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The Myth of Biblical Manhood

After a long correspondence, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Doug Phillips, and John Eldredge decide to meet at a bar to discuss whose view about Biblical Manhood is most biblical.

At Driscoll’s urging, they gather at the Red Herring Pub in Seattle to knock back a few adult beverages. Fog settles outside. The four men sit at a booth near the entrance, Piper and Phillips on the right, Driscoll and Eldredge to the left.

The bartender comes over.

“I’ll take a Rum and Coke,” says Piper, remembering his days as an Army Ranger.

“Hot buttered rum for me,” says Phillips. It seems a manly Colonial drink.

“Give me a Margarita,” Eldredge says, kicking off his sandals. He wears a loud Hawaiian shirt, untucked.

Driscoll looks askance at Eldredge. “Just give me a Bud,” he says. Then he thinks better of it. “Actually, give me two.”

mark-driscoll

Mark Driscoll

The bartender leaves and the men look curiously at each other. They’ve read each other’s books, have sometimes poked fun at each other in sermons, but here in the booth there’s a natural solidarity. They are, after all, men. Biblical men. Maybe they aren’t all that different after all. The biggest question seems to be who will pick up the tab. A real man pays for his guests, they tacitly agree, but how will it work when four of the manliest men in Christendom are sitting at the same table? Who pays then?

A quiet but epic struggle ensues over who will get the check. The unspoken understanding is that the winner gets the title of best model of biblical manhood.

“I’ll get it,” says Driscoll. “It’s my town.”

“No, I’ll pay,” says Piper. “I’m senior and I accept responsibility.”

Before the other two can offer, the door opens and a stranger walks in. The men in the booth stare. The stranger looks like a hippie—long hair, hemp jacket, and wearing what can only be described as an Arabian dishdasha. That, or a dress.

“Is that a dude?” Driscoll whispers. That he even has to ask makes him feel uncomfortable, and a little bit angry.

“I think so,” says Piper, turning around so he can see.

john-eldredge

John Eldredge

Eldredge admires the guy’s hair and sandals, but dislikes that he’s wearing a peace patch on his sleeve. Pansy, he thinks.

“God, he looks like a cross between Russell Brand and Richard Simmons,” Phillips gasps.

This makes Driscoll cringe. Simmons is gay, right?

The stranger walks purposefully into the room and angles directly toward the table. “Hi fellas!” he says. “Good to see you all.” He stands next to Driscoll. “Mind if I sit down?”

Driscoll scoots in reflexively, giving the stranger a wide berth.

“Thanks!” the man says, and sits down.

Piper, ever the courteous pastor, strikes up a conversation. “So, uh, what’s your name, friend?”

“Josh,” the man replies.

“Well Josh, do we know you at all?” Piper continues.

“Oh sure,” Josh says. “I’ve seen you around.”

“Cool, cool,” says Driscoll, jumping in, wanting some control over the conversation. “So you probably know that I’m Mark Driscoll, right? Have you ever been to my church?” He can’t imagine that anyone looking as effeminate as Josh would dare darken the doors of Mars Hill Church, but hey, miracles happen.

“Yup, I’ve been to a couple services at Mars Hill,” Josh says. “Lots of good people there. You need to take care of those folks.” He pats Driscoll’s hand which is resting on the table.

Driscoll jumps as if electrocuted and pulls his hand quickly to his side. Definitely gay, he thinks. He calls over to the bartender, “Hey keep, can we get a chair over here at the end of the table?” He tries not to show how wigged out Josh makes him feel. Better to act nonchalant.

The bartender brings over the drinks and sets a stool at the head of the table, right in the center. Josh smiles and moves over to sit in it.

“What’ll it be?” the bartender asks Josh.

“Oh, I’ll just have a small glass of Turning Leaf wine,” he says. “And can you add a couple fingers of water?”

The bartender looks at him funny but says, “Sure, sure, whatever you say.” He turns to go.

“Oh, and just add it to their tab,” Josh says, motioning toward the four Christian luminaries.

His gesture alchemizes their displeasure. Suddenly, each man intensely dislikes Josh. It’s one thing for every man at the table to try to pay for everyone else—especially when he knows that everyone else is trying equally hard to pay. But they all hate moochers. Josh is clearly a parasite.

Phillips jumps in. “What do you do for work, Josh?” He wants to remind Josh that it’s important for men to provide for their family, a duty he clearly believes Josh is incapable or unwilling to perform.

“Oh, I used to work construction,” Josh says.

Driscoll noticeably relaxes. Gays don’t work construction, he thinks.

“But now I’m homeless.”

The men look at each other knowingly.

“I couch hop from town to town and I do a little bit of street preaching.”

The men trade more glances. They definitely have a quack on their hands.

“And I sometimes pray for people who are sick. Lay hands on them, that sort of thing,” Josh concludes.

Piper feels heat creeping beneath his collar. So Josh is a flaming Pentecostal. The boy probably speaks in tongues, too. Wrong.

doug-phillips

Doug Phillips

“How do you pay for things if you don’t work?” Phillips probes. He realizes that Josh probably does this often—wanders into bars and pretends he knows people just so he can mooch a free drink. It makes Phillips angry. In fact, he’s pissed. It’s people like Josh who have screwed up America so badly. In the olden days when the Founding Fathers ran things, life was better and men were men. People like Josh got swallowed up by Indians or the wilderness. Or they died of starvation, which is exactly what the Bible says they deserve. If a man does not work he should not eat, right? Phillips is already deciding not to pay the tab. He won’t subsidize a freeloader like Josh. Plus, now that he thinks about it, Josh looks a little bit too Middle Eastern. Images of 9/11 flash through his mind. Or Mexican. Phillips’s cheeks flush. He’ll try to get some documentation before they leave. He has friends who can send Josh back to where he came from. He hates freeloaders. Gosh dang it, his forefathers fought for no taxation without representation! If Josh is illegal, he may not be represented, but he sure as heck should pay taxes or get the heck out of this God-blessed country. Wait a minute…

“How do I pay for things?” Josh interrupts Phillips mid-thought. “Well, I actually have a bunch of women who support me. They kind of travel around with me and listen to me as I preach.”

Even Eldredge sits up at this. “Wait a minute,” he says. “You mean that you don’t work, but instead you just let women support you?” His mind goes on tilt. Is this guy for real?

“Well, I do street preaching,” Josh reminds him. “But yes, I’m really happy to receive their support.”

Driscoll explodes. “This is what’s so f—-ing wrong with the Church in America today!” he shouts. “We’ve got gay pansies like you who mooch off of women, refuse to take responsibility, and probably have perverted fantasies all day and all night. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Josh looks hurt.

john-piper

John Piper

Piper, the elder statesman, tries to smooth things over and cover for Driscoll’s outburst, but even he feels shocked by Josh’s scandalous irresponsibility. “Josh my friend,” he says, “you do realize that the Bible lays down clear roles for men and women, and that the biblical principle for manhood is to take responsibility for your family and to provide for them. If you’re out of work and you’re letting women provide for you, that’s the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Do you read your Bible, Josh?”

