Tag Archives: manhood

“Biblical” Womanhood and Manhood

In his concept of biblical womanhood and manhood, John Piper describes “the heart of biblical manhood as ‘a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.'” Firstly, and with respect to Piper, this is a description and not a definition (as he will call it elsewhere in his book). Secondly, Piper (and Grudem) argue for protection as a pre-Fall mandate. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have someone explain in an adequate manner how they see the protection mandate in a pre-Fall environment. From what danger was the man supposed to be protecting the woman? Some will say the temptation of the serpent (as if the man is the woman’s overseer) or from her own ignorance since God gave the command not to eat to Adam. Unfortunately, this falls short since Eve’s response indicates she understands eating the fruit is a Bad Thing.

In his explanations goes on to describe what I would identify as specific cultural expressions of masculinity. For example, he says “Consider what is lost when women attempt to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive. It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete.”

  1. Regarding his “hasty and volatile” point, I’m going to suggest that—within the bounds of marriage—hasty and volatile sexual encounters can lead to much satisfaction (and fun) for both parties if done correctly. As a wise woman once told me, “if you know what you’re doing it doesn’t have to take all day.” Granted, a steady diet may lead to dissatisfaction, but I’d say the same thing about cookies. I love me some cookies, but I can’t make a meal of it. But every now and then…
  2. Moonlight walking is well and good—if you’re into that sort of thing. What if a woman doesn’t like moonlight walks? Does that mean she isn’t a woman according to Piper’s understanding? Also, what about my athletic sisters who enjoy running and working out? Will he assert that they should stop running and take up some other, more sedentary activity? I’m proud of one of my friends and former co-workers who just posted that she ran 35 miles this month. I think its an awesome accomplishment, and in no way detracts from her femininity.

Ultimately, want I want people in the BWaM camp to remember is that the particular North American, Caucasian, suburban, protestant, expression of masculinity and femininity may not be (and should not be) the standard by which we measure what is good and right. If you’re going to claim the Biblical adjective, then please stick to the Bible.


Filed under Foundations, Uncategorized

When is a Boy not a Boy?

Parents sue South Carolina for surgically making child a female – CNN.com.

I have to confess: transgender issues break my paradigms. Here’s the question: does a boy (or man) stop being a man once you cut off his genitalia? In reverse, does a girl become a boy when you add a different body part? What determines sex or gender?

Definitions: As usual, a lot of this depends on your definition. Wikipedia describes gender as the social, behavioral, and cultural concept of male/female as based on the World Health Organization. Gender, essentially, is what everyone else says about you and how you should be have as related to your sex. Gender identity, then, is what you say about yourself (and note that this is related to, but not the same as, sexual orientation) as related to your sex. Discussions regarding gender are really discussion of societal, social, cultural and even theological norms as they relate to male/female roles.

Sex, on the other hand, refers to the biological/physiological side of things. According to the wikipedia article, sex is determined by which gametes the organism produces: if you produce sperm, you are male, if ova, then female. Alternatively, we can determine sex on a genetic level based on inherited genes.

Implications: Technically, we lack the ability to reassign sex. Even if you cut off male genitalia and give hormone therapy, you cannot change the genetic makeup of the individual. As such, sex cannot change, because the biological factors that make one male or female cannot change. As an extension of that, I don’t see how we can attribute sex to sexual preference. While there are theological implications of same-sex attractions, it seems difficult to me to assert that attraction to one sex automatically equates to self-identity as the opposite.

The talk about “Biblical manhood or womanhood” seems misplaced to me. While we might develop a theology of gender roles, we have to remember that (1) theology is always contextualized, (2) theology is humanity’s response to what God has revealed, meaning God may not have explicitly stated thoughts about manhood and womanhood, (3) we can discern ideas about manhood and womanhood consistent with the rest of our understanding of divine revelation and (4) whatever conclusions we come to regarding gender (as opposed to sex) are by necessity mediated through our own understanding of culture, our own family experiences, and our own personal growth and development.

Conclusions: When is a boy a boy? My son is a boy because his chromosomes include my “Y” in addition to his mother’s “X”. He has (eventually) the ability to produce male gametes (sperm). He is a boy because I tell him he is a boy, based upon my understanding of family history, societal norms, theological principles, and cultural expressions (not necessarily in that order). His boyness may be somewhat related to whom he will find attractive (and I have definite ideas of what that should be) but these are not linked by necessity.

My son is a boy because he is a boy; I (and the rest of society), help him to understand what that means.

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Filed under Theology

Meditations on Manhood

Consider, for a moment, the ideal man. Perhaps this man exists in your life, or perhaps this man exists in a book or in your mind. However, picture him as best you can. Consider his drives, his values, his actions. What about him makes you say, “That man is a real man!”

I don’t know if he’s my “ideal” example, but my most visible and current example has to come from fiction. The recent Captain America film and character made me want to stand up and cheer in a movie for the first time in my adult life. He represents all the good, true, and right things about the United States without taking a jingoistic or arrogant stance. One characteristic stood out to me, however.


There’s a scene in the latter 3rd of the Avengers movie, where an alien grenade or explosives of some kind crashes through a wall into a room full of scared civilians. Captain America sees this and, without a visible concern for his own safety, immediately jumps through the hole in the wall to put himself between the explosion and the people. In the Captain America movie, the titular hero leaps onto a grenade to save others from the deadly explosion while everyone else dives for cover.  When you look at the honors our country (and military) gives, most of them have to do with sacrificial actions performed by individuals which saves the lives of others. Jesus said no one has greater love than he lays down his life for his friends.

A real man lays down his life for others.

As I think through the men who I have considered manly in my life, I have never found myself admiring the hunters, the mechanics, the policemen, or the soldiers for their professions. I think what they do takes skill, and I have gratitude for what it takes to do those jobs. I tend to value intelligence and cleverness, and so I appreciate those qualities when I see those in others. I have consistently admired, however, the men who have given their lives, their dreams, their resources for their families or their cause. This does not come from a masochistic sense: there is no honor in throwing away one’s life needlessly. For me, there’s something manly about a man who considers others more than himself.

We need more men like that in this country, in the world. When I watch the political shenanigans playing out in congress and in the senate, I wonder how different things would happen if more men would stand up and take control. When I watch the breakdown in the family, I wonder how things would change if more men would step up. When I watch our crumbling schools, I wonder how things would reform if more men would step up.

Here’s to the return of men.

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