16 June 2008

Grow up. Be a Man

iblical manliness is about authentic character. It's not about bravado, and it's not about boyishness. Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness.

Real manliness ("mature manhood"—Ephesians 4:13) is defined by Christlike character. Not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.

When the apostle Paul writes about the characteristics of true Christian manhood in Ephesians 4, he focuses on one vital mark of spiritual maturity: "That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (v. 14). You want to be a man as opposed to a little boy? Grow up in your grasp of the truth. Get a grip on sound doctrine and quit being influenced by every new trend and every undulating breeze that blows across the evangelical landscape. Quit chasing the evangelical fads. Get anchored in the truth, and learn to defend it.

That's the main mark of true manhood Paul singles out: doctrinal stability—and along with that are some clear implications: you need to be certain of what you believe. You need to understand it. You need to be able to defend it against everything—ranging from the changing winds of whatever happens to be in style at the moment all the way to human trickery and the cunning craftiness of Satan himself. Because the enemy will offer all kinds of counterfeit doctrines that look good and sound OK—false doctrines where the error is so carefully nuanced it's hard to put your finger on what's wrong with it. He will tempt you to set aside what is precise and carefully defined in place of dumbed-down doctrinal formulas that don't necessarily sound dangerous—but are.

Compare the apostle's vision of manly maturity with John Eldredge's famous sine qua non of manhood." Eldredge says, "Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue."

That is a little boy's lie. That's the stuff of children's fantasies. You simply won't find a description of manliness like that in Scripture. Instead, Scripture says what motivates real men is a love for the truth; a contempt for error; and a passion for being used by God in the work of snatching people from the grip of the father of lies.

I keep hearing about churches who (in order to appeal to ostensibly "masculine" instincts) have moved their men's fellowship to the pub, where they discuss theology as a hobby and share their views on life as Christian men over beer and cigars.

Let me point out that there's nothing particularly manly about that. It's still a private hen party, but you've just substituted beer and cigars in place of tea and crumpets.

If you want a taste of what real manhood looks like, do some gospel ministry in a hostile environment. Stand up for the truth in some venue where it is under attack. Get a solid, manly grasp on the Bible and stand up and teach its hard truths in a way that helps make the truth clear to people who are struggling to get it. Contend earnestly for the faith when some nice-sounding heretic wants you to sit down and have a friendly dialogue about it. Be the kind of man Paul describes here: someone who is steadfast and sure, with a solid grasp of classic biblical truths that have gone out of vogue. Stand against popular opinion when you know you should, and do it every time the opportunity arises.

That's the real gauge of "mature manhood" as Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:13-14. A grown-up man is firm and steadfast in the truth. That means he is disciplined, knowledgeable; anchored; he understands the truth well and is devoted to it. He has his senses trained for discernment.

Oh, and by the way: that doesn't happen to lazy people. You have to be diligent to get to that point. Read Hebrews 5:12-14 for the classic prescription of how to move out of adolescence into that kind of mature manliness. Read the first verse in Psalm 1 if you want to see an example of it.

Phil's signature


David A. Carlson said...


When I read Wild at Heart, my first response was laughter because it's points were so relentlessly wrong.

now it just makes me mad

DJP said...

"Going out into the woods with a bunch of other men, putting on war paint, making animal noises, telling scary stories around a campfire, and then working up a good cry might be good, visceral fun and all, but that has nothing to do with the biblical idea of manliness."

Fine. Only Monday, and now I've no plans for the weekend. Thanks a lot.

donsands said...

Nice post.

Loving the truth and rejoicing in it, and being willing to go to the mat for it, and even die for it, is being a man.

Can we still have man-hugs though?

David A. Carlson said...

donsands -

What, you don't greet brothers with a holy kiss?

DJP said...

On man-hugs.

James Scott Bell said...

Paul certainly uses words like fight and contend, and the terminology of warfare and athletic contests. But it's always in terms of the FAITH. Not to get in touch with some inner wild man so you can feel good about yourself.

Hadassah said...

Hey! Wait a minute!

Does this mean that my fantasy of being a princess who gets to marry Jesus is a little girl's lie???

You've shattered me.

candy said...

Dan. Funny!

You guys might want to consider getting Komodo dragons for pets instead of little fawning dogs with their big soft eyes and drooling tongues that slurp on you like they love you or something. Now those dragons are manly pets. No sentimentality in those creatures. I'm surprised John Eldredge doesn't already have one.

Solameanie said...

Wow, wow and wow again. (No, I haven't been reading Pagitt)

I especially loved the "hen party" line. Ain't it the truth?

