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In Search of Masculine Christianity

Rachel Held Evans issued a challenge to male bloggers last week in response to John Piper's suggestion at the Desiring God conference that "God has given Christianity a masculine feel", which she thought was "a strange way to talk about the Bride of Christ." I didn't have time to write anything but I noticed that 150 men have responded and there is some great conversation going on all over the blogosphere.

Driscoll, Piper and others are saying we are in a crisis as there are very few young men in our churches. They say their teaching is an attempt to win them back. Yet at the same time many of my educated, gifted and thoughtful female friends are feeling less and less welcome in Church culture. Vicky Beeching

What Vicky says is sad but true, especially in the church planting scene which increasingly resembles a boys game of marbles [knocking unworthies out of the circle, obtaining and guarding your 'keepsies', and compulsive counting to see who is the Winner)] many of my close female colleagues have walked out shaking their heads and moved into more holistic missional vocations and social enterprise, in which young women are leading the way. [see Predictions for the next decade]

Instead of speaking of “masculine” or “feminine” Christianity, we ought to refer to our ethos as – “image-bearing.” Pangea Blog

Also of interest, and quite coincidentally, a new songbook was released today at the monastery we are staying at. One of the songs is this:

Jesus as a mother you gather your people to you

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds.

Underneath is written that this composition is based on the Song of Anselm 1109AD, attributed to Saint Anselm who was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But what I really wanted to say about this matter has to do with the Masculine Christianity movement that happened a hundred years ago and resulted, in the UK, with a vigorous mission gathering in Edinburgh in 1910 and the subsequent birth of the modern ecumenical movement and on the other side of the pond, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, the emergence of the YMCA and ultimately basketball and volleyball.

One of the stars of this movement in the UK was a wealthy young cricketer named C.T. Studd and his brothers. They were part of the Cambridge Seven and if you are a cricket fan [I am not] then you might be interested to know that the name "Studds" is engraven on the original Ashes trophy from the famous 1882 match that gave the Ashes their name.

[Its interesting that John Piper was pointing to Oxford cricketer John Ryle in his talk but here I am showing you a cricketer from Cambridge. Nothing against Oxford, mind you.]


But C.T. Studd's contribution to 'masculine Christianity" was not his sportsmanship, or even his wealth or prestige but rather in the fact that he gave up his prospects of fame, power, and blond cheerleader girlfriends in a mouth-dropping announcement that he was going away to China to give his life away as a missionary, and that he might not return.

Studd's short book "The Chocolate Soldier" was a call to a gutsy way of following Jesus to a life worth living, the kind of "masculine Christianity" as was popular at the time, but it avoided the breakdown of male vs. female characteristics by challenging both sexes to follow Christ fully:

But how can they call on Him of whom they have not even heard? Must you stay, young man? Can't you go, young woman, and tell them? C.T.Studd, The Chocolate Soldier

The idea of a strong and aggressive [masculine?] Christianity, portrayed in The Chocolate Soldier, had more to do with restraint, with sacrifice, with generosity, not bullying but serving, not hoarding by giving, not rampant conference attending but packing our suitcases for Christ's sake and not coming home again.

We are frittering away time and money in a multiplicity of conventions, conferences and retreats, when the real need is to go straight and full steam into battle, with the signal for close action flying. C.T.Studd, The Chocolate Soldier

“A lost reputation is the best degree for Christ’s service.” C.T. Studd, The Cambridge Seven, quote from OMF

After reading C.T. Studd's thoughts in light of the new-Reformed movement and its recent outbursts, I am left with these 6 challenges:

1. Instead of giving the microphone to bratty 20-somethings fresh out of college,

lets give a platform to the elderly who have earned a hearing.

2. Instead of bragging about accomplishments, academic degrees and lunches with megachurch pastors,

lets sit in the shadows with the unlovely and the awkward and the losers.

3. Instead of targeting yuppies, winners, and high-achievers

lets give preference to the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable.

4. Instead of accumulating a portfolio of influential cities,

lets send our people to the backwaters no one has heard about, places where their names and reputations will fade.

5. Instead of attributing honor to those with the largest Sunday headcount,

lets find those faithful workers in the hidden corners who are really transforming their cities.

6. Instead of worrying incessantly about whether this leader or that leader has a penis or not,

lets focus on encouraging the whole body of Christ to embrace His mission for the world.

For the students: Compare C.T. Studd's "The Chocolate Soldier" with John Piper's outline of masculine Christianity [as blogged here by Scot McKnight]

For the geeks: If you have time, read these two books on Masculine Christianity of that time:

The manly Christ: A new view (1904) [PDF] and The masculine power of Christ; or, Christ measured as a man (1912) [PDF]