Absalom, the third son of King David, fomented rebellion against his father by providing guidance for his countrymen while David neglected to appoint magistrates who could settle their disputes. Absalom therefore “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6) as he listened to their cases, positioned himself against David, and launched an insurrection that wreaked havoc on Israel and nearly ended his father’s reign.
The lack of sound teaching on biblical manhood from modern pulpits has drawn comparisons to the story of Absalom as various cultural icons fill the void left by ministers of the gospel.
Joe Rogan, a mixed martial artist and comedian, is the most popular podcast host in America, while Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and DailyWire+ host, is a bestselling author who routinely delivers lectures to packed arenas in cities across the Western world. Both encourage young men to channel their natural strength and ambition in productive manners, while less well-intentioned individuals such as internet star Andrew Tate prompt them to embrace their fleshly desires and neglect responsibility for those under their care.
Michael Foster, a pastor at East River Church in Batavia, Ohio, told The Daily Wire that such figures help men “navigate a culture which categorizes them as toxic.”
“Sadly, the bulk of the church is silent or, worse yet, complicit in the widespread misandry of our day,” added Foster, a father of eight. “The church is losing the hearts of young men.”
The void of male counsel occurs as father absence becomes increasingly common in the modern United States: one in four American children live without a father in the home, while four in five single-parent households are led by single mothers and two in five children are born to unwed mothers. Even as American culture suffers untold harm from the decline of the family, prominent ministers appear to have misplaced priorities with respect to their teaching on sexuality: Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York City, for instance, warns that marriage can be an “idol” and boasts about the fact that “thousands” of their members are single.
Foster is a founder of It’s Good to Be a Man, a project which offers “positive and practical doctrine” to assist men with cultivating their masculine virtue as described by the Bible. The initiative, which includes a book, podcast, and forthcoming documentary, is one of several emerging from Reformed Christian circles: The King’s Hall, a project from Brian Sauvé, Dan Berkholder, and Eric Conn, likewise exists to make “self-ruled men to rule well and win the world” and has based an entire season of its podcast on “father hunger” and its effects.
“If we want to recover masculinity, we need fathers everywhere, and that includes pastors functioning as church fathers, to deeply know what it means to be a man,” Sauvé, a pastor at Refuge Church in Ogden, Utah, and a father of six, told The Daily Wire. “Fathers and pastors need to make a study of these things.”
The essence of biblical masculinity, according to Foster, is simply that “it’s good to be a man.”
“God declares binary sexuality as a good part of His perfect creation. Feminists are wrong. Maleness is not toxic in and of itself, but it has been twisted by sin,” he commented. “Masculine attributes like greater aggression and physical strength can be used to harm others and destroy things. However, those same attributes, when reordered by the grace of God, can provide protection and build a society.”
The Bible, as noted by Foster, says that “the glory of young men is their strength” (Proverbs 20:29) and warns that “the cowardly” are condemned to the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).
The ultimate model for biblical manhood centers upon the person of Jesus Christ, who Foster says “confronted all the powers of Hell with the truth of God” in strength and boldness. Foster added that earthly fathers, from whom manhood is “20% taught and 80% caught,” must show their sons how to become men by pointing to Jesus and modeling His virtues in their own lives.
“Nothing teaches sons how to embrace godly masculinity like seeing it in the lives of their own father,” Foster described. “He is their doorway into the world of men. They need to see their dad be brave, principled, and disciplined. He not only teaches them how to throw a ball but how to keep their cool. He is their guide to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. But he also must teach them the physical discipline of ruling over their appetites and being responsible for things under their care. He must chiefly call them to believe the gospel and to live out their masculine design for the glory of God and good of others.”
Pastors also have the opportunity to serve as “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Foster contended that modern seminaries, as well as churches throughout history, have ordained men who do not prove themselves able to “manage his own household well” (1 Timothy 3:4).
“How can you lead a church if you cannot lead your own family? You cannot. And how can you lead your family if you cannot lead yourself? Again, you cannot. It’s not a seminary’s job to make boys into men,” Foster continued. “It is not a new problem. It has been a joke for centuries that there are three genders: male, female, and clergy. Pastors have earned this reputation by coming across as soft paper-pushers and catering to women. Masculine men hate that. They check out while at church or check out of church altogether.”
Sauvé concurred that ministers have a habit of lambasting men while avoiding the rebuke of sins common to women. “Part of combating effeminacy in the church is confronting the reality that much of the messaging in the church is essentially that men are really bad sinners, and that women rarely, if ever, sin,” he said. “Pastors need to boldly apply the text of Scripture to sins common to men and sins common to women as they teach and preach. Pastors who hit men over the head and then coddle the women are pastors who will lose the hearts of the men, and in doing so, drive the men into the arms of pagan Absaloms, men like Andrew Tate and worse.”
Beyond the impact of counterfeit masculinity on the souls of young men, the prevalence of weak men in society causes harm to women and children. “Moral weakness is real weakness. A man who does not rule his own spirit well is a weak man, even if that weakness results in the misuse of strength,” Sauvé added. “Violent men have slain their thousands; absent, passive men their ten-thousands. Women can no longer expect to raise children with a present father. This has had massively deleterious implications for society at large, with everything from future criminality to obesity to income potentially adversely affected by an absent father.”
At least some men have turned to voices in Christian circles who desire to offer a robust and practical doctrine of biblical manhood. Foster said that his book was received well beyond a handful of detractors. He added that its readership “cuts across denominational lines” and includes many women who desire to support their husbands or sons.
Sauvé added that men need to “unashamedly embrace the message” that men are the “glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7), then strive to live in strength and courage.
“Take risks. Work hard. Conquer, build, and cultivate. And as you do so, be sure the first one conquered is your own spirit,” he recommended. “Vincit qui se vincit: he conquers who conquers himself. Be a self-ruled man, ruled by the Spirit of God the Father, and you will also be a man who rules well in everything else.”