In this day and age, it certainly does require a measure of courage to stand against the tidal wave of church fads these days. Even raise a gentle voice of concern, and they're ready to haul you up on genocide charges.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

What a refreshing post!

steve said...

That John Eldredge's books have sold in such large numbers is a scary commentary in itself.

Jason Alligood said...

Spot on Phil!

donsands said...

"What, you don't greet brothers with a holy kiss?" -dac

Absolutely, I fall on their necks.

I love that man-hug video.

Solameanie said...

Don Sands..

I would be very careful about references to "falling on" someone. In the Old Testament, especially with King Solomon, "falling on" someone usually meant sending the head of the army out to lop off someone's head. I'm sure you're not the lopping kind.

Also (and this includes Dan too),

I would be very careful about references to man hugs. Brian Kilmeade of "Fox and Friends" might well catch wind of it and send both of you a "man bag."

Now that I've dispensed of my loving cautions of the day, I think I'll go grab the .22 and see if I can dispatch a pesky rabbit in my garden. I would use a 12-gauge, but that might vaporize the poor little critter.

John said...

"If you want a taste of what real manhood looks like, do some gospel ministry in a hostile environment."

Does expressing your reformed views in your non-reformed Sunday school class count? Some Southern Baptists get pretty hostile when you don't share their traditional beliefs.

Mike Riccardi said...


I think it does bro. Preach the Word.

Andrew N. said...

I know one thing, "mature manhood", i.e. being like Christ, is not a whole lot of fun, and it's not that romantic a notion either.

Hadassah said...

John, I feel your pain. Try explaining to your SS class that Southern Baptist used to be a reformed denomination, and then see what kind of response you get.

donsands said...

You're too funny.

", I think I'll go grab the .22 and see if I can dispatch a pesky rabbit in my garden."

I shot a rat with my BB gun a couple moths ago. One shot killed it, but I shot it a couple more times to make sure.

Kim said...

I remember trying to read Wild at Heart. I wore a path from the couch to where hubby was working, becoming increasingly agitated with each trip to share him the "wisdom" of Mr. Eldredge. Almost as bad as Captivating, but not quite.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it. Thanks.

Susan said...

1. Thanks for the post, Phil. All Christian men should read it!

2. Dan, that "man-hug" video is absolutely hilarious!!! Good thing the Brits didn't spell "huggee" H-U-G-G-I-E--or else we'd be talking about infants instead of men! J/K.

Fred Butler said...

At the risk of stirring a stink, I see Ultimate Fighting to be the Reformed equivalent to Eldridge.


Andrew E. Courtis said...

Phil, that was a very good post! This is a strong challenge that is of great importance.

Keep proclaiming the truth.

Paul said...

Reminds me of the "fundamentalism vs apostasy" videos on youtube! (A rather strange editing of Ian Paisley).

Dave .... said...

You've hit the high points in my pitch for intentional maturation (used to be called, "make disciples" somewhere). Psalm 1, especially. There is a Rob Bell video out entitled something like, "between two trees" (one in the garden of Eden, Gen. 2, and the other in the new Heaven, Rev 22). In it he gets warm and fuzzy about making a difference while we are “between” these two trees. Scripture talks about a third tree in Psalm 1, the "blessed" man. The whole wishy-washy "emergitation" (new term for the ECM "regurgitation" of old heresies?) tripe goes away when you take Scripture seriously. Over-simplified, but I like it.

Becky Schell said...

Nicely put, thank you. I remember years ago, when I read my son the book Letters to Young Men by W. B. Sprague, I found many of the admonitions to boys for improving character were convicting to me as well. The same is true in this post you have written to men.

Also, I couldn't help but notice the stance of that Samsonesque fellow is very similar to Tiger Woods' after his final putt on Sunday. (He was even wearing red.)

candy said...

I nominate my husband for "real man" status. Studies to show himself approved. Humble yet able to share a due word in season. Reads the Word a lot and reads good theological books for growth. Waits on God for His will. Desires to be a testimony. Works a tough job with crude guys and makes the most of opportunities to share the Gospel. Doesn't try to scramble for recognition. Can receive correction and searches his heart all the time. Loves my kids like his own. Not only puts up with me, but enjoys our relationship with good humor and many kindnesses. Accepts others with their idiosyncracies, and that includes me too. He can sit around a campfire too, but won't do the war paint, animal noises stuff.

Tom Chantry said...

Manhugs again! Pheh!

lifecoachkyle said...

