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

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

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

“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

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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356 comments on “The Myth of Biblical Manhood

    • So if i get your viewpoint, you are saying what makes a man isn’t necessarily how are cultural society views it. But if they love God and their neighbor that is what makes a man. I do believe men are naturally more aggressive, and physically rougher, but being tough in the world doesn’t always mean just being a macho guy. I do believe a man does have a responsibility to be a protector of his family and provide and also teach his family moral standards.

      • Exactly. And since men are generally physically stronger than women and kids, they have an obligation to protect the vulnerable. But that is true of anyone, man or woman. All of us is responsible for looking out for those more vulnerable than us. Men and women are different, but let’s not make false biblical standards based on our own cultural milieu, and then holding people to those standards instead of just drawing people toward the character of Christ. That’s all I’m getting at here.

      • In agreement Stephen……
        when we start having these “put it in a box” ideologies without the accurate scriptural backup we are in big trouble. And from what I have been learning is many of the things I had been taught and drilled in (like tithing, etc.) were nothing more than some elite being “control happy”.

      • Loving God and neighbour as yourself is for everyone. How men do that *may* depend on their maleness, or it may not. So many other inputs to this.

        What I find saddening is that – even though our battle isn’t against flesh and body -but against powers/principalities/thoughts that have to be taken captive, we still fight one another. We tell fellow human beings to “go to hell”, when that’s what we’re commissioned to say to Satan and his minions. While men *may* be built to fight, we often fight against one another….

      • Friend . . . (Eric Sun), It is nothing new. Just a quick read over any one of the Epistles and you will see how Paul had to fight the false doctrines and the Pharisees over and over and over. True, we do not decide nor get to judge who goes to hell and who doesn’t. But, there is oft a time for Revolution. I am not saying that this is a revolution but it may be a mini-one. There are hundreds of articles out now on the dangers of Patriarchy. I am sure, when Martin Luther . . . or any one of the Reformers were fighting for truth, that there were PA-LENTY of people who said things like you just said.

  1. “There’s nothing left to pay.” Best tag line I’ve read in a long time. Great post too. You hit creatively what I tried to say about the myth of biblical womanhood/manhood in a more pedestrian fashion. Thanks for nailing this one for us.


  2. Steve,

    I just read your article on manhood. I’ve got a few issues with the Article. I know this is really long, but I have read these men’s works, and came to very different conclusions (all but Phillips).

    First, the article is a caricature. That’s great–it’s a powerful technique when used well. But I don’t believe you painted an accurate picture of the four men, even of Driscoll who goes overboard on things sometimes. Even if we oppose someone’s views, we should communicate them in such a way that the author would agree and say, “Yes, that’s what I believe.” I can’t see any of those guys saying and thinking the things mentioned. I have read several books by each man except Phillips.

    I don’t know what else to call this but false representation. Calvinists do it to Arminians. Free grace people do it to Lordship people. It sucks because people who don’t take the time to read Calvin or Macarthur for themselves have a twisted view of what they think and teach. And after believing a lopsided spin of theology, they reject the teacher.

    Second, I know you are devoted to setting people free from false teaching, especially cult teaching. But I see in this article more than setting people free form captivity. I see what seems like resentment from you toward these men. I don’t know why but it’s what I see. I know you have your past, but be careful you don’t see a cult teaching in every popular preacher.

    I do this myself as soon as I hear someone talk about devotion to Christ. I have this gut reaction inside that says, “Don’t mention legalistic devotion around me! I can smell it a mile away. I used to be the most legalistic person around!” But sometimes people are simply talking about devotion, nothing more. So I have to be careful about my knee-jerk reaction.

    Lastly, I was saddened when I ready your article because those men have greatly ministered to me. Trust me- I used to be the Alpha “I can kick your but!” male. I was that guy. I prided myself on it before I was born again. But I have never gotten that from anyone but Driscoll. But even with him, he explains that a real man is not the tough guy but the guy who loves Jesus and has nothing to prove. I have heard him say that!

    And as for Piper– I have only been blessed by what he writes about manhood, and he addresses the issue of being a stay at home dad or being crippled, etc. He says it’s a heart issue of devotion to God and your family–that you don’t check out mentally. Piper explains that it’s not about our cultural ideas of being “bread winner” or anything like that.

    As for Eldredge, I have wept reading his books. He also explains that a real man is not macho but a man who loves God. And he spends an entire chapter talking about how it’s a heart issue, not some kind of dominant personality. I have experienced such wonderful healing through Wild at Heart because my Dad left when I was four. And when I fell in love with my wife I was terrified that she would leave me. Some days I could not even work because I was too busy weeping in prayer asking God to help me trust her. But God used Wild at Heart to teach me how to deal with that wound and how to trust her. And as John Eldredge wrote about how to be a loving man who gives himself to his wife, I learned how to deal with the wound. I learned how to be a real man–a guy who is vulnerable and tender with his wife.

    Bro, I say all that to say–please reconsider what you wrote. I find it heard to believe that you have read Wild at Heart by Eldredge. I hope I am wrong there. But I don’t see how you could have read his book and then represented him the way you did because I don’t think he would say what you had him say in your article. I can’t say anything about Phillips–I have never read or heard anything from him. I was a surprised at the way you represented Piper too. I read his work on complimentarianism. I don’t believe he would say what you had him say either. As for Driscoll–I listened to his series on manhood and many of his sermons. He’s definitely the “tough guy” type. But he also mentions godly qualities so much that there should not be any confusion. I know this is long, and I am not trying to be harsh. I’m all for calling a spade a spade, but I think this article is an exaggerated representation. Let me know your thoughts on this.


    • Thanks so much for sharing your heart, Grace and Truth. In so many blogs, balance is found in the comments section. I have seen a lot of folks get hurt through the teachings about biblical manhood by each of these four men, but I also realize that God is big enough to also use their writings to help some folks. Thanks for reminding us of that. And it’s true that I built a caricature of each man in the story above. You are right to remind us that this story does not–and should not–color our entire perspective on these men. I wish I could have more ably constructed a perfectly fair and balanced perspective while still conveying my concern with what I consider hurtful and unbiblical teaching. I hope this comment section aids in that endeavor. Thanks again for offering your perspective.

      • Many other comments have dealt with the caricatures of the 4 men as going too far and falsely representing them. I agree but think that your caricature of “Josh”, obviously representing Jesus, goes too far. He is obviously espousing a liberal viewpoint that I don’t believe represents the Jesus we see in the Bible. This betrays your perspective. It has long been a favorite technic of liberals to use satire or sarcasm to further their agenda rather than using reasoning backed up with facts. You do the same here by having Josh throw out ideas without citing any Biblical basis for them. You have Josh being supported by a group of women who travel with him. There is no Biblical support for this; although there certainly were woman around him, Jesus traveled mainly with 12 other men. You have Josh dressing radically different than what is normal in his culture; there is no evidence that Jesus did this. Although I am far more liberal than many on the subject of woman in leadership in the church, perhaps the one idea (among many others) that I found most difficult was that it is fine to have a female pastor. If you examine all the Biblical teachings that may apply, I don’t think you can conclude that it is Biblically OK to have a woman in the top leadership position in a church.

        I am afraid that in attempting to demonstrate that these four men’s teachings on manhood are influenced by culture, which may in part be true, you are guilty of the same in your representation of Jesus as Josh since his viewpoint is easily seen as having a liberal’s cultural influence. If you had Josh represented far more closely to the Jesus we see in the Bible, perhaps you would not have fallen into the same trap of which you attempt to accuse others.

      • Hi Wildcat,

        From my quaint olde worlde English point of view (tongue in cheek), I must say that I think that the women of 2,000 years ago were very different creatures to the women I know today. By that, I mean that they would have had very little opportunity to exercise any spiritual gifts or leadership skills in the culture of then and there. Even as recently as one hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a woman to be in a position of authority over men.

        A lot has happened in the last few decades though! We in the West (at least) have moved considerably towards liberating and emancipating women from the oppression they suffered in the past. And so today we have Prime Ministers, CEO’s and even Astronauts who are women. Pastors too, and soon even Bishops over here (although with some tiptoeing around the Evangelicals). It is utterly incomprehensible to me that we should take specific instructions written into specific situations roughly 2,000 years ago for that culture, (and RIGHT for that culture and time), and say that the teaching must be applied word for word into our culture of today. It would be a bit like using ancient science books or maps today – wouldn’t it?

        There will be many, many parts of the Bible which you yourself will be in direct conflict with, of course. Whether it’s about beards or about food or types of grass…or about women. But nobody seriously expects you to obey rules and laws of this type from thousands of years back, that were put into place to address specific issues then.

        I wish people got as hot under their collars (myself included!) about those areas in the Bible that don’t change over time or across cultures. Things like injustice, poverty, oppression, hopelessness…

        Hope this makes some sense!


      • Women were not culturally as oppressed in N.T. times as people make them out to be. Lydia had her own business and was likely very well off: she was a seller of purple in a town famous for it. Paul mentions Aquilla and Priscilla who labored with him in the church. There are other instances that demonstrate that women had a more pronounced role than many ultra consevatives make them out to having. But on the other side, the Bible also suggests that women should not be in authority over men. Perhaps you can elaborate on what Paul means in I Cor. 14:33-5, or perhaps I Cor. 11:1-16 where the reasons given (because of the order of creation, angels and nature itself) are clearly not cultural reasons. I myself thing that a “symbol of authority” still applies to this day but that the symbol itself may be cultural: perhaps a head covering then and a ring on the finger now. But if you take a serious read of all of scriptural teaching on the role of women in the church, I think, as I stated previously, that you may have a difficult time justifying a woman in the top position of authority in a church. Unfortunaltely, it seems many today identify being “enlightened” with being “liberal”. They are not one and the same. That was basically my complaint about the article: that Josh’s viewpoints are liberal and even less tied to scripture than the four men who were caricatured inaccurately.

    • Grace & Truth,

      I’m so blessed by your testimony. Unfortunately, when I speak to women who’ve read Wild at Heart (for instance), I find that they tend to come away feeling that they shouldn’t fully partner with their husbands. They come away from it believing they need to let their husbands take the reigns of the marriage. I cannot even begin to say how much damage I’ve seen done to families “led” by husbands, where the wife’s wisdom is lost in obedience to his desires. Two make better decisions together than one alone.

      As a woman with three brothers & a strong-willed father, I absolutely love & appreciate men, but my own path to healing has involved acknowledging how many ways our family would have avoided the betrayals that continue to mar my brothers’ relationships with my father, if my mother had truly been my father’s partner, not just his “helper.” When I recognized that, I realized I just couldn’t be a complementarian anymore, not without risking the same damage to my children (among other things, I suffered from an eating disorder & suicidal ideation for years).

      It’s true that this blog post was raw, but as a woman, I was blessed & healed to read it. I cannot read the books these men wrote about “biblical” manhood b/c, as a woman, I always walk away from them feeling totally worthless, & so, so guilty for the passions & talents God blessed me with, b/c they seem like distractions or sins since they really aren’t domestic. In order to save my marriage, I have to stay far, far away from the works of these men, b/c they fill me is self-hatred & self-disgust.

      That doesn’t mean I’m not glad they blessed you, but it does mean that I don’t believe they bless women, even those who think they are blessed by it, b/c I used to be one of those women. But that was back when, though I didn’t realize it, I hated women & myself, b/c I thought we deserved that.

    • graceandtruth,

      I’ve heard Driscoll preach on this, doesn’t seem all that wide of the mark….

  3. I really appreciate the overarching point of this article: That so often, men will interpret “biblical manhood” in their cultural context. It’s easy to forget we live a vast world with varying cultures and definitions of manhood/womanhood. Think about Middle Eastern culture. It’s actually considered “manly” to walk around holding each other’s hands (man to man). Driscoll would have a cow about this. Yet is it wrong? No, it’s a cultural thing. We shouldn’t force our own culture or expectations onto the whole broad spectrum of Christianity and think that our way is the. only. way. Driscoll, Piper, etc., teach a very American version of Christianity.

    I will also add that I read Desiring God, and it did help me in some ways relate to God in deeper ways, although I definitely didn’t agree with some of it. I have also appreciated some of Eldredge’s books. He truly does have a way of helping you look at your wounds and heal. (Driscoll and Phillips–never did find anything truly helpful in their teachings, but I admit I haven’t read any books by them). So although I might not agree with them in some areas, they are imperfect men striving to honor God, and I will respect them for that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Teryn. I absolutely agree that we need to respect these men in all the areas they have so helpfully taught the Word and challenged us. I simply disagree with their emphasis on biblical manhood. I don’t believe such a thing exists. I think Christ-likeness is the goal of both men and women.

    • From what I’ve experienced in life, it’s a matter of degree. I believe there are many facets of what you might call “Biblical manhood” contained within the structure of what would be called “Worldly manhood” but they just get misused. You have to be willfully ignorant to not appreciate the differences between men and women (even just physiologically/biologically) and I think God does give certain roles/callings based on those differences He created. However, when those callings are taken to an extreme to the point where “leading” becomes “dominating or “protecting” becomes “marginalizing” , we’ve taken these amazing selves and differences that God created in us and basically bastardized them to the point where they no longer fit God’s design. I liked your point about hand-holding. I ran an ultra marathon this past summer in South Africa and when I collapsed from exhaustion, another runner, a complete stranger, helped me up and held my hand as a father would a child to help me keep going, something that would be frowned upon in the states. I guess you’ve given me the perfect example of what I meant; we’ve taken the Biblical commandment against homosexual behavior and become condemning of any loving behavior from one man to another as it makes us uncomfortable. In much the same way, we’ve taken the Biblical roles that God laid out and taken them to such extremes that they are sometimes unrecognizable from the way we were designed to be. Just my two cents I guess

      • Here is part of the problem: Taking what we *assume* to be the natural differences between the sexes, and making them proscriptive and creating roles out of them, is not biblical, it’s actually unbiblical.

        I’m always curious how people reconcile the idea that differences between the sexes are “natural”–and yet people must be policed into “roles” based on them. If those differences are universal in each sex, then people would always fall into those roles and always have gifts and talents in keeping with those roles. But the reality is wildly the opposite.

      • Great points. Anything taken to an extreme is dangerous, no matter how well-meaning it starts out. That’s what legalism is all about. It takes a good principle in the Bible and takes it to eh extreme where it becomes restricting, unhealthy, and damaging to those who are so desperately trying to please God by doing every single thing “right.” Thank God for His grace! And yes, I kind of feel sorry for most men in America, because I feel as if they’re held to such strict stereotypes. I don’t know, I’m not a man…so you could speak to that more.

      • Terri,

        We have to be careful about what we mean by “natural”. Our natures, I think, are corrupted by sin. So when we call something “natural” we have to clarify whether we mean before or after the fall, good-human-nature natural or sinful-human-nature natural. If we mean good-human-nature natural, then it would make sense that something could be “natural” and yet require help to cultivate. I’m not sure whether roles fit this category or not. But the fact that they require help doesn’t by itself mean they aren’t natural.


  4. Steve, I appreciate most of your posts here that I have read, and was very interested to read this one. But after reading it I was left a little disappointed. I understand the criticism you wish to make here, but “Enlightened Jesus” with peace symbols on his clothing and troubled by culture-specific messages is no more Jesus than “Red-blooded American Jesus” is Jesus. Honestly, your portrayal of Jesus -tweaking the nose of Christian leaders who despite laboring to teach a biblical picture of manhood in a time and culture that desperately needs it have apparently committed the greater failure of lacking a sufficiently enlightened perspective, and suggesting we all go listen to the (female, he not so subtly includes) pastor down the street- is as limited and American as the attitudes you seek to criticize.

    Perhaps it would have been better to use Jesus’ own actual words to point out their errors as you see them, rather than creating a portrayal of Him who ironically chides Piper for “[constructing] your own definition of manhood and womanhood based on your cultural background and personal preferences” rather than using scripture, while himself being your own analogy of Jesus constructed from your own cultural background and personal preferences, and not using any scripture either.

    Please don’t take this as a personal attack. But If you are going to be bold enough to accuse leaders in the American ‘Christian manliness’ movement of deviating from scripture, (and I don’t see how Jesus who had no family being supported by other people in His public ministry diminishes the truth of Paul’s words in 1 Tim 5:8 to the vast majority of men who do have families, to name one example) please back up your accusations with scripture.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments, as always, Joseph. You’ve got some good points. I am no more culturally-unencumbered than any of these Christian leaders. We all write from someplace unique–our own culture, our own worldview, our own experiences. I wrote a story and not a doctrinal piece because I think it more accurately portrays the results of these mindsets and teachings. I have seen and heard hundreds of people hurt–yes, even abused–by people who tried to mandate certain roles on them which they called “biblical.” I don’t see it. I’ve taken the classes and read the books, and I think the Bible says something very different. That’s what I was trying to convey. And yes, that’s why Josh was going to visit a church with a woman pastor. After much careful study, I believe the Bible teaches Spirit-gifting and not gender roles in ministry. That puts me at odds with a good chunk of conservative evangelicalism. I’m okay with that.

    • Christian leaders who despite laboring to teach a biblical picture of manhood in a time and culture that desperately needs it have apparently committed the greater failure
      I’m gonna disagree with this premise, since it undergirds the idea that these men should be appreciated for their work, even if it has caused harm.

      Our time and culture do not need a biblical picture of manhood – certainly not the way these 4 men have taught that concept. Biblical manhood would be a man who loves and cares for each member of his family, pours himself out in service, is not selfish, is not hooked on pornography, and is not seeking to dominate.

      But that’s not what these 4 men dish out. Instead we are treated to Piper’s horrendous ideas about domestic violence (that women should take those “slaps”, that divorce is never permitted) – to Driscoll’s absolute obsession with porn, to the point of turning the Song of Solomon into a command for blow jobs – to Phillips creepy demands that daughters not work, or be educated, or choose their own husband.

      These men teach bondage and opression of women, period. That is not Christ. That is not manhood. That is not biblical.

  5. Totally brilliant 😀

  6. I understand, at this point I am willing to agree to disagree on that, my experience has been that no matter how carefully one investigates the verses, one’s perception of biblical gender roles is inextricably linked to the worldview with which one approaches and interprets scripture, so it’s not generally productive to debate the issue. (This is obviously true in general, but for something as emotionally charged as the gender issue, it seems especially true)

    But I was convicted after posting my comment above that in doing so I have followed the typical pattern of only commenting when I disagree about something, which I dislike as a practice. So I’ll try to comment on some other posts as well when I agree.

    • You’re a good egg, Joseph. Yes, I think we each need to hold to what we believe scripture says, while giving grace to others who have come to their own conclusions based on their interpretation of the same scriptures. As Luther said, we hold to our conscience and the Word of God. And you’re right, we all are products of our experience. Well said. I always appreciate your comments. Don’t worry about not commenting on stuff you agree on. We all do the same thing =)

  7. that was a fun read, Steve! Especially having Driscoll ordering two Buds.

    i’m not a fan of any of those men—however, from my reading of the Book, your Josh is no Jesus either. For our Master would never violate his own Word.

