As Micah mentioned in his response to my March 10th article about beards, we routinely disagree. On most things we see eye to eye. However, every now and then we have found that we differ – on vaccines, magic in fantasy novels, video game ethics, and, apparently, beard grooming.
Though, even with beard grooming, in reading the reply to my article which Micah published today, I am not so sure he disagrees with my actual position. Indeed, I believe he disagrees with something else which is separate and apart, but which he calls my position.
I read no further than the third paragraph to begin seeing this. To quote him:
“In short, I disagree with his primary conclusion. Men do not need to grow beards just because other men who do grow beards question their manliness.”
This would be remarkable if my primary conclusion had been that men should grow their beards to keep from being ridiculed for unmanliness by men with beards. However, that is not my primary, nor even distantly secondary conclusion.
I only hope Micah meant this summary as much in jest as I meant my comments about men complaining of patchy growth needing more testosterone.
Now, of course, I am mostly kidding to say what I did about low T, poking a little fun at men who have trouble growing beards. But insofar as I joked, I assumed men are tough enough to take a little goodnatured ribbing, as it was intended to be.
Let me point out also that my follow-up article on March 15th concerning long hair on women has a markedly different tone, primarily because in it I wrote to and about women. If I have erred and been too abrasive to the men also, I do apologize.
Allow me to clarify.
What does the Bible say about beards?
First, it is important to consider the objections Micah makes to my article. He says in his second section “There is no biblical support as a sign of authority, nor as a sign of manliness, nor as a sign of anything else.”
Well, what about that?
First, he is right that the Bible does not say beards are a sign of authority, manliness, et cetera. To be clear, however, I never claimed or even implied otherwise. As I stated explicitly in both On Beards and Embracing Femininity, I have both convictions and opinions, and am comfortable speculating openly to some extent.
God made men with the ability to grow beards. Did he do this for no reason? I do not think so. Now, we may not know what the reason is. And we may not need to know. Yet I am reasonable to assume God had a reason, and I assume a liberty to wonder aloud what that reason is.
As wise King Solomon writes in Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (ESV)
And moving from speculation and mysteries to specificity, there is at least one Scripture which pertains to beards. Consider Leviticus 19:27.
“You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.”
Now I will point out that I do not believe we are under the law anymore. I also have questions about whether this law applied to all Israelites even back when it was given, or whether it applied only to the Levitical priests. Nevertheless, I must ask. If beards are entirely vestigial, immaterial, and irrelevant to God, why did God make this a law?
That is a fair question, is it not?
We should prefer clarity over agreement.
As Dennis Prager often says, “I prefer clarity over agreement.”
In seeing that Micah is confused about what my article was claiming, I see therefore that I should clarify my positions.
Micah thinks it odd that I believe men should grow their beards out, but then I later say beards do not make men holier. Why?
I think there is a false dichotomy here. Doing a thing can be worthwhile without the doing of the thing in and of itself making us holier. If I may attempt to thread the needle carefully here, I do not believe having a beard makes a man holy. However, I believe a man can and should have holy reasons for growing a beard, and can honor God thereby.
On the other hand, self-righteousness and pride over growing a glorious beard, or shaving – or doing any other good thing, for that matter – can make unholy what is otherwise a good and legitimate task. Yet even here it is the motive and attitude which makes the thing holy or unholy, since there is nothing whatsoever inherently unholy about growing a beard.
Micah says I claim beards not to be a sign of piety, but that I do say they are majestic. Is there any apparent or necessary contradiction here? I fail to see it.
To be clear, I would also say that long hair on women – which Micah and I both agree is Biblical – is not necessarily a sign of piety either. Plenty of godless harlots have long, beautiful hair. They are not any godlier for their lovely locks. Nevertheless, I would say they have a kind of feminine glory and majesty like Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11:14.
And it is possible for Christian women to do this to God’s glory instead.
Judge with right judgment.
Micah says something which I agree with. We are warned repeatedly throughout the Scriptures to avoid judging arbitrarily. The warning of Jesus in John 7:24 comes to mind.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Yet where does right judgment come from? Right judgment comes from God. And should what Jesus says here be taken to mean that physical appearance is completely and totally moot?
If so, then why again does Paul write to the church in Corinth that long hair on men is their shame, but long hair on women is their glory? And why, if appearances are completely irrelevant, does Leviticus 19:27 prohibit trimming the beard?
There must be some happy medium where we can acknowledge that these things have some value and are worth discussing without having to go the whole way in believing they are the only or most important things.
Indeed, let us consider the examples of Jacob and Esau mentioned by Micah. The point of those stories is not that God loves homebodies but rejects macho hunters with hairy arms. To conclude this would be just as bad as, but I think arguably worse than, supposing God invariably favors macho men over the limp-wristed.
On the contrary, whether we are considering Esau or King Saul, God shows himself willing to reject men despite their superior strength when they and others place their confidence in the strength of man. And God shows himself consistently to choose and bless men who put their hope in God rather than trusting in themselves.
Yet I believe there is nothing in acknowledging this truth which is inherently opposed to saying we men can honor God in part by embracing our masculinity and growing out our beards, or that we should if we can.