This was a recent short talk given to a group of men.
In 1899 there was a book written by a man named James Isaac Vance, with the title, Royal Manhood. At the time when this book was written, there was much more testosterone in American society than is present today; yet even then Vance could begin to see the softening and weakening of men. This is what James Vance says,
“Strength is the glory of manhood… Manhood and strength are synonymous. A mannish woman is bad enough, for she surrenders her privileges in order to secure her rights, but a womanish man is infinitely worse, for he surrenders both his privileges and his rights, and that, too, without money and without price. Where in all the sweep of freaks and failures, of mawkish sentiments and senseless blathery, can there be found an object to excite deeper disgust than one of these thin, vapid, affected, driveling little doodles dressed up in men’s clothes, but without a thimbleful of brains in his pate or an ounce of manhood in his anatomy? He is worse than weak – he is a weaklet. What can he do? He can squeak with his little voice, strut with his unathletic members and gabble diluted twaddle. He can sigh and pose and outclass the monkey in apish arts. This shitepoke specimen of man tells us that he is tired of life, but of work he can never grow tired, for to that he is a stranger. He affects to look with great disdain on common toil and common people, but the world is grateful that such a specimen of the genus homo is himself uncommon. He is a freak, a joke which nature has perpetrated upon mankind. He resembles nothing quite so much as a jumping-jack, whose entire repertory of motion is limited to a few flops and straddles when the string is pulled. A few set phrases, a few paces, a few quips and quirks, and the sum total of life’s assets is exhausted. Many a man has failed in life for no other reason save that he was weak. He had a good heart, but he was weak. He was popular, generous, gentlemanly, but weak. His opportunities were fine, his capital ample, his future inspiring, but he was weak and went to nothing. The ideal Christian has something to him besides syllabub… He is not at his best when the world slaps him in the face, knocks him down, and stamps him. He must be humble, but also strong. Weakness is the damnation of manhood. It fills county asylums, jails, and penitentiaries. It is the one word that explains the career of half the embezzlers, who have betrayed trusts and obscured good names with lasting infamy. Weakness begets pauperism, crime, sin. It is the powerful ally of vice. If one expects to amount to anything in life, he must be strong. Barriers are to be surmounted, discouragements silenced, temptations resisted, and for all this there is needed a manhood invincible and self-reliant, strong.”
Today, over a hundred years since this was written, the softening of men has grown worse, with nearly every man’s spine turned to gello, their muscles turned to pudding, and their hearts shriveled up like raisins. And from our evangelical leaders the talk against such effeminizing of men has become softer than frozen yogurt left at room temperature. This may be because the leaders of Big Eva have biceps as wide as their wrists, man boobs which I will not compare to other boobs, and wives that can squat more than they can.
To be clear, the problem is not so much that a man presently has toothpick arms or can’t look down and see his feet; the problem is when that man believes it’s okay to stay that way, or believes that he has no obligation to better steward the body God has given him and to be strong for others. Evangelicalism has collectively ignored Proverbs 20:29, which says that “the glory of young men is their strength…” Or they have so spiritualized it so as to deny that it has anything at all to do with obvious creational differences God has made between men and women. Or they have so truncated the gospel that they deny the glory of man which is, by the way, God’s crowning jewel of creation, since we are all wretches and sinners. In denying this glory, it is sadly apparent that many of these men had no father or spiritual fathers to raise them to their glorious calling of strength, such that they indeed have become inglorious bastards.
But it’s easy to pick on these guys, so I’ll stop. Though many of us have grown to know better than that, we are still far from being the godly men of strength that we need to be. Indeed it is a purpose which must ever be maintained or it is lost. For strength was made to be used, otherwise it is lost. The moment we rest on our laurels, is the moment we become vulnerable and softened. Recognizing these things and our own respective weaknesses, many of you have embarked with me on this journey to becoming an Absolute Unit over the past year.
So what is an Absolute Unit and what do I mean by it? In short an Absolute Unit is a Christian man who seeks to maintain self-discipline in all life in order to be strong for others. The side that I have sought to emphasize is the aspect of physical discipline and strength. I believe that Christian men should seek to do what they can to be physically strong and physically fit. And since the glory of young men is their strength, when done humbly before God, this is a glorious endeavor. In a time when the lines are blurred between what a man and a woman is because of the increasingly androgynus aesthetic being pushed, strong Christian men will increasingly stand out as kings simply by their physical stature and public presentation. This will increasingly become an aesthetic testimony to the world of The Creator of men and women and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Why have I emphasized the physical aspect of strength in talking about being an Absolute Unit? Two main categories of reasoning.
