On being a man

Warning: this is not very theological

It must be a personality thing but for as long as I can remember when Christians (usually Christian men) start talking about being 'proper men' and 'picking up our responsibilities as husbands and fathers' I want to pack up my bags and leave.

It's not that I have a problem with men being men or with husbands and fathers carrying their responsibilites. What I find objectionable is the sometimes over-prescriptive suggestions as to what those responsibilities are.

For instance, my wife does most of the finances because she is better with that kind of thing than I am. We have been told several times that this is wrong; that God wants me to do the finances because that is part of my role as a husband. Really? Yes, you know the story of Moses and the income tax return?

I must confess that I even get a bit miffed when people talk about 'the headship of husbands' (headship being some abstraction from the biblical metaphor of the husband as the head of his wife). When I ask what it means I am told that it means that I am in spiritual authority over my wife. When I ask what this means in practise I am told that if there is ever a disagreement over what to do then the final decision lies with me. Well now I feel cheated! In 17 years of marriage we have never had to make a decision that we did not both find agreement on in advance. So the headship thing has not brought me many benefits of command yet. Grrrrr.

I recall a sermon in our church in which we were told that we husbands - as head of the house - would be judged by God for all the thoughts and actions of our wives. Holy COW! I think I've got enough sins of my own to worry about without being judged for hers as well!!! I think I'll duck out of that part of 'headship' if you don't mind.

Maybe I am not manly enough. But I don't care. I am very happy for manly men to do their thing but I don't see why I should be required to aspire to such giddy heights also.

So let men be men but please leave a little wriggle room for different ways of being men. Let manly men be manly men and let gentle men be gentlemen.


Anonymous said…
Hi Robin,

Really interesting stuff! As someone who doesn't fit the 'manly men' image I want to do a bit of a yes, but, comment!

Yes, I do think that there are many, really very different, examples of men of God in Scripture and they all look quite different. This gives me encouragement!

I agree too that there is nothing in Scripture that implies that you must do the finances (though I think a Proverbs kind of perspective implies it might be good that you are aware of what's going on!). I guess my question would be, say something goes wrong who takes the responsibility for making things right? Would it be a misuse of Ephesians 5 to imply that even with mutuality that for the man to follow the example of Jesus would be to act to make things right even if he himself had done nothing wrong?

On a related note would you see any connection with God calling to Adam first ("who was with her" when Eve was talking to the serpent and ate the fruit) and then calling to account of church leaders in the church as the family of God (Like say, Hebrew 13:17 - "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.")?

Would you see any kind of constellation going on in the nuclear and church families of God of submission, accountability and responsibility? Or is that kind of stacking the deck, so to speak?
Jason B. Hood said…
(Matt F,
Check out the financial work a woman does in Prov 31.)


I did a chat for single guys last night on marriage/sex/singleness/dating. One of my pet peeves is an over-emphasis in many circles on "man as pursuer" in relationships. Not only does this encourage hopeless passivity on the part of some single women. It also fails if one holds it up to the method of procuring a wife in Scripture, which shows arranged marriages to be the norm. Guys did, oh, about zero pursuit most of the time (see Gen 24). Unless they cut off 100 foreskins or so to get the girl. But that was NOT the norm.
steph said…
"Manly" men of the type you describe are generally jerks :-) Funny though - I think less women like manly men than men like girly girls. But maybe it's just manly men who like girly girls.

I prefer gentlemen.
steph and delilah the cat said…
And another prerequisite for a decent man and a gentle man is a liking for cats!!
Robin Parry said…
Steph - I am clearly a decent an then as cats rock!

Matt - Thanks. That is helpful. Yes, I agree that if I don't do the finances I do need to know what is going on with them (and I do).

I do think that husbands should work to make things right if they go wrong (but I guess I'd kind of hope that my wife would be interested in working with me to that goal! It is hard to give a blanket answer to this point as it is so general. It would depend to some extent on the situation)

I do not see any command issues implied in the Genesis 2-3 story (although it can be read that way if readers close the textual gaps in certain ways).

Church elders in NT times were indeed men but it does not follow that church leaders in all times and places must be men.

Part of the issue is the heremeutical issue of reading a text from one culture and transplanting it into another culture. Is everything about the culture of the early church normative for all Christians in all places and all times? Instinctively one thinks, 'No'. If that is right then the tricky issue becomes, 'How do we know what is normative and what is not?'

I do not have a fixed answer on that. I can see a case for biblical egaletarianism and also one for biblical complementarianism. My instincts are pretty strongly egaletarian but I may well be mistaken there.

I have no problem with authority in church and society (although I have theological and ethical questions about legitimate authority and legitmate uses of authority). Submission is also good, as is accountablility.

The question is whether and how these notions map onto gender relations.

I do not think of my relationship with my wife in terms of authority. I am not suggesting that there is no place for such a notion in a marriage relationship (and I am more than happy to bear my responsibility) but I worry, at very least, about making it the dominant category in a theological account of marriage.

However, let me say this: that the Christian I know who make a big deal about the authority of the husband usually mitigate that notion both theologically (understanding authority as massively qualified by the love command) and in practise. In practise it often amounts to a theoretical stance and not something that has a big impact on how they work their marriages out.
Robin Parry said…

what an interesting thought. I'd not seen it that way.

I was never a pursuer. Being so dashing I had to fight off all the girls! (that was a joke by the way)

I must confess that I don't see the biblical patterns as normative in this respect (after all, women were not pursuers in this regard either). I don't think that arranged marriages are normative just because they were the way that ancient Israelites did things. This kind of relates to an issue I raised with Matt.

(I don't think you were suggesting that biblical patterns courtship were normative, btw)
Anonymous said…
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PamBG said…
Yes, you know the story of Moses and the income tax return?

Well, you know the old joke: Jesus saves and Moses invests.

I recall a sermon in our church in which we were told that we husbands - as head of the house - would be judged by God for all the thoughts and actions of our wives. Holy COW! I think I've got enough sins of my own to worry about without being judged for hers as well!!!

Very amusing. The whole problem , of course, is that you and your wife are being told to have a dysfunctionally co-dependent relationship. What pastor tells any individual to control the thoughts of another? That's not only sick; it's impossible.

Strangely, I've just blogged on a similar subject in response to another blogger's post. Commentators have pointed out that his advice for how to have a relationship with his wife sounded rather like advice on how to train a dog.
steph said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Catz206 said…
Hey stumbled on this blog and have a couple of reading suggestions that have greatly helped me with the whole controversy:

1) "Discovering Biblical Equality" by Ron Pierce and Groothius

2) "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" by Grudem and Piper

While I do not find myself in agreement with the last, the book provides some of the best arguments I have heard for the Complementarian side.

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