    So this is what the Apostle Peter wrote in his inspired letters to the faithful elect who are “sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Christ.” He writes, “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Pet 3:1-2; cf, 2 Tim 3:16).

    And Peter ends his second letter by drawing our attention to the “wisdom given to Paul” for the writing of our Holy Scriptures. He says, “There are some things in Paul’s letters that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Pet 3:16-17).

    Here are two Scriptural directives most pertinent to your post—1 Peter 4:10-11 and 1 Timothy 2:12

    As each one has received a gift, minster it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies” (1 Pet 4:10-11).


    I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12).

    Personally, I believe Piper and his CBMW friends have gotten it wrong about women not being Biblically permitted to pastor. Why? For their wrongfully conflating the role of pastor to that of an overseer.

    This is how I see it: just as God has gifted, called and empowered certain men to pastor and teach, so too has he gifted, called and empowered certain women to do the same. So there are women with pastoring and teaching gifts who are not violating the directives of Scripture in the carrying out of their ministries; and there are women with these same gifts who are in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12.

    I should note that by nature of how God has created me, I’ve been, in some form or fashion, pastoring and teaching most of my life. Essentially, it is who I am—it’s what I’ve been created to do and be. Still (and this underscores a most crucial point): I’ve never been an elder of a church. One can still pastor and teach without necessarily being an overseer.

    Yes, CBMW does recognize that some women have been divinely gifted as teachers for the teaching of other women. Ok, so why haven’t they also recognized that some of these same women have also been divinely gifted as pastors for the shepherding of other women? Or perhaps they have recognized this but covet too much the title of pastor for themselves? I don’t know. I think it’s a little more convoluted than that.

    So I believe God intends for there to be a recognition of pastoral gifts and callings to women in the body of Christ. However, and with all such spiritual realities—the nature and scope of every ecclesiastical authority must be defined and constrained by the Word of God.

    Because I see a clear Scriptural prohibition against women being overseers (or pastors or teachers of men in the context of the gathered church), I consider your Josh to be supporting a rebellion against the Most High God within the church!

    From a confidence arising out of years of study I claim the lines are clearly drawn in the Word of God on this.

    And, Steve, as I boldly assert as much, I still want to remain humble and teachable and open to correction by the Book. O am I so happy for correction where correction is needed. So, I’d be happy to engage you, my friend and brother, in a dialogue toward the two of us arriving at some sort of Biblical consensus on this. I think it would be fun, and I (above anyone else, I imagine) would learn the most. I’m really needing someone with some insight to help sharpen my iron on this.

    Again, it is with a certain grounded confidence that I’m asserting your Josh to be no Jesus for supporting a violation of the Word of Christ.


    • David, I so appreciate your comment! I know that you are captive to the Word of God, and I respect your lifetime of study and experience. Since I, too, have biblical reasons for my assertion, I’d love to send you the thesis paper I wrote on the subject for a class at Dallas Seminary. It delves into the Greek and all that good stuff. While I don’t have the hubris to think that I am anymore of an expert on the topic than anyone else, I do have confidence in what I believe from scripture, as do you.

      More than anything, I’ve learned after taking a class on “The Role of Women in Ministry” that there is a spectrum of belief here, and I respect the difference of opinion in others so long as they believe as they do from Scripture. So what do you say? How ’bout I send you that paper, and we can sharpen each other. I’d love to hear more of your reasoning, and I’m sure you’ll be able to poke holes in certain of my arguments.

      Many blessings, Steve

    • I would note that in the first Timothy passage you cite Paul uses the personal pronoun, that he, Paul, the former Pharisee, permits no woman to teach or have authority over a man. But Jesus taught that none of us should have authority over another. And so is this directive of Christ or is it of Paul, since he used the personal pronoun.

      • Hi, An Attorney. I’d say—both. The directives of Paul, here, are the directives of Christ for his church. Teaching is an authoritative act that women are not to exercise toward men. I quoted 2 Pet 3:1-2 above in anticipation of this concern.

      • Of course, we men know that this teaching is given to reflect the fact that it’s only because we men would find it too difficult to listen to the advice or guidance or leading of a ‘mere woman’!

    • I would love to read your thesis paper if you don’t mind sending me a copy too?

      I accept the criticism of the article about not accurately portraying the people etc but nevertheless I really appreciated the article as in my opinion it is a really serious issue that needs to be addressed. I work with abused women and I see the problems of male dominance in our society and the church isn’t free from that and we need to be careful. I just hope and pray that the four men read it (and all the comments). Great job!

  8. Hey, Steve. Do you really think Driscoll is that homophobic or that Piper is that anti-Pentecostal? Your descriptions seem pretty far from the Driscoll and Piper that I know. And then I think it’s pretty clear from Eldredge’s book that the “beauty to rescue” need not be a romantic interest. Just yesterday I stopped at a Burger King and used my “two chicken sandwiches and two fries for $4.99” coupon, not because I thought I could eat that much but because one chicken sandwich and one fry would have cost me more. I left wondering what I was going to do with the second chicken sandwich and only thought about it after I was driving away that I should have given it to the lady in line before me who was there with her two crying kids. I kicked myself for not thinking of it at the time. Now that I think about it, I think that would have been an Eldredge thing to do that … having nothing to do with whether I am called to singleness or crippled or whatever it may be. I guess I just don’t see the Piper, Driscoll, and Eldredge described here as the ones I’ve benefited from in learning how to be like Christ. (I don’t know anything about Doug Phillips.)

    • Let me push harder: Not only do I think Piper is not “that anti-Pentecostal,” I don’t see him as anti-Pentecostal at all. And the same thing wtih Driscoll and homophobia. (Admittedly I’ve followed Piper much more closely than Driscoll, so I could be mistaken here.)

      • Hi David! Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment. By resorting to story and of necessity creating caricatures in such a brief span of time, I lose a lot of the nuance and balance of a longer portrait. I’m not sure if Piper is that anti-Pentecostal. I know that many of his followers are. I do believe Driscoll is that homophobic, but that’s not the main point of the post. The purpose is to explain why four different “biblical manhood” systems are flawed, because the Bible never speaks of biblical manhood or womanhood. Instead, the New Testament draws us toward Christ-likeness.

        I am not trying to tear these four men apart (though I think Driscoll often tears himself apart on his own), but rather to point out what I perceive to be an error which has hurt thousands of people. We could obviously drill through the whole story to analyze if every word and action is exactly what each man would do, but I don’t claim that it is, and that’s not the point of story (as opposed to doctrine). I’ve experienced each man for almost 10 years, and have my perceptions of them. Others may have other perceptions, and that’s valid. They can write their own posts. For what it’s worth, I have benefited from both Piper and Eldredge, and I used to be a huge fan of Doug Phillips. Driscoll, I’m afraid, is like stinky tofu to me: I try and I try, but I just can’t like him. Too crass and intentionally offensive for me.

        I hope everyone who reads this story notes that I don’t question the salvation of these men or that some of the things they teach (more for some than for others) have value. Of course they do. But in this area–so-called biblical manhood–I think they are teaching personal myths as doctrine. And it hurts people.

        Thanks for making me nuance better, as always.

    • You’re right about Piper not being anti-Pentecostal. He’s no MacArthur on that, and has gone on record saying that he prays periodically for the gift of tongues. However, Driscoll is most definitely homophobic. A friend of mine (straight with fairly traditional views on sexuality, I might add) once went to a men’s retreat where they were showing video of a Driscoll sermon on homosexuality, and afterwards he told me “You know, if I were gay I think I would have wanted to kill myself after watching that. He just kept saying ‘you’re a joke!’ over and over again.”

  9. I’m really happy about this article because at the very least it gets the dialogue going about the concept of “biblical manhood” (and “biblical womanhood,” for that matter). It makes us question, perhaps for the first time, if the Bible really calls us to strive towards an image of an ideal biblical man or an ideal biblical woman. In my opinion, if you are a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you are a woman. Plain and simple. Don’t stress about it.

    I used to stress about it, a lot actually … in fact, it consumed me and made me feel like a misfit all my life. You see, as a Christian female, I didn’t fit into the mold of the “biblical woman” painted by some of these authors (quiet, submissive, always letting the man take the initiative). Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a leader-pioneer-visionary-teacher-preacher-type. In fact, the more I matured as a believer and the more that I loved people and Jesus deeply, the more these gifts came out! Was I to suppress them in lieu of “biblical womanhood”? Or constantly be concerned about how I might “dominate” a man if I utilized my gifting in his presence? Would that truly give God greater glory? No. I came to peace when I decided that “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” (Rom 12:6) and we are stewards of them and must use them. Of course, I don’t go out looking to offend my brothers in Christ. If they have the view of “biblical manhood/womanhood,” I put 1 Cor 8:9 into practice and avoid becoming a stumbling block to them (though I may try to challenge their interpretation of Scripture a little bit, respectfully of course).

    Likewise, I also have met quite a few men who stress about attaining “biblical manhood.” It makes them fearful and uptight around women. They are insecure – constantly comparing themselves to other men or the certain ideal of a man they have been taught. It causes them to doubt themselves constantly — especially if they don’t naturally fit the bill. Perhaps God made him a follower-servant type, mild and meek, and he has no desire to be a leader. Perhaps his girlfriend moved ahead of him and initiated the DTR (define-the-relationship talk) or asked him out first instead … Yikes, she just stole his manhood away.

    I agree with Steve. Focus on Christ and He’ll make you into the unique man or woman you are supposed to be … with your unique set of gifts, personality traits, ministry skills, etc. In Christ, as you love, serve, protect, and provide … you can’t help but to do all these things in a manly way or a womanly way because you are what you are.

  10. Slept on it. Woke up and wanted to nuance my response a little more. No doubt, the idea of biblical manhood that these authors uphold may resonate with some (or even most) men and challenge them in a positive way. However, just because it resonates with you does not mean that the whole ideology is biblical. There may be other reasons it resonates with you, or perhaps there are aspects of truth in it. You must be willing to take it apart and not blindly or simplistically accept the whole theology. As Christians, we must critically assess the whole system of ideology/theology against Scripture (do a thorough biblical study on manhood, husbands, etc.) and humbly understand that many factors/assumptions influence our individual interpretations of Scripture:
    1. Personality – What in my personality makes me drawn to this interpretation? Does this ideology embrace and affirm all personalities of men?
    2. Gifting – Does this ideology factor in the different types of gifting that God may place in men?
    3. Culture – Is this ideology truly trans-cultural or supra-cultural, as biblical principles should be? What cultural background (cultural blindness) may have influenced each author’s interpretation of manhood?
    4. Brokenness/sin – What baggage, brokenness, sin, insecurities, or personal/family background may have influenced your interpretation and each author’s interpretation of manhood?
    5. Finally, is this theology livable? Does it result in fruitfulness in your life and in others’ lives (love, joy, peace, patience, ….)? Are you motivated by love? Or does it produce more fear, insecurity, and confusion in you?

  11. Stephen, from which Eldredge book are you generating his role in this conversation? it can’t be “Fathered By God.” He’s totally changed his teaching since Wild At Heart (2001). Did you know this?

    • Anthony, I was taking his philosophy from “Wild at Heart.” I’m interested to know he has changed his teaching. What would you say are some of the main differences between his views of manhood in 2001 and his views today? This would be great to know–thanks for adding your voice and bringing this up.

      • Eldredge has substantially changed his approach. It’s quite unfair to Eldredge and high uncharitable to him to judge his views on masculinity, which BTW he would never call “Biblical Masculinity,” on a book written 12 years ago when he has written 2 books since on masculinity that are very different. The fact that you have NOT read either one of those really discredits your inclusion on him in this narrative. It’s lacking of much grace and is highly unfortunate. Eldredge took many of the criticisms of 12 years ago to heart and you unfairly misrepresent him here in ways that should take you much less seriously. I’m not sure how you justify critiquing him when you seem to have only read what he wrote 12 years and are not current on Eldredge on his own development. I hope that no one treats you that way. It seems, however, that this what Christians do to each other without a conscious.

      • I would like to, very quickly, address those who say that Eldridge has softened his position and changed his stance since Wild at Heart. When I was given the book to read, it just so happened to be the 10th anniversary “revised and expanded” version. In this version Eldridge reflects on the book and its legacy and talks about whether he still believes what he wrote ten years prior in the preface (this was 2011 mind you, a mere 2 years ago, not 12). The following is a direct quote found on page xii:

        “It is ten years since I wrote Wild at Heart. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. My boys are off to college now. The lines in my face have deepened. I’ve logged a lot of miles with men in this time. I have more than a few new scars. Would I still believe what I wrote? Would it have proven true in the ten rugged years since I set these tough thoughts down?

        “The answer is — more so.

        “It is actually truer, if such a thing can be, far truer than I knew as a younger man. It rings eternal, and universal. God was in it then, he is in it still.”

        First of all, I was holding my tongue on this because I’m not one to get involved in arguments of these kind. But given the level of vitriol that many are slinging towards Stephen, especially in regards to Eldridge, I thought it necessary to say something.

        Secondly, if you read the quote above Eldridge does not seem, as recently as two years ago, to have softened his stance on what he said in Wild at Heart at all. Also, as Stephen pointed out about each of the men he chose to caricature, he chose the phrase ” biblical manhood” because they view their system as universally true, something you have now all had the chance to read in Eldridge own words.

        I know this will now be the end of the discussion, and honestly it should not be. But these men are not above reproach, they are human. Stephen is not attacking people, he is attempting to start a conversation about an increasingly prevalent and extremely dangerous set of ideologies. And to that extent, whether you like his approach or not, the fact that any of us are posting here means he succeeded.

      • I did notice that Introduction when I went to the library yesterday to pick up some Eldredge books, including the revised version of “Wild at Heart.” I figured the Intro would be the logical place to find any changes in his understanding of manhood. I wonder if those who are defending Eldredge’s position are referring more to the other books he has written, rather than his revised “Wild at Heart”? But it seems like more than a few are under the mistaken impression that Eldredge has softened or moderated his initial views from 2001. This helps to clarify. Thanks Nate!

      • Hi Anthony, I think Nate Sparks makes a comment that clarifies this. I just read the Intro in the 2010 version of “Wild at Heart” and Eldredge does seem more certain than ever that the 2001 version was God’s eternal truth. Now, whether folks think that the original version was flawed or not is subject to much discussion, but whether Eldredge changed his thinking in “Wild at Heart” doesn’t seem any longer up for dispute.

        That said, I have picked up “Beautiful Outlaw” from the library, and will try to skim some of Eldredge’s other works. I couldn’t agree more with you that people (and authors are just people, after all) change and grow over time and that we should better judge them on their progress and their whole corpus of work and not just on a single book that they wrote in the past. For example, I would not want someone to judge me entirely by this single post. I regret that I did not get up to speed on Eldredge so that I could best represent his views. Thanks for reminding me of the need for fairness.

  12. One little push back – Piper is absolutely NOT a cessationist; Many of his followers are, yes, but he speaks against this pretty regularly. i.e. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/signs-and-wonders-then-and-now

    Now I’m going to go sulk because someone made me feel it was necessary to defend Piper. haha

    • Good clarification–thanks Jeremy! I hate it when I get my facts wrong. I keep trying to tell people that I have benefited from some of Piper’s writings, but many folks think that when we call out a particular teaching of a pastor we reject that person entirely. I don’t. And I regret that I mischaracterized Piper in this particular regard. Anyway, thanks for this helpful comment =)

  13. I get that this is caricature, and there’s some room for hyperbole in pieces like this. But even allowing for a certain level of exaggeration that comes with that territory, I think you have done Eldredge a real disservice, and have represented his views very inaccurately, nearly to the point of slander. It’s like you read Wild at Heart, had red flags for certain parts, and then ignored where he took the time to explain what he did NOT mean, and believed what you wanted to believe about this author’s message. This post saddens me.

    • Thanks for your commment, James. I can see from the replies that folks are mostly disturbed with how I have characterized Eldredge and Piper. There is room for disagreement here, and I don’t expect Eldredge or Piper fans–folks who have really benefited from these men in deep ways–to love this post. But I hope that y’all can hear that there are thousands of people who are just as hurt and saddened as a result of these manhood systems as there are folks who are saddened that I’ve taken Piper and Eldredge to task. There is plenty of pain to go around here, and it shouldn’t be that way. Not in the Body of Christ.

      What I am trying to convey is not dislike for these Christian leaders, but disagreement with their construction of myths of what it means to be a biblical man. Each man has created a system of what they describe as biblical manhood, and in each case the system looks an awful lot like the man who created it. Fair enough. But then to convey the idea that all men–or most men–should look this way, and to call it “biblical,” as if it were God’s mandate, that’s what hurts people. That’s what has hurt me and dozens of other men I know. And the reverse is also true: these caricatures of men have their commensurate caricatures of women.

      I’d love to hear more details about how Eldredge has moderated his views. I read his book carefully and took notes, and I found some of his ideas appealing. But I walked away from the book–the totality of it–feeling sad and inferior and less manly. This post is not a knee-jerk reaction to it. I’ve been sitting on these feelings and ideas for over ten years.

      All that said, I respect your viewpoint, James, and am glad you commented. I guess I can’t say enough that I do not wish to impugn the character or ministries of Piper and Eldredge, but rather to say that in this major area that they have focused on, I think they have created myths of biblical manhood.

      • I’m saying that you apparently read Wild at Heart and interpreted several things differently than intended. He says “every man wants to rescue the beauty” and you respond with “what if he wants to remain single?”. If Eldredge had said that only married men or dads could rescue a beauty, then that would be a fairly valid point. But he never said that, never implied it, and in fact, clarified that this desire could be fulfilled in many ways.
        He also said that men, in general, would have these three desires (battle to fight, adventure to live), but that it was a general statement about men. There are always exceptions, because God made us individuals. You should give an author the freedom to make a point without having to say, every time, that somewhere, among the world’s 3 billion males, there might be an exception. That’s like saying that an anatomy book shouldn’t state that humans have 2 kidneys, because a few people only have one.
        As far as your statement in this comment about reading WAH and feeling less manly, it sounds like you didn’t read the whole thing. He very clearly said that God’s calling on men will be very different, and in one heartbreaking story, he said the “manly men” who were intimidating the younger brother/son because he wanted to play music rather than play football, that they (the brothers and father) were wrong, and caused a great wound in the young man because he didn’t fit into their stereotype. He used this story to communicate the truth that God had a calling on this man’s life, and it was affected negatively because of the “manly men”, and the world had one less talented musician because of it (he chose to never play the piano again).
        Anyone who criticizes WAH by saying they felt pressure to be a certain kind of man clearly didn’t read that story, or completely missed the point.

        Just as important, if you read “Beautiful Outlaw” you’d see that Eldredge portrays Jesus as very similar to the Josh character in the story. He is kind, funny, compassionate, and many things you seem to think Eldredge doesn’t think He is.