Josh sips his wine. “Well sure, I just didn’t realize it said what you say it says.”

Driscoll can’t help himself. “So are you gay?” he shouts. “Or do you have sex with all those ‘supportive’ women? Come on, dude, we can see right through you. You’re one of those guys who worms his way into the homes of weak-willed women. Or weak-willed dudes.”

Josh looks at him calmly. “I love many women,” he says.

Driscoll feels angry and relieved at the same time. He’d rather have a fornicator than a homosexual sitting next to him any day of the week. Suddenly, the hand Josh patted earlier doesn’t tingle so much.

“And I love many men,” Josh continues.

Driscoll feels spiders crawling over his fingers. Sick.

Phillips, the lawyer, jumps in. “Josh, this is outrageous!” he says. “Don’t you realize who we are? Don’t you realize what we stand for? We are men who believe with every ounce of our being in biblical manhood and womanhood. Haven’t you read your Bible? Haven’t you read our books? What do you have to say for yourself?”

Josh looks from man to man. He can see their hatred and disgust. He feels sad. He clears his throat. “Yes Doug, I have read each of your books.” His eyes pass from man to man. “I studied them carefully, but I have so many questions after reading them.”

“You wouldn’t be the first anatomical male to disagree with me,” Phillips says. “I wish I could call you a ‘man,’ but you haven’t earned it. Fire away.”

The other men nod. Fire away.

“Well,” says Josh. “I guess that each book made me ask a question. John—“he looks at Piper, “I see that you have written a book on biblical manhood and womanhood, but the first chapter barely quotes a single Bible verse. Instead it looks like you’ve constructed your own definition of manhood and womanhood based on your cultural background and personal preferences. I wonder, how is that biblical?”

Josh turns to Driscoll. “Mark, you talk a lot in your books and sermons about how perverted men’s minds are, how preoccupied they are with sex, and how they need to turn away from lust and instead grow up and take responsibility for their girlfriends and wives. Mark, what are you so afraid of? What are you so angry about? From your books I would say that men are mostly sex-crazed raging adolescents. Is that really true? Really?”

Josh looks at Eldredge. “John, your books say that every man is looking for a battle to fight, a quest to go on, and a damsel to rescue. That this is the essence of manhood, is that right?”

Eldredge nods.

“Then what if you’re disabled, or what if you’re a man and you’re content being single?”

Eldredge looks blank. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, if a man is disabled, physically weak, or mentally disabled, does that mean he can’t be a true man? I mean, if a man is supposed to be a knight on a quest who rescues a damsel in distress, I guess the disabled are plumb out of luck, right? And what about men like me who are perfectly content being single? Does that mean I’m not really a man?”

Definitely gay, Driscoll thinks.

Josh turns to Phillips. “Doug, your books talk about the good old days when men were men and our Founding Fathers were biblical and chivalry reigned in America. But Doug, what about the 99% of people in human history who have never lived in America? Can those men be real men, too? Or do they have to dress like Civil War soldiers or WWII combatants in order to fulfill their manhood? Does biblical manhood really just look like 1776 or 1945?”

Most of the men at the table had never thought of their books like that before.

Josh smiles at them. “I know you all mean well,” he says. “But maybe you’re all missing the point of what it means to be a man or a woman. Maybe you don’t have to qualify it with ‘biblical.’ Maybe you don’t have to be more manly or womanly. That’s a pretty hard standard to live up to. Lots of pressure. And it’s kind of a caricature based on your own backgrounds and cultural milieus, don’t you think? Maybe the point of the Bible is that all of you—both men and women—just have to look more like Christ.”

The bartender walks over. “Another round, gents?”

But only Josh has finished his drink. He stands up from the table.

“Hey fellas, I’ve been visiting different churches on Sundays. I know you probably stay within your own church or denomination, but there’s this great church down the road. It’s Lutheran. The preacher really brings it! I mean, the Spirit is there. I was wondering if any of you wanted to go there with me?”

No one blinks.

“Okay,” says Josh. “But consider it as a standing invite. The pastor is really great. Really top shelf. I know you won’t regret listening to her.”

After Josh leaves, the men sit in silence for a long time. They slowly drain their glasses. Driscoll finishes his beers and orders a couple more. The other fellows remain deep in thought. Driscoll decides to settle the tab himself. He realizes that he’s won the tacit battle for manliness by picking up the bill. He sort of figured he’d come out on top.

“Hey keep,” he says, walking over to the bar. “What do I owe you? I’ll take care of this one.” He pulls out his wallet.

The bartender looks up from polishing the counter.

“Oh, didn’t your friend tell you?” he asks.

“What do you mean ‘your friend?’” Driscoll says. “You mean the homeless guy? I’ve never seen him before in my life. He’s a total moocher. Came in here and pretended to be our friend just so we’d cover his drink. What was he supposed to have told me?”

“Yeah, the guy who was sitting next to you,” says the bartender. “He came in here last week. Said that he was planning to meet some of his friends here today and that the whole tab was gonna be on him. He already settled it with me ahead of time. There’s nothing left to pay.”

Author’s note, 11/21/13: No one is more surprised than I am by the response this post has elicited. I have received feedback from many people–some whom I greatly respect–that my caricatures of Piper and Eldredge in particular are unfair. I have sought to balance my tone in the comments section below. What I hope is not lost in the imperfections of my writing is the main point of this article: that systems which claim to describe true “biblical manhood” or true “biblical womanhood” are actually projections of the author’s own cultural milieu. When an author universalizes these stereotypes, people get hurt. You can hear the voices of the wounded in many of the comments below. You can feel the unspoken pain simply in how quickly this post was shared through Social Media. For those who would discount the point of this little story because of my own flaws as an author, I ask you to listen to the voices of the wounded. They are legion. You may call me to task, but please don’t discount the pain of your brothers and sisters. It is real. And the wrongs that caused it should be righted. Perhaps we could siphon off some of the outrage over caricatures and miscaricatures of our chosen champions in this story, and direct it toward correcting these mythical “biblical manhood” systems which cause so much pain. That is my hope.

11/22/13: Why Satire?

One of the criteria of a truth-based worldview is that it has to be livable by normal people. But legalism creates an unlivable worldview, as we see in the case of the Pharisees. These religious teachers had so many rules and regulations to hedge themselves from breaking what they perceived to be God’s laws that they became objects of comedy. We all laugh at them when we read the New Testament, and Jesus dealt sharply with their errors which led others astray. The only people who missed the comedy of these man-made rules were the Pharisees themselves and their followers.

That was the reason I used satire as a literary device in this post. I believe that these “biblical” manhood systems–which are actually man-made myths– produce lives of satire where men and women live as caricatures of their true selves. It seemed only fair to question these systems in the same style.

