I saw this troubling phrase in some tweets during last week’s conference for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It provoked that all to familiar, “What does that even mean?” response in me. And today there is an article on their website written by Jason Allen that uses the phrase, and attempts to explain what that means.
First, I want to say that I don’t intend to write as much as I do about complementarianism as it is being taught in Reformedish circles. I have other things I’d like to write about. However, I find this teaching dangerous to the church, to men, women, and children, and there doesn’t seem to be many willing to ask questions or challenge the propaganda. I do see something like “sanctified testosterone” as propaganda. If you read this article in full, you will see that the underlying message is that if you don’t support this brand of complementarianism, this call for sanctified testosterone, then you don’t see the very real importance of gender distinction and God’s design for men and women in the church. It also paints a picture of a church that is not going to flourish without the “reappearance of men.”
There are so many statements in this article that I find troublesome, so I think the best way to approach this for the sake of brevity is to provide some quotes in italics with commentary following:
Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like. As to the first part of the sentence, that is a sweeping claim. Maybe it’s true? It isn’t my experience in my church. But I’ll take him at his word. As to the second part, I agree. But this article may be a reason for that.
Even within the church, much of the teaching on manhood has sent us toward two different, unhelpful poles. I agree. He goes on to illustrate those two poles as overly-feminine traits men should take on versus machismo and strong arming.
Through this, the church needs to recover biblical manhood, Christian masculinity—what we might think of as sanctified testosterone. What you talkin’ bout, Willis?
Where there is a lack of men—mature, godly men—the church will invariably suffer. The church in want of biblical, masculine service and leadership is an anemic church. I agree that the church needs good men. But what the heck is masculine service? And is every man in the church called to lead all the women in the church? Please explain.
A lack of mature, biblical manhood was one of the central problems of the Corinthian church. Allen camps out here for a while, trying to prove that the real problem in the Corinthian church was the lack of biblical manhood. I would say most of the verses he uses point to a call for maturity in the faith for us all, not sanctified testosterone.
There is a defined role of leadership, authority, and protection men in the church must play. Is there? Please show me where this definition is. Again, is every man a head to every woman in the church? Are these the three words that you see as the most frequent commands to men in Scripture?
And just as a side note, the word ezer, used to describe Eve in Gen. 2:18, is the same word used to describe God as a ezer to Israel throughout the Old Testament.* And when you look at these verses, we see this word used to communicate great strength. I particularly find Psalm 89:17 interesting, “For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Here we have the word ezer, usually translated helper, translated strength. These verses are also saturated in military language as they describe God as Israel’s ezer. The root for this word is used one hundred, twenty-eight times in Scripture, meaning to rescue and save. It is used referring to God’s rescue in thirty cases, which we see mostly in the Psalms.* So, although I completely acknowledge men do have greater physical strength than women, and should use that for anyone’s protection whenever someone may be in need, women also have strengths that are vital to the church. Women are also called to be protectors, leaders even.
Men long for a higher calling. They need a higher purpose. Our hearts leap within us when we see exhibitions of courage, when we hear tales of heroism, when we witness valiant sacrifice. Women don’t long for a higher calling? Do men long for higher callings than women do? Is that a gender distinction? But don’t we also need to understand that there is courage in facing the everyday faithfully–for men and women? I don’t think Allen realizes that he is teaching a machismo-lite here. Is that what sanctified testosterone is? That is how he is describing these virtues: Exhibitions of courage, tales of heroism, and valiant sacrifice, that needs to be witnessed, rather than quiet service that is always sacrificial.
As to forms and functions, we must be clear about what men must do. Biblical complementarity is not fundamentally about what opportunities women must forgo, but what responsibilities men must take up. So what I’m reading is that all men are the leaders of all women. They must be valiant and heroic. They must have sanctified testosterone.
Fourth, as preachers, let us cultivate gender distinction at all ages. As a child, my home church utilized Royal Ambassadors as discipleship curriculum for young boys and Girls in Action for young girls. RAs and GAs, as they came to be known, have largely given way to other—and often better—modes of children’s activities and discipleship. But I do miss the gender distinction they fostered, through their camaraderie and activities. Distinction does not necessarily mean segregation, but we must be intentional, even at the youngest of ages, to cultivate and channel boys into men and girls into women. I don’t think this is necessary. Can the little girls play with trucks in the nursery? Can boys pour the fake chocolate milk from the play kitchen? Why can’t boys and girls just learn from the Word side by side? There aren’t boy bibles and girl bibles. Frankly, I’m afraid of what some complementarians would teach to cultivate “gender distinction.” I heard of a large, well known, complementarian church that attempted to have the middle school girls begin practicing submission to the middle school boys. That’s completely unbiblical, foolish, and dangerous. People, why can’t we just teach our kids the Word?
Fifth, as preachers, we must intentionally enlist, equip, and empower men into leadership roles in our churches. Biblically, theologically, and logically, the indispensable ingredient to complementarianism is biblical manhood. One of the recurring arguments that undermines male leadership in the church is the absence of biblically-qualified male leaders. Let us determine to make the red herring, “What if there is no man to lead or preach?” an extinct species. Okay, I know this article is targeted for men, not women, but Allen seems to be leaving out some major ingredients to his definition of complementary—the women. I don’t think he is referring to just the ordained officers when he says, “male leadership in the church.” That is a problem for me. I certainly want to give proper respect and submission to the ordained office, and I do believe that Scripture teaches that office is to be served by certain, qualified men. But every man in the church is not a leader over every woman.
And I have a suggestion for churches that are lamenting the lack of qualified men for office. Maybe there are less qualified men because we have not been properly investing in the women. Women are necessary allies in the household of God and in their private homes as well. If the church is only investing in men because they know that they need a new generation of officers, they are missing half of the “complementary” ingredients in collaboration. You won’t have strong men if you have weak women. And if the women’s voices are downplayed in favor of the men’s, the church will be missing out on much wisdom, examples of faithfulness, strength, courage, and godly influence.
More urgently, can the church flourish without the reappearance of men? Absolutely not. Brother pastors, let us recommit ourselves to raising up a generation of godly men, ready to lead and serve the bride of Christ. I still don’t know what sanctified testosterone means. But this article does not sway me to change my suspicions. I will say that I know many wonderful men who faithfully serve the church, in their homes, and in their communities. I am thankful for them. They don’t do any deep studying of what biblical manhood is, and they’re not confused about their gender. And I’m pretty sure God is sanctifying their testosterone along with the rest of their being for that great day of resurrection and glorification.
Some of the teachings that have been coming from CBMW are very troubling. Pay attention.
See Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:17; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1 – 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9See John McKinley, “Necessary Allies, God as Ezer, Woman as Ezer,” MP3 download, Wordmp3.com, accessed December 7, 2015, https://www.wordmp3.com/myaccount/my-downloads.aspx
*Originally published on April 21, 2016.