      • In other words, you are entitled to disagree with Eldredge, Piper, Driscoll, or Phillips. But to mischaracterize what one of those authors said is just uncalled for. It is a demonstration that you cannot slam the author based on facts, so you have to do some twisting. In doing so, you lose credibility.

      • I just realized that some of my comments are under the name middletree, and some are under James Williams. Not sure why. One and the same.

  14. Stephen, YOU FREAKIN’ ROCK!

    Thanks for posting this! At this moment in time, I’m comfortable being Single, and God has been bringing SEVERAL things to my attention off of which I’ve based my masculinity. Social norms, if there even are any, have done more damage to masculine identity than anything else on the planet (other than our beliefs in them and the continuous production of authors touting their masculinity, based on their own history). Things by which I’ve gauged whether I’m man enough or not have contributed to lies I’ve believed for years to which Jesus has been responding with HIS truth, wisdom and perception. I was looking for the words to accurately describe this process, and you hit the nail on the head…”The Myth of Biblical Manhood” and conforming our identities to that of Christ. Because, the moment I start looking at people for an accurate picture of what I’m supposed to be will quickly lead me down a VERY destructive path.

    I’ve read some of these authors, and the one thing I’ve arrived at is that there is no better icon for Biblical Masculinity/Manhood than the personage of Jesus. After years of “trying to measure up”, Jesus revealed HIS identity to me as the one I should emulate and to which I should draw ever closer. As I’ve sought Him more, He’s done the transformation work for me and healed me of countless wounds of rejection, insults, rumors, doubt and people-pleasing.

    You want to know the funniest thing? I’ve always tried to live up to others’ views of masculinity/manhood, and it never worked. Ever since I accepted Christ as my new Identity, the Pastor at my church has asked me to lead a Men’s Group/Ministry! Think about it…the one who had the most trouble “fitting in” to the societal view of Manhood is now the same guy who was healed and has been chosen to lead other men in the same process!!!

    “All things work together…”

    Respectfully and with Brotherly Love,


    • This makes me happy, Bryan =) Thanks for sharing. And thanks for speaking out about the damage that trying to fit someone else’s definition of manhood did. That’s what I was trying to get at with this post. Well said, brother.

  15. Hey Stephen check this out! This is a wonderful talk and admonition! I wish this was broadcast all over the churches today!
    [audio src="http://www.thegodjourney.com/audio/2013/131108h.mp3" /]

    • Thanks Faith! I will try to check this out when I get a few minutes. I always appreciate the things you say and the resources you help provide. Blessings to you.

    • Faith, I’m only five minutes into listening to this and I must say: Wayne Jacobsen is knocking ball after ball straight out of the park! The man’s certainly bringing us home with this! It’s good stuff he’s sharing. Just want to register my thanks, and also, right now he’s beginning to talk about what may very well be the most misunderstood scripture abusers twist and leverage against those they’re assuming to rule—Hebrews 13:17.

      Fwiw, this Summer I exegeted Heb 13:17a, and posted the research at SpAu. I’m going to guess (already at the five minute mark) that Jacobsen and I see eye to eye on this issue (if not I’ll get back to you). And he’s already giving me fresh language and images to make descriptive sense of some of the abusive dynamics occurring in God’s name. Thanks for the link, t4h!


      • Hey David, can you send me your Heb. 13:17 exegesis? I’d love to see it. Unless you already sent it to me, in which case I have early onset =( My tiny brain gets so lost sometimes….

      • Faith, It’s in my link above nestled within a conversation I had with Amos concerning “Biblical Leadership.” We cover a lot of ground there in a relatively short space of time. Again, I’m loving this guy! He’s GOOD.

  16. Best Line = “it’s kind of a caricature based on your own backgrounds and cultural milieus”
    I’m not sure what it is about the typical Southern ‘Bubba’ Preacher, but…
    What’s that? This Saturday? You want me to leave this lovely woman and the kids at home so that I can go sit with you in a box to peg a bird with a bullet? Uh…. No. I’m good. I’m taking the family to Six Flags.
    What’s that? Oh, the “Men’s Conference”? Tell me more…. “Porn is bad, love your wife, spend time with the kids, and …don’t look at porn. The first day’s agenda is yell, yell, yell & the last thing we do before we leave is cry & hug each other. Wanna come?” Uuuuuuhhhhh….. Nah. We’re gonna go up to Hobby Lobby and I’m gonna make the most bad a__ boat for Christopher Columbus that a 2nd grader has ever seen. But y’all have fun.

    Geeze Louise – it’s like the people mentioned in the article and a TON of other preachers can’t quite wrap their mind around the concept that a lot of men really DO GET the concept of a Biblical Definition of Masculinity – and we’re tired of the ‘pigeon holed’ “help” that comes from the typical Southern ‘Bubba’ mentality.

    …i should start a blog.

  17. oops, I meant Steve! thought I was answering Faith…

  18. There isn’t a hint of biblical manliness in the way the writing of this articles was approached at all.. I hope you weren’t trying to create the model..

  19. This article has hypocrite written all over it.

    • Well, Steve, I sure hope you’ve had your flame suit on with some of these comments. It’s a great article. Too bad some are missing the point. Tweeted and Facebooked (how do you like them verbs) 🙂

      • Thanks Julie Anne =) I hope that after getting over their initial outrage, the folks who seem most miffed can understand that these man-made systems have hurt thousands of people. Regardless of how much the system worked for them.

  20. David and Stephen – thanks……I happen to pick this up over at PPT (paulspassingthoughts).
    David, the Lord bless you brother- good to see you around the web!

  21. Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed the style and approach. the best things about fiction is you get to be a little more creative. As I was reading I made a connection that I hadn’t thought of before. Albert Schweitzer wrote a book over a hundred years ago called “The quest of the Historical Jesus”, which basically pointed out that all the pictures of what Jesus was about were really people projecting there own ideas back onto him. I can’t help but wonder what people will say about us 200-300 years from now? What will be seen as cultural and what will be seen as biblical? I suppose for me, the hardest part of following Jesus are the bits that don’t fit what I like or think. As your article pointed out, Jesus was single. Anyway thanks for your thoughts it was a fun way to get me thinking in a new direction.

  22. Yai Boi

    My Freedom in Christ does not include mandates, but it does include “love for one anothers”

  23. Who is the protector of the vulnerable man? Another man? Or it is unmanly to be vulnerable? We are still missing the point. The real identity of biblical manhood is to be a man who leans wholly on God because he realizes that he is weak, vulnerable and needs protection himself.

  24. Hey Stephen. I was brought here by a blogger friend of mine who posted your article. Thanks for taking the time to engage with the topic, but sad to see that you do what so many have already done, (admittedly) caricature the positions of one side. It’s sad to me when either side does this (primarily b/c they are talking about family in the faith), and it’s simply not helpful. I’m not saying not to take a hard stance on an issue, or even contend for it. Just do it in a way that helps bring clarity (which will require more than caricatures of brothers and their arguments). People berate the men you talk about for berating men/women. In the end simply doing the same thing they accuse these men of doing, all the while just throwing more fuel on the fire of this debate. It doesn’t help advance much, but sure creates lots more smoke to try and see through.

    • Thanks for your comment, Billy. I guess I’ve learned something from all of this in terms of technique. If I were to write the post again, I would probably create four personalities who exemplify the systems without the exact name association.

      I’m sad that people are missing the main point of the article. I had hoped that folks would understand it is fiction and walk away thinking about the issues involved. Maybe they still can. To the extent that they can’t, I guess I need to own partial responsibility for creating an unnecessary stumbling block. But I also think a lot of folks rush to the aid of [insert name of your favorite Christian author or pastor] and tend to pooh-pooh the pain expressed by thousands of folks who may have been hurt by a specific teaching of that person.

      It’s the systems I am trying to expose, not the men. I’d love for folks to engage with the main point of this article: these systems are man-made and to universalize them is to damage thousands of men who don’t fit the image of the system.

      • Thanks for naming the names.

        You said in one of your replies above: “I have seen a lot of folks get hurt through the teachings about biblical manhood by each of these four men…”

        If you are a wounded one, just hearing that someone is willing to stand and call out the name of your abuser gives you hope that someone cares. There is too much silence. Too much “sweeping under the rug.” To little naming names. Too little courage. The truly biblical man or woman will not remain silent in the face of injustice. And thank God you have the inner strength to speak out on behalf of those whose voices, and spirits, have been crushed.

  25. Stephen
    I can tell you this – all you had said was done in love and honesty. I don’t see any berating done here, but admonition. The Bible is quite clear about being a Berean and finding out what is true or not- and the American system of Christianity is sorely lacking in love. Really God does not need our systems or dogmas, He needs us just to focus on the two…….and we know what those are – “Love God, love others”. When we take care of these two, the rest falls into place because the Holy Spirit works out the sanctification of the believer.

    Those who comment here- i hope you read the rest of Stephens articles. You won’t find a more humble blog. 🙂

  26. I know Eldredge, so I’m very surprised to see you talk about him this way here. Whenever I’ve talked with him, he was always respectful and compassionate. Not religious at all.

    I haven’t met the other 3, but I don’t agree with really anything they teach/preach, the other 3 (not Eldredge) seem to be afraid of women.

    Have you read “Beautiful Outlaw” or Stasi Eldredge’s “Becoming Myself” I think you might have a different view on him if you did.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jamie. It seems that I have to get more up to speed on Eldredge these days. You join a large group of people in thinking that I have characterized him unfairly. It seems I may have, though I still believe that “Wild at Heart” — while many men obviously have found it inspiring — created a mythical standard which thousands of other men found discouraging and/or hurtful. I am willing to listen to those who say that Eldredge is more balanced than I once thought. I simply ask that those same folks listen to the thousands of men who say that they have been hurt by his initial writings. Again, I speak of the system and not the man.

  27. Reblogged this on theophiluspunk and commented:

  28. Your well-written piece has certainly generated a lot of comment in response, which I think is a sure sign that you have demonstrated excellent qualities of communication.

    I feel that, in view of the important and complex points you are trying to make, the tool of caricaturisation (sorry about the use of ‘s’ instead of ‘z’, but I am from the UK and the English language belongs to us!!! (joke)) is perfectly acceptable. Otherwise, a weighty treatise would be required.

    Not being from the States, I am somewhat unfamiliar with your way of “being Christian”, and I have not heard of any of your protagonists other than Eldredge and his “Wild at Heart”. I have read other American writers, of course, including Ortberg and Warren. As a (admittedly reluctant) European and someone who learned a fair bit about the rest of the world at school (although mainly for the regrettable fact that Britain colonised most of it), it does always grate with me that your writers appear completely unaware of the fact that America represents a very small (and shrinking) part of the Church worldwide. In other words, your authors and teachers seem to view God as belonging to the USA, if not maybe even an American Himself.

    There is no question in the mind of any foreign believer who visits your country that your way of being Christian is incredibly coloured (ignore the ‘u’) by your culture. For example, ‘Bigger is Better’ (you have invented the Mega Church), ‘Greed is Good’ (you view wealth and prosperity as sure signs of God’s blessing), and you are judgemental (sinners are damned, and deserve what is coming to them). Who will ever forget the sickening spectacle of television evangelists weeping crocodile tears of simulated repentance in front of millions of enthralled viewers?

    Mega churches, highly paid ministers and celebrity believers? The world does not need this version of salvation, believe me. It is as bad, in its way as the Prosperity Gospel peddled by many, especially in Africa.

    Real church is tiny, or so I have come to believe. Real church is about not shrinking away from the smelly old man who plonks himself in the seat next to you, and who is only at the service for the free cups of tea and a slice of cake and some biscuits. Real church is about putting up with the sudden outburst of angry swearing and shouting from one of the groups at another table. Real church is about turning away nobody – however shabbily dressed, listening to everyone – even though their English is almost non-existent. Real church is where the minister continues to teach or preach above the hubbub of conversation or the constant wandering from table to table.

    I suppose I am saying that if today’s followers of Jesus are taking the time to agonise over what it means to be manly, are spending their time and money on these books, are praying earnestly about these ‘issues’, then those followers are more like the Pharisees and less like the fishermen. Religion is being observed, followed and worshipped. Our faith must surely result in more than intellectual discussion and the construction of doctrines by which we can live.

    I read about the late John Stott being interviewed on American radio many years ago. The presenter (whose name escapes me) said to him with great respect, “So, John Stott – Doctor of Theology; Rector Emeritus for life of All Souls Church, London; Chaplain to the Queen of England; author of many best selling books both theological and spiritual – what do you see as being the next step for you, what is your next goal in life?”

    Stott’s answer must surely be every man’s (and woman’s) aim. He paused briefly before replying, “To become more like Jesus”.

    Jon W

    • Beautifully stated, Jon W. Thanks for lending some much-needed non-American perspective. I’d love to hear more. Any other writings of yours I could take a peek at?

      Stott’s answer to the radio interviewer is exactly what I hoped folks would take away as the main point of this post. I’m so glad it is now in the comments. A true honour (I added a “u” just for you) to make your acquaintance, sir.

    • Jon, you’re right, that is part of the problem–they have created God in their own (white male 21st-century American) image, some of them more literally than others. And since in their minds God is male, they’ve “created women” out of whole cloth out of their own desires and imaginations. The results have been heartache and devastation in so many lives. I appreciate that some have been blessed by what they have said, but as a woman, sadly that has not been my experience with their works, or their followers, at all.

    • Jon
      I really do appreciate your “foreign” perspective regarding Christianity – you are so exactly right. Thank for you for making yourself known here and giving your insight, which is much needed. We in America DO tend to think we have “got the market” on the right and perfect Christian life. So totally untrue! This is what I love about the internet because we are hearing from those worldwide. We could learn a few things from our brothers and sisters abroad! 🙂

    • Jon
      I so appreciate your insight here- you are so right about the American church as it stands today. Now I do love my country and there are wonderful things about this country that our Founding Fathers set forth and that was the belief that all men are created equal and can in freedom go after their dreams.
      But sadly we have become pompous and arrogant, thinking we have the answer to the Christian life. We have lost that ability to look at all people as created by our Heavenly Father and treat them with respect and love. I am ashamed at how we have bombarded the rest of the world with false teachings of health and wealth teachings, teachings of eldership and pastor authority over believers, and also teachings that you have no choice or free will but to be predestined to God’s wrath and justice. These teachings are poison. Can we not trust Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit that He is able to give us the knowledge and teachings of His Word faithfully?
      If I listen to someone it will be one who does not put himself on the cover of Charisma, has the latest best seller, or preaches at a 10,000 member church. It will be one who is humble and a servant, just as Christ was.

      • This is such a lovely post in response to what some might have seen as an anti-American musing of mine (which it genuinely wasn’t meant to be, of course). I know all too well that we are British Believers as well, and culture will always impinge on how we think and act, often grating upon other nationalities.

        Each nation or culture will obviously bring their own unique strengths to the worldwide Church. For example, the rest of the world needs to learn how to ‘do’ generosity as well as the American people – especially Christian Americans. Material generosity, at least. I am sure that your spiritual generosity will follow. Contrastingly, we Brits often seem slow to praise and encourage…again, its a cultural influence.

        And your response has been extraordinarily generous and gracious; thank you.

    • American Christianity: the twig on the Great Tree of Christianity. The sooner they realize this, the better.

  29. Hey Stephen, I would like to believe that these real life characters you have drawn out in this story are not as judgemental and condemning in real life as you have documented here. I would like to believe each man would be a lot more loving and accepting than you have shown here.

  30. I smell a paper straw stand up of Eldredge’s writing. Pretty easy to shoot those down. I guess people that disagree with Eldredge prefer to remember only the things they don’t like, and forget the portions of his writing that dispels their grievances. Good subject to talk about, not so excellently done on the Eldredge end. I don’t know enough about the other author’s work to comment.

  31. Very entertaining and thought provoking. Thanks!

  32. I am not a Christian and somehow I came across this blog. I read you post with interest and while I found the description of the Christ character compelling, I cannot relate to the diety aspect of the Christ figure which is ultimately the central importance of following a life devoted to the teachings of Christ. I would much better relate to a central character than is neutral in diety distinction but represents the same central message I think we all want – and which at the core want to describe – that of love towards fellow men and women without bounds. In any event, thank you for an apt description of the values I desire.

  33. I am not a Christian but somehow i came across this blog. i appreciated reading your post but I have a hard time relating to the Christ character because of the diety inference required to compel a reader to lend credibility to the attributes ascribed to the character. I would much more easily relate to a diety-neutral character that still informs the same narrative but without the diety “baggage” so many people (including myself) do not accept.

  34. Stephen
    Interesting concept and implementation.
    I do however take issue with your inclusion of Doug Phillips.
    Didn’t he just “resign” from his ministry because of long term infidelity? Not my example of biblical manhood

  35. Food for thought, Jesus worked His whole life until the time for His public ministry. He most likely was a tradesman (i.e.: mason/carpenter). His 3 public years were not the model for all of history’s male lifestyles. He had a special mission to establish the Church and go to the cross. Not sure I find your example of the Christ-figure in your story to be working for me.

  36. I thought this was brilliantly written! Maybe it’s an Aussie thing, but I think it’s good to take ourselves a little less seriously and maybe slay a few sacred cows – especially when they have actually caused real harm to our brothers and sisters.

  37. Outstanding!

  38. Stephen,

    One of the ways these sorts of formulaic definitions of “biblical” manhood and womanhood are most damaging is they create false, unrealistic expectations. In a church that preaches a steady diet of this stuff, you can expect to see a lot of marital dysfunction and broken relationships. Oh, it won’t be publicized, and the leadership will try to keep things under wraps – but the local counselors, attorneys, and courts see the bitter fruit.

    The wife who may have been okay with her marriage and her imperfect husband who does his best and loves her, suddenly discovers that perhaps he does not really love her as he should (as she is entitled to be loved) because he is not properly “leading” and fulfilling his role as the “spiritual” head of their household, earning a sufficient amount of money, etc. The husband begins to feel unfulfilled because his wife is not sufficiently “submissive” and is not as “hot” as she should be, etc.

    To compound the problems, each feels a devastating sense of inadequacy to be able to meet the expectations that they have been told are the standards for “biblical” men and women. Both are tortured by their unfulfilled, unrealistic expectations of themselves and each other which are never satiated and constantly fueled by what the “man o’ God” teaches as Truth, but which are only his opinions – which in too many cases are not to be questioned.

    Still, I hope for a better way.

    Thank you for holding up a mirror.

  39. Dude. This is just awesome. Lutheran church, a women preaching. I just laughed outloud. Biblical principles should be taught more often in this way. A good, captivating creative story. Well done.

  40. This is excellent. A great piece of satire. And like you, what I know of Eldridge of learned of through Wild at Heart.

  41. J. Pipes isn’t anti-Pentecostal, but he is a teetotaler when it comes to alcohol, so pretty sure he would’ve ordered an O’Douls or Sprite.

