A worth while discussion about masculinity in the church has come up recently. What is helpful is that the discussion is among two complementarians who are working through how to be the most faithful they can in this setting to what the scripture says on this topic.

Michael Horton wrote and article entitled Muscular Christianity where he set out to critic a perceived problem of hyper masculinity being encouraged by some segments in the church.

To counter, Doug Wilson penned a response to Horton’s article where he pushed back by saying there is biblical reason for gender roles not specifically mentioned in Scripture.

I would encourage you to read each article.

There is the tension where, on the one hand, I would agree with Wilson that there is a perception of masculinity which we as Christian men are to communicate in normal things like speech, attire, etc, where we are distinguished from females.  These things are culturally determined as Wilson points out. But, because all communication is culturally defined we must abide by it to communicate the glorious truth of gender distinctions. Thus, through the bible God sets the standard of masculinity, then we use culturally appropriate ways of communicating that biblical picture. For scriptural backing of this you can read Denny Burk’s post  on 1 Corinthians 11 and read Wilson’s post to get the full articulation of this point.

On the other hand Horton raises a very important point where a perilous switch occurs. Cultural perceptions of masculinity become the standard and the bible is made to fit that perception. We are to start defining manhood by going to the bible and reading about how God defines men. Then we work through that meaning as it is communicated to others. But the problem occurs when we center manhood on a cultural icon of manhood—a “hunter” icon if you will. The man who has a 3 inch thick bread, who carries his weapon into the wilderness of the forest, and then slays his prey of deer or boar. If this is the pinnacle of manhood what does a man do if his wilderness is a cubicle where he settles insurance claims for customers? When the church features its annual men’s event in a hunter’s theme it can communicate to the man in the cubicle that he can come hang out with the real men. This is the issue I believe Horton is criticing. I believe he is right in signaling this out. The shift is subtle and so happens easily with many perceptions of manhood.