christlike. Over 90% choose list B (comprising qualities like community, nurturing, and cooperating) over list A (competence, success, proving oneself) not knowing that the lists are nothing more than a collection of predominantly female values and predominantly male values, taken from Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus by John Gray.
There is little to no place for the God-given masculine drive in modern Christianity. In fact, it’s often looked at as sinful. Boys are essentially seen as ill-behaving girls, leading to efforts to discipline or even medicate their energy out of them. But God gave us these qualities for a reason, and our insistence on reining them in is harming the church, the home, and the society.
Second, many operate under the assumption that baptism and sanctification change our nature. The Gnosticism that plagued the early church never really went away; it just resurfaces in different arguments over time. Plenty of people still believe the unbiblical concept, “Physical bad, spiritual good.”
Because of this, some teach that in Christ our masculinity and femininity are done away with and as we reach maturity in Christ, the two can’t really be told apart. Based on a bad reading of Galatians 3:28 (one of our top 5 most misused verses), that road pretty clearly leads to the egalitarian elimination of all gender roles.
But the claim just couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus sanctifies our nature, but He doesn’t abolish it. The creation and its order were very good, and they are being made very good again. Testosterone and estrogen don’t disappear at your baptism. Skeletal structure and musculature don’t go away the longer one walks by the Spirit. And the spiritual differences are just as baked in as the physical. We remain different, and that’s by God’s good design.
Third, many believe this kind of discussion isn’t relevant to the church. I have no doubt that merely putting the word “testosterone” in an article about the church will be looked at by some as weird. “We should just preach the Gospel,” the common refrain says (which we addressed here). But the Bible is bigger than just a handbook of salvation. It shows God’s loving direction over our entire lives, and that includes our respective masculinity and femininity. And when you realize this, you realize there are dire consequences when we drift from God’s plan.
The problem is, we can’t get back to God’s plan until we know what it actually is.
We know what His plan is not. God’s plan for masculinity is certainly not some fake manliness signified by chauvinism, bull-headedness, and lack of self-discipline. But since we don’t know the genuine article, we lump in these negative qualities with the positive and throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.
We need to get back to understanding why God placed Adam over the garden, why He chose male generals, kings, prophets, apostles, elders, and preachers, why the hierarchy of the home is what is is, and what qualities He placed in man to carry out these tasks. When we do we’ll see things like drive, firmness, and grit that, when coupled with Godly love and wisdom, can carry out these tasks with grace. Without them, though, all kinds of issues arise.
The depression and overall aimlessness so often seen in young men today has strong ties to our inability to help them become men. As we’ve bottled up the passion and drive God placed in Adam to carry out the dominion mandate and replaced it with porn, drugs, video games, and junk food, it should not surprise us that so many end up in their parents’ basements, unhappy and with little to offer.
The home fails when men are taught to submit rather than lead. “Happy wife, Happy life” and “Yes, dear” are phrases every young groom is jokingly told to learn, thus emasculating his leadership from day 1. The Godly man has to lead and make the tough but correct decisions, even if his wife and kids might not like it.
In the church this crisis of missing masculinity has tremendous consequences, particularly on two fronts.
First, it takes strength to say the kinds of things Elijah, Nathan, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist were told to say. It takes the kind of “not cowed by others’ opinions” disagreeableness typically associated with masculinity. Without sufficient testosterone in church leadership, we’ll lack the ability to preach the hard things the congregation needs to hear, or to confront those who need to be confronted.
Second, fighting wolves is not for the faint of heart. Men are built to take a stand and protect – yet another of those male/female distinctions that don’t just get washed away at baptism. This is why the role of elder is reserved to men. They will have to fight off wolves. They will have to mark those who would lead their people astray. This is difficult and quite uncomfortable, but someone has to do it. That’s the kind of role men are made for.
We need gentleness, but we don’t need softness. The two couldn’t be more different. It’s not about constantly looking for tables to flip and money changers to drive out. It’s about having the ability to do so when it’s needed. And a testosterone-bankrupt church won’t have that ability. So, we need to start rebuilding those qualities in our men.
One of the best things Christian men can do to make a difference is to take up this task today. This starts with prayer and the Word, of course, as God shows us what men are to be. But it manifests in our lives by taking on difficult tasks, having a sense of conquest and adventure in the realms God has placed us in, and developing a brotherhood with men who will push us and keep us accountable. It also means putting in the physical work to start rebuilding testosterone levels – things like lifting weights, losing fat, getting sun, and ESPECIALLY staying a mile away from porn.
Work hard. Lead your home. Serve the church. Bless your community. Determine to fulfill your God-given design as a man. The effects on your life, your home, your church, and the world around you will be incalculable.
Check out our podcast episode on masculinity and Christianity here