Seminary Viewpoints

Biblical Masculinity for Today’s Culture

Renton Rathbun | January 26, 2023
Theology Thursday

Is masculinity toxic? Our culture certainly seems to think so — “more equality, fewer stereotypes.” But the Bible does support masculinity, although maybe not the big, strong, tough image that comes to many of our minds. To understand biblical masculinity, we need to start by examining God’s created order.

Equity and Diversity of Men and Women

At creation God made man and woman both in equity. “God created man and woman in His own image, … male and female He created them” (Gen. 1: 27). Their value, equal. Their standing before God, equal. Their glory found in image-bearing, equal.

But God did not create man and woman with flat equity; He also created them in diversity. Both man and woman were included in the command of dominion work — which in Genesis 1:28 is directly related to their image-bearing — but God gave them different roles. In both working and keeping1, men and women have different biological, mental, and skillful functions:

  • First, authority appears to be the role for the first-formed, Adam (1 Tim. 2:12-13). Eve was a “help” to Adam (Gen. 2:18).
  • Second, nurturing the baby is a work the woman was made for down to her biology. Nurturing the wife is the work the man was made for (Rom. 5:12).
  • Third, tending the garden for sustenance was given to the man (Gen. 3:17).

Effect of the Fall on Roles

The curse of the Fall, however, did not introduce a new system. It only made the current (created) system more difficult, cumbersome and painful. Therefore, childbirth wasn’t new, nor the pain of it. Rather, the pain intensified (Gen. 3:16). Man’s headship over his wife wasn’t new. Rather, she desired to be the head, and he used his authority to be brutal to his wife (3:16). Work wasn’t new, either. Rather, work was harder, less successful and required much more effort (3:17-19).

Biblical Masculinity for Today

The curse and our sin have affected our thinking as Christians about what masculinity and femininity really are in today’s culture. We can’t do whatever we want. Instead, we need to renew our minds to return to God’s good will for our roles as men and women (Rom. 12:1–2): for men specifically, they are obligated to fill their God-given role of authority in their homes and churches. Moreover, unlike what Ephesians 5:21-33 has been mutilated to mean, men are to love in their leadership as women are to respect their husbands in their submission.

This is not all there is to say about these roles, but it is curious how fast people rush to look for the exceptions. For instance, “What about single women; who are they supposed to submit to?” or “What if a husband is abusive?” or “What if one spouse is not a Christian?” We often jump to those exceptions because the basic principles of roles make us bristle against our cultural context.

The church and Christian institutions have failed many Christians in leading young people to the basic principles of Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 to understand their God-given roles. Let’s renew our study of these passages and renew our commitment to be anti-cultural when culture rejects biblical masculinity and femininity.

As discussed by Renton Rathbun on The Steve Noble Show on January 26

See Also: Not God’s Design: Men Falling Out of the Workforce (Part I) | Not God’s Design: Women Focusing on Careers Above Family (Part II)

1 According to Richard Phillips, dominion involves work and keeping. Work includes, “nurturing, cultivating, tending, building, guiding, ruling.” Keeping includes, “guarding, keeping, watching, caring, and maintaining.” The Masculine Mandate, 8.