  42. So, your approach to dealing with people who you believe are hypercritical and abrasive is to, in turn, be hypercritical and abrasive to them in return? Interesting. Sorry, I don’t believe that mocking people and perpetuating a stereotype about anyone is a Christ-like way to make a point. You missed the mark, IMO.

    • Hi Corey, thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. While I may not be the one to judge, I don’t think my post is “hyper-critical” and “abrasive.” These are thought-stopping words, words used to show your dislike for something without meaningfully engaging with it. Words designed to make other people simply roll over and give up, without thinking too hard if what you’re saying is true.

      In cults there is something called a “No Talk” rule, which means you are not allowed to criticize or question the leader because they are God’s man or woman. To say that there is a problem makes you the problem. Questioners are called “rebels,” which is a thought-stopping technique.

      But the Bible encourages us to think critically, engage deeply, dialogue often, and when a person–even a godly person–teaches something which is false, we are obligated to call them out on it. Saying there is a problem with these man-made systems of “biblical manhood” does not make me the problem.

      I welcome your further thoughtful analysis.

      • “Saying there is a problem with these man-made systems of ‘biblical manhood’ does not make me the problem.”

        Exactly. The problem is their unsupportable teaching, not those of us who call them on it. If you listen to Mark Drsicoll, he labels as Rebellious those who compare his teaching to Scripture to see how it measures up.

      • There is quite a large amount of harshly critical comments here, in response to Stephen’s original post, but mostly delivered by people who seem to fire them off whilst hiding behind a few out-of-context isolated verses. I am sorry, but I really don’t like to see Scripture being hijacked and utilised for this purpose. I think it is a gross misuse of the word of God, in fact, and one that I have personal experience of suffering from when I was a child. I recently read a Facebook posting about the Christian attitude to homosexuality that I found challenging and yet liberating. I will try and get my technical abilities polished so that I can put it here, and Stephen can delete it if he feels it is out of place. 😉

  43. Full disclosure I left the SGM cult about 2 years ago. “Biblical” manhood and womanhood was promoted both from the pulpit and in the culture. I always walked away being fully aware of my shortcomings, but then again we were supposed to live that way, always focused on our sin.

    It seems to me that those who have their panties in a twist over your article object loudly over your portrayal of these men. One thing I learned well in my 16 yrs in sgm was to revere certain men for their “godly, biblical doctrine”.

    The first non-sgm approved book I read after leaving was Eldredge’s “Waking the Dead”. It was beautiful. Exactly what I needed to hear. I have never read Phillips or Driscoll and I have a knee-jerk reaction to not read anything on a sgm bookstore shelf so Piper is currently out. That is for my own healing though.

    I don’t know any of these men but it is my opinion that if they are truly more about loving God and edifying believers, that reading these caricatures of themselves would not result in outrage, but perhaps a chuckle. Clearly your portrayal was meant to be exaggerated in it’s representation of them. And a man who is ready to hear from the Holy Spirit may even read this and consider some of the ways his teaching could be and is abused.

  44. This makes me sad. Brothers and sisters in Christ “throwing blows” at each other is not being used to advance the Kingdom. This could have been written in a different way that didn’t throw four men of God under the bus. The facebook wall that I found this posted on now has a thread of comments with believers applauding this bashing of their brothers. We absolutely have room to disagree with each other, but I think we are called to do it in love. This was not in love.

    • Jessica, I’m not actually replying to your comment–there just doesn’t seem to be any other way to comment on the article in general. Sorry it got stuck to yours. :/

      A caricature is a real thing. Not everyone seems to understand what it means. Fortunately, we are discussing with a gracious and patient blogger. There are those who “got” the caricature but nitpicked some small detail to avoid the point. Again, they have received a gracious response from the blogger. I am taking notes on that graciousness; I need it.

      My god is God. That’s who I follow, submit to, pray to, am forgiven by and model myself after. Biblically, that is the case regardless of my sex. The idea of a set definition of “biblical manhood/womanhood” is laughable because God already made each of us who we are. To be a biblical woman, I simply pursue God and live as myself. To be a biblical man, my husband pursues God and lives as himself.

      If men and women are “naturally” a certain way then there’s no reason to make up definitions of “biblical manhood/womanhood” and insist that men and women live by those rules. They would already do so naturally. If it were natural. It isn’t, because God did not make all women the same (SAHMs, wives, mothers, quiet and submissive, bad at car repair, etc.) nor did God make all men the same (always leaders, always the employed one, never at home, worse at parenting than their wives, good at fixing stuff, etc.).

      I can’t imagine God saying, “Oops, I accidentally created millions of women throughout history with the gifts of leadership, preaching and pastoring the flock. Shoot, I hate it when I do that. And look at all these men I made and gifted with teaching and raising children–what was I thinking?” Yet millions of men and women throughout history *have* had these gifts and callings, and continue to have them.

      Differences between the sexes in the aggregate? Sure. But the differences between *people* are far greater than the differences between two sexes. (It has been studied, more than once, at some length. The results can be found online.)

      This unfortunate insistence that the only “biblical” way for people to live is like a 1950s traditional white American family is destructive to real, well-rounded people of all different life circumstances and both sexes, and it is not biblical. I am deeply thankful for God, who creates us all with our own array of gifts and talents and calls us to use them in being disciples. Gender is not the Major Most Important Thing in determining people’s lives–discipleship and obedience are. Obedience to God, not to narrow human definitions based specifically on maintaining unequal power, keeping some down and others up. That’s the opposite of what Jesus was like.

      • Oh yes, yes, yes to Terri. Thank you so much for going to the trouble of writing your thoughts to us. A breath of fresh air blew through the dusty passageways of my mind! 🙂

      • “Differences between the sexes in the aggregate? Sure. But the differences between *people* are far greater than the differences between two sexes. (It has been studied, more than once, at some length. The results can be found online.)”

        True, true, true. In socio-cultural Anthropology we say: “The difference within groups (“people” in your analogy) is greater than the difference between groups (“Sexes” in yours)”.

  45. […] may read HERE this parable, written by Stephen Smith, who graduated with distinction from Taylor University in […]

  46. i think that there caricatures are a unfair, and it might be better if Christian leaders, who are chosen by God being used by God to do ministry for the Kingdom, were given fictional names. our public criticism of our leaders does not happen in a vacuum. i’m worried that we’re becoming a generation of Christians who are defined by cynicism towards those God has decided to use to lead us. Moses was chosen by God. Moses was imperfect. God’s people publically came together to criticize him. they were swallowed up by the earth. this gives us a glimpse of how God views such things. the Bible gives us a way to confront brothers and sisters. this article is not that way.

    from my reading of the article, it seems like the role of gender boils down to “look more like Christ.” That is the role of being a Christian, which is our primary identifier. but are there other characteristics that God has decided to give us as male and female? the article criticizes one of the men for not using the Bible to support his definition of gender, yet the article does not use a SINGLE Bible verse. Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Galatians 3, Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, ect give us another glimpse at God’s views.

    finally, the caricatures do show us that there are destructive ways that U.S. Evangelical culture has defined gender roles. i found the discussion on if a man is physically disabled or content with singleness to be a highlight. i think that point could be made without attacking the public shepherds of God’s Kingdom.

    • I am sorry Elliot but Piper, Driscoll, Maheny, are NOT chosen by God and they are not my Shepherds. Just because they have Celebrity or a divinity degree behind their name does not mean they are correct in their theology. We are to think for ourselves my friend. These men have bullied, deceived, allowed other men like Mahaney to get away with allowing sexual abuse to flourish. Their so-called theologies have been breeding grounds for rampant spiritual and sexual abuse to proliferate. I will not stand by and not speak about it.
      The one thing I find very interesting is that when a “precious one” of the celebrity church is “criticized” ( actually this is just being a Berean and telling the truth) then “all holds barred” everyone comes out of the woodwork to defend these men. I think they are “MANLY MEN” and can defend themselves- “William Wallace where are you when we need you?”
      What about the humble men that are quiet servants of the truth? These are the ones to defend.

      • Can you please point me to ONE thing that Piper or Driscoll has said that can be viewed as heresy? From everything I have listened to, everything I have read of theirs, I have not found one things where I sit and think, “wow, this is very unbiblical.” A lot of people get very uncomfortable with truth. The truth is painful, it cuts us deep, but that does not mean we simply write it off. If you can point me somewhere where there is clear evidence that Piper and Driscoll have clearly misused scripture, then I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Very well written Elliot, everything I have wanted to say, but said better. Couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I very much respect the teaching of these four men, as they have led many people into eternal life with Christ, that is something we should never degrade, and God is clearly using these four men in huge ways in this era of Christianity.

      • Trent
        There are hosts of reasons, but I will put it forth plainly:
        Plato= Augustine=Calvin=Neo-Calvinism= Authority to elders/pastor as mediators between the relationship of Christ and the believer

      • Secondly these men have not led many people to eternal life- they themselves made a choice to believe in Jesus Christ. These mere men are just that- mere men.

      • “God is using these 4 men in huge ways in this era of Christianity” ….? These men could be held responsible for all the women being forced to stay in abusive marriages, losing their sanity and their lives under the torture of their “priesthood head”… and girls being oppressed and stunted to the point where at the age of 25 they are permanent mental 12-year olds, enslaved to their “daddy” to satisfy his fetish for younger females in his home.

        Are you so clueless, that you have no idea what the teachings of these men have wrought upon the female half of the body of Christ? How can the commenters here be so out to lunch, if they have all read these men’s books? Piper’s book on the permanence of marriage? Driscoll’s constant porn fantasies from the pulpit? Phillips tons of books and sermons on the subjugation of girls? Phillips is currently in disgrace for many many years of using at least one young woman for sexual gratification!!

        Do not champion or idolize so-called “Christian leaders” who have a giant swath of victims in their wake! Please wake up !

      • trust4himonly- obviously these “men” aren’t primarily responsible for the salvation of men, that clearly is not what I meant by that, as we all should know, God is the one who saves. However, you cannot argue that these men have led many people to take that necessary step towards faith and repentance.

        Katy- Phillips is the one that I am least familiar with of all the four, so on him there is not much I can say. However, I am very familiar with Driscoll and Piper. Piper speaks on the seriousness of a marriage covenant to a body of Christ that see’s a 50% divorce rate. We have to take marriage more serious, as a church, and Piper understands that as well. His biggest argument is that God can redeem anything. Any broken marriage can be made new, just like any broken person can be made new. And your comments on Driscoll sound like you are somewhat unfamiliar with the “porn” epidemic that is slowly eating away at our country. Driscoll pastors a very “young” church where a majority are single or young married couples and he is not afraid to talk about issues that are seen as “taboo” but need to be discussed, namely porn. To think that such an issue is not a HUGE issue in the church might mean that you, in fact, are “out to lunch.”

        We also need to understand the audience to which these men write these books. They are talking about “biblical manhood.” Meaning a majority of their audience are men, this is their target audience, who they want reach and hopefully grow closer to Christ. With that being said, women who read these books (I take it by your ferocity towards these men that you have read many of their books in full, not just little pieces here and there that you can use to prove certain points, but to get a FULL overview of what the authors are teaching) need to read them with the understanding that they are being written, primarily, for men. Now, the problem lies with MEN who read these books, take the text out of their original context and intent, and use them to satisfy their selfish desires. Is that Piper’s fault? Is that Driscoll’s fault? Of course not, that’s an absolutely horrid argument to make. What happens when men read the verse that wives are to “submit” to their husbands, and use that verse to completely control and manipulate their wives? Do we say…”how dare God write such a thing, he is leading so many men astray.” Of course we don’t say those things. So why is it then that men can misinterpret what Driscoll and Piper say, and blame THAT on Driscoll and Piper. Sorry but that argument doesn’t make any sense. Many people misinterpret and misuse the Bible and we don’t blame that on God.

    • “…[T]owards those God has decided to use to lead us.”

      Huh? Have these guys been elected to eldership, or did they found their own congregations and self-install?

      Driscoll is documented as altering his congregation’s constitution to move from elder board leadership to just him and those that agree with him. That’s called a power play.

      Confusing that with God calling Moses? Not a good idea, bro.

  47. I wholeheartedly agree with you that all followers of Christ are exhorted throughout the New Testament to grow in Christ (become like him) through the person and work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8, 2 Cor 3, and 2 Peter 1). Furthermore, I agree with the notion that one’s culture does color how one interprets and applies scripture.

    Issues of biblical interpretation and application aside, do we as believers in the body of Christ believer that God created men and women after his own likeness? Do we believe and profess that all men and women bear God’s image equally, totally and independent of the other? Today’s culture (whether secular or church) wants very little to do with what God has said in his word about creation (whether pre-fall, post-fall, and post-consummation).

    From my perspective, your article seems to contain an underlying mistrust of God and and his word being adequate to address what a man is and what a woman is. I don’t think you can separate the truth of becoming like Christ from what that looks like for women and men. To me, you’re creating a false dichotomy. Instead, I encourage you to see the becoming like Christ and one’s gender identity as the two pedals on a bicycle. Both are used to move one forward.

    • “I don’t think you can separate the truth of becoming like Christ from what that looks like for women and men.”

      I hope we do separate the two, mjabate, since Christ Incarnate is a MALE and becoming like Christ for a woman would require a lot of conjecture if the two are directly linked.

      To take your assertion even further:
      Take as given that Christ is NOT FEMALE. If becoming like Christ and becoming a “true” female are directly linked, then that means *no woman could ever become “Christ-like”*, as Christ’s gender (MALE) would preclude any non-males from Christ-like-ness.

      That, sir, is a dangerous slope that goes directly against your statement that men and women bear God’s image equally.

      • I appreciate the critical examination of my words and their logical construction and consequences. Your response has set me thinking in the following ways.

        What I want to do and what I didn’t do that clearly is to construct a framework that maintains the following truths:

        1.) God created man as male and female to bear his image, and he blessed them in their gender identities (Gen. 1:26-28a).

        2.) The Fall of Man distorted God’s image in the first man and woman and all men and women who came after them. In fact, Paul says that all sinned in Adam, but those in Christ will live (Rom 5:12-17 & 1 Cor. 15:21-22)

        3.) God the Father redeems men and women (and by extension their gender identity) through Christ’s finished work of redemption at the cross, which must be received by grace through faith.

        4.) In this life, God transforms/conforms all believers into the image of his son regardless of their gender identities via the person and work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29 and 2 Cor 3:18).

        In light of items 1-4, is it possible to maintain the reality of becoming like Christ for men and women and then recognize that such a redemptive work does have implications for women as women and men as men?

        I guess what I’m saying is that God reclaims men and women for himself in Christ by the Spirit. This is a certainty given Jesus’s resurrection because we will receive glorified bodies at Christ’s return (1 Cor 15:21-49). I don’t think our glorified bodies obliterate one’s gender identity.

      • Neat reflection mjabate, and neat conclusion. (Sorry for the delay in response.)

        I think so, though I don’t know quite how the implications play out for women as women and men as men. I wrestle also with how – in Christ – there is neither male nor female. In light of the context of Gal 3 and the wider Pauline corpus, might there be something to do with animosity between male and female (a result of the Fall in Gen 3), and the resolution of said animosity?

        I, too, agree that gender won’t disappear with our new bodies (and Origenist-linked heresy).

  48. This is AWESOME!!! Finally there is a Christian blog were all of us Christians can get together and take sides and blast others theology! I love being a Christian among Christians….Its so controversial and exciting!!!

    • Paul set a good example for us in this in Galatians 2:11-14, didn’t he Calvin? He called out Peter publicly and then wrote about it in a letter that Paul wanted distributed and read by all the churches in Galatia. I don’t think he was being controversial, but a lot of people might have taken it that way. He did it anyway.

  49. This article is a huge bummer. I’m no theologian, but I have read books by all 4 of these authors. I only know one of them personally. While they’re all flawed, they sure aren’t the straw men this author throws them under the bus as. This feels like reading through a script of a bad SNL skit. Tear ’em down. Then, “But JESUS!”


  50. I appreciate some insights from this article and especially your further explanations among the comments. I’m left still wondering these questions: if a man writes a book that genuinely ministers to and helps, say, 100,000 people and the same book hurts an equal number, is he at fault? (I’m just using an equal number to simplify the scenario.) Would it have been better to keep silent, to not share one’s views at all because some hearers will disagree or be negatively impacted? I’m genuinely asking.

    Do the (unarguably valid) reactions of the many who are hurt invalidate the (equally valid) experiences of those who are blessed by their reading? And is it possible to write something that helps and heals everyone?

    Any thoughts on those? Just wondering how to think about all of this.

    • Angel, here are my thoughts on your question 🙂

      If the ideas espoused by these men were only put out there as ideas that might be helpful for some people (your suggested 100,000 for instance) then there would be no problem.

      Tragically, incredible pain and damage is inflicted on brothers and sisters because these ideas are held up as gospel and THE only way to live ‘biblically’. Far too often, anyone who sees things differently is judged and condemned.

    • That is an important question. I think those who have been blessed by their reading have perhaps not noticed or paid attention to the damage being done to women and girls through this same material. That’s human nature. If it doesn’t affect me, I don’t notice it and it must not be a problem. It’s how we naturally are. It takes a God of great power and grace to snap us out of any type of blindness to see how others are affected and not think that that does not affect me since *I* got *my* blessing. We’re sinful and selfish and only God can give us that empathy and vision of others’ experience.

  51. No man would order a Margarita so Elderege lost his man card before they even started.

  52. I appreciate some insights from this article and especially your further explanations among the comments. You encouraged readers on a few occasions to take note of the many people who have been harmed by these men’s messages on biblical manhood and womanhood.

    I’m left still wondering these questions: if a man writes a book that genuinely ministers to and helps, say, 100,000 people and the same book hurts an equal number, is he at fault for their negative experiences (or due credit for the positive ones for that matter)? (I’m just using an equal number to simplify the scenario by the way.) Would it have been better to keep silent, to not share one’s views at all because some hearers will disagree or be negatively impacted? I’m genuinely asking.

    Do the (unarguably valid) reactions of the many who are hurt invalidate the (equally valid) experiences of those who are blessed by their reading? And is it possible to write something that helps and heals everyone?

    Any thoughts on those? Just wondering how to think about some of the implications of this.

    • Great questions, angelmconnor. I want to ponder them for a while. I’ve probably said enough for now. In the meantime, what do some of the other folks reading this think? Any thoughts for angelmconnor?

      • If a person writes something that inaccurately portrays Jesus and the message of the cross, and 100,000 men are blessed by it, those 100,000 men are not truly being blessed. As they become more and more inaccurately conformed to an image that is not the true Christ, they grow deeper in relationship with a false image of the Lord. As a result, they perpetuate the harm that is done by the authors of those books and increase the number of people who are harmed, including themselves. It would be far better for those books to be silent so that the Spirit of Truth has no competition from a message that temptingly lures men in by their false need for the language and culture in which each of the books are written. If the Myth of Biblical Manhood is silenced, the real Jesus has a chance to break those men free from their false relationship to a caricature of Jesus.