Related Posts:

Christian Leaders and the “Don’t Talk” Rule

What’s at Stake in the Gender Debate?

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355 comments on “The Myth of Biblical Manhood

  1. Foolishness…this article is foolish.

    • Hi dadofseven. I’m not sure if you realize this, but your comment is an example of a “thought-stopping” statement, designed to prevent yourself and others from actually engaging with the content and questions of this post. It doesn’t really contribute anything to the discussion, and it actually impoverishes you, since you categorically reject the entire article without giving yourself an opportunity to expand your worldview or more solidly understand what you already believe. Can you see that this doesn’t use your critical thinking skills or help anyone else to understand why this article might be foolish? Here’s a link to an article I wrote yesterday about the “Don’t Talk” rule which includes thought-stopping techniques: https://libertyforcaptives.com/2013/11/23/christian-leaders-and-the-dont-talk-rule/

      I’d encourage you to think through why you think this article is foolish, and go ahead and write those reasons down. Then try answering the questions that the “Josh” figure poses to each of the four men. If you’re right, you have nothing to fear, and if you’re wrong, you have a lot to gain.

      • You need to stop speaking as if you are Jesus dude. Oh no I used the word dude, which must mean I am like Mark Driscoll, and that must mean Driscoll and I think all dudes with long hair are gay. I bet you’ve never been within earshot of mars hil church or really read driscoll’s books, because you seem to have little knowledge of the man. Further what boys claiming to be men are doing. To girls and women in this country is a big and serious problem not to be ignored by God’s people. Grow up and stop being jealous of theses men and how God has used them to grow His kingdom.

      • But, Adam, isn’t Stephen Jesus in part, since Christ – the hope of Glory – is in us?

  2. These caricatures are extremely unfair to the men. They seem to show what appears to be a limited understanding of what these men say and, more importantly, what their intentions are behind their words. Regardless if we agree with their framework or not, it is wrong to say that these men are not trying to be faithful to the Bible. It is extremely unfair to portray them this way, especially since many people will draw conclusions about them from this post without ever reading their books or hearing them speak. No one interprets the Bible in a vacuum, we are all guilty of looking at it through the lens of our culture. Thus grace should flow abundantly to those who are doing the best they can.

    • Amen Dave! Couldn’t agree with your assessment on this blog falsely portraying these men, the intentions behind their words, and that they are not trying to be faithful to the Bible more… Very much just seemed like a creative way to have a bashing session of them to me…

  3. A bit drawn out and long for my taste… And kinda divisive…. I don’t 100% agree with Driscoll on how he addresses men… As a single guy and a missionary that travels the world, he often can come across in a way that makes me feel like I would never be a good enough man to have a wife and family because I live by faith and rely on the Lord’s provision… However, I have been to his church, which people often may forget is where he does the bulk of his preaching on manhood and in general for that matter, and it is filled with a lot of guys who are banging their girlfriends, mooching off them and playing video games all day… The bulk of them are not guys who used to work construction but are now homeless preaching the Gospel on the street… Context does matter.

    And the argument regarding Doug Phillips book and all men need to look like 1776 or 1945 is just, in my humble opinion, a bit of a shallow argument. The men that proceeded 1776 were even more manly in the traditional sense of the expression than those of 1776 and the ones in between then and 1945 were equally so….

    You seem like an intelligent brother and I respect that you took the time to write this and share your heart but honestly I am not sure why there are professing Christians out there that cannot see or want to admit that manhood is indeed under attack. And we live in a world where masculinity is not just being feminized but that feminization is actually being celebrated.

    Like I said, I don’t 100% agree with Driscoll’s approach to manhood (He is who I am most familiar with on this subject), but at the same time I do think it would be unwise to simply ignore what is happening to men and how the role of men is being viewed in our culture that is now bleeding over into some professing Christians thinking. It is something that truly needs to be addressed not simply brushed under the carpet and then turned into a bashing session turning some of the great servants of Jesus of our day and portraying them as a bunch of conservative Christian bigots who aren’t in touch with the culture. They are more in touch with the teachings of the Scriptures than most…and that includes this subject. And the Scriptures are what needs to be our authority on all details of life and how we live it…Not what the culture deems to be correct or relevant…And certainly not what is “trending now” within that culture.. But those are just my thoughts…

    Blessings!

    • Michael writes, ’And the Scriptures are what needs to be our authority on all details of life and how we live it…’ Amen!

      ‘The church is always to be under the Word; she must be; we must keep her there. You must not assume that because the church started correctly, she will continue so. She did not do so in the New Testament times; she has not done so since. Without being constantly reformed by the Word the church becomes something very different. We must always keep the church under the Word.’ —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

      ‘Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.’ —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

      ‘The only standard by which the church can be judged is Scripture itself. The true church really has only one mark: the Word of God, which is variously administered and confessed in preaching, instruction, confession, sacrament, and life. The Word and the Word alone is truly the soul of the church.’ —Herman Bavinck

      ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Ps 119:105).

      ‘For with You, Yahweh, is the fountain of Life; in Your light we see light’ (—Psalm of David 36:9).

    • Manhood isn’t under attack! Sheesh! If you think having to listen to women’s voices and opinions and disagreements constitutes an ‘attack’ I don’t know what to say to you.
      You aren’t being ‘feminised’, you’re simply being asked to listen to the other half of the population.

    • Well said.

  4. I agree with Dave on some key points. For example, you are criticizing the men in the article for developing views based off of their perspective and culture, without the support of the bible, however, in the piece you never quote the Bible and you imply that you are able to write from a culturally neutral perspective, but you clearly are not. What is perhaps even more concerning is you are putting a specific perspective, which I believe to be yours, into the mouth of “Josh” or Jesus? While I understand what you are trying to do, I think you need to be very careful with putting your words in the mouth of Jesus as if they are his words. It appears you are especially critical of Driscoll and portray him as a very ignorant and arrogant man, which I have no comment on because I don’t know him or his works well enough, however, I will say to use Jesus as your mouth piece to criticize him (and the three others) seems to reek of extreme arrogance. Again, I appreciate the creativity and the attempted critique; however, I think it falls far short. In closing, however, I would say if they had an Elephant room 3 and had the focus on Biblical manhood, I think it would be awesome to have the four guys mentioned above and you have a discussion! Blessings, Jeremy (Jn. 3:30)

    • Jeremy, I picked up on at least 6 references to passages of Scripture, although you are right in saying they are not directly quoted. And some interesting questions too!

  5. Critical thinking? OR, Critical heart? It appears you desperately want to sit at the table with good men, kingdom men with good hearts. You invite yourself to sit and then belittle those guys who have helped so many. This I have seem with my own eyes and experienced with my own heart. I don’t find your post helpful, kind or liberating, I find your article critical, small and dark hearted, in fact your a lot like the older brother in the Prodigal son story…critical, angry and judgmental.