The first is because of our society. Our society has declared an all out war on masculine strength. Everything in our society is set up to make us weak – endless entertainment, toxic foods everywhere that make us fat and sick, and the general feminization of men that characterizes masculine strength as toxic and backward. For the gym bros and athletes who they can’t stop from being physical specimen, society saps their strength through vainglorious vices like fame, pornography, and sexual promiscuity. Professional athletes who are some of the most physically fit men in our society have been compromised and weakened from taking any manly stand for fear of losing their contract and career – they have sold their souls for a few million dollars. Not to mention the erosion of organized Christian religion which calls men to virtues, discipline, and lives lived for a transcendent glory in God. Everything in our society is set against true masculine strength.
Secondly, I emphasize physical strength because of the problem of piety. I do not mean godly piety of a righteous and holy life. I mean the neo-gnostic piety of those like the gospel coalition who have taught men that the physical life does not ultimately matter. They have taught a truncated gospel-centeredness that revolves solely around finding your personal spiritual self-esteem, and not a gospel that transforms and renews the whole man from the inside out. It is a feminized gospel which teaches that Christianity is solely about finding personal emotional comfort and mental health, and not a full bodied gospel that reaches to the health of the whole man. A Christianity that inspires forgiven and justified men to buffet their bodies and discipline their lives is considered to be the enemy of their gospel-centered coddling. That is because it is a threat to their smoke and mirrors empire. In unsheathing their knives to slice up the gospel to fit their narrow manipulative agenda they ended up chopping off men’s testicles, and I don’t think it was an accident. But in the process they also chopped off their own and so do not have the testosterone to oppose what is coming.
As Gary North once said, “When Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth, He did not mean weakness before men, but humility before God.”
So I believe that as men we should train ourselves for physical strength and exercise dietary self-control in order to spite the devil’s tactics in society and false piety. God made men to be strong. He did so because He loves strength and it is a very very small reflection of His strength, as we are made in the image of God. He did so that we might use our strength for others. Our wives and our children need strong husbands and fathers. Our church and community needs strong men. Only strong men can provide and protect in the hurt and struggle that may be coming. Only strong men can rebuild Christendom anew from the ashes.
Ultimately the greatest hindrance to our strength is our own sin, idolatry, and laziness. As James Vance says, “Weakness is the powerful ally to vice.” When we are weak and undisciplined physically, we are opening ourselves up to compromise and the attacks of the enemy to be vulnerable toward weakness and a lack of discipline in other spiritual areas. But not only that, we cannot separate and slice man up into parts. If we are physically undisciplined, that itself is sin. We are simply to be disciplined – we butcher the faith when we divide it up and qualify it away from discipline in all of life. But, when we are weak, He is strong. The only way to true strength is to take all of our weakness to Christ, all of our sin, all of our guilt, all of our evil, and confess it to Him. We must be meek before God, dependent upon His mercy, and throw all of ourselves onto His grace that His power might be perfected in our weakness. His grace is sufficient for our weakness. Sin saps the bones of life but forgiveness of sins makes us strong. Only forgiven men can truly be strong. Only guilt-free men whose guilt has been nailed to the cross can truly be strong.
Beware of False Solutions
Allow me to close by giving some warnings against false solutions and traps to avoid. The first trap is godless masculinity and vainglory. The manosphere is filled with enticements toward vainglory and self-improvement in order to catch the eye of other women, or to beat down on others and puff up one’s own ego and pride. But such allurements are just another manifestation of the same emotional self-esteem of the truncated gospel-centered bros. Such corners of the manosphere are truly weak for they give their strength to women and despise the glory of God, which is then to turn one’s glory inward, which is to make your glory small and sorry.
The other trap is to embrace sins of roughness for masculinity’s sake. I don’t mean that roughness is a sin, but that there are rough ways to sin in this direction. The danger of trying to be strong is trying too hard. Such sins of roughness include roughness of speech, lack of self-control, and lack of wisdom with our tongues. Just because we can cuss doesn’t mean we always should. Such sins could include coarse joking, which is forbidden among Christians in the Bible. It can include a lack of love for the brethren and the weaker brother, because we think that they just need to man up like us. And possibly worst of all it can include being hard on your wife and children to show how strong you are – being hard with your words and anger, or God-forbid, physical harm.
Our hands should be steadied and readied for war with the enemy, calloused in work and weightlifting for God’s glory, open in love toward our families, diligent in industry for our neighbor, and occupied in service toward the brethren. And having been washed by the blood of Jesus may we lift holy hands in prayer to our God.
Our Father in heaven, make us strong for thy kingdom. Make us fit for thy service. Make us disciplined for thy cause. Make us manly like thy Son. For thine is the Kingdom, not ours, unto your glory and not to us, for Jesus’ sake, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.