Am I a Biblical Man?

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Hot on the heels from Aimee Byrd’s book “Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, there seems to have been a sudden explosion of social media conversation about the concepts of Biblical manhood and womanhood.

The latest provocation was this tweet from Owen Strachan,

So, how do you do? Do you meet the qualifications? Are you a Biblical man or woman?  I probably need to put my hand up immediately and say that my dodgy eye sight means that I am not allowed behind the wheels of a car, I tend to make things worse rather than fix them (I avoid DIY), I don’t mind pottering about in the garden but I really wouldn’t be safe with a gun (and there are also legal restrictions on that in the UK).

So, on Owen’s reckoning I don’t do too well on the Biblical manhood charts. I suspect I wouldn’t cope well with his womanhood assessment either though!  But is that really what manhood is about? Here were some responses from another Christian man, Graham Miller, CEO of London City Mission and a former missionary to China. May I gently suggest that perhaps this is someone who has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to courage.

Similarly, I could mention that I’ve visited a country mid revolution knowing that there were risks being there as a Christian. I’ve got in between a couple of people fighting in my time and I’ve sought to talk down some quite agitated people when others would have backed off.

However, the risk is that we are still engaging in a “how macho are you really” contest.  The mistake is that we describe some characteristics and activities and label them as Biblical whilst ignoring others and still getting nowhere near to what Biblical Manhood is.

Some Christians will respond by saying that it is simply impossible to define something called Biblical manhood. I am not primarily talking about those who see men and women as interchangeable in all roles. I’m here describing complementarians who would want to stick to a very limited acknowledgement of difference. They would say that beyond specific biological differences and certain precise restrictions in terms of church leadership roles that the Bible is silent on the matter. I think that this is preferable than trying to define men in terms of your own favourite cultural past times.

However, I do think it is possible to go a little further in defining and describing manhood and womanhood in Biblical terms, after all God created us male and female intentionally.

So, first of all, I note that Adam was  “placed .. in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it”[1] It is my view that generally speaking there is a tendency for men towards being responsible for providing and protecting that arises out of this. Spiritually in the church, I think we see this worked out in Acts 20:28-29 where Paul commissions the Ephesian elders to feed and protect the flock from wolves.  

Meanwhile, in Genesis 3:20 we are told that

“Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live”

I think it is right to see a tendency here towards birthing new life, nurturing and caring.  What I would say at this stage too is to be careful that we don’t become legalistic.  I am not saying that men are fierce and warlike whilst women are maternal. I am talking in general terms and I am saying that there are likely to be general trends.

I would also suggest that if we neglect this, then we lose something. I think this happens from both extremes.  First of all, when we only focus on the eldership question and are happy once we have appointed our male elders, then we are likely to lose the perspective and contribution that women have to make towards spiritual discernment. We fail to hear those voices. However, similar when the focus is on eldership and putting women into that role and getting that title then we may still lose their voice and perspective as distinctive.

Men and women were not made to be identically equivalent but we were made to be equal. 

So am I a Biblical man? Well, I think the more important questions for us are “Are we providing for and protecting those in our care?” and “are we encouraging, allowing and enabling others to flourish in their God given calling?”

[1] Genesis 2:15.

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