Mature manhood cited as antidote to abuse

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Upholding the biblical ideal of mature manhood is the best antidote to sexual abuse, said speakers at a Founders’ Ministries event preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

“Our calling as men is to protect and to provide and to stand up against abuse,” said Josh Buice, pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., “and to believe in the dignity and value and the image-bearing picture we see not just in men, but also in women.”

Founders—a ministry that promotes church health and