      • I have been reading Fr Richard Rohr (Falling Upwards). It’s a deeply insightful work, and has given me much pause for thought as he meditates on Scripture and on life. He reads the Bible differently to me, and probably in a version I would struggle with – due to my (probably unhelpful and unfair) instinctive wariness of Roman Catholicism. However, sometimes he expresses thoughts and ideas and concepts that are absolutely on the nail. They are deep, insightful and wise. They change the way I see myself, the way I see the world and those within it, and the way I see God. To ‘holy this up’, I would say that some of his writing blesses me.

        Nonetheless, there are some things he says that I don’t understand (I had never come across the concept of pluralism before, for example), and there are some things that I disagree with. As a result, there are times when my reading of him doesn’t make me ‘feel blessed’. But I can put those things on one side for further thought or reflection, and carry on reading. None of what he writes has caused me ‘harm’, as such.

        But…and here’s the rub I think, would he, as the author, be responsible for my reactions to his words? At one extreme end of the question sits, for example, Charles Manson. Can we blame the Beatles for his murderous actions? He did just that for years. Was he right to do so? How different is this attitude to that displayed by the religious bigots who hated, feared and ultimately condemned Jesus. “You aren’t doing it according to the book!” was their cry. They did, though. Or tried to. The letter of the Law was more important to them than using their common sense (God-given, surely?).

        And so, I am cautious of blaming these authors for causing harm, wounding, hurt etc to their readers. They set out to write down their reflections and ponderings, and we read ’em. How we respond and react is down to us, surely? And we may well have decided that this person was God-inspired and that we would attempt to model our lives on his/her teaching. And our lives may have worked out less well than we hoped, having done that. Is that anybody’s fault, even our own? If the authors had said, “this is absolutely right and true, and you must build your life upon these precepts”, then maybe we could blame them. (The Book of Mormon comes to mind here.)

        But I feel that this reaction of “my life has been ruined, and I blame the author” is a damaging, escapist, self-exonerating folly, and should not be encouraged or believed by those who hear it.

        Life, after all, is about making mistakes and then learning from those mistakes. Life, for the vast majority of us, is actually tragic. Even Jesus’ life was tragic (humanly speaking). And no, I am NOT denying the Deity of Christ or the fact that his life and death was ordained from the beginning (even though my tiny brain still cannot quite comprehend this). Jesus felt joy, pain, happiness, grief et al as a fully human person, thank God. But this same Jesus did not have our attitude towards life, as being a time in which he was meant to improve himself so that life would become easier.

        God has not called any of us to measure up to a certain standard of performance. This constant striving towards self-improvement strikes me as a largely cultural issue. We cannot attain a level of behaviour or intellectual stature that will make us more appealing to God, more lovely, more acceptable. I don’t think reading books will do this either, and in fact I even doubt that reading books will make us more wise than we are. Only God can do that. Life teaches, but only if we are able to learn.

        In conclusion (‘at last!’ I hear you cry), I will remain deeply sceptical of any Believer who moans that a book or an author has ruined their life. I myself have ruined my own life. I would still be doing so if I had not realised that I myself was the author of my own undoing. We need to remain aware that the addict always blames the porn sites or the distillers or the casino owners. Until he/she wakes up as if from a drugged sleep and steps out on the road to Recovery, which always always always starts with accepting our responsibility.

        Oh boy, sorry this is so long. I found it helpful to write, but I will quite understand if you feel it to be a mere self-indulgence.



      • I’m glad you wrote this, Jon. I need to sit tight and ponder it for awhile.

      • This is so good, Jon. I will ponder it for a long time. I hope you have written articles or books: I’d love to read them.

      • As I replied to Angel earlier in this thread, I’d suggest the problem lies in the fact that the ideas of these men (like way too many others!) are held up to be gospel and the only correct ‘biblical’ interpretation. Surely we can agree that no one man or woman has the whole truth or complete understanding on an issue.

        Here’s a suggestion: why don’t we offer what partial understanding we have and receive from others what they have to offer! Just maybe we’d all be the richer for that…

    • It’s not about the validity of people’s experiences. Their experiences are their experiences. What we’re talking about here is the idea that if one person got their blessing from an author/minister, they can dismiss the damage caused to others by that same person. Just because many, many people have in fact been hurt and damaged by the material does not mean your blessing was not a real blessing. Just because you got a real blessing out of it does not mean other people’s suffering was not real. It’s not either/or.

      What it comes down to is: Does my blessing mean that I dismiss or pass lightly by the suffering? Or do I engage and see the hurt and heartache and look at why that is, and what I can do in my sphere to help bind up people’s wounds? You don’t have to “turn against” your favorite pastor or reject the blessing you received to see the damage he does. Every person is sinful; we all do damage to others in our lives. Some have much wider platforms with which to do damage.

  53. wow.

    Mark Driscoll had this coming.

  54. It saddens me that you would directly attack your christian brothers in this way. Your caricatures are in no way life giving and the first half of your article isn’t necessary to make the your point.

    “The tongue has the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21

    I would urge you brother to pray that The Spirit would lead you to be a man who speaks and writes only words that give life.

    Weather or not you agree with the perceptions of manhood in these men’s books they have clearly been a tool Our Father has used to lead many men to deeper relationship with HIm. Perhaps it’s just because those men relate to the language and culture each book is written in.

    But isn’t any deeper relationship with the The Spirit who leads them good? After all if something isn’t true The Holy Spirit will teach and lead those men in truth.

    “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

    “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:13

    You clearly have creativity and talent as a writer.

    Father I pray you would use Stephen’s talent creativity and passion to build your Kingdom here on earth. Lord I pray that you will bring unity, love and peace from his words and this blog. Father as all men search to find manhood I pray that you would bestow the truth of manhood upon them. I pray by resting their identity solely in You Lord they would operate as the men you made them to be.

    • Did Paul’s treatment of Peter in Galatians 2 strike you as unbiblical too, Bryan? just wondering.


      • The only thing in Galatians 2 that Paul speaks that can be misconstrued as personal attack of Cephas(Peter) is recanting the story of declaring his Hypocrisy. Yes from time to time a rebuke is necessary. Especially if teaching has deviated from the Gospel and leading people away from God. Peter baptized Cornelius a gentile or uncircumcised man. Further more Peter had done this because he received a vision from God not to declare unclean what God had declared clean. Paul’s rebuke directs peter back to God’s clear teaching confirmed in both Paul and Peter separately.

        But this a vastly different situation from what’s being discussed in this blog. I would ask is it wise to think we have to the corner on the market of how God works? Could it be that our view, understanding or perception of an eternal God are complete and the only right one?

        I don’t think a difference in language of explaining biblical manhood compares to Paul’s zealous defense of the freedom from the Law by Jesus’ sacrifice.

        The content, intent and character your rebukes are between you and God. It’s not my place to judge nor am I sin free, holy or pious. I’m completely undeserving of being saved. But I see so much pain in this broken world I see no reason speak anything other than life over some one.

        In my mind a good rebuke would call out the greatness God made a person for and away from the sin the’ve entered into.

        I neither see the sin of these men no see the encouragement to greatness in this post.

    • I would urge you brother to pray that The Spirit would lead you to be a man who speaks and writes only words that give life.

      Are you insinuating that the words in Steve’s post do not give life?

      Do you think your words are speaking/writing life?

      • Thanks for this contribution, Julie Anne. Reading Bryan’s post, it made me think that all Christians everywhere will always be right and wise and truthful – because he has quoted some Scripture to make it happen like magic!

      • I really don’t see what’s wrong with Bryan saying that these four men have done a lot for the kingdom of heaven. I mean is it not true? That these four men which the author of this blog pretty much belittled and passed very misguided judgments on have led many others to eternal life with Christ? I don’t see how Bryan’s defense of these four men is such a bad thing. I tell you what, if I was around during the time of Paul or Peter, I definitely wouldn’t have gone around writing things like this about them, that’s for sure. God is using these four men in big ways to save a lot of people from eternal hell, so you won’t see me writing an article like this any time soon.

      • TrentD

        When you say they have done a lot for the kingdom of God, you are probably thinking positively. I, on the other hand, blogger of all things related to “spiritual abuse” have a differing opinion.

        John Piper: Hyper-Calvinist – – believes in the permanence of marriage – even when there is abuse. Try imagining what it might be like to be a wife having a pastor who believes there is never a reason to divorce your spouse when your spouse is an abuser.

        Phillips: has taught men Patriarchy in which men rule over their wives spiritually, emotionally, sexually, physically. Women are treated as objects in his circles. Daughters are not allowed to go to college, work outside the home. Just click on my name and search Doug Phillips and you will find a lot there.

        Driscoll – has a history of spiritual abuse and heavy-handed leadership at his churches. Do a quick Google search and you will find scores of accounts.

        I am not up on Eldredge.

        You mentioned that these men have led others to eternal life. Have you considered that these men may have also led people AWAY from Christ? Some have abandoned their faith because of the spiritual confusion caused by the tyrannical leadership.

      • Julie Anne,

        I do believe the portal of the 4 writers in the beginning of the blog is completely negative and destructive. I would never say those things about my friends(brothers?) even if they had those thoughts, which were all assumed and in a made up situation. It seems clearly designed to paint these men a in a negative light in order to win people to Stephan point of view.

        It’s odd because the portal of Jesus doesn’t condemn these men even though Stephan’s blog does condemn them.

        Julie Anne I have carefully chosen my words in an attempt to only bring life in this situation. I hope that I have brought life a tense situation.

        Although I know greater any one on here that my words have not always brought life and I am constantly repenting for insensitive words.

        I pray daily that the Lord would make a man who’s words and actions bring life to others and reflect the love the God has shown me.

      • It’s odd because the portal of Jesus doesn’t condemn these men even though Stephan’s blog does condemn them.

        Have you read Ezekiel 34 or Jude? There is a verse about a millstone as well. If God in His Word understands about spiritual abuse and false teachers, shouldn’t we as Christians also acknowledge the reality of it?

        Some of the teachings/practices of the men mentioned have led people AWAY from Christ into spiritual confusion/chaos. Stephen has chosen to address that issue using the topic of Biblical Manhood. It’s interesting that the Piper/Phillips/Driscoll defenders don’t want to touch that issue with a 10-foot pole.

        You might take a look at some of Steve’s other articles to get an idea of what he writes about and why.

  55. This is excellent . . . and not at all an attack. It is a gentle wake-up call that forces many of us to look in the mirror and question the extra-biblical . . . more-spiritual-than-Jesus-was assumptions about what life “should” look like. Thank you. And please do not hesitate to visit our website A Cry For Justice. It seems we have similar goals in freeing the oppressed. Sincerely, Meg


  56. Question: “men are generally physically stronger than women and kids”……. If that is true, then why is it that women are the ones who birth children? Sorry, it’s just a small perspective to throw in there. Men and women are equal in strength, I believe. It’s just that their strengths are revealed in different ways. I know too many women who are “physically stronger” than almost any man out there. And I know many men who are equal to that of any woman.

    Just food for thought. I’m not trying to start a debate. 🙂

    • Without “adding” to your debate, I just quickly want to say that women have pain at childbirth because of the sins of Eve, not necessarily because they are “physically” stronger than men, but because that was a punishment past down to every generations because of Eve’s sin. Just some more food for thought 🙂

      • Uh-oh – I evidently missed out on that punishment on my 5th kid. Pain-free birth (and there was no pain meds). Oopsy. Now what?

      • Ah, you are in flagrant breach of Biblical teaching Julie Anne. If you are not punished here on earth (are any of those big, strong, Godly men out there able to dish up some holy slapping?), you can be certain that you will be in one of the back rows in Heaven – but please ensure you cover your head!

      • I think I have the perfect covering to knit. I will be fashionably covered in heaven. Where are my knitting needles?

      • Julie Anne, I am not sure why you feel the need for such sarcastic responses. She brought up childbirth and I gave her a biblical response as to why women have to endure the pain of giving birth. If you disagree with that you can read Genesis 3:16, God specifically explains the reason for it. I wasn’t saying that men were “stronger” than women because of it, I just said that wasn’t the greatest point in trying to make the argument that women were physically stronger than men. Sorry if you misinterpreted what I had said

  57. this is so odd…who are you that you know these four guys so well that you know how they’d think and react in a situation like this? couldn’t you have made your point just as well (for the sake of the legion you speak of) without demonizing four men who may, as far as we know, be doing really good work for the kingdom?

    • Oh my life! It’s not taken long at all for the accusations of “demonizing” to come out. How utterly depressing.

      I recall very well the time, years ago, when my Mother knelt by my bed as usual and asked God for his guidance on what Scripture passage we should read that night. “When I was a child…and now I have put my childish ways behind me”, writes Paul. I was then treated to a lengthy diatribe about how God was telling me through this reading to stop acting like a child and grow up. I lay there quietly in my bed and thought to myself, “but I am nine years old!”.

      Ah, how many years we have all suffered from people using the Bible to condemn, to justify, to argue and to divide!

    • Actually, Isaiah, we know that there’s some not so good work coming from them, for example Mr. Driscoll’s Dr. Piper’s views on parenting. In neither of those links will you see them characterized either. Just their own words being scrutinized and found lacking in sound doctrine.


    • He doesn’t know how they’d react and isn’t predicting how they’d react. It’s a *caricature.*

  58. While I see the type of point you are trying to make, I find it a little distasteful to degrade these four pastors (a couple of them who are arguably the most bible honoring pastors in our generation) in order to make your point. I mean you are clearly upset about how these four men have written and preached on biblical manhood (“that they have hurt a lot of people and their wrongs should be righted”), yet you make extreme judgments on their heart and character, so how much better of a man does that make you?

    Lastly, and I’ll try and make this point as loving as possible. You mention that there are many grieving men because of how these guys have discusses manhood. I would be careful that we don’t discredit what people say just because it may hurt people. The truth, in many occasions, is painful. It shed’s light on how we come up short. When we read the Word, it brings us to repentance…why? Because we realize how good we are and how perfect we are? Of course not. Because we realize how far off we are, how much we fall short of God’s truth, and that grievance brings us to repentance. If someone is hurt by what these men say about manhood, that shouldn’t be a reason to write it off. In actuality, that may be even more of a reason to take a little closer look at ourselves, and maybe investigate “why” we are hurt by it. Feeling hurt cannot always be a reason to play victim, there has to be a part of us that takes a look at ourselves, to try and find ways that we can become more and more like Christ.

    • Trent – Are you assuming these men do 100% right teaching? I don’t see you even considering that these men could do wrong teaching or that they could have hurt people by wrong teaching. You immediately assume the best for the pastors and worst for the men who have been hurt. Why is that?

      Did God give these men a direct line to His teachings, but not to the lowly church goer? That’s not in my Bible. We all have equal access to God – just as equal as pastors. I’m a little bit concerned about how much you have these guys up on lofty pedestals.

      • Julie Anne,
        Loving your posts! 🙂

      • I greatly respect men and women who have been given the gift to teach the word of God. I have listened and read a TON of three of these men (Piper, Driscoll, and Eldridge) and, to the best of my ability, try and critique what they say and teach based on what I find written in Scripture. I find it very difficult to see anything they write or speak on contradict what is said in scripture. Plain and simple. I get defensive for these men because 1.) they are not here to defend themselves, so it’s very easy for people to bash them right and left, and 2). these men have played a significant role in my relationship with the Lord, and 3). these men have devoted their life to teaching the word of God and shepherding His people, and it would be foolish of me to speak ill of ANYONE whom God calls one of His children, and who God is using in huge ways to advance His Kingdom here on earth. Sorry if that is “offensive” to some.

        It’s not the fact that I hold these men on a pedestal, as being “better than others” or “without error.” No one is without error. The point I was making was that so often, when someone (maybe one of these four men) says something that others disagree with, or may “hurt” others, it may not be wise for us to throw it out just because it’s “unpopular” to some. I think it’s a better idea to take a look at ourselves when we feel hurt by something. If my wife walks up to me and says, “hey Trent, your not being the husband I need you to be right now, your not serving me the way Christ served the church and the way you are called to serve me.” It would be very easy for me to just go on the defensive, say she’s wrong, or has an unrealistic expectation of me, or she doesn’t know what she is talking about. It is much more difficult to say, okay why does she feel this way, what do I need to do for her to feel loved, what does the Word say about how I should love and lead my wife. All I am saying is that the Truth can sometimes be painful, and when we immediately feel pain or discomfort from something, it doesn’t mean we should cast it aside.

      • All I am saying is that the Truth can sometimes be painful, and when we immediately feel pain or discomfort from something, it doesn’t mean we should cast it aside.

        Once again, Trent, you are refusing to admit even the possibility that these men have either erred in their teaching or used their position of authority inappropriately. Many have been harmed by their teachings or use of authority. Why do you minimize their experience just because their teachings benefited you? Does your experience negate theirs?

        BTW – these men are in public ministry, so it’s perfectly acceptable to discuss them publicly. No one is preventing them from reading or discussing.

        And for the record, I tweeted and tagged this link to each of them except Phillips who apparently doesn’t have a Twitter account, so if they want to comment, they have the freedom to do so.

    • I like this different line of reasoning. That if people are hurt by a teaching, then that means the teaching is good and the sheep are getting their butts kicked because they have fallen short of the glory of god and they need to step it up a notch.
      Buncha babies.

      OR. perhaps the teaching is bogus and that’s why the sheep are hurting. hmmmm.

      I don’t know if I can hold in my sarcasm much longer so I’m gonna stop there. sigh.

  59. Hi Stephen, that was an excellent post! Thank you very much! Pastor Gary

  60. I can’t speak for your specific treatment of Piper, as I have not read his work on manhood. However, if his views on manhood rub me anywhere nearly as wrong as Desiring God did, I dare say you couldn’t possibly be that far off.

    In regards to Eldridge, I don’t see how anyone could see this as anything but spot on. It barely qualifies as caricature. I had to read Wild at Heart for a men’s group at my church and could hardlh make it through a chapter without seejng exactly what you saw. I am certainly no expert, but I have a degree in Biblical Studies I keep up with the writings of many leading Biblical scholars and I would call Eldridge use of Scripture to support his “theory” of manhood as nothing short of irresponsible and biblically insupportable.

    As far as Driscoll and Phillips are concerned, their body or work speaks for itself.

    On a more personal note. I am a stay at home dad and am “supported by a woman” as a result so having someone like yourself use your personal platform to promote this conversation and question tje flawed, traditional concepts of “biblical” manhood I face on a constant basis is much appreciated. Thank you.

