Because Scripture doesn’t implicitly define God designed masculinity, this will always be one of those topics where we will have disagreements and differences of opinions. But if we are going to use culture and anthropology to help define masculinity we need boundaries. We cannot allow anthropology and culture to have free reign on our understanding of God designed masculinity. We need a guide to help us build a fence around this field in which we play. I believe this is where Scripture comes to bear on our conversation.
However we choose to define masculinity, it cannot contradict what Scripture teaches about who we are created to be as people. I believe God created each of us to be a specific person. He created us with to be distinct individuals. There has never been another person with your unique combination of talents, personalities and passions, and God intends you to fully become the person he created you to be. When you do this, you will live the life you were created to live and these gifts will be put to use advancing God’s kingdom. This is the unique element of the person God created you to be, but there is also a universal element. God created us to be people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). God doesn’t just intend us to act lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, etc. He intends for us to become loving, joyful, peaceful, etc.
The fruits of the Spirit must be the boundaries for any definition of masculinity. Simply put, if any understanding of masculinity does not uphold these fruits, it is not from God. The application of our image of masculinity cannot lead us to mock someone who doesn’t match our image. I am not a fan of skinny jeans, but if your definition of masculinity leads you to mock musicians who wear them as somehow lesser men, you are out of bounds. The application of our image of masculinity cannot push someone down in such a way that she (or he) cannot be the person she was created to be. If your definition of masculinity causes you to keep a women who God has given the gift of leadership or teaching out of a role in which she can use those gifts to advance God’s kingdom, you are out of bounds. The application of our image of masculinity cannot be self-serving. If your definition of masculinity leads you to suggest that it is a wife’s duty to serve every whim of her husband’s physical appetite, you, sir, are out of bounds.
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The reason I started this brief series is because I have begun to wrestle with what and how I will teach my son about God designed masculinity. I have a framework for what I believe it means to be a man, but as I think about sharing that with my son, I am struggling with the source of this framework. To what foundation am I appealing when I say God created men to be warriors?
Because scripture does not define biblical masculinity (or femininity), we will often come back to anthropology and/or culture. We appeal to anthropology when we point out that men tend to be stronger, more muscular, than women, so we suggest that God created men to be warriors. I admit I believe a part of who God created me to be as a man is a warrior. I believe it is my responsibility to fight for my family. I believe it is my responsibility to fight against injustice. I believe it is my responsibility to fight for the hearts of those around me. I fight in prayer. I fight by standing up for others. I fight by teaching and writing what I believe God has to say to the world. I believe this to be a true element of masculinity, but I have to be honest that Scripture does not explicitly teach this. And for that reason, I need to be careful when I push my belief that this is a part of God’s design for men.
We also appeal to culture when defining masculinity, but this can be dodgy. In fact, this is where I think we struggle most in our attempts to recapture an understanding of God designed masculinity. We lean too heavily on culture. I recently reviewed a book that addressed why men are leaving the church, and one of my biggest critiques was its adoption of masculine stereotypes. The author bought into the stereotype of the macho “I don’t need anyone” man, when he defined relationships as a feminine attribute. The need for relationship is not a feminine attribute. It is a human attribute. After all, God created Eve because “It is not good for man (Adam) to be alone.” Culture has a tendency to twist God’s design, so we need to be wise any time we appeal to culture.
Anthropology and culture can be helpful, but they can also be dangerous. And when we appeal to them, we need to be honest and not label our opinions as Biblical. Knowing that Scripture doesn’t define masculinity means we will lean on anthropology and culture, but we must be very careful. How do you think we can keep ourselves from being overly influenced by culture and anthropology? Are there some basic guidelines we could use?
Today is Good Friday. We call it “good” for important reasons, but sometimes I wonder if our rush to claim the good prevents us from fully engaging in the terrible, painful, lonely, and the disappointing of this day. Today is the day Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Messiah died.
Imagine for a moment that you are one of Jesus’ disciples. You have been following Jesus for three years. Your life is invested in this man and his mission. A few days ago you entered the city with him like a conquering king. But now he is dead. He was arrested, tried, tortured and executed.
What do you do now? Where do you go? You could return to the life you had before you left everything to follow him, but can you really? After everything you have seen, heard and done with Jesus is it possible to go back? You are changed. You are different. You don’t fit into that life anymore. For you this day is hardly good.
Oh you will call this day good from the perspective of Sunday, but on Friday and Saturday there is nothing good about it. What if we took time today and tomorrow to reflect on the loss, the grief of this day? We don’t usually do grief very well. Perhaps today is a good day to start.
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I stated in my last post that I believe we have generally glossed over God’s unique design of masculinity. And as a result, boys are not being taught to be men. There is a lack of the one-on-one teaching, mentoring and initiation necessary for a boy to experience a healthy transition from boyhood to manhood. So, we see the rise of the man-child, boys with beards, or whatever other trendy term you want to use for this frustrating phenomenon. This is why some have begun to lead a charge toward “biblical masculinity.”
