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(Un)Biblical Masculinity

I finally got around to reading this article by my friend Eric on the Bible’s views of masculinity, and it’s a much-needed response to the many lackluster and confused views of what it means to be masculine that have promulgated in our society (and unfortunately, in the Church, as well).

One of my great frustrations with discussions of biblical masculinity is that they often encourage immaturity and boyishness. They equate manliness with the way my six-year-old son views the world, all sports and firearms and foraging in the wild. None of those things are bad in their proper place, and inasmuch as people enjoy them as hobbies they can be good, but an obsession with them often reflects immaturity. If they cause us to neglect the callings we will discuss below, they are not manly but rather childish diversions from the stuff of men.

On that note, we should probably stress how non-biblical most of these stereotypes are. Even people who should know better often implicitly equate being masculine with MMA fighting, eating lots of red meat and driving a pickup truck. Again, all of these things are fine — I happen to enjoy some of them — but they are dangerous for what they exclude. In Scripture we see men who are poets (David and the Sons of Korah), scholars (Solomon and many of the prophets), artists (Bezalel, who built the tabernacle), politicians (Nehemiah, the kings) and priests (Ezra) as aspirational characters. Indeed, given the stereotypes that abound in many churches, it is striking how few Biblical characters are warriors. Far more hay is made of David and his ​“mighty men” than the text warrants.

There are two dangers in confusing masculinity with such stereotypes. One is how it discourages men designed by God to function outside the beer-and-brats convention. Many young men struggle with their identity because their passions fall beyond these allowable interests. In truth, they should be encouraged in them as part of who God created them to be. At the same time, the stereotypes also hurt men that comfortably fit them because they confuse such individuals about what actually makes them masculine. It can trap them in boyishness. Instead of such shallow ideas, we need to dig deeper to get a sense of what Scripture envisions.

For what it’s worth, I touch on some of these ideas in ​“I’m Not So Sure I Want to Live an Epic Life.”