  61. Various writers on ‘biblical womanhood’ have hurt me as I developed from a born-again teenager into a young Christian woman (who is now a thoroughly middle-aged Christian woman). It took me many years to work out that I was trying to follow an unbiblical ideal. When I got married to a young Christian man – newly saved out of a non-christian lifestyle – it only got worse. I tried to push the ‘biblical manhood’ agenda on this artistic, gentle, loving soul and caused him much pain. I also caused myself a very bad conscience because I was aware that as his wife, it was not my place to preach to him! Where to turn!! What a mess!! I am now free, and I set my husband free to be who God, in his wisdom, has created us to be. We suit each other – 25 years later, we’re still together. I have the full -time job, he supports. He does more housework than I do – but hates routine and will solve tasks in his own crazy way. We are finally in a church where people don’t look sideways at us for our ‘unusual’ arrangements and where people are trying to tell me that my husband must not love me or God if he is “behaving” like “that”. The truth has set us free – the truth that there is nothing left to pay, that we owe nothing to anyone except to love them.

  62. ‘Free at Last’ has made a good comment on this post at Julie Anne’s blog where she linked to it midstream in another post thread. Here is what Free said:

    I really enjoyed this. Last time I checked, none of Jesus’ sermons in the four gospels are on “biblical manhood” or “biblical womanhood.” He does have a lot to say about godliness but he somehow forgot (sarcastic voice) the most important, overarching organizing principle for all of scripture since adam and eve:
    dividing godliness into pink and blue. Either Jesus was missing the whole point… or these four guys are!

    Hey, though, Jesus’ gospel didn’t sell like these four guys and he didn’t live nearly as well as they do. Yeah, His biographies are incorporated in a bestseller, but He sure got cheated on the royalties and the big advance and the megachurch promotion tour speaking fees. Millions of Christians and millions of dollars can’t be wrong, right? Maybe the savior of mankind should have run his business model by these guys first…

    [ I’ve copied this comment from
    http://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2013/11/20/c-j-mahaney-speaks-at-conference-with-albert-mohler/#comment-53561 ]

    • Snap! Well SAID, “Free At Last”. Perfection.

    • This comment, sorry to say, is appalling. It is very difficult for me to understand the utter backlash towards these four men that this article has created. I’m not sure how much of these men you have read or listened too, but its very difficult for me to sit here and listen to all of these nasty comments about four men who have devoted their life to serving the Lord and shepherding others. Maybe it’s jealousy that these men have such huge ministries, maybe it’s anger towards the fact that these men teach biblical truth, or maybe…shoot I don’t know what it is. There are problems with modern day-American Christianity, and these men are trying to point to the solution, Christ. Just ruffles my feathers when I see other brothers in Christ being verbally beat down for speaking truth.

      • Trent I am sure these men can quite take care of themselves and no I am certainly not jealous of their ministries. In fact I am overjoyed that I am away from these kinds of men who have made themselves “popes” over the body of Christ. There are definitely errors in their teachings such as mixing sanctification with justification; which in my opinion is at the root of all of their aberrant teachings. I would encourage you to go on http://www.paulspassingthoughts.com to get a wealth of info on the connections of Plato and todays neo-Calvinism, you might find it very useful or get flaming mad- that’s your choice.

      • TrentD – you might want to self-reflect on your hermeneutical lens (the lens through which we interpret not only Scripture, but also life as we encounter it). I’ll bet good money that your lens is probably the same as the four guys that Stephen caricatures in his post, which is why you don’t see anything wrong with what they preach, teach or act.

        Fair warning, though:
        Self-reflection on one’s hermeneutical lens often involves letting that lens get shattered. This leads to a lot of difficulty regarding one’s sense of self and the world. Don’t embark on this journey until you have people around you that love you for you, and not for what you believe.

      • It’s true TrentD, but if you look around I think you’ll find this rabid sort of tribalism to be rampant on FB and blogs (especially in the comments).

        I’m totally fine with people disagreeing with the whole “manhood” thing. Having grown up in so-called fundamentalist-homeschool-patriarchy circles, I readily acknowledge the harm it has caused some. I also readily acknowledge that it has helped others. In the same manner I’ve seen the homeschooling “system” harm some and benefit others. To the extent that a system is harmful and inconsistent with Scripture I disagree with and speak against that element, and to the extent that a system is beneficial and consistent with Scripture I support that element. In that sense I am neither for nor against the “biblical manhood” system because I think parts of it are good and helpful and others not so much.

        The problem I see exhibited far too often by Christians is this hyper side-taking regarding pastors and writers. This caricatured story is a great example. So four Gospel-preaching pastors are so out-of-touch that they wouldn’t recognize Jesus if they ran into him on the street? Is that really a fair and honest assessment of their work? Are we so sure of our own theology that we are willing to hold ourselves to the same standard? I hope not, because surely none of us have it all figured out.

        It seems more and more that people either LOVE or HATE a particular Christian writer, speaker, etc. People either LOVE Driscoll or they HATE him. Sure, they’ll say they don’t hate him, only that hell will freeze before they’ll have anything good to say about him.

        I think we do others, ourselves, and the Gospel when we make our brother our enemy. And by “brother” I mean a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which these men clearly are. I do not mean that they are then “untouchable” by any means. Certainly we may debate and critique teachings against Scripture. But there’s got to be a way to do this that doesn’t foster the kind of hatred and us-vs-them environment that so pervades the Church today.

      • Oops, my earlier reply should say “I think we do others, ourselves, and the Gospel a disservice when we make our brother our enemy.”

      • Trent, maybe you are not yet aware of how much pain and difficulty John Piper’s teaching on marriage causes to many God-fearing believers. Please, if you will, visit the blog A Cry For Justice and check out the tag John Piper: it may open your eyes to the damage his teaching causes to victims of domestic abuse (both men and women).

  63. Interesting article and interesting and thoughtful comments. Though I too am uncomfortable with prescriptive roles or stereotyping for men or women where I have found things helpful (specifically in Eldredge) are the definitions that help me to understand some of the things going on inside me as a man. It helped to give me a reference point. It would be simplistic and wrong to say all men should be a certain way but some of us can learn through tendencies things that may be common to many men. I guess Eldredge was trying to readdress the balance in a world where perhaps many men felt they had to behave a certain way contrary to who they are. It would be equally wrong to apply Eldredge or any teacher’s teaching for that matter and achieve the same result (ie. men or women feeling they have to be something they are not). Also interesting that you are motivated by the fact people you know have been damaged by these teachings. I wonder whether we expect too much from teachers and in that sense can be complicit in the elevation of certain Christian leaders/ teachers. As a teacher and blogger myself I live with the fear in wondering whether I am part of the cure or part of the disease. I guess as has already been stated whats helpful for one person might not be helpful for the next.

  64. Since several folks have expressed concern about my characterization of John Piper, I thought I should let Piper speak for himself. Here is a direct quote from the first chapter of his book, “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” In it, Piper creates two criteria which he suggests that every person should use at all times in order to function in relationship as biblical men and women:

    “Mature femininity does not express itself in the same way toward every man. A mature woman who is married, for example, does not welcome the same kind of strength and leadership from other men that she welcomes from her husband. But she will affirm and receive and nurture the strength and leadership of men in some form in all her relationships with men. This is true even though she may find herself in roles that put some men in a subordinate role to her.

    “There are ways for a woman to interact even with a male subordinate that signal to him and others her endorsement of his mature manhood in relationship to her as a woman…. I have in mind culturally appropriate expressions of respect for his kind of strength, and glad acceptance of his gentlemanly courtesies. Her demeanor—the tone and style and disposition and discourse of her ranking position—can signal clearly her affirmation of the unique role that men should play in relationship to women owing to their sense of responsibility to protect and lead.

    “It is obvious at this point that we are on the brink of contradiction—suggesting that a woman may hold a position of leadership and fulfill it in a way that signals to men her endorsement of their sense of responsibility to lead. But the complexities of life require of us this risk. To illustrate: it is simply impossible that from time to time a woman not be put in a position of influencing or guiding men. For example, a housewife in her backyard may be asked by a man how to get to the freeway. At that point she is giving a kind of leadership. She has superior knowledge that the man needs and he submits himself to her guidance. But we all know that there is a way for that housewife to direct the man that neither of them feels their mature femininity or masculinity compromised. It is not a contradiction to speak of certain kinds of influence coming from women to men in ways that affirm the responsibility of men to provide a pattern of strength and initiative.

    “More appropriate than a black-and-white list of ‘man’s work’ and ‘woman’s work’ is a set of criteria to help a woman think through whether the responsibilities of any given job allow her to uphold God’s created order of mature masculinity and femininity.

    “So the question should be put: what kind of influence would be inappropriate for mature women to exercise toward men? It would be hopeless to try to define this on a case-by-case basis. There are thousands of different jobs in the church and in the world with an innumerable variety of relationships between men and women. More appropriate than a black-and-white list of ‘man’s work’ and ‘woman’s work’ is a set of criteria to help a woman think through whether the responsibilities of any given job allow her to uphold God’s created order of mature masculinity and femininity.

    “Here is one possible set of criteria. All acts of influence and guidance can be described along these two continuums: Personal/Non-personal and Directive/Non-directive. To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. A woman may design the traffic pattern of a city’s streets and thus exert a kind of influence over all male drivers. But this influence will be non-personal and therefore not necessarily an offense against God’s order. Similarly, the drawings and specifications of a woman architect may guide the behavior of contractors and laborers, but it may be so non-personal that the feminine-masculine dynamic of the relationship is negligible. On the other hand, the relationship between husband and wife is very personal.

    “All acts of influence lie on the continuum between personal and non-personal. The closer they get to the personal side, the more inappropriate it becomes for women to exert directive influence. But the second continuum may qualify the first. Some influence is very directive, some is non-directive. For example, a drill sergeant would epitomize directive influence. It would be hard to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant over men without violating their sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity. Non-directive influence proceeds with petition and persuasion instead of directives. A beautiful example of non-directive leadership is when Abigail talked David out of killing Nabal (l Samuel 25:23-35). She exerted great influence over David and changed the course of his life; but she did it with amazing restraint and submissiveness and discretion. When you combine these two continuums, what emerges is this: If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will, in general, need it to be non-personal. The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior.

    “J. I. Packer suggested that ‘a situation in which a female boss has a male secretary’ puts strain on the humanity of both (see note 18). I think this would be true in other situations as well. Some of the more obvious ones would be in military combat settings if women were positioned so as to deploy and command men; or in professional baseball if a woman is made the umpire to call balls and strikes and frequently to settle heated disputes among men. And I would stress that this is not necessarily owing to male egotism, but to a natural and good penchant given by God.

    “Conversely, if a woman’s relation to man is very personal, then the way she offers guidance will need to be non-directive. The clearest example here is the marriage relationship. The Apostle Peter speaks of a good wife’s meek and tranquil spirit that can be very winsome to her husband (1 Peter 3:4). A wife who ‘comes on strong’ with her advice will probably drive a husband into passive silence, or into active anger.” [End of Piper quote.]

    Can you see why these extrabiblical criteria created by Piper–but universalized by him and called “biblical manhood” and “biblical womanhood”–might be hurtful to men and women?

    • Oh my word! Why on earth do these books ever get off the bookshelves, or even, for heaven’s sake, reach publication? I have never, in all my born days read such utter tripe! You know what this made me think of? It reminded me of “The Handmaids Tale” by (I think) Margaret Attwood, where women are utterly subjugated by men in accordance with Scripture. It’s set somewhat in the future, but it’s not really apocalyptic. Worth a read, in my ever so ‘umble opinion.

      It simply doesn’t seem plausible that thinking men and women pay any attention to the author of this drivel. How on earth does the Church in America end up with people like this in positions of such influence? Is there really no sane, Godly, prayerful body of men and women that heads up the Church?

      This person has his own agenda, and is wilfully and wrongly trying to retrospectively apply Scripture to conform with it. It’s ghastly stuff, and I am shocked by it. Sorry for this rant, but I am at a loss for…um…you know.

    • Thank you for sharing the Piper quotes, egregious as they are. They most certainly support your articles depiction and more importantly they emphasize the incredible difference between the views of one of these so-called proponents of “biblical” manhood and the actual teachings of Christ.

    • I am still trying to find what in this post is in direct contradiction to scripture?

      • Oh my goodness TrentD, is that your only measure for what makes good teaching? The Bible seems to be used by so many people as a blunt tool with which to assess our worthiness, rather than where we go to find inspiration, strength and wisdom. I think the best way to view what Piper writes is to search within it for these characteristics. Do we find them? Can we EVER imagine Jesus teaching like this? The Man who had his feet washed by the tears of a ‘wicked’ woman? The Man who chose a woman to be the first to see him after his victorious rising? The whole manner of Jesus when discussing women or when talking with women is entirely different to the manner Piper seems to adopt. So, whilst there may not be a single line of the book that flaunts Scriptural teaching, the whole approach is one of legalism and Judgementalism.

    • “To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.”

      Yeah, that’s why Scripture records Jesus’ outrage at Mary’s request in Cana….

      Or, does it?

    • The flattening of Scripture – in this case, leaving out the obvious influences of “Patriarchy” that informed how women might influence in that societal context – is one of the ways that we neglect Haddon Robinson’s warning in his “Heresy of Application” article (1997).

      “To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.” buys into Patriarchy and the shallow men that can’t take critique from women that have a strong opinion on something. Let’s take out the freighting words (God, good, etc) and requote:

      “To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s sense of responsibility and leadership.”

      Sounds like that man is not confident in himself and cannot handle others in the group bringing up issues and contradicting ideas of how the group should move forward.

      Why would “taking offense” be the first reaction to someone’s opinion? I thought that leaders ought to be able to stand up to critique, regardless of where that critique comes from, and that accepting, hearing and processing critique is one of the hallmarks of good leaders?

      • To further de-freight (gender neutral) and requote:

        “To the degree that a person’s influence over another is personal and directive it will generally offend the other’s sense of responsibility and leadership.”

        Piper’s position just looks more and more ridiculous, as you strip language and gender out of the way….

    • While I believe some of Piper’s writings have greatly benefited American Christianity (i.e., “Desiring God,” “Let the Nations Be Glad”), his teachings in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” have caused significantly more harm than good. It is legalistic and simply misses the heart and instruction of God. As Jesus says, this type of teaching “strains out the gnat, but swallows a camel.”

      People who try to live by this teaching put themselves under law (a man made law), thus living in a bondage of fear, pride, insecurity, and judgmentalism. Jesus said that if we really know and live by his truth, it will set us free. Does what you read above sound like it will set you free as a man or woman to be all that you are in Christ? I don’t think so.

      Piper makes it sound like you have to do complicated intellectual gymnastics every time you relate to the opposite sex (Uh oh, what if I don’t get it exactly right, or come to the same conclusion as Piper in some sticky situation?!!). How exhausting and unlivable! Why don’t we just work on exercising faith, trust, love, and understanding instead when relating to the opposite sex. Jesus simplifies it as this: “Love one. As I have loved you, love one another.” Truly, Jesus knew how to love people, both men and women. Men, I urge you! Know Christ’s deep love for you and his acceptance of you, and then let him help you love others rightly (both men and women). Look to the Christ of Scripture as your model and source, not to Piper, or anyone else.

  65. One concern I have with elucidating Principles – such as (biblical) “manhood” & “womanhood” – from Scripture is that this not only allows uncritical back-filling of one’s own ideas (from one’s experience, bias, culture, etc…) into the principle, but also (further) abstracts both Who God Is and – since we’re created in the Imago Dei – Who We Are. Too, the former is done with the imprimatur of “biblical” that implies that “God said so”, so don’t go against God (but, really, it’s “don’t go against my interpretation” or try to critique it.) Uncritical back-filling followed by no critique allowed is a dangerous mix….

    Principles are often static or ossify; My God is far more dynamic than that….

    I mean, Father, Son & Spirit sure aren’t frozen in relation to one another or creation, so why would the Godhead create something like a principle that *is* frozen or, at the very least, prone to ossification?

    • Eric, I agree. In many ways I think the “principle” approach to hermeneutics and application of Scripture is flawed and either leaves us rigidly interpreting the Bible apart from cultural context (historically or presently) or building a legalistic edifice within which we can comfortably live – or so we think. Instead, I prefer a typological-paradigmatic hermeneutic that seeks to understand redemptive history from OT to NT to today. This way we can understand the history of Israel as a typology for Christ who fulfilled the law (Mt. 5:17) in order that we might have life and freedom – which, among other things, means the same truth can be applied in a variety of ways throughout many cultures. So for example, regarding gender roles, both in the OT and the NT we find the Bible continually subverting patriarchal cultures and gendered expectations in order to affirm the value, worth, and ability of those who were oppressed (usually women). How is this to be applied? Well, it depends upon the society and culture and the ways in which women (or others) are oppressed today. In America, it probably means overcoming the cult of domesticity and the like. Using a principle hermeneutic is just one way that I believe Piper, et al. go wrong in their assessment of gender roles in Scripture. Christopher J. Wright goes into helpful details about this typological/paradigmatic hermeneutic in his “Old Testament Ethics for the People of God.” We can see that one’s hermeneutic for interpreting and applying Scripture is paramount for issues like this. Those who fail to study hermeneutics carefully do so at their own (and others’) peril.

  66. You criticize Piper for lacking any real biblical content in the first chapter of his book in a blog that invents a fake Jesus who you make say what you think is true—with no citation.

    Can I have my five minutes back, please?

    • Thanks for commenting, raphenroch. The difference is genre and purpose. I wrote a fictional story in the satire genre with the purpose of making folks think about these systems. Piper wrote an expressly theological treatise with the purpose of telling the world how every man and every woman MUST relate to one another in order to be “biblical.” Apples and oranges, in my opinion. For Piper–normally a solid Bible scholar–to start such a text with his own extrabiblical criteria for how men and women must relate in order to avoid sin, is a perfect example of legalism. What Jesus calls “rules taught by men.” That folks can read such a book and not have this first chapter scream “red flag” shows me two things: we in America desperately want to follow someone impressive who will tell us how we can please God; and we have poor critical thinking skills. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify.

  67. This is a picture of some of the hurt that one woman feels:-


  68. Reblogged this on Salt and Light Witness and commented:
    Yes, yes, and yes 🙂

  69. Or the women who …..gasp…instead of staying home in the kitchen were following Christ on his journeys? Or Lydia who supported Paul in his ministries? Or the deacon…ess?
    What gets me is the absolute arrogance that many of these men have in teaching others? No where do I see this same “model of teaching” done in the New Testament.
    This may be the way it was done in the Dark Ages, but not of Jesus Christ.

  70. Fascinating topic; you did a great job with the writing. I have no perspective on the other 3, but I agree with other readers that your caricature of Eldgredge is inaccurate and pretty mean-spirited as well. (All the caricatures are mean-spirited, actually)
    Do you feel that you’re guilty of the same things you are accusing these guys of with this piece? If your point is to say that these men have mislead people by ascribing “biblical” to their own versions of manliness, aren’t you doing the same by insinuating that your Jesus caricature is a more truly biblical man?
    That said, thanks for the thoughtful read! This is a great conversation to have.

    • You know Lucas, that’s a fair question. I definitely see how I could have improved the post. I have received the most flak in regard to Eldredge. All I can say to that is I look forward to coming more up to speed on Eldredge’s recent works. But I know what I felt after reading “Wild at Heart,” and I know I am not alone, so it may be helpful for Eldredge fans to sit back and ponder what I’m trying to express and why thousands of men feel hurt by that initial book.

