About Beards

To grow one, or not to grow one.  That\'s the question.A blog I recommend others read, because it is a valued cobelligerant in contending for Biblical sanity generally and in the area of sexuality in particular, recently posted something about beards. It was a snippet from an early Father of the Church, Clement of Alexandria, who offered these words:

But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women’s apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts.

… For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,—a sign this of strength and rule.

… This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man’s whole body. … It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.

Father Clement says a good many other things, which you can read for yourself at the CCEL site linked above. And, all that he says will keep the egalitarian chattering classes twittering for the rest of their lives.

But, I cite Clement here by way of showing how very, very far our culture has moved from its Christian foundations, and to suggest that something so simple as the grooming of body hair by both men and women in Christ’s church shows which way the spiritual winds are blowing.

Consider …

What pastor or christian leader would ever consider a sermon urging the men of his flock to let their beards grow out? If they will not preach sermons to their female parishioners on the womanliness of long hair, the shamefulness of short hair on women (remember, that’s the Apostolic judgment in 1 Corinthians 11!), how shall they ever screw up enough courage to grow a beard, or to urge their brothers to grow them?

Of course, there many reasons modern Christian leaders would offer to avoid the subject entirely. They would include

1. Legalism!! If we preach on the length or grooming of hair, much less of beards, we’d be preaching a legal code. How contrary to the gospel of grace. Right?

2. Majoring on minors!! Or, less than minors!! What about men who can’t grow beards? What about female cancer patients?? And, who’s to say short hair on a woman is shameful anyway??

3. Hearts are far more important than the hair!! God looks on the heart, not on the hair-length. Right?

These and similar defenses against preaching on head-hair are irrelevant to this question — does the Bible, does the New Testament, does the Law of Christ, do any of these have anything to say to Christians about hair length and hair grooming? I’d expect most modern Christians to give a resounding “NO!” to that question.

But, when you point them to such teachings in both Old and New Testaments, a modern Christian leader cannot explain why they are there in the first place. To explain them, he (and, more often these days, she) would need a Biblical theology of sex to explain things like sex-differentiating elements in grooming and fashion, things which both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ have very clear things to say.

Clement trained his pastoral guns on fashions of dress and grooming that are pretty much the same as what we find today. He warned his flock to avoid the way the world corrupted women and emasculated men. First Century North Africa and Twenty-First Century North America had far more in common than anyone understands. Clement was a faithful servant of his Lord to preach all the Christ had commanded. Modern shepherds rarely do that any more, at least where the the commandments of Christ deal with things like dress, fashion, and — yes–hair length and its grooming, on both men and women.

By way of disclosure, I admit to wearing some form of facial hair since college days (high schools in my day did not permit any facial hair on men). I have worn a beard for almost 40 years now. My children (the oldest is now 25) have never seen me without a beard, except for a photo taken during Marine Corps boot camp, and they did not recognize me at all when they first saw it. The

If you’d like to see an entire website devoted to the subject of beards — their glory, their cultivation and maintenance, their lore, check out beards.org. As I pen this blog, it features the fellow at the right, seen in both his bearded and unbearded versions. Beards.org archives all the steps in between this version of Patrick and the bearded version below. In fact, you can see all the versions in between at beards.org, and find all you ever wanted to know about beards, and a lot of what you never dreamed there was to know.The

During my 40 years with a beard, I’ve seen beards go in and out of fashion. And, I’ve seen kaleidascopic variation in beard styles, lengths, and grooming. But, in no Christian community I have ever inhabited have I seen even the slightest acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit had any opinion at all about this topic, or that He had shown His opinion in Holy Writ.

That is what is the most startling about Clement’s pastoral exhortations. Most moderns will be shocked at the details of his teaching (he dares to criticize what we nowadays call “waxing” to remove all hair from the face, chest, and other parts of the body).

Beyond the details, however, is the larger framework from which the details take their meaning. It’s this Biblical framework one can sense in Clement’s exhortations. And, once you begin to perceive that framework and to think about the world in terms of it, the world around you begins to look pretty much as Clement was describing it in his day.


Filed under Man, the glory of God

5 responses to “About Beards

  1. anonymous me

    I readily admit I love beards on men – but I do prefer them neatly trimmed.

    And I guess I’ll admit publicly what I wrote to our mutual friend – I’ll make a deal with any prospective husband. He can refer to my hair as a horse’s mane as often as he wished if he promises never, ever, ever to wax his chest!

  2. Looks like I’m behind on some good reading around here!

    Amen, Fr. Bill (and Clement). A man without a beard is like a women without breasts. Both are obvious signs of the change from childhood to adulthood. It is part of the creation which God declared very good. I think the current climate (just as much in Christian circles) betrays our Darwinist thinking. We don’t believe God gave men beards for a purpose, we think it they are an vestige of evolution which must be daily removed. Rather silly mentality, when you step back and look at the phenomenon.

    Looking at the “before and after” pictures from beards.org made me think of something. What do they always say when a guy shaves his beard? “You look so much younger!” Yeah, boyish. Is that good?

    We had some missionary guests in our home the last four days. They have four children. The youngest (1), frequently held out his hands to me, wanting to get picked up. He never did this to my wife, even though she is the much more interactive when it comes to children. His father said he likes beards. Sure enough, he liked feeling it, and never pulled it.

    [My name should be linked to a picture of my fourteen year-old beard (I didn’t grow up until 40).]



    Amen brother. Shaving is a disgusting pagan custom that has been foisted upon Christian men who should know better. A beard is a sign of masculine power, wisdom, age, and virility. It is no wonder our anti-god and anti-man culture discourages beards. Christian men, obey Lev. 19:27 and let the gender differentiation begin!

  4. Sorry, but I can’t go the whole distance you wish to go with this. Any of us can think of any number of bearded men who are not masculine (in a wholistic sense), nor wise, nor virile.

    A beard ordinarily shows maleness (not masculinity, which involves a whole lot more than hair on the face) and age (i.e. that the male is post-puberty).

    A beard is, from Biblical pattern and precedent, part of the “uniform” of the normal male, and from that point of view, modern fashion’s infatuation with hairlessness of any sort on a man rightly raises the question “why?”

    You are right on concerning gender differentiation. In every culture — Christian or no — standards of dress, grooming, and fashions regarding hair are uniformly pressed into service to highlight and exaggerate the differences between the sexes. When one can confront a person from the front on a public street and not tell whether it is a male or female he is meeting … that’s a sure sign that we’re very, very late in the empire.

  5. One of my parish priests allway taught me to simply be “natural” Natual in appearance and behavior according to the law of God. This included the beard in men and absence of tattoos, ect. The beard is the normal appearance of men. It has the demension of reflecting the devine image. We are made in God’s image, should be deface that image?

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