Phil, you are an excellent writer, but you make a number of errors. If your intent is to set stuff on fire, can you objectively judge that with which you have a tendency to disagree with? I'm just wondering.
What I hear in this and see in your web site is that your "battle to fight" is tearing down all this bad theology. If that's the case, then you agree with John Eldredge. (a guy with a battle to fight, sound familiar)

Phil your first four paragraphs are generic and have absolutely nothing to do with John Eldredge or his writings, etc. They relate to "Iron John" and other secular books and seminars on "manliness". You, in my opinion, essentially commit the fallacy of setting up a strawman to tear down, then you make Eldredge the strawman.

Then your paragraph on Eldredge commits the fallacy of "begging the question" (which means, assuming the truth of the proposition you are trying to prove. I am not being condescending here, the media use "Begging the question wrong so often, I'm clarifying.) In fact what you have said has NOTHING to do with Eldredge or his works and you have not really anything. Many of your statements are just DRAMATIC ASSERTIONS that when torn apart and dissected and contrasted with John's stuff essentially mean you sort of agree with him in content terms. For instance, the last two lines of your second paragraph could easily be read as your "adventure to live" and he challenges all of us to live by that adventure. Or perhaps travelling for the gospel is your adventure? You see what I mean, you and John are talking about adventure, just using different words. By your references I can only assume, I know I shouldn't assume, you have reviews of John's work, or shallowly read or scanned the cover and some pages. How much and how deeply have you read of John's work.

Then in the paragraph following the paragraph on "Wild at Heart" you go on to say another bunch of generic stuff not related to "Wild at Heart" AS IF you had actually made a point. In a debate that would set you up to get creamed. If your INTENTION was to DISPROVE "WILD AT HEART" did you?
Phil, if your intention was to use WAH as an example so you could apply your "writings" to something important, I don't think you succeeded.

I judge something by the fruit that comes out of it. WAH has saved my marriage, saved many marriages of guys I've met at boot camp, given me a community of men who challenge me to grow, given me companionship that I don't have in my home area,though I wish I did. It has healed wounds in me that were decades old and I now walk in a very different way and with a very different relationship with God than I did before. My experience is consistent with scripture and I will not yield my relationship to God to someone who would argue in so erratic a way.

Phil, this may come off as inflammatory, I actually calmed it down a bit from first writing, but it is simply to point out that I disagree with you and think you could use some information on Wild at Heart. I have no business relationship with Wild at heart, I'm just a guy who has benefitted from the ministry. I respect your right to disagree with anything, but in that disagreement I challenge you to be factual and "authentic." I would enjoy a chance to dialogue with you. Kyle

Jay said...

Wild at Heart is a big fad among the Christian men at my school. I've always hated it, and my main response when explaining my dislike has been, "I may not know exactly what makes a man, but I know that is not it."

Now I have a much better answer. :)

SkiBumLife said...

Well, Golly, the fruit of WAH in my life was quite different this yours, lifecoachkyle. So who is the better judge? When I read it I felt discouraged because what he was describing was not true for me. I was fine with an office job, I was just thankful for a job at all. I didn't yearn to climb mountains or fight in any battles, I wasn't one to wrastle with my guy friends and have mock fights. My search for a princess trapped in a tower was futile. It really made me quite discouraged in that area. Whose fruit is the determiner here?

Thankfully, instead of a princess trapped in a tower, I found a woman who was so depraved it took the Son of God to come and offer Himself in her place to reconcile her to God. I also found that without the grace of God in her life she was unable to do anything good or pleasing to God. We had that in common.

Also more thankfully, I found a helpful antidote for WAH in Piper/Grudem's "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood." Which opened up the word of God to show me how to be a man.

lifecoachkyle said...

Something can only bear fruit if it resides somewhere long enough to grow. I am not arguing that everyone needs WAH, but more do than don't due to the wounds many, if not most, of us get growing up.
To me it is annoying to see Phil put some unrelated facts together and "think" he has refuted something when all he has done is talk around the subject.

I'm curious, what part of WAH was not true for you? In the book he mentions that outdoors are not for everyone. John has and has had for years, office jobs. If you didn't yearn for a battle, why did you read all the theology, Calvin for instance?
Where in his book does he say look for a princess trapped in a tower, that's a fairytale or the movie Shrek.
So you found a depraved woman, aren't they all? Aren't we all? Where did you get from John's writings that he did not think women needed grace. You're dealing in stereotypes.
I'll have to look at Piper/Grudem's "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood." book, I've heard it was good. If it met your need, great. I'm just saying don't reject something based on stereotypes, that's all.
WAH is not scripture, but it shows the way to scripture as well as or better than most of the stuff I read in four years of seminary. (Denver Seminary)
I wish you well, but I wish for discernment as well as a good knowledge of argumentation for all.