    Luke 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

    31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

    • Well, Eric, I am sorry to say that I find YOUR post to contain the very negative manner and attitude you accuse Stephen of. I have reached a ripe old age now, but from my very earliest years I have been at the receiving end of people using the Bible as a bludgeon against those who disagree with them. It is amazing, in fact, that I love the Bible as I do; so much so that I even worked for a Bible Translators organisation for many years.

      But your words make me sad. What right do any of us have to judge anybody else? The Bible certainly doesn’t give us a remit to behave in that way.

      Stephen’s post addressed a serious issue by the use of a tongue-in-cheek dig at people who have behaved in a way he feels needs to be highlighted. Just because you and many others hold these men in awe (I would be interested to know if you have the same level of awe for any women) doesn’t place those men above constructive criticism. Having a healthy respect for our fellow man (and woman) is one thing, but placing someone on a pedestal is just downright wrong – and very, very unhelpful for those we do exalt and idolise.

      Can’t we just lighten up a bit please? Where is the love, man, where is the Love?

    • Eric sounds like the big brother too.

  6. I congratulate you for this semi-viral post, by touching a sensitive nerve with such artistry. But enough flattery. If my questions are already answered, you will forgive me for not picking through 200-plus comments.

    Steven, it is easy to mock and distort, but I care more for the perspective you replace error with. Your “Josh” character’s suggestions on true manhood (are they your own?) need some examination. If you adhere to the Bible’s point that all just have to look more like Christ, that is from the Bible; being from the Bible, it is “biblical,” is it not? Have you not qualified true manhood as “biblical,” an action for which you condemned the four? What do you mean by “maybe you don’t have to qualify it with ‘biblical'”?

    And what would be a harder standard to live up to than looking more like Christ? Surely much harder than looking like any of the four, who, conveniently for their followers, are obvious sinners like us. I assume that in your theology Christ was sinless, and we are sinners being sanctified but never perfect on earth. Sinlessness is a hard standard, isn’t it.

    Now how would you define “looking more like Christ”? Is this not claimed by all of the four? Is it a transcendent standard that we move toward, though sure never to reach? Is it a state of growth with an emphasis only on the trajectory? Is it exercising a set of select moralisms that are generally unobtrusive to society? By failing to define this, you leave it up to every man’s autonomous whim to build a personally suitable Christ to match up to. (And Josh seems rather whimsical.)

    Dismiss me as pitifully ignorant if you want, but how are people hurt by a universalized stereotype? Is it “guilt manipulation”? Can such a thing really exist? If we feel bound to another person’s standards, it is only because we trust that person; otherwise, the standard is false and meaningless. Guilt, when it is a feeling alone and not a legal status, is merely overcome by truth. If a person can not help but to bound himself to the latest standard, the problem is the listener’s, a “guilt susceptibility.”

    But if the stereotypes threaten the shunning, even disownment, of those who do not conform, I tread carefully. We are ever servants of God above all masters, and the abuse of human authority is powerless to displace this sober, sweet duty. No true servant will lose this accountability, so that though he feels oppression (whether it is true or not), he is free inside and often will lose nothing to bend some and object some (Eph. 6:5-8). If the oppression is seriously harmful (not dress standards or cell phone bans, mind you!), the pain of rejection never excuses bitterness, but one can be consoled by the Lord’s promises of compensation in this life (Mark 10:28-30). (But rebellion against parents is an acutely risky thing (Matt. 15:4-6).) I have met many bitter people, but how often is their pain self-inflicted?

    Lastly, do you intend your character Josh as an acceptable model of manhood? It seems you intentionally built him on the extreme side. Do you have anything against the skirt, the long hair, the peace symbol, the eccentric behavior? Or is he one of your “normal people”?

    • Caleb, I can tell that you care deeply about God’s Word and that you have thought carefully about why you dislike this post. I respect you for that. You have taken a stand for what you believe, raised specific objections to the way I handled this topic, and pointed out perceived contradictions. You have also reminded all of us that at the end of the day we are each personally accountable to God for what we believe. I agree.

      I think you may misunderstand the purpose of this post. It is not a theological treatise. I didn’t set out to present an alternative system. It is a story, and more to the point, a satire, and is designed to confront the status quo, raise questions, and create discussion. Your comment is a worthy part of that discussion.

      The Josh figure is not necessarily the person I see when I think of Christ. But I do believe he acts the way that my Jesus acts. I think that Jesus often comes to us in ways that confront our cherished systems and religious preciseness. He tells us that whatever we do to the “least of these” his brothers, we have done to him. Picture who makes you the most uncomfortable, and perhaps Jesus sometimes comes to you representatively like that. I thought that the Josh figure effectively embodied the various elements that each of these men write and speak against, and so for that reason he presents an effective foil and makes them uncomfortable. That’s all. I’m not saying that this is how Jesus actually looks as he sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (yes, sinless).

      Don’t worry, bro, I don’t consider you pitifully ignorant. You sound very intelligent to me. That you would take the time to write such a reasoned response tells me that you care a lot about the truth and helping other people to pursue truth. I think you also hate injustice, and you feel that my post is unjust to these four men. I respect you for that, as well. In a similar way, I feel that universalized stereotypes, when called “biblical” and mandated as the only way to live in a manner that pleases God, are also unjust. They do not reflect the heart of God, his love for diversity (Ephesians 2; Revelation 7) or the differences between individuals who are gifted in unique ways.

      While it is an ideal that none of us should place ourselves under harmful leaders, in reality many of us do. Jesus talks a lot about false Christs and false prophets. Paul encountered false apostles and false teachers. And so do we. Other times, the teacher is not so much the problem, but his or her unnuanced pronouncements can still act like swords to wound the vulnerable and those who do not have the same level of critical thinking that you evidence. Teachers are responsible for what they say. That’s why I spend so much time replying to comments like yours. When folks walk away from something I’ve written and have questions about it, the least I can do is clarify. Balance is so often achieved in the comments section.

      Finally, how do I define looking more like Christ? I suppose Christ’s words should suffice: To love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Love, I think, is the way we look like Christ. What do you think?

    • Thank you, Stephen, for the clarification and for taking responsibility for your words, thereby leaving a sound example in this regard for aspiring bloggers like myself. I commend your calm, considerate demeanor, so refreshingly unlike the majority of your camp.

      I see your intention to leave the article on an unresolved note in order to raise discussion; it is not an approach to which I am accustomed. Let it be known, though, that this piece does admit hints of an alternative system that is rather ambiguous, so that I cannot make assumptions safely. Replacing concrete ideas with ambiguity looked too much like autonomy, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt. My questions were trying to elicit clarity in what I thought were conclusive statements about your perspective of manhood.

