For your files on manhood

After 70 years of attacking “the patriarchy,” secular feminism has borne such a bumper crop of disfigured, disabled, and dysfunctional men that it’s become impossible not to worry a bit about this. Of course, a few voices (e.g. Jordan Peterson, others like him) have protested, including some unexpected voices (e.g. Camile Paglia).

Here’s another article for your files (if you squirrel sources like this away for later use in sermons, articles, etc.):

Here’s a nice quote to whet your appetite:

Therapy culture has been an influential force in American life since the 1970s. Its primary effects have been unbridled narcissism and a tiresome hypersensitivity that only makes life harder for everyone. Even comedy, to which we’d like to turn for happy relief, has been disallowed by the stiff and humorless. Now the experts want feelings, more feelings, but with an intersectional twist.

It is in eros, perhaps, that these guidelines, if acted on, would be most harmful. Although male academics and intellectuals are generally bad with women, so that they just don’t know any better, it’s nonetheless true that men who are forever expressing “their sensitive side” are sure to inspire the fair sex’s contempt, and to be easily manipulated by them. “A weak and suffering woman triggers in most men a compassionate desire to protect and assist,” says Janice Fiamengo, “while a weak and suffering man triggers in most women…indifference and disgust.”

My question (and it’s a serious one!) - where have you read an attempt at a comprehensive exposition of masculinity qua masculinity (or the same for femininity) from the Christian camp? From any of the company camps within Christendom?


Note: I just moved this post out of Hrothgar’s Hall, so responses will be public.

Paul C Maxwell had (has?) the beginnings of one here, but the site is locked:

@michaelfoster and @bnonn are working in this direction, and I’d appreciate their response.

I know Paul Maxwell really wants to be involved in this work (my Youtube recommendations show me his new work every day), but having watched a few of his videos (including one referred to on Warhorn), I don’t think he’s a very reliable guide to godly masculinity. He rightly sees that evangelical men have lived for the approval of women, but appears to think real masculinity is living for the approval of men.


It sounds crass to put it that way, but I’m convinced it’s not only true but also a constitutional plank in the essence of manhood. It is essential to manhood (that is, the nature of manhood, its essence) for men to aspire to the company of men whom he esteems, men whom he admires, men to whom he avidly gives praise.

You want to see this in its purest, earliest form? Look at little boys whose hearts are captured by an expression of manliness with which their little boy hearts resonate like a tuning fork. They begin to talk like their hero, walk like him, want to dress like him, do the things he does, the way he does them.

When, by God’s grace He is the one Who captures the heart of a man, that man is well on the road to becoming His glory, a man whom others look at and at some level of consciousness think “He makes me think of God.”

If you suppose this feature of masculinity makes manliness to be a spiritually precarious prospect, then you’ve understood correctly what it is. Authentic manliness, especially redeemed manliness, shares some features with jitterbugging on a high-wire stretched across the Grand Canyon. Crossing over holds the highest kinds of stakes possible.


I don’t know Maxwell’s material, so I won’t comment on which side of the line he falls, but this line is one that I’ve commented on before. The desire to have the approval of Godly men being a good desire, but recognizing that even that can fall into idolatry, fearing man, desiring the approval of men rather than God, etc.

I found this quote from the article a helpful reminder of an email I needed to write: “Fathers must now take especial care to protect their sons from the excessive influence of women and feminized men, particularly in educational contexts and in the helping professions.”


Thanks @Fr_Bill; my warning about Maxwell was much too simple and I’m glad it gave you an opportunity to write what you did.

I still think everyone ought to look somewhere other than Maxwell. He seems to be drawn to a masculinity which is not godly; he claims that men know how to tell dirty jokes in proper company and talk about beautiful women and “what they want to do to them” (quoting from memory). If I could reword my critique I would say that he thinks real masculinity can be defined by a survey of the hordes of Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson followers, among whom I think he is trying to develop a following.


I understand. And I’d agree too. I know a Christian man who uses a lot of Maxwell’s materials (which I have not examined first hand). But, from my friend’s quotes and paraphrases of Maxwell here and there, I have some of the same misgivings.

From what I know (second-hand! second-hand!) of Maxwell, I’d agree that he may be taking aim at what passes for godly masculinity among many evangelicals - something that is is terribly truncated, emasculated, sissified, or made so ascetic that Trappist monks are libertines in comparison. Is coarse language, for example, comprehensively verboten? Standard “godly” masculinity standards say “NO!!” Only trouble is the places in Scripture where God’s mouthpieces are pretty coarse - so coarse that no translator who wants his work sold on the market will render it accurately.

Or, consider the range of vocations an evangelical man is permitted to pursue while still being considered godly. Do these vocations include being a Navy Seal? Do they include managing a distillery for the Jim Beam Company? Do they include making pipes for the smoking of tobacco?