But here is the problem I have been having with the idea of “Biblical masculinity.” I can’t find a definition of masculinity (or femininity for that matter) in scripture. As far as I know, there are no passages intended to address God’s design for masculinity or femininity, so we must be careful to avoid reading our personal opinions into the text when we use Scripture for this purpose. Frankly, much of the Scripture we use to discuss Biblical masculinity requires us to read into the text.
For example, I think work is a part of God’s design for masculinity. We find identity in work and have a natural motivation to be productive. We tend to equate productivity with significance. But it is difficult for me to make this case for this from Scripture. I can point to the fact that God put Adam in the garden to work it, but did God put Adam (men) or humanity (men and women) in the garden for this purpose? I am making an assumption that work is tied more closely to the identity of Adam than Eve. I can point to the curse. Work was central to Adam’s curse and not Eve’s, but the central point of Genesis 2:15 and 3:17-19 is not the definition of masculinity. I can make a pretty good Biblical argument for work as a part of the masculine identity, but I have to be honest that the text is not 100% clear. Since this was not the original intent of these passages, we must tread very lightly when using them in this context.
Often when we discuss biblical masculinity we point to Godly biblical men and their character traits. We teach that men are warriors because David was a warrior. We teach that men are leaders because Moses was a leader. But you have to admit that this is poor logic. That’s like saying Jesus wore sandals, so God designed men to wear Birkenstocks.
Here is an excerpt from Skye Jethani’s addressing this approach…
Was it “masculine” when Adam blamed his wife for his failure?
Was it “masculine” for Abram to leave his father’s home to be his own man?
How about when he offered his wife (twice) to Pharaoh to protect himself?
Was it “masculine” when Abram went to battle to save his nephew?
How about when he impregnated his wife’s servant?
Was it a mistake for God to bless Jacob, “a quiet man who dwelt in tents,” rather than his “masculine” brother Esau, a hunter?
Was Deborah “masculine” when she judged and led Israel?
And was David “masculine” when he decapitated Goliath?
What about when David was writing music or playing his lyre?
Was it “masculine” for David to leap and dance before the Lord and cause a woman to laugh at him?
Was David’s poetry “masculine,” or just his military conquests?
Is Nehemiah, likely a eunuch, a model of biblical masculinity?
Was Jesus “masculine” when he refused to defend himself, his honor, or his friends before false accusations?
Was Jesus “masculine” when he told Peter to put away his sword?
Was Jesus “masculine” when he stripped naked and washed his followers’ feet?
Was Jesus “masculine” when he embraced children and upheld them as examples of greatness in his kingdom?
Was Jesus “masculine” when he cried over the sight of Jerusalem and desired to gather its people like a hen gathers her chicks?
(You can read Jethani’s whole post here.)
God creates men and women uniquely. There is a God designed masculinity and femininity. But when we use Scripture to make our case, we must be careful that we do not read our own opinions into the text.
There has been a good deal of chatter recently about “biblical masculinity.” This is a deeply personal and important issue for me for a number of reasons.
- I am a man.
- Statistics show that men are less and less involved in the life of a church, and this is an issue that troubles me greatly.
- Finally, I am the father of a young boy. It is my responsibility as his father to teach him what it means to be a man and do what I can to help him grow into the man God created him to be.
I would like to weigh in with a few of my thoughts on the topic, but I want to start with a preface of sorts.
I am passionate about seeing people become the person God created them to be. And a significant element of who God created me (and other men) to be can be found in His design for masculinity; in the same way, part of who women are created to be is found in His design for femininity. I believe our culture has suffered greatly because we have glossed over gender differences. In the name of equality, we have ignored our uniqueness and begun to act as if the only difference between men and women is physiological.
Let me be clear, equality is incredibly important. But we need to stop assuming greater than or less than when we observe gender differences. If you have more than one child they are different, but different does not mean better or worse, does it? One child isn’t better because she is into sports and the other isn’t, is she? One child isn’t better because he loves books more than the other is he? Your son isn’t better than your daughter just because he is a male, is he? Men and women are different, but that does not mean men are better than women or women are better than men. Different means different. That is all. Different does not mean better or worse.
Believing that difference is tied to value is an immature way of viewing the world. When we insist gender differences equate to value we will either neglect equality in order to uphold the differences in genders or in the name of equality, we will neglect gender differences. Insisting that one gender is superior to the other is directly opposed to the teaching of Jesus, and insisting that Christians be some sort of androgynous amalgamation of femininity and masculinity is like asking us to all be ears in the body of Christ.
Genesis 1:27 Is clear. We are all made in the image of God, male and female. If it is true that there is a distinction between male and female and both are part of the image of God two important points need to be made. First, we cannot emphasize one to the detriment of the other any more than we can define a hierarchy within the Holy Trinity. Both masculinity and femininity are a part of the image of God. Second, God is not exclusively masculine. It is absolutely illogical to state that there is a distinction between masculinity and femininity, both are created in the image of God, and God is exclusively masculine.