      Your concern is forthright: the standards of the four are neither universal nor attainable. They tried to construct a picture of an ideal that missed the core definition, straying into developing visible icons. We, too, make the same mistake when we build a convenient stereotype of Christ-likeness. Love conjures pictures of sweetness and maybe passion, but Christ defines it as obedience, the love of a bondservant to his Master (John 14).

      His commands are not merely to look like Him. That obviously cannot be an absolute standard, considering the chasm between the mortal and the divine. The Bible says to love as Christ loved, to suffer as He suffered, and so forth. But the abundance of commands He gives us, whether before or after His first coming, bypass the idea of imitating Him and point straight to simple obedience. Let us beware of ambiguity, which often serves only to lend spiritual flavor to our own devices.

      You must be careful attacking people for using the term “biblical.” That is a backwards approach, failing to demonstrate why the object of your criticism is unbiblical, and worse, can make people afraid to appeal to what is the only valid source of authority. Let us examine Scripture, and then, as a consequential side point, point out the misleading nature of false terms.

      I have seen the hurt people you describe. In that I am not pitifully ignorant. How is it possible that the exactly same teaching can be a life-giving blessing to one, and an oppressive curse to another? Which do you choose to call deluded of the two?

      I will posit my answer, drawing from a pattern I have seen in the countless examples I have encountered. Those who hear the voice of God manifested through the briers of mixed teaching are blessed by God, and joyfully submit to God. Those who fail to see the hand of God even in oppression see only the ugly mankind and are miserable. They see no purpose behind the rules and standards except selfishness. They do not consider what rules and standards God commands because their eyes are filled with Man, and all hope and danger alike is wrapped in Man. Leaving such an environment almost becomes necessary until one is reconciled to God.

      My testimony may help the point. I am surrounded by people who talk of God’s commandments. But I do not feel in bondage to those people because—underscore this—I am accountable to God. A law that I hear I seek to find its source of authority; with an open heart, as open as I can get it through the Spirit’s help, for I can not afford to turn from the voice of God under pretense that it is Man’s. If it is Man’s, I am yet under no bondage, for if his slaying hand cannot destroy my soul, how much less a conscientious, albeit mistaken, standard that could rarely hurt my circumstances? But if the law’s authority is God’s, I am enjoined to embrace it.

      I do not attempt to influence you, Stephen. Your past experiences and public position make it difficult to change your stance. My hope, and yours too, I gather, is that in the midst of the battle of ideas, the truth, whosever it may be, may speak through to those who are open.

      • Wow Caleb! What a post!

        I realised exactly where you were coming from once I saw you refer to Stephen being in or owning his own “camp”. Reading on, I saw also that your entire way of thinking is dualistic, and that one side is “right” and the other “wrong”.

        Your approach demonstrates clearly that you are a man who obeys completely the “mind” part of the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. If you are able to allow yourself to love God with your heart as you do with your mind, I can see you being a tremendous disciple and shepherd to others.

        Thanks for sharing.

      • Thanks, Jonathan, for offering your insight.

        Perhaps I can provide an interpretation of my own words. If by a dualistic way of thinking you imply I am presumptuous and subjective, that is how a conclusion appears without the careful reason which preceded it; if you cannot see the means of reason, it definitely appears premature or hasty. Yes, I consider myself in a different camp, for reasons too many and complicated to explain here. I admit such a conclusion leaked out in subtle ways, providing distraction from an otherwise intentionally objective approach. I am sorry.

        I appreciate your encouraging words concluding your comment. Beyond that, I really cannot know what you mean concerning my approach to obedience unless you could graciously explain by what means you concluded I do not love God with my heart.

      • Hi Caleb,

        These words from Richard Rohr seem to me to be right and revelatory, albeit somewhat revolutionary (at least, it’s a new way of thinking for me):

        “Reality is paradoxical and complementary. Non-dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion.

        Spiritual teachers teach in the language of paradox and mystery and what seems like contradiction, but then they show us that it is not contradiction at all. I know paradox is not a word that we use much in our everyday life. Let me define a paradox very simply: A paradox is seeming contradiction which is not really contradictory at all if looked at from another angle or through a larger frame. A paradox always demands a change on the side of the observer. If we look at almost all things honestly we see everything has a character of paradox to it. Everything, including ourselves, and most especially God, has some seeming contradictions, some mysterious parts that we cannot understand or explain. Can you think of an exception?

        Institutions, countries, groups, religions, and persons have many inherent contradictions. Understanding a paradox is to look at something long enough so as to overcome the contradiction and see things at a different level of consciousness. This should be one of the primary and totally predictable effects of authentic God experience. God surely greases the wheels of awareness and even the evolution of humanity by growing people toward a much higher capacity. Wouldn’t you expect God to have that effect?”

        …And then, in my own words, it seems to me that the followers of Jesus have this paradoxical experience right from the word go. We die, in order that we may live. We give, and by doing so we receive. We are free, to live a life of servanthood.

        The story of Job seems to have at its core the refusal of God to be pigeon-holed or labelled. He emphasises during his conversations with Job that He is unknowable by us, or at least that we will never fully comprehend Him, and therefore we are not able to please Him through our own efforts.

        Sorry to quote a Seventies phrase here, but ‘Thank God for Jesus’ is all I can say! 😉

      • I love this quote, Jon. Totally going to poach it for an upcoming post 😉 Thanks for adding so much value to this conversation.

  7. Jonathan friend, With all do respect, I’m not sure which pedestal you are referring to. I look around and I see none…But the story start’s out like a two cent joke,”Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Doug Phillips, and John Eldredge decide to meet at a bar to discuss whose view about Biblical Manhood is most biblical.”… This story drips of cynicism and disrespect and is somewhat shallow in character.

    (The bartender comes over.“I’ll take a Rum and Coke,” says Piper, remembering his days as an Army Ranger.“Hot buttered rum for me,” says Phillips. It seems a manly Colonial drink.“Give me a Margarita,” Eldredge says, kicking off his sandals. He wears a loud Hawaiian shirt, untucked. Driscoll looks askance at Eldredge. “Just give me a Bud,” he says. Then he thinks better of it. “Actually, give me two.”)

    Friend…How do you translate that? In your words Sir Jonathan “Can we EVER imagine Jesus teaching like this?”

    Where’s the respect? Where’s the healthy criticism? There’s no awe here friend, just respect. Just as I respect my beautiful wife.

    (What is a ripe old age?) 🙂

    Bless you friend. Someday we will kneel together….

