The Manosphere criticizes Christendom, and it partly deserves it. But there are Christian and non-Christian ways to criticize.
The Manosphere’s basic critique of Western Christendom is that it panders to feminism. Enamored of the world, the church often propagates the worldly, feminist idea that the man is to blame and the woman is justified in rebellion. Instead of affirming biblical and historical Christian teaching that the man is to be the head of the family and that the wife is to submit to her husband’s leadership, many Evangelical churches, while giving an occasional nod to biblical teaching, present a de facto doctrine that gives the woman veto power. Without acknowledging it, they often pander to the wife’s right to feel offended, and sometimes even to divorce, if she feels that her man is mistreating her or not meeting her needs.
Broadly speaking, I agree with the Manosphere’s critique. When they err, it is usually an exaggeration of a valid point rather than a fundamental untruth. But something important is missing.
To understand what’s missing, consider the notion of law versus gospel:
When we say “law and gospel,” the “law” is everything that God has said, in the pages of Scripture, that we must or must not do. The Ten Commandments would be the quintessential example of law, but throughout the Bible, God calls on man to obey. Law, then, is everything that man must do for God.
Gospel, in contrast, is everything God has done for man and that man cannot do for himself. The paradigm case of gospel is the sinless life, the atoning death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Man cannot atone for his sins, and therefore avoid Hell, on his own. Gospel is the message that man need not do what God has already done for him.
One more important point follows. If man cannot save himself, what’s the use of the law? If God does not expect us to obey the law well enough to earn Heaven on our own, why then did he give us the law?
Scripture itself answers the question. Romans 3:20 reads “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The primary use of the law is to tell us that we are sinners needing a Savior.
[Scripture identifies two other uses of biblical law, but they are not relevant for the present discussion. See my essay Law and Gospel.]
Therefore God’s law, despite being valid, does not give man the power to obey. It only condemns, and the condemnation is intended to drive us to our Savior, and to trust him alone for the forgiveness of our sins. It was never intended, by itself, to make people make themselves better.
[There is a non-Christian Manosphere, and a Christian one. My remarks from now on are addressed to the Christian Manosphere (CM.)]
Now, what has law and gospel to do with the CM? Just this: When the CM scolds Evangelicalism, or calls on it to clean up its act, it’s preaching law. But law preaching, by itself, has no power to induce repentance or make us obey God’s law. The law only accuses. To be truly Christian in its counsel, the CM needs to remind wayward Evangelicals of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ, which has the power to lift sinners to a new life of better obedience. Nobody stops sinning in this life, but the believer in Jesus Christ has a new nature (II Corinthians 5:17) that is more eager to obey God’s law.
Most parents and teachers know that scolding has little power to induce reform. Scolding only causes the subject to try harder not to be caught. To induce real reform you must give your subject hope of a better life. The gospel is the hope of the Christian, and only the hearing of the good news can induce change in the Christian.
If I were a Christian Manospherean, I would speak to Evangelicalism like this:
Western Christianity has largely been captured by the seeker-sensitive approach in which Christianity is portrayed as a means of personal happiness. In this approach, those who feel emotional distress are to be given psychotherapy rather than the gospel.
But is this the Christian response to psychological suffering? Compare two hypothetical people: John and Mary, both of whom suffer from deep psychological pain caused by traumatic events of their past. Both think that their greatest need is relief from psychological suffering.
John visits a church where he hears that his greatest need is forgiveness of his sins through repentance and faith in Christ. At first he finds the gospel message irrelevant but he continues attending church and continues hearing God’s word and the message of the gospel. Eventually, he comes to repent of his sins and to trust in Jesus. He learns that despite the psychological pain he still feels, he is forgiven, has a new nature in Christ, and is now free to serve God with a clean conscience.
Mary visits a church where Jesus is mentioned in passing but the emphasis is on tips for successful living. She learns that Christian counseling can help alleviate her pain. Although the counseling helps take away most of her psychological pain (partly by giving her permission to become more selfish and demanding towards her man) she never learns the truth about her sin and need for a Savior. She never repents of her sins and never comes to faith in Christ.
Which one of these people has truly been saved by Christ? According to the Bible, only John.
If, like the second church above, you place an emphasis on meeting people’s practical needs and desires, you will naturally emphasize psychotherapy and this-worldly wisdom as the solutions to the problem of psychological pain. When you address male-female difficulties you will tend naturally to affirm the feminism that currently dominates in the Western world, because you want to use concepts that non-Christians find familiar. You will naturally tend to see things as liberalism does: That females, along with nonwhites, homosexuals and non-Christians, are victims of males, along with whites, heterosexuals, and Christians.
And since you tend to see females as victims of males (even if you don’t openly affirm this), you will naturally tend to place blame for male-female strife more on men than on women. You will mirror the thinking of the world instead of the thinking of God recorded in the Bible.
As a Christian, you understand that man’s greatest need, whether he knows it or not, is forgiveness of his sins. And if an emphasis on psychotherapy distracts from the gospel, then psychotherapy must be put aside in the church. People don’t need to be told to follow worldly wisdom, they need to hear the message of the gospel, and the full counsel of God.
[Psychotherapy can have value. But if it is based on non-Christian premises, or if it displaces the gospel, it is to be rejected.]
As a Christian, you have been washed by the Blood of Christ. You have been given a new nature. You don’t need to pander to liberalism and feminism when you speak to men and women about their lives. You have been given the privilege of being an ambassador for Christ, imploring people to be reconciled to God through repentance and faith in Christ. (II Corinthians 5:20.) For the Christian God’s law, including his laws of how husbands and wives are to relate, is good. You don’t need to shy away from it for fear of offending people.