      Am I guilty of creating a false portrait of a “more biblical” Jesus, the very thing I accuse these authors of doing? I don’t think so. Here’s why: I guess I see the main difference as genre and purpose. This was a satirical piece with the purpose of starting a dialogue and making people think. Satire involves caricature, and I thought my readers would understand that. The men I critique write in more of a theological treatise genre–they say, “this is what is”–and I perceive their purpose to be calling people to follow their systems of “biblical” manhood and womanhood. That’s where people get hurt–in the universalizing and biblicizing of what in reality is personal preference. For what it’s worth, the Jesus character in this story doesn’t necessarily look like how I normally envision Jesus. But in this story he had to look the way he did in order for the story to work.

      Thanks for your comment, Lucas. I’m glad this piece has at least sparked some conversation and dialogue =)

  71. By the way Stephen I had a friend in the past “John MacARthur/John Piper” church I went to that was encouraged by the elders to date a man she had no interest in. they practically pushed it on her- (this possible suitor asked her one time how many guns she had in her house). She was also one, because she was single, believed that since her dad was not around that the elders had jurisdiction over her spiritual life. I told her “no way date a man she did not care for”; thankfully, she listened to her dads wise advise and didn’t.
    So this example right here is another proof that this kind of teaching is ridiculous and scary at best!

  72. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and only wished you’d substituted Wayne Grudem for Eldridge!

    Eldridge is the only one I’ve read and I agree with others that your characterisation of him is unfair. I am a straight, rather camp man and I didn’t find “Wild at Heart” helpful. However I’m willing to forgive him one dud book (and an obsession with outdoor pursuits, which in the UK is not the norm) for his book “The Journey of Desire”. It was a big source of healing and encouragement for me while single in my early 20’s and struggling.

    • Thanks, Peter. I am taking this all in and looking forward to reading some of Eldredge’s other works. I hope and hope that my characterization of Eldredge does not become a red herring to obviate a much-needed discussion about these systems overall. *Sigh*

      • So do I! Too late to reword it I guess, given the number of comments.

        Keep it up – I wish more people in the Christian world would spark discussions with writing like this 🙂

  73. “With this in mind, take a look at Wild at Heart. The basic contention is that God created man with a wild heart, and God did this because God Himself is wild at heart. An idea central to Eldredge’s message (and quoted from the inside dust jacket of the book) is that every man must have “a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live. That is how he bears the image of God.” Eldredge holds up Braveheart hero William Wallace as an example of a real man, in contrast to the late Mister Rogers, the soft-spoken children’s TV personality, as a weak, modem Christian man.

    Eldredge claims that if Christian men are going to change from a pitiful bunch of “really nice guys” to men who are made in the image of God (imago Det) they must re-examine their false presumptions about God’s character to recover their true, God-given, male identity as wild hearts. Eldredge’s message is permeated with his outdoor experiences, mixed with selected ideas gleaned from a variety of sources, including the neo-pagan offerings of several secular men’s movement writers and movies (especially, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, and Gladiator). He combines this with loosely-interpreted Bible passages and evangelical “christianese.”

    “Eldredge quotes from Isaiah 63, which describes God wearing blood-stained clothes, spattered as though he had been treading a wine press. Then he writes: ‘Talk about Braveheart. This is one fierce, wild, and passionate guy. I have never heard Mister Rogers talk like that. Come to think of it, I never heard anyone in church talk like that, either. But this is the God of heaven and earth.””
    by Orrel Steinkamp The Plumbline

    Stephen, here is a little bit of info on Eldridge. I would have to say anytime we characterize God as being one particular “person” we end up marginalizing. So here we see that UNLESS you are like Braveheart- William Wallace, well, you are not in line with God’s view of man. If you are like Mr. Rogers, well……unfortunate…..:(

  74. I happen to like Mr. Rogers, by the way….
    My boys math tutor is more like Mr. Rogers and the nicest man I know.

    • Thank you for your post, trust4himonly. It helps to back up why Eldridge’s personification of “biblical manhood” also falls short. Me too, I love Mr. Rogers and believe he is a man of admirable character — may not be what American guys look up to as a role model but perhaps they should! Someone like Mr. Rogers commands my honor and respect of him as a woman by his humility, self-restraint, and gentleness. Furthermore, wouldn’t you say that having a soft spot for children is much like Jesus? To me, that is very attractive in a man.

  75. What? No way! Authors write with personal bias? Are you telling me that their personal history and past actually affect their mission today? Huh… All this time I thought I was reading absolute truth. *cough*

    Before you slam some of today’s most affluent leaders of today by telling them how to write a book, maybe he should learn how to read one. You’re a year out of seminary, and already writing articles defaming the character of Driscoll, Eldridge, Piper, and Phillips? Maybe your next article should be how unrealistic Mother Theresa was.

    I get your perspective. But your delivery? If you can’t appreciate being challenged by other leaders of the church, and would rather respond with an age-old adage “Just be like Jesus”, that’s weak. Do you have an argument against these men that is actually valid?

    • Cough, cough…… Marx would have loved your thought process.

    • Karl Marx had many good things to say that were true about the greed of man and about fairness, where he went wrong was “how to do it”. Words mean something Evan whether we would like to acknowledge it or not AND they DO influence people. History tells us so.

      Good thing that just maybe…..we are just now starting to think for ourselves and allowing the complete knowledge of the Holy Spirit to be our guides for once.

      • “Think for ourselves” so that one day you can go write your own book, filled with your own bias, your own story, your own perspective, and even your own interpretation of the knowledge of the Holy Spirit. The eclectic views and perspective of the church is a beautiful thing. Put into practice “eat the straw, spit out the sticks”. Which I can do for ol’ mate stephen here who wrote the original article. Again, I understand his premise, and appreciate his point. But the process of defamation was for what gain? Do you need to make someone else look bad to make yourself look better?

    It follows that if one imports into Christianity ideas that are not consistent with the biblical record, one must adapt and change biblical ideas. Eldredge does just this in many places. In order to make his case, Eldredge finds it necessary to redefine the character of God, the character of Christ, the Fall, the Gospel, and the two natures of believers ”
    by Orrel Steinkamp The Plumbline

    Are we created in God’s image or man’s image of God? This is the heart of the matter and where these men go wrong. They are going by what they THINK and thereby constructing their theology. By the way this is Plato-ism in its finest- “the spiritual being is perfect and divine, but the physical is warped, twisted and construed”. So in their MIND, they create the perfect image of man in what they THINK God would approve. And since they are the elites, they KNOW.

  77. I only think what I know from experience and don’t establish myself as a leader or write a book about it so that other people think that I do have it all- I don’t and thank goodness I do not have that responsiblility! I do know one thing the Holy Spirit is my guide. The Bible states…..”But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true–it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” 1 John 2:27

    Now go and ask the Holy Spirit if what I say is true or not- that is what I would say to you. If not then, so be it.

    • What does this verse mean to you in context of church leadership and submission?

      • I am only in submission to Christ; in that if a man does come around exhibiting humility and sound teaching then yes, I will LISTEN to wise teaching. But if ever that same man told me that I had to be in submission to him- I would run for the hills. See humble men that are leaders don’t ask for others to be in submission, they exhibit it by being a servant to those around them.

    • So you would thank God you don’t have the responsibility of leadership, but you would also discredit those that do, saying that their writings and theology is based off of self-constructed theology? If the Holy Spirit is your guide, and if “you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true”, maybe you should write a book. I could learn something from you.

      • Why would I Evan?- you have that access to Him and I do not need to write one.
        I am on this blog because I do appreciate Stephen and his articles and find it in my spirit that what he says has truth ringing in it; and I do not appreciate the abuse and false teaching of the flock- so I express myself. You are the one coming on his site and arguing otherwise, which is great! And I appreciate Stephen for not deleting comments who do disagree with him (which on many others they would).

  78. Here is another thing to think about (if you want to)
    Is experience more or less believable then what someone says? I would have to say more believable. So this is where it is (in my humble opinion)- what we see now in American Christianity today is more divisiveness, more divorce, more abuse in the church, and more people leaving church (the nones) then we have ever seen (by statistics Barna). So we ask what is going on here? Is it the churchgoers fault? Well this is what I believe these pastors would say ……… it is and we need more teaching, more study, more service, more giving (as if this would solve the problem). Well funny thing is, is that none of this is solving the problem and only expanding it.
    The issue is that none of this really gets to the heart which is the personal relationship between that person and His Savior Jesus. Whatever or whoever that person happens to be, whether Mr. Nice Guy or Macho Man it is about the Holy Spirit and HIS working out THAT individual persons salvation. NO other man is going to be able solve those issues, but they sure wish they could.
    The reality is that what we are witnessing from the likes of these men is bordering cult behavior. From experience, I have seen friends being order to be under their elders control; that Jesus cannot be your friend, because He is too Holy; to mixing justification with sanctification to the Church (aka. elders and pastors) being your mediator between you and God.

  79. You want to know who’s fault it is? It’s your fault. It’s my fault. Yes, it’s also Driscoll, Piper, and whoever else’s fault. What was Christ’s final command to his followers? Make disciples. Not convert people to Christianity. Not give more money. Not become a theologian. Make disciples. Are you doing that?

    I’m sorry you and your friends got hurt from “the likes of these men”. But don’t write off “these men”. Take what you can from it, then if you must, move on. That’s why The Church has many churches. Or, if you don’t like it, fix it.

  80. Not that many will get this far in the Comments, but I just added an update to the post which explains the following:

    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.

  81. No Evan…. thankfully right now I am just resting in His great love and I am loving it!

  82. Satire was also used by William Shakespeare and many others.

    “Think for ourselves” so that one day you can go write your own book, filled with your own bias, your own story, your own perspective, and even your own interpretation of the knowledge of the Holy Spirit. The eclectic views and perspective of the church is a beautiful thing. Put into practice “eat the straw, spit out the sticks”. Which I can do for ol’ mate stephen here who wrote the original article. Again, I understand his premise, and appreciate his point. But the process of defamation was for what gain? Do you need to make someone else look bad to make yourself look better?

    Evan what you said here has some truth to it and you are right that we can “eat the straw and spit out the sticks” on many books. The problem is that many of these books are being used for an agenda and that is to control a persons behavior and thought processes. Writing a book about opinion is one thing, but to actively try to change one’s spiritual construct to fit anothers, without any Biblical grounding, is where I have a problem. You would say that Hitler had an agenda with Mein Kampff and you would not accept it, right? The same is here. Just a suggestion- look at http://www.paulspassingthoughts.com. Paul has very convincing data on where all these men get their religious dogma from- it wlll surprise you how Reconstruction theology, Plato, Augustine, Calvin/Luther, and Neo-Calvinism are closely linked.

  83. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink and forget the law” (Proverbs 31:4,5).

  84. dude… wanna get a beer?

  85. Fantastic … fantastic … fantastic ! I love this ! I was shunned from my weekly men’s bible study some years ago for making the same point that you made above about Piper and Eldridge (not really shunned, but hopefully you get my point). And your comment/response to Carmella: but let’s not make false biblical standards based on our own cultural milieu – WOW ! So much to say on that one ! Can I join you and Cal for a beer … I am probably ‘the elder’ so I’ll pay (smile)

  86. I have a long way to go before publicly calling out piper and Driscoll for being unbiblical.. But maybe that’s just me..

  87. This post makes me sad. Not because of the supposed deficiencies of the men who are caricatured in it; but because a man who calls himself a Christian tears down and ridicules his brothers in Christ to try and make his own point. Stephen, what ever message you were trying to deliver here was completely lost in and overshadowed by the disdain with which you treated those 4 public figures.

    • I’m sorry bassmannash, but I disagree with you on this. Stephen’s post may be critical of these people, it may be irreverent, it may be daringly different. But it is not an attack on those men (no women writers teaching this sort of stuff, note!) personally. Rather, it is a stinging rebuke to them for the harm and hurt they have caused others – all in the name of Christ!

      Those who step up to the plate (I believe that is a baseball reference, but I don’t know because I follow the holy game of cricket myself!) and accept leadership roles must remain open to criticism and evaluation of all they do and say. It comes with the territory, surely? And, if there is a general backlash culturally against rich, white, middle-class men who proclaim themselves to be teaching from a Divine perspective, why are we surprised?

      As for me, I would never read anybody’s writings with the same reverence and respect that I extend to my reading of the Bible. And therefore, I am unlikely to lead my life in slavish obedience to whatever anybody writes. I didn’t find Wild At Heart offensive in any way, but Eldredge doesn’t come across as a man dictating God-given rules in that book. I think he was attempting to set men free to become fuller people in God.

      As soon as anybody says or writes from the perspective of “God told me that…” I run a mile. Because what always comes next is, “if you disagree with me, you are disagreeing with God Almighty”.

      This is the attitude of a bully. And, as such, it needs to be stood up to. And I thank Stephen for doing his own part in that. Without malice aforethought, too.

  88. Too many straw men, in fact every character in your post is a straw man. I admire your creativity, but when you play the Jesus juke trump card it goes over the top. You said you have heard of many men hurt by their teachings. What examples? What teachings? God created men to walk as sons, leaders, lovers, protectors and providers. I believe our culture has been hurt by a lack of “biblical manhood” far more than a few men have been hurt by these teachings. Jesus ministered (and was ministered to) by both men and women. Anyway, your straw men weakened your own argument.

    • Carey
      Actually those “straw men” that you say are being used ARE actual people my friend. I have happened to talk, post with, and see many who are being hurt and abused by these systems. I am one of them who came from a system where a friend was told who she should date and marry; and yes, came from a church where a major player from John MacArthurs church was a leader. I was also told that God is too holy to be our friend and we basically do not have choices but all choices are predestined by God- so why pray. These are damaging and not Biblical.

  89. The pain and destruction caused by the misuse of Scripture Stephen describes cannot be summed up in the words “a few men [who] have been hurt by these teachings.” Ignorance such as that doesn’t just weaken an argument. The four men in the article represent every one of us who would be shocked to discover how Jesus would confront our ideas and values and behaviours if he were to literally stroll into our presence. I applaud you ,Stephen, for having the imagination to help us put ourselves in that situation.

    • Agreed Mark !

      You wrote: The four men in the article represent every one of us who would be shocked to discover how Jesus would confront our ideas and values and behaviours if he were to literally stroll into our presence

      There is a secular book and website – Manvotionals – The Art of Being a Man – that defines ‘manliness’ – by referencing the book ‘Pushing to the Front’ by Orison Swett Mardin. In that book, Mardin writes –

      ‘Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd; a man who has the courage of his consciousness; who is not afraid to say ‘No’, though all the world say ‘Yes’.

      THAT is what defines manliness to me and as modeled by Jesus and the Disciples.

      Jesus was never an individual in the crowd. The Disciples did not alter their ideas, values and behaviours when faced with jail for instance, when it would have been so easy to do so.

      Everything that Jesus confronted – as he strolled into the presence of the woman at the well, the paralytic who was lowered through the roof – was confronted with grace AND always with the ideas, values and behaviours of the Father. If He strolled into my presence – I hope that He would see those same traits in me.

  90. There were two wealthy and wicked brothers who had been members of the same church for many years.

    One of the brothers died.

    The surviving brother met with the pastor and offered him a huge honorarium under the condition that he at the funeral must say that his brother was ‘a saint’.

    The pastor agreed and took the money.

    At the funeral the pastor went on and on about how ‘evil and miserable this man was.’ How ‘he manipulated and deceived.’ How ‘he outright lied. . . and did everything in his power to destroy others in the pursuit of his own ends—for the maintenance of his own image. . . .’

    After an excoriating time of this, the pastor concluded: ‘And although he was a wicked man, please know this: that compared to his brother—he was a SAINT!’

  91. Too bad the name of your article is rather misleading…. I’d hope you were going to expound on why you think biblical manhood is not a scriptural principle. To many of us not abused by cults, you really do seem to have this weird idea of the androgynous christian. You do realize Christ is a male and God expresses himself In masculine terms? You do know that the bible literally says The man is the head of the woman? Also, the bible clearly fleshes out what a blessed (in other words biblical) woman does and is!

    Brother, Your vision for exposing cultic dangers is admirable…but time and again I see you here over reaching and tearing down The Lord’s established realms of true (not total) authority; if you’re not careful you end up preaching an impotent gospel, one that is all a good idea, but really is as thin as a vapor…empty. Be cautious brother.


    • Hi Jeffrey, I appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts, especially since I know you disagree with the article. Thanks for participating in the discussion and letting me know where you think I went off track.

      It may help you to realize that I didn’t set out to write a theological paper, but rather a story which would raise questions and kick-start dialogue. That’s why I don’t go into details or try to refute these systems with lots of verses. That wasn’t the purpose.

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say I seem to have some weird idea of the androgynous Christian. Are you referring to the Jesus figure in this story who acts kindly and has long hair? Androgynous means man/woman, but this figure is just a man. Jesus was a man, and God predominantly expresses himself in the Bible in masculine terms. Does that help clarify my position?

      I’m afraid the Bible doesn’t say that the man is the head of the woman. Instead, Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife, so the Bible limits the expression to the marriage relationship at best. There are a lot of interpretations as to what that means. If you’re interested, I’d suggest Sarah Sumner’s book, “Men and Women in Ministry,” as well as George and Dora Winston’s book, “Recovering Biblical Ministry by Women,” for some biblically-based alternatives. It’s always good to hear both sides of a debate before coming to a hard conclusion.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

      • Firstly…The bible does say it quite plainly…
        “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor 11:3
        (this could just be a translation difference)

        Although I would agree the text indicates the marriage relationship, even in the confines of marriage it clearly stipulates the ‘buck stops with the man’. The man is held accountable for his wife, in a way the wife is clearly not (that’s why she has to submit, which does NOT mean she has to sin) . I found that hard to get around without denying the text. I also find that this, properly understood, does nothing to make the women ‘less human’, or even make her ministry less important ( I might argue her’s is more important), but it does make her role different, and it does put the man (husband) in plain terms, in charge. I would also add that any husband that does not look to his wife as his partner and counsel in every aspect of their life together is not only a great fool, but quite deep in the sin of pride.
        Even in a so called ‘equal partnership’ there is still a head. And in the case of marriage, God defined the head.

        Doug Wilson has a great little blurb in simple terms on this


        What I really was getting at is not just in this passage, but your blog in general can seem very anti-authority, when as a Christian, it is authority and submission to the various levels that really defines us. Without The Holy Trinity’s sovereign authority, without Christ’s submission to the Father, The Church to Christ, The family to the church, The wife to the husband, the children to parents, the people to the nation, servant to master etc. All is chaos, all is lost.

        Also my remark about the androgynous Christian is something i’ve picked up on not just in this post, but in many of your posts. It seems to come from what looks like a backlash against the very idea that God does define and ordain specific gender roles, and levels of authority. I really don’t think that is what you are espousing, but it really can come across that way.