    • Oh Eric, sorry but I just found this comment from Richard Rohr. And this sums up EXACTLY what I am experiencing at this stage in my life! I would love to know what you think about this, if you have the time:

      Union Not Perfection

      Meditation 17 of 52

      On a first level I see mystical moments as moments of enlargement. Suddenly we’re bigger. We don’t feel a need to condemn, exclude, divide or separate. Secondarily, mysticism is a deep experience of connectedness or union. Maybe that is why we feel larger? Unfortunately, most of us were sent on private paths of perfection which none of us could ever achieve. The path of union is different than the path of perfection. Perfection gives the impression that by effort or more knowing I can achieve wholeness separate from God, from anyone else, or from connection to the Whole. It appeals to our individualism and our ego. It’s amazing how much of Christian history sent us on a self-defeating course toward private perfection. On the day of my first vows in 1962, the preacher glared at us little novices and quoted the line “Thou shalt be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!” Most of the honest guys left within the first few years when they could not achieve it. They were told they could achieve heaven in a most hellish way.

      Many people gave up on the spiritual life or religion when they saw they could not be “perfect.” They ended up practical agnostics or practical atheists, and they refused to be hypocrites. Many of us kept up the forms and the words, we kept going to church, but there was no longer the inner desire, joy or expectation that is possible on the path of union. Mysticism does not defeat the soul; moralism always does. Mysticism invites humanity forward; moralism (read “perfectionism”) excludes and condemns itself and most others.

  8. Wow, I really appreciated the OP and the many (mostly thoughtful) follow-up comments. Having read and benefited from 2 or the 4 authors in your story, I had a similar first reaction to many who have already posted. So I won’t say anything along the lines of “these are just straw-man characters” or “I don’t think these writers themselves would agree much with the words you’ve put into their mouths” (except I just did!).

    What I do like is that your article has caused many people to think about a topic that is really, really difficult to fully understand. I think the admission that gender issues are extraordinarily complicated in today’s cultural environment, both within and outside of the american christian culture, should give us an extra measure of grace toward the men and women who enter into the fray through their speaking and writing.

    I am most familiar with Eldredge, so my comments will relate mostly to him. First, as others have said, I would find it hard to believe that when he & Brent Curtis wrote Sacred Romance, and when Eldredge later wrote Wild at Heart and the books that followed (I think that most everything he has written is an expansion on the concepts in Sacred Romance) he had any intention of his writings being seen as a “system” of the most accurate way of understanding biblical manhood. I think if you were to ask him the question, “Why have you come up with a system of biblical manhood with oughts and shoulds which will be hurtful to many men and women and harmful to their marriages?” you’d just get a blank look. I think he says in the intro to WAH that a system of “should” and “ought to” is exactly what he is trying to avoid.

    I think the take away that most men got from WAH and the group study that went with it was: be engaged. So many men grew up in homes where their fathers were emotionally distant from them and from their mothers – WAH became an important corrective. Getting in touch with “the wound” was hugely important for the guys with whom I read the book.

    As a guy who tries to weasel his way out of any conversation that turns to sports, I get that not every man has the same interests or experiences things in the same way. However, I just don’t see any of the “tough guy” approach in Eldredge. You’ll find way more quotes from poets and novelists than sports analogies in his stuff.

    So I supposed what I want help understanding is just what is it that many men have found hurtful from him. I don’t ask that question glibly. Just like it can be hard for me to see “white privilege” because I’m a white person, I understand that I may be missing something important here.

    Perhaps the problem truly is, as others have mentioned, not such much these guys’ writings (again, I’m only speaking about Eldredge and Piper, as I haven’t read the others), but the ways they have been used or misused by others. There are many above who have said, in essence, you’ve squarely hit the nail on the head (or “This is such a piece of divinely inspired truth.”). Isn’t that pretty much exactly what you’re criticizing? If you were to take your thoughts on this topic and expand them into a book, wouldn’t you run the risk of others taking your ideas and turning them into a system? And if the book made the best seller list and dvd group studies were created, would you run the risk of hurting lots of guys who came away saying, “I can’t relate to what a whole bunch of other guys obviously seem to like – what’s wrong with me?”

    I just don’t think these guys are guilty of much of what you (and especially some of those who have commented) accuse them of. Does Piper really say an abused woman should just submit and take it? Not here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/clarifying-words-on-wife-abuse. Does Eldredge really want a wife who is quiet, timid and submissive to his every desire? Have you ever heard his wife speak? She is kind of the antithesis of that stereotype.

    Having said that, I really do appreciate your own courage to dive into this. Tackling it with satire and story was masterful. Any post that leads to the kind of discussion that has followed is a really, really good thing.

    • Hey Bill,

      This was a beautifully balanced and considered response. I feel enriched by reading it. Thank you!

    • I love your comment, Bill. You’ve caused me to sit down and think for a little while. I also have benefited from some of the writings from some of these gentlemen. And you are right to remind me to deal gracefully with fellow believers who have waded into the fray of gender issues. If I were to write this particular post again, I would tweak it.

      Your comment, like Nate Walter’s below, have made me realize that there is need for follow-up to this post. Now that the story has set off more discussion and debate than I ever dreamed (or, let’s be honest, even intended), I realize that there is a place to say why I feel these systems have hurt men and women, and also to explain alternative biblical explanations for the key Bible verses related to the debate about gender roles. I will do this not because I think I am the fount of all wisdom, but because I think it can help further the discussion. I refuse to set up a “manhood” or “womanhood” system because I think the Bible celebrates diversity, remains wisely fuzzy on ecclesiology, and often flexes with culture on non-sin issues in what William Webb calls a “redemptive arc.” More on this in future blog posts.

      What is my desired outcome for this discussion? At the end of the day, I’d love to see each of these authors state (or more clearly state) that their interpretation is just that–their interpretation, subject to error, based off of their own experience and cultural background, and in competition with several other Bible-based systems. I think this helps defuse the hero-worship which so often comes to Christian authors whether they want it or not. I’d love to see men and women who live as Spirit-led individuals, made in the image of God, pursuing Christ-likeness, without the encumbrance of man-made systems which caricature them into clones of a particular author. Not even this one.

      Thanks again for a comment which jarred me out of my comfort zone and caused me to think critically. And thanks for your encouragement.

    • I think that when it comes to leaders and their followers, something strange happens.

      Oftentimes leaders leave things open and free and then their followers close things off and make things less-than-free. This happened with Calvin and Calvinists, and Luther and Lutherans. Sometimes, the followers took positions that were diametrically opposed to the leaders!

      That said, perhaps there’s some group dynamics analysis that might benefit this discussion? Perhaps it’s not a particular leader per se, but something else that is at play? Many times, we look at Biblical Principles or Godly Principles – in the process, though, we create a separation between God and Us. That’s a condition that’s older than the Scriptures and is testified to in those same Scriptures (Oh! just made a principle!).

  9. Interesting article.

    What I Liked:
    -I loved the creativity of the piece. It was more than just a systematic approach to the challenges of defining Biblical manhood… it created a story-line.
    -I found that this served well to show that sometimes, our “Biblical” views come across as extremely divisive, judgmental, and inane to outsiders. They often take the stance of misogyny or chauvinism, while most likely unintentionally, it’s still wrong.
    -You exposed the notion that we have many different “Biblical views” of manhood, many of which are in obvious disagreement.
    -Your caricature, while maybe slightly unnecessary in some regards, showed something that many aren’t talking about: that we use our views of manhood as a litmus test, as a comparison guide for others. You hear this in their preaching, you read it in their books, on their Twitter pages… it is a problem. We often project our Biblical or theological views onto others to make ourselves feel better.

