Biblical Manhood: My Turn
The first rule at The Two Cities is, You must write about biblical manhood.
The second rule at The Two Cities is, You must write about biblical manhood.
This website has dedicated more posts to the subject of biblical manhood than any other subject. First Ryan did an excellent series on the topic, examining the biblical manhood movement from a number of different angles. Then John offered a helpful insight to the fact that some in the movement may be projecting an image of manhood that is more American than biblical.
I am Jack’s sense of being left out of the discussion.
I have little to add when it comes to critiquing the movement. Rather, I’d like to take a quick look at the culture to see where men like Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler are coming up with their portrait of the twenty-something man.
As has already been pointed out, we live at a time in history that is very unique. For the vast majority of human existence, this post-adolescence single stage did not exist. As my pastor has astutely noted in surveying Scripture, there are no instructions for those in the twenty-something unmarried crowd. There are directions for children, for parents, for husbands, for wives, for older men and older women. But nothing for unmarried adults (aside from Paul’s discussion on those who are gifted for life-long singleness). One may comment that that’s because the culture to which the Old and New Testament authors were writing didn’t have such a demographic. That’s correct, but the same is true throughout the rest of history until quite recently.
The industrial revolution, which transformed a largely agrarian society, sowed the seeds that would be watered by the technological revolution. Both of these revolutions made life more efficient and more comfortable. What resulted is not just an increase in the standard of living, but the creation of more leisure time than any save the wealthiest individuals throughout history have experienced. Out of this was birthed an entire industry dedicated to entertainment.
As the entertainment industry was emerging and becoming a larger and larger part of our culture, the sexual revolution began. Things that were previously cultural taboos began to be accepted. Abortion was legalized. Then came no-fault divorce. Sex outside of marriage and cohabitation have become the norm in our society.
The rise in leisure time and the entertainment options that exist to fill it, coupled with the sexual revolution, have created a generation of young people (particularly men) who are taking their sweet time growing up. When it comes to relationships with the opposite sex, men can have their cake and eat it too. They can get what they want from women (sex) without having to commit to them in marriage. The time in their lives that previous generations spent raising a family are instead filled with whatever pursuits and pleasures they desire. Among these are video games and bar hopping with their friends.
This is the picture Christian leaders like Driscoll paint of men when they address biblical manhood. As Ryan rightly pointed out, this caricature is certainly not of a regenerate man. However, this man does bear some striking resemblances to men his age who are Bible-believing Christians.
Taking Driscoll’s approach as an example, there are some strengths and weaknesses in painting this picture. The unsaved in his audience may get the wakeup call they need, having the cultural stereotype contrasted with the gospel. The danger is that the saved men in the audience (presumably the majority of the men there) will miss the application to their lives because they don’t completely conform to the image described. Ask just about any twenty-something single man who regularly attends a gospel-preaching church and he’ll tell you that sex outside of marriage is wrong. He may in fact be college-educated, have a good-paying job and be living on his own. Yet he may still fail to grasp true biblical manhood.
He still lives within the same culture as the man described by Driscoll. He can plainly see the obvious sins in the life of the man Driscoll depicts, but he may miss the overall theme of selfishness that the caricature embodies. His life may be filled with satisfying his own desires. He may spend much of his free time pursuing one form of entertainment after another. He recognizes he’s not gifted to be single for the rest of his life, but wants to achieve or experience X, Y and Z before even thinking about marriage. The life of the twenty-something unmarried Christian man may be more closely tied to the culture than some like to think. If Driscoll errs in painting his picture of a modern man because the man is clearly unregenerate, his only mistake is that he’s gone too far in his description. Replace the talk of this man’s sexual conquests with his desires to own his own home, have his car and student loans paid off, and be promoted to a management position before he gets married. The selfish individuality that marks our culture are still present.
Ryan and John have both rightly noted that many in the biblical manhood movement have failed to realize that they are defining manhood on the culture’s terms. Another danger is that Christian men fail to realize just how influenced by the culture they’ve been.
As Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club asks Tyler Durden, “Why do they think I’m you?”, church-going young men need to ask many of these leaders in the biblical manhood movement, “Why do you think I’m like the men in our culture?” The answer they may come to realize is the same one Norton’s character realized.