Five More Volleys on Effeminate Worship

A short while ago I posted something about effeminate worship that has since that time excited some comment. The original piece was here, and you can see a couple of responses here and here.

This is not so much a point-by-point refutation as it is getting out a wetvac to clear up some misunderstandings. Once we understand each other, it is unlikely that this will bring about sweet concord on the subject, but at least we should be closer to the heart of the actual disagreement.

First, effeminacy and femininity are not synonyms. When I say that worship services have become effeminate, I am not saying that that they have become feminine. They have actually ceased being feminine (but more on this later). Feminine characteristics are God-given, and in their assigned place, they are a great glory, as terrible as an army with banners. But when feminine characteristics are falsely adopted by someone who has no claim or title to them, then that is effeminate.

The same principle runs the other way. When a woman adopts certain masculine prerogatives, putting on the gear of a warrior, let us say (Dt. 22:5), then this is grotesque. But to say it is grotesque is not to say that the same thing applies when a man who puts on the gear of a warrior. It would be grotesque for him not to.

Second, there is a difference between corporate piety and individual piety. In the first paragraph of my original post, I recommended the book The Church Impotent by Leon Podles. This particular point is a central theme of his book. The Church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23), and is in the process of adorning herself, as a bride does for her husband (Rev. 21:2). Podles points out that a fatal step was taken (by Bernard of Clairvaux) when expressions of corporate piety became normative for expressions of individual piety. The Church can and must adorn herself as a bride. Our corporate identity is feminine. But if an individual man attempts to replicate that identity in his personal devotions, two bad things can happen. The first is that he finds he can step right into such role, no prob, and presto, we have ourselves a new worship leader. The second problem is that the cultivation of this demeanor is so alien to how God made him that he concludes that the Christian faith must not be for him. This is all the result of a fundamental confusion about the relationship of corporate identity to individual identity.

Third, misogyny should never be defined as saying something negative about particular sins that women may be prone to. That way lies madness. The apostle Paul takes a shot against old wives’ tales (1 Tim. 4:7), without having any animus whatever toward old wives generally. But it should be noted that in this, our effeminate age, our contempo-translators protect Paul from himself (and his inexcusable gaffe) by rendering it as “silly myths” (ESV), “silly tales” (NIrV), or “silly stories” (Message).

If men are prone to particular sins (and they are), it is not an attack on all men as men to identify that particular temptation. And men do struggle with particular male-oriented sins — anger, brittle pride, lust. But one thing they don’t tend to do is think that when a preacher attacks angry men he must be attacking all men. That is, however, a temptation that women do have, and effeminate men often copy them in this. A particular sin is singled out that some women fall prey to, and it is assumed that anyone who points it out is at war with all women. One of my critics said this: “What is clear is that Wilson exudes a deep distrust and contempt for women in this post.” Heh. Because he critiques women who do X, he must have it in for women who wouldn’t ever do X.

Fourth, returning to the truths established in the first two points, it should be pointed out that there is, in the modern worship wars, a real attack on the true corporate femininity of the Church. When women teach or exercise authority over men in the Church (1 Tim. 2:12), or when women refuse to remain silent in the way the apostle requires (1 Cor. 14:34), this means that the congregation involved is refusing to do what her husband has required of her (Eph. 5:24). That congregation is being unfeminine, unsubmissive.

This means that when you attend a worship service led throughout by men, that worship service is appropriately feminine. You don’t make a service feminine by putting women up front, you make a service feminine and submissive by doing what our husband has required of us. When the wishes of our husband and federal head are blithely ignored, the assembly of the saints has become a continuous dripping on a rainy day (Prov. 27:15), and it would be better to go out and live in a desolate wilderness than to worship there (Prov. 21:19). That is what a contentious woman is like, and if somebody wants to be contentious about it (1 Cor. 11:16), he should remember that we actually do have apostolic guidance for how we should think about the relationship of the sexes.

Fifth, when it is simply assumed that masculine leadership in true (feminine) worship must mean some sort of machismo, or swagger, or talking out of the side of your mouth, this is an assumption that runs clean contrary to what we have taught on this subject for many years.

For example, in Future Men, in a section entitled Counterfeit Masculinity, I say this:

“This can all be done in a loud voice, and with hairy chest, but it is still shirking a duty assigned by God” (p. 23).

“This false masculinity — excuse-making, bluster, braggadocio — is in part the result of resisting and opposing true masculinity” (p. 24).

There is plenty more of this kind of thing throughout my writing on this whole subject, down to and including a rejection of “Esau Christianity.” I make the point that while Esau was off four-wheeling in the woods, fulfilling stereotypes, Jacob was faithfully tending to the family business.

So, is our rejection of effeminate worship “mean-spirited” toward women? Not a bit of it. Does it show contempt for the abilities of women who have accepted the role God has assigned to them? Again, no. I write as a man in a family crammed full of high-performance women, and would mildly suggest that if anybody really wants to attack me on this front, a little background research might be helpful to them.

 

 

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