    What I Disliked:
    -While I understand its purpose, I thought the caricature of these men was unnecessary. I think you took an issue and you personalized it by making these men seem homophobic, racist, or just plain bigots. I’m all for using satire, caricatures, or being creative, but to put these men in a light that makes them seem terrible (Driscoll “kicking back” a bunch of beers, their choice of beverage, their statements/thoughts) is unfair. I liked the concept and the idea, but your caricatures made it difficult to see your point.
    -You make the point that Biblical manhood is about being more like Christ, and less about our perceived constructs. I agree, but I would contend that several Biblical authors make fairly clear statements about gender roles, especially within a marital environment. To strive to better understand the meaning and context of those passages in Scripture is not wrong, in fact, it is, or should be, encouraged. Are these guys maybe off-based in their approach to Biblical manhood, perhaps… I haven’t looked into each claim these guys make. From what I’ve read or heard from a few, I would vehemently disagree with a lot of it, but their striving to make Scripture tangible should be lauded, not discredited as legalism.

    Sorry for the long, drawn-out comment. I liked the story-line, despite the unfair caricatures. I would certainly add that each one of these constructs was based not just around a cultural framework of each pastor, but also a mirror to themselves. Every man who writes about Biblical manhood is going to use his personality as the canon. He’s going to look at himself and think, ‘Of course I’m a man.’ And go from there to describe how everyone should be like him. I have yet to read a book on “Biblical manhood” and read a guy who breaks down Ephesians 5 and then reveals how he misses the mark, if there is one, please let me know.

    This was an interesting post. Thank you for your opening up a dialogue. God Bless you in your writings and ministry.

    • This is a balanced comment, Nate, and a great example of how to disagree in a way that helps everyone enter the dialogue, even the author =) In this you have created a model for engaging a delicate topic with both grace and critical thinking. I love it! I think your observations are fair. I have thought and re-thought how I characterized each of these men. If I were to write the post again, I would definitely tweak it. Your comments have made me think even further.

      I agree that the Bible seems to say something about gender roles. Because of your comment and others like it, I have decided to write several follow-up posts which address some of these key passages and some alternative interpretations of them. I hope to do so not as a way to present another “biblical manhood” system–God forbid!–but as a way to show that there is more than one way to interpret these passages while remaining faithful to God’s Word. I think that living in tension is one sign that we’ve given up on systems and are comfortable with the mystery of God and showing charity toward others.

      As you mention, were any of us to try to construct a “biblical manhood” system it would inevitably look much like us. Better for both men and women to strive for Christ-likeness and love of God and neighbor, and avoid creating man-made systems in the first place.

      Thanks again for joining the dialogue and causing me to think hard about what I wrote and why I wrote it (and what I would change if I wrote it again!).

  10. if you’re upset by this article, please pause a moment. It is frustrating and feels unfair to have a favorite author/role model caricatured in a less than favorable light, or perhaps like me you find it hard to respect an article that is a little strawmannish in its caricatures. But take a step back, breathe, and realize that nowhere does the author imply that any of these authors has ill intent or is not doing his best to be faithful to scripture. This article says nothing about their hearts or characters. What it does say is that they got it wrong– they made a mistake– a common human one, the mistake of confusing human cultural ideals with biblical standards, and this affects how they sound and how they come across to a lot of people who hear them who don’t share their cultural background.
    Still upset because caricatures are unfair? Well you shouldn’t be reason satire. even the guy who ‘set them straight’ was a caricature. Some sort of angel or Christ figure (the name is suggestive) is a homeless chill hippie street preacher that lives off some generous ladies’ cooking? Because we all know that this is the only kind of person that is closest to the truth.

    Come on people. Laugh it off. That’s the key to satire, especially when it stings. Skim the article and Laugh at the characters and take them lightly, decrease how seriously you take them, so you can save all your seriousness for the nugget of truth hiding behind them.

    That is how you’re supposed to read satire, right?

    • Kim,

      although I laughed along with the caricatures, not offended, probably well deserved, made for a fun read—it wasn’t until I got to ‘the nugget of truth’ that I found this piece aimed toward a ‘cultural ideal’ that rebelliously exalts itself against the ‘biblical standard’.

      In my eyes Steve’s satire was (among other things) cleverly engineered to promote a LIE. And that, for me, is the real bone of contention—having our Master character support a violation of His own Word.

    • *Like*

      The cool voice of reason! 🙂

  11. Argh! The *like* is to Kim, because I hadn’t even seen Monax’s post at the time of typing. How time flies when your hair is grey/gray!

    No way did you laugh at any of it, Monax! Just don’t fib to make your point sound stronger. 😉

    Ah, Stephen is “in rebellion” is he? Wow, we stopped using jargon like this on our side of the pond back in the 80’s. It put off soooo many people from coming along to church. And you know what? Those people never met with Christ! Which, in your book means that they died! In other words, we failed them. So, which is more important in your eyes? That we scare people away from any chance of meeting their Saviour because of language like yours, or that we focus on the key, meaningful issues of the Bible today (such as ministering the Gospel with love into fear, loneliness, anger, pain, suffering…the list is literally endless)?

    And don’t tell me that I am being weak or wishy-washy or liberal. When I think of the woman at the well with whom Jesus spoke, I realise that he knew everything about her (just as he does about us) and yet he spoke to her with love and authority and love and wisdom and love. He did not condemn her! He knew that, in her own eyes and the minds of the people in her village, she was already condemned. She didn’t need more condemnation or judgement, she needed the Gospel. It’s the same today! That is all we are called to do – share the Gospel. Surely?

    I mean, heck…if judging others and condemning their actions is part of being a saint, I am amazed that my halo isn’t shining right now. I do it all the time, but I wish I didn’t.

    You holidaying anywhere nice this winter? Guantanamo Bay, maybe? 😉

  12. This is an excellent, thought-provoking text — and very well-written. May I share it with some people in my church, by writing the URL in an email, for example?

    PS If you have to explain satire to people, then we are all in trouble.

  13. Brother, I preached a sermon 35 years ago that afterward a friend told me I should watch out since I would get my brains beaten out for preaching about our primary responsibility to the poor. I’ve read the comments and I hope you won’t be dissuaded from creatively writing the truth. Just like Jesus audience, too often people can’t see the beauty and reality of the Forrest because they’re lost analyzing the trees. Keep it up friend, with all the gusto and passion you can muster!

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Gregg. I’d love to have heard that sermon 😉 It heartens me to hear from so many seasoned saints who have gone before, blazed the trail, and spoken up for what they believe is right based on how they read God’s heart through his word.