        I understand your purpose, is to expose dangerous cults and their tendencies and warning signs. But, If I may humbly suggest; I know I would find it very helpful if you continually, while dealing with different cult abuses and the ‘grain of truth’ they draw from, reinforce the scriptural truths at the same time. An abusive fellowship does not nullify the Church’s authority. A bad daddy doesn’t negate the position of Father (both the Earthly and Heavenly, which many make that jump). etc etc. Wicked men abusing the Word don’t falsify it. I of course know you know that, but it can be hard to see sometimes.

        This is really my only hangup here on Liberty for Captives. And I really think it just stems from the nature of the format.

      • Ah! I see what you mean, Jeff, in 1 Cor. 11. I forgot about the traditional translation of “man” and “woman” because I have agreed with George and Dora Winston that it is better translated “husband” and “wife,” since the Greek words for “man” and “husband” and “woman” and “wife” are identical and only context decides the translation. They argue, by the way, for complementarianism in marriage but egalitarianism in church. A pretty unique complegalitarian perspective, and one to which I subscribe, as well. I think you move in this direction when you talk about partnership in marriage, with the husband still bearing ultimate responsibility.

        You know, I struggle to understand this 1 Cor. 11 passage. I re-read the paper I wrote on this topic at Dallas Seminary and this passage was the only one I walked away from without finding a meaning that satisfied me. Right now I say “I don’t know,” but I’m open to learning.

        I do believe that there is spiritual authority in the church, though not because of the position someone holds but rather due to truth and trustworthiness (by trustworthiness, I mean character, as described in 1 Tim 3; Titus 1; and 1 Peter 5). You can find more of my thoughts about this here: https://libertyforcaptives.com/2012/08/24/hebrews-1317-spiritual-authoritys-most-abused-verse/ So I do believe there are legitimate spiritual authorities who are gifted and called by God and recognized by the church. We disobey them or ignore their counsel at our own peril.

        You make a wise point that in a blog which seeks to expose spiritual abuse, I would do well to also express what the Bible teaches as the proper way for life and conduct. I try to do this sometimes, but I think I fall short. Thanks for adding your perspective and voice to this discussion, Jeff.

      • Well, I am flummoxed really. It seems as though a lot of people are putting a lot of thought into what the Bible says about how they should live their lives. But the problem is, that when they think they have got it right they decide they must point out to other people where those people are going wrong. (Sorry about the poor English here, I am a bit tired.) This isn’t teaching, is it? Its not exposition, not as I understand it. It’s merely banging the Bible on the desk, reading the words out loudly and saying “there you go, its there in black and white”. How very peculiar that people who use the Holy Bible in this way see themselves as wise, Godly, reverent and, above all RIGHT.

        Did Jesus really die for this? That we, his followers, swap the Torah for another book of the law. And for us to read it not just for our own personal guidance and correction, but so that we can point out to all and sundry the error of their ways. Honestly, some of these arguments and discussions seem to be happening in a vacuum. There is a world all around us, filled with people who are desperate, victimised, helpless, hopeless and confused. And what do we, the Body of Christ do? We argue and bicker about minor theological points, none of which matter! They really, really don’t matter, I promise you. They don’t matter to the woman who has just had an abortion, or to the child who has seen a parent die to cancer, or a man who has once again got into a drunken fight. A drowning person wants a hand, any hand, to reach out to them. They don’t care, at this desperate stage of their lives, whether its a male hand, a female hand, black, white or brown. Are you going to offer them your hand? Or are you going to check first whether the drowning person is a true believer, whether they are worthy of saving?

        The point is, nobody is good enough or perfect enough. And we never will be. The joyous part of the Christian message is that we don’t need to be. And…there is no part of the Gospel that isn’t joyous. Is there? So all this erudite intellectualising of our life with the Lord leaves me hot under the collar. If somebody writes a book about how I can meet with Jesus in a new way, walk more deeply with God, or love myself and others as He Himself loves, then I will buy it.

        I have come to realise that we have to dump our search for certainties. Why? Because, being fallible human beings, we will end up clinging to them and fighting for them instead of walking out in the freedom of knowing for sure that God loves us unconditionally because of who He is and not because of what we are. And our certainties are another person’s doubts, anyway.

        I love Richard Rohr’s writings. See what you think about this:

        Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection, as we think. Divine perfection is, in fact, the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection! Just as God does with all of us. Only in this way can we find the beautiful and hidden wholeness of God underneath the passing human show. This is the “pearl of great price,” in my opinion. Non-dual thinking and seeing is the change that changes everything. It makes love, mercy, patience, and forgiveness possible.


    • Jeffrey:

      I see that you are going to Doug Wilson as a source for understanding “biblical manhood” as it pertains to marriage. The following excerpt is taken from one of his books. Are you in agreement with his interpretation here:

      Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

      When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

      But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

      True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

      Furthermore, are you aware of this story of Wilson: http://goo.gl/WVxEAC
      It is quite easy to confirm this story because much of the legal documentation is public.

      Wilson is another person who could easily be one of the 4 guys in Steve’s story. I find many of his views/teachings are problematic.

      • Quite frankly, ma’am…The quote you leave is truly a strange one. And no, I cannot say I endorse it. Although I see what he’s getting at, it is very icky, and kind of disturbing. Which book is it? Furthermore, this story you link to I cannot comment on, because a lot the facts are very probably missing, and to make a judgment either way would most definitely cause me to bear false witness.

        To herald some man’s work so completely (like you are suggesting) is very dangerous, and I wouldn’t do that. I honestly don’t know that much about the man, but I do know I found I agreed very much with the article I cited, and found he worded some of the very things I have found to be true in a much better way than I could. I quite happily borrow the wisdom (even if it is only small bits) of those that would publish it.

      • Jeffrey: I’m glad you found it disturbing. I have never been sexually violated, but when I read it for the first time, I felt violated. I’ve never felt such a strong reaction to any written material before. I was glad to then read the comments and see that many other women had the same reaction. As a woman reading it, it was repulsive. In the summer of 2012, Jared Wilson posted this excerpt (from Wilson’s book: Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man) in a blog post and it received viral outrage. Doug Wilson even came to Jared’s blog to defend this passage and he and Jared both thought it was appropriate. Jared eventually took it down because of the strong negative response.

        I am very concerned for any woman who is married to a man who supports Wilson’s idea of marriage and biblical manhood/womanhood. I do not believe Wilson’s words to line up with God’s view of authority at all. Read that excerpt again – – that’s his idea of marital sex. He says “no egalitarian pleasure party” – – so for him it sounds like the sex act is purely for the husband to penetrate/colonize and woman to accept/receive. Did Wilson even read Song of Solomon? There was far more than conquering by the man and surrendering by the woman in that book – – they were pleasuring each other – – and that sure sounds far more egalitarian than the patriarchal garbage Wilson teaches.

  92. I want to start out by saying that I understand where you are coming from with this piece of satire. I know your background and I see how it fits into what I believe to be G-D’s redemptive ministry in your life. I too carry the baggage of false teaching and the cult of personality. It seems to be an ever festering wound that doesn’t seem to fully heal.

    One of the side effects of that wound is to be hyper-critical in my attempts to not be misled again. If that is the case here, I apologize in advanced.

    I will not speak concerning Phillips, as I am not familiar enough to comment. As for the others, however, it is easy to point to the thousands who have been hurt by them at the expense of the tens, or hundreds, of thousands whom G-D has used these men to help. Do any of them paint a complete picture of Biblical Maniless? Me genoito! But incomplete does not mean apostate. In fact, they all spend a lot of time qualifying their positions to demarcate what they are NOT intending to say – some of which was included in your characterization of these men. Admittedly, Driscoll’s position is far less qualified than the others.

    I believe the teaching of these men has been distorted by those who have read/listened to their teachings. It reminds me of a point in my own past where I railed against a popular author. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I did so in a very public forum where he was present. I was so angry by how people were using his books “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Boy Meets Girl” to justify behavior that was not supported in Scripture that I felt justified in my attack upon him. The ironic part is that I was judging a man based upon how people reacted to what he wrote, not what he wrote.

    Having followed a wayward teacher in my past, I am forced to admit that I tend to see false teaching under every rock. However, if I am honest with myself, the majority of what I see is how people could interpret what is being said, and not what is actually being said. Like our teachers distorted G-D’s teachings, how much easier would it be to distort the teachings of men in ways that hurt – and we often do it to ourselves.

    I have really enjoyed watching you grow since our time at TU together. I do not see this post as a lack of growth or a step back, but I do see that same festering wound that I carry poking its way into your words. I only offer caution when you feel it making its presence known. After all, in what ways will your words (or mine own) be used by the adversary to hurt other believers? ‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’

    Love in Him,

    • Jordan, I really appreciate your involvement in my life and you speaking into my life. You have articulated well what dozens of others have also expressed. I am sure you are right in observing that because of my wounded past, I am prone to view popular teachers with a distorted amount of cynicism. In seeking to correct others or raise awareness of spiritual abuse, I am in danger of swinging the pendulum too far to the other side. Seeing the strong reaction to this post-both those who love it and those who hate it–makes me realize that I have probably missed the balancing point. I expect that my woundedness played a role in this. Thanks for gently reminding me of this and for sharing your own journey (a journey I greatly respect, by the way.)

      Let me push back slightly against two things you said. First, I am not suggesting that any of these men are apostate. Indeed, I tried to emphasize the Christ figure’s love for them, understanding of their good motives, and that they are his friends. I believe this to be so.

      Second, you suggest that tens or hundreds of thousands have likely been helped by the teachings of these men, and that thousands may have been hurt, and not to lose that relative weight of help vs. hurt. I might suggest that the numbers are more even than we realize, especially when we include women in the figures. There are many thousands who will stand up and say that systems of hard complementarianism have damaged their marriages and even their relationship with God. Others will say that Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart,” while hugely appealing to tens of thousands of men, created in them a sense of caricature and inadequacy because they did not match the William Wallace-type that he says every man desires to be like.

      The biggest difference between Eldredge and the other three men is that Eldredge has refrained from mandating his approach. This is good. I think if he nuanced his book better, it would avoid some of the pain that it has caused to many.

      We are all learning, and I want to learn from this and hold fast to what I believe is true while also accepting input and refinement from my brothers and sisters. Your comment has proven a timely reminder to me. Thanks for it, and please stay safe in your dangerous part of the world.

      • Stephen,

        I really do appreciate those two push backs. I did note “Josh’s” love for all the men at the table. What I was observing, which may be extremely unfair, is whether your attitude towards the men is better described by their characterization or by Josh’s response.

        As for you second, I have seen the abusive use of many good philosophies rooted in the Bible. Should that be an indictment against them or how they are being used? It is really unfortunate that as fallen people, we tend to follow one person, distorting their teachings, rather than following one G-D and allowing many counselors in our lives. This is where false teaching really begins, when we are separated from the multitude of counselors (either by other’s will, or by our own decisions/blindness) that G-D has placed around us and identify ourselves by who we follow, be it Driscoll or Piper, or Bell or McLaren, or even (dare I say) Luther or Calvin. (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). So, in that regard I can see your point and we ought to test everything, holding onto only which is good.

        I have found that the most difficult part of being a Christian stems from the living aspect of The Word. That G-D speaks to me where i am implied that He does the same to you. If our contexts are different, then the nuances might be as well. However, going too far with this can easily lead to open-theism, plurality, and a whole slew of problems. It is important to understand the impact this has on the people listening, as they might not be actively contextualizing what these men are saying, but also with the speakers/writers who are not honest and open with their own context. As you noted, I agree, that Eldridge does not force his view – which I would attribute to contextualization. Another good writer in Biblical maniless, because of his own history and ability to speak into multiple contexts is Dan Allendar. And while he does not write specifically on the topic, his abuse history speak volumes into this discussion.

      • Hi Eric,

        How kind of you to respond with gentleness to my post…many would have found my words offensive (arising from my lack of skill with writing and language).

        The thing is, I don’t really do theological discussion and debate! Many of the contributions to this topic come from extremely learned people, and I am conscious of being out of my depth. So, much of what I write probably seems simplistic.

        The other major drawback for me is my Englishness! I simply don’t have the relevant experience of what it means to be an American churchgoer. Here in the UK we have no mega churches, for example. The majority of parish churches (Anglican) will have a weekly congregation of, say, 30 people. The ‘successful’ ones will possibly stretch to a hundred and fifty. Then, our evangelical ‘flagship’ churches will possibly have seven hundred at a service, often crammed into an awkward Victorian building (designed by an architect who had a Gothic fixation). These ‘flagship’ churches are to be found only in the large cities or the capital. Hillsong is very different, but aimed squarely at the young people (the ‘yoof’ or youth). And so I have no actual experience of Hillsong, apart from a semi-clandestine sneak peek on Youtube. Our less evangelically minded fellow believers have even lower numbers of attendance!

        Broadly speaking, this is pretty much the case for the other denominations, but the numbers will be even lower except in the case of churches which are well known and admired for their teaching.

        Sorry to ramble on, but I am just trying to set the scene to explain where I come from when I make comments here. (And being church online like this is a completely new experience for me too!)

        So…all of this hopefully explains my level of discomfort with the way some people have ripped into Stephen for his original post. Because a lot of the comments seem to focus more on his treatment of the four men involved – who some have suggested as being above reproach. The problem for me is that I have a rebellious streak, stemming from a childhood where this wonderful, illuminating, transforming faith we all share was actually made to be a series of rules and regulations which I could never measure up to. This makes me wary of people who attract large followings and slavish obedience to their teaching. So, for me, anybody in a position of leadership is only going to gain my respect and love and admiration and loyalty if they are like Jesus themselves. By that, I mean that they lead lives of radical integrity, with preaching and teaching that is grounded not only in Scripture but also in personal honesty and humility.

        We don’t have, here in the UK, any (I think) men or women in church leadership who are in anything like the same position some of your leaders occupy, with thousands of ardent supporters and tv stations etc.

        Sorry to cut this short, and apologies if my points are being obscured in this rambling discourse…but I must dash off to a meeting!


  93. I must start by saying thank you.

    This is such a powerful piece of divinely inspired thruth and I have been reccommending it to several of my friends. Thank you for being obedient to deliver what the Lord so evidently pressed upon your heart, regardless of what people might say. Thank you for handling the backlash with grace, love, and truth. Please know that as a young woman striving to live in the fullness of God with a surrendered heart, you have painted a beautiful picture of what we truly desire- Christ himself. This was artistically written and such a powerful, timely message for our generation.

    So often we try to formulate or standardize what it means to be a “real man” or “real woman.” We are so quick to label, generalize, and stereotype, allowing others’ opinions to be the filter through which we see ourselves rather than resting in the freedom we’ve already been given in Christ. Since we’re all made in the image of God, maybe we’re missing the point…instead of seeking “manhood” or “womanhood” in itself, maybe we just need to seek God, period. When a man or woman embodies Christ, it is the most beautiful and honorable thing one can do. “Maybe the point of the Bible is that all of you- both men and women- just have to look more like Christ.”

    Amen, brother, Amen.

    • Thanks Amanda! Yes, all of us should strive to follow Jesus and to become more and more like him, whether we are a man or a woman. We don’t have to fit into a man-made system which adds a layer of “oughts” and “shoulds” to make us acceptable to God. Thanks for your encouragement =)

  94. Hi again, as I said yesterday that I would post some amazing (to me, anyway) thoughts on a Biblical attitude towards homosexuality, here it is. I acknowledge that Stephen may feel that this is out of place here, but I was struck by the way that certain Christian leaders (see above for names!) are defining the ‘Biblical’ approach to the genders. The same thing has been done for many years by the orthodox Church (worldwide) in regard to those brothers and sisters in Christ who have been born with a sexual preference that is for others of the same gender as themselves. Um…I do hope the subject matter hasn’t put you off, because I would love it if you were to read it and comment. But Stephen, I do not want to hijack your post and your blog, so just delete all this if you feel it to be out of place. I will respect your decision, whatever it is.

    Anyway, long preamble, so enough said…here is the link (which you may have to cut and paste into a browser window, because I am a techie dinosaur and have probably done this all wrong:


    • Of course I won’t delete it, Jon. This is also an important discussion. Thanks for sharing.

      • Well, thanks for that Stephen. This is a subject pretty close to my heart, because my only son ‘came out’ to me when he was about sixteen. Sad to say, I don’t think he found my reaction supportive at the time. I needed some time to think about what all this meant, of course. For example, had I failed him in his upbringing in some way? Was he really gay? Or was this ‘just a phase’? How did this situation fit in with my faith and my attitude towards homosexuality? Phew!

        Anyway, it took me a surprisingly long time to understand that Chris had not made some misguided decision, but that he had no control over his sexuality – any more than he does over the colour of his eyes. That was a big conclusion for me to reach, and I only got there through discussion I had with another very unorthodox Christian believer, who since the age of nine has been convinced that he is a female inside a male body.

        It’s funny, but it seems to me that we only begin to truly see things from somebody else’s perspective when we absolutely have to. When it’s too painful or close or real for us to simply brush it under the carpet. And this whole thing about the way in which we treat gay fellow believers suddenly bothered me enormously.

        Chris, for example, has no interest in church any more. Why would he? What benefit to him is there in spending meaningful time with people who think he is a freak?

        Anyway, I am just trying to explain how and why I came to the point of seriously thinking about this issue…and I regret that I looked into it only when it became necessary. I am not prepared to ignore other issues now. Every single part of Life is open to the Love of God, His healing and His transforming. I have come late to this realisation, but better late than never, I suppose!

      • Wow, Jon, thanks so much for sharing more of your journey in this area. Jesus loves everyone, and yet we often pick and choose who is worthy of love mostly by who makes us feel comfortable or uncomfortable. While I know there is much debate about same-sex attraction and its causes, there should be no debate about this: Jesus died for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived on this planet or ever will, and he loves them completely. We should aspire to such love. Blessings to you, brother. I am appreciating our across-the-Pond dialogue =)

    • Thanks, Jonathan, for your confession and link!

  95. Okay, their drink choices made me laugh out loud. Very cleverly done.

  96. Liberty, I just wanted to thank you for writing the articles that you do. I’ve only read a few but what I have read spoke volumes to me personally and has expressed my own thoughts and feelings in ways I am not sure I could achieve alone–this post especially. I have several friends who once followed all of these men faithfully, wholeheartedly; thinking the examples they set for “biblical manhood and womanhood” were founded upon Christ’s image. The cold hard truth is that every single friend could not live up to the standard these men set and as result their self image and masculinity/femininity were damaged to the point that it began effecting their families, friendships, and marriages. So, thank you for your caricatures and satire. More than that, thank you for this message that, I believe, is divinely inspired. Lastly, I wanted you to know that I see the caliber of person that you are simply by reading your comments and replies to those criticizing your works. They truly do resound with character, integrity, and humility. I know I’m not the only one who sees these things, but I just wanted to express my gratitude for you and the courage you have to write the way you do. Thank you and may our Lord bless you in all that you do!

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