March 28th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 2


It’s puzzling (to some) that more men are sporting beards these days—“one of the great mysteries of the age,” said one.

Prof. Cyril Grueter and his colleagues at The University of Western Australia in Perth may have found the answer, which they published recently in Evolution and Human Behaviour (“Are Badges of Status Adaptive in Large Complex Primate Groups?”).

Here it is: Men are under pressure from other men and are trying to look aggressive by growing flamboyant facial hair.

Grueter and Co. think that in large societies, male primates develop ostentatious “badges” to enhance their attractiveness to females and give them an edge over other competitive males.

[Who knew? And to think I, a beard bearer, am committed to celibacy—what a waste!]

BTW, these “badges” not only include beards in humans, but also cheek flanges in orangutans, elongated noses in proboscis monkeys, and lip warts in golden snub-nosed monkeys, though it is debatable whether these last few epidermal appendages are consciously cultivated.

In any case, the males in 154 primate species representing 45 genera carried around more conspicuous “badges,” especially in the context of social and physical context and when the societies they were part of were large. That is to say, the busier, anonymous, and more crowded a society is, the competition among males grows, and the flamboyance and ostentation of aforementioned badges increases.

Remarked Grueter:

The modern male not only has to vie with hundreds of fellow males in the real world but has to stand out from potentially thousands of rivals online, so clean-shaven men well be turning off women drawn to seemingly powerful men. When you live in a small group where everyone knows everyone because of repeated interactions, there is no need to signal quality and competitiveness via ornaments. In large groups where individuals are surrounded by strangers, we need a quick reliable tool to evaluate someone’s strength and quality, and that’s where these elaborate ornaments come in.”

And, for humans, “this may also include phenotypic extensions such as body decoration, jewellery and prestige items”—aka bling!

God had a beard, too, if we believe Michelangelo.

So did most of the church fathers. One belligerent soul, Abbot Burchard of Bellavaux penned the Apologia de Barbis (“Defense of the Beard”), in 1160, “a treatise on the biblical, theological, moral, social, and allegorical implications of beards.” “A beard covereth a multitude of chins,” he is supposed to have asserted. Wish I could get my hands on a copy!

In 1532, Sir Thomas More when positioning his neck on the beheading block reportedly moved his luxurious beard away from the blade, claiming: “My beard has not been guilty of treason; it would be an injustice to punish it.”

In fact, Spurgeon declared:

Growing a beard is a habit most natural, Scriptural, manly and beneficial.”

But God, bearded or not, is far more interested in the inward manifestations of godliness than in the outward trappings of manliness.

“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

“Know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind;
for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.
1 Chronicles 28:9

Your adornment must not be merely external—
braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
but let it be the hidden person of the heart,
with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is precious in the sight of God.
1 Peter 3:3

Hair today. Gone tomorrow.


  1. marc March 29, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Dr. Kuruvilla:

    This is a brilliant “pericope”! : ) I enjoy learning from your messages at DTS and watching and learning from your preaching. God has blessed you truly and I hope one day I can shake your hand and thank you for His thoughts through your words. Thank you for your passion for preaching, for your passion for the Lord, and for your passion in sharing Christ.

    From Canada,
    Sala kahle,
    Galatians 6:10


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