  14. Stephen, one of the funniest posts I have read in a long time! Also, one of the saddest (as I think you know why). Pity, so many are upset. Perhaps it hits too close to home?

    Pastors (as I was once one, but now “retired,” so to speak) tend to insert their worldview into their preaching. Perhaps we who share the Word, should just let it speak for itself? Convictions are necessary; but when we make them dogma, we force our views upon others. Our convictions then become more important than the very Word we preach.

    It seems to me that the religious leaders of Jesus (Josh) day had done the very thing, burying the Word of God in the process.

    Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you…” (NKJV).

    If I remember right, He wasn’t too happy with them, was He?

    • Thanks Randall. I couldn’t agree more. Our convictions in matters like this must not become dogma for the world. If each of these authors would just write a one page preface which says that their book is simply their interpretation, subject to error, and one option among several other equally biblical explanations, that would go a long way to avoid hero-worship and the damage that it causes.

  15. Stephen, I re-bloged this to my blog without asking your permission. I apologize for not asking first. (Actually, there are still a few “buttons” to blogging that I have not yet mastered). If you like I will remove it. You can reach me at randall.slack@gmail,com
    Grace and peace…

  16. I loved this post. It caused me think about my preconceived notions. BTW your style reminds me of a book I just read by Matt Mikalatos titled “My Imaginary Jesus: The Spiritual Adventures of One Man Searching For the Real God.”

    Also loved seeing how your post successfully infuriated all the pharisees!

  17. I for one enjoyed your little story. Well done! Though nobody who is in one of those men’s camps is probably gonna be convinced by any story or article, so just ignore them all.

  18. […] es lo que me parece que el autor que escribió la sátira está tratando de hacer ver: la profunda inculturación de las afirmaciones de estos majes […]

  19. I really appreciated this piece. Thank you for writing it. Don’t worry about all the not-exactly supportive comments; that always happens when an article touches on a hot topic.

  20. I appreciate the concern that this post shows, and I agree that it is important to have a biblical definition and understand of manhood and womanhood, not just picking up what the culture around us says. However, there are numerous draw-backs to this post that make it ultimately flawed as a whole. While the *thrust* of it is true – namely, we need to have a Biblical conception of manhood and womanhood – the pastors “called to account” are greatly misrepresented, and no argument is given for the egalitarianism this post implicitly advocates (revealed by the reference to a female pastor). The pastors are misrepresented in that you make it seem like none of them had biblical arguments for manhood as the male’s agreeable sense of the fitness of male leadership in provision and protection within a marriage relationship, when in fact all four of these men have given such arguments. And no argument is given in favor of the view implicitly advocated in that all of their arguments are discounted as though they are non-existent, and as though the Bible only tells both men and women to be “more like Jesus,” but does not distinguish between different ways a man carries this out as opposed to a woman, or a husband as opposed to a wife. For instance, the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands as the church submitted to Christ, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Clearly here there is a distinction: in this context, women are not told to be like Christ, but like the church, while the husband fulfills Christ’s role. So in this blog post the pastors are misrepresented, and the opposing view is not proven.

  21. Linton (from Australia)
    My daughter went to a church that put the young men (18 to 25+) through Eldridge’s book “Wild Heart…” and the young ladies through the female version. They went away on separate camps on the same week-end and returned to church sunday night. The girls returned to the sunday night service challenged to be more loving and giving. The boys came back as, I think Natasha described as, jerks. They were “real” men and they treated there girlfriends and wives with disrespect and control. They were not told about how to be loving and gentle and kind or if they had, the power aspect was much more attractive . The fruits of the Spirit didn’t seem to be that important to those young men. Without love can we please Father. Love is the most important fruit that we must possess. It is not weak but the strongest person on earth, God is love.
    Great work Stephen. By their fruits you will know them. The pain I felt as a young man growing up was such a problem in my marriage. We’ve been married now for almost 36 years and it has not just survived. We’re still in love. We are two strong people now who have grown in love through some not so good times. We both had to deal with control which came out of our brokenness. I am thankful for all the pain that led me to a loving manhood that is in Christ.

  22. I remember reading this piece sometime last year and liking it immensely. Now that I am familiar with your blog I am revisiting it and want to say thanks. Where there is no accountability the blind will inevitably lead the blind (as in the recent revealing of the case of cult leader Bill Gothard).

    My hope is that the truth of Jesus will shine through every voice that claims to know him instead of our severely limited personally skewed views of his character and the place Christianity plays in the world today.

  23. Thought you’d like to see this recent posting on the “Don’t Talk” rule which comes from a misapplication of Matt 18…:
    http://swordofthekingdom.com/2014/03/22/rethinking-matthew-18-part-2-gossip-control/

  24. Stephen – I recently came upon “The Myth of Biblical Manhood” and your website via a Facebook page, and after the first read-through, was quite impressed. The subsequent comments are telling for the reasons expressed above, but I suppose that in a public forum, an author is not going to please everyone. My take-away from “Myth” is that no one should be above constructive criticism or careful observation, and encouraging us to measure all doctrine against Scripture (keeping cultural mores in mind) is a very good thing.

    In the omission of such critical thinking, tragedies such as those having befallen the poor “Gothardites” can all too easily follow. Perhaps too late, but in a nonetheless much needed exposé, the “Recovering Grace” group (http://www.recoveringgrace.org/) has ferreted out the many harms that could have been avoided decades ago, had more questioned the teachings of someone who many revered as near-infallible.

    All things considered (another nod to NPR 🙂 ) I found “Myth” a clever, thought-provoking and nothing less than Holy Spirit inspired read. That said, I’ll be looking for more of your writings, and would like to share them with others. And with all of the flack you take for your well-written pensées, I don’t worry about you developing a big head over my compliment. 😉

    Yours in Him,

    Jerrod

    • Thanks so much for your very kind words and timely warnings, Jerrod. It still blows my tiny mind that so many Christian leaders allow themselves to become cults of personality, something Paul strictly forbid. There is no harm in asking questions about the doctrine and practices of such leaders. It may even save many folks from abuse. Press on!

  25. Thank you so much for writing this – it reminds me of Gungor’s post about Christian music and art industry. I think there is so much more in store for the church – so much glory and so much love. I really hope that as a body, we can move forward and really just love folks more, and love each other better. I hope that voices like you can be a start, even if a lot of times our own community is where the worst backlash comes from. I hope that you will remain encouraged to continue to speak as the Lord leads, and that more will listen and think about their lives and leaders more conscientiously. Thanks again!

  26. The critics here are so angry at you because you’re casting stones at their “gods”; many of these hero celebrity preachers would likely not know Jesus if He walked up and kissed them on the cheeks. Their followers defend them more vigorously than I think they would defend Jesus. It’s because they’re in idolatry. Lord help them.

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