If this is his error, he’s not alone in making it. Christian marketers have been making it for years, surveying their target markets with questions about what authentic masculinity actually is. As we know, the target market for 90 percent of Christian publishers are women, and not just women, but women powerfully influenced by the religious-feminist agenda.

But, surveys don’t answer the “what-ness” question about masculinity. At best, they answer the “what does X think about masculinity” sort of question. The “what-ness” question must be answered from Holy Writ. Even if the Book of Nature is resorted to for this issue, it needs to be interpreted by the Book of Scripture.


While I’m certain the hordes of Rogan and Peterson followers, on average, have a better intuitive grasp of masculinity than do the followers and hangers on of Russel Moore or the offeratory dancers of Redeemer NYC, I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of Maxwell’s position.

I rescued a copy of Maxwell’s definition from the Google cache and archived it here:


Thank you for this! You’ve rescued Maxwell (initially) from definition by survey!

What Maxwell says here is sane and helpful. It is also just a beginning, and barely that. He begins with a definition of masculinity that he, himself, says is composed of three concepts: maximization, potential, and competence. But these are essentially features of a “container” for the what-ness of masculinity.

Maximization of what?
Potential for what?
Competence in what?

Maxwell offers no answer for the what-ness of masculinity.

Later, he specifies what he calls three aspects of masculinity: Maleness, Manliness, and Manhood. Initially, this looks like the beginnings of an answer to the whatness of masculinity. Reading on, however, we don’t get much of an answer. Biological maleness is certainly a big factor. Beyond that, however, his exposition of manliness (cultural masculinity) and manhood (individual masculinity) don’t go any further than context for masculinity - manliness is masculinity in that cultural context. Manhood is masculinity in that particular individual man.

All of these are handy containers, so to speak, but beyond elements of biology, they’re empty containers, waiting for something to fill them.

In Five Aspects of Man (note: I am using the word aspect in a way different than Maxwell does) I lay out an answer to the whatness of masculinity. A man is created to be a lord of the earth, a husbandman, a savior, a sage, the glory of God. All these five aspects are aimed squarely at the whatness of masculinity. Using Maxwell’s concepts, applying them to the aspects of masculinity that I point to in Holy Writ, we can find ourselves with powerful tools to analyze all sorts of things about men in general and this or that man in particular.

One of the most common criticisms leveled against the Five Aspects model of masculinity is that it is reductionist, oversimplifying masculinity, cramming it into five tiny boxes. My answer is that 65 gazillion colors are reducible to three primaries plus black and white. Without question, five aspects of masculine essence are sufficient to account for the bewildering variety and complexity of men and manliness.

This does not mean, of course, that the five aspects I isolate are “correct.” That’s a different discussion.


And this is the end result of the problem: men are killing themselves—and not just by suicide.

Here’s the sad graph:

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Thanks, Fr. Mouser. You hit on many of the things that have seemed off to me with Maxwell. His positive vision for masculinity seems to me to lack some maturity, particularly in the areas fatherhood and love of the church. Not that I have already attained…


Josiah, that’s my impression of Maxwell, also. And he’s not a father, so I guess he’s only speaking from where he’s at.

I like quite a bit of what he says, but I am concerned he is a high achieving individual who believes all men should be similarly high achieving… which is fine, but I’ve yet to hear a celebration of strength in weakness. Men are not attracted to church because so many pastors are overweight, ill-disciplined, etc, etc, yet God used the obese Spurgeon and many more imperfect men. But maybe it’s just my excuses piling up.

Basically, I’ve decided that I’ll leave him be and wait a few years to see how he matures. I have other men who can speak to my own sissy-ness.


I’ve talked to Paul on the phone a couple of times. I like him. He is like so many of us, fatherless. As is obvious, he has a very sharp mind but needs godly fraternity to make it of any lasting use.


Same observations here about Maxwell’s immaturity. Almost no concept of fatherhood in his understanding of masculinity. Takes lots of his ideas from non-Christian manosphere guys and puts a Christian flavor on it. Very philosophical, and hardly theological at all. Then ends up with some immature practical conclusions, like that the ideal woman is a strong woman that a man feels like he can work out with.


I’ve been following his public stuff since he started putting it out last year and there has definitely been some significant development of his ideas in that time. He strikes me as one who has a lot of good insights but is still trying to connect the dots into a coherent framework. Building the plane while it’s in the air, as my dad would say. He gave a talk at Wheaton recently that is more developed than anything he’s put out so far. I think it’s worth a listen: Paul Maxwell | The Drama & Trauma of Evangelicalism (02/07/2019) - YouTube

That said, I do agree with the concerns stated above. I’m hoping that he embraces fatherhood and all that it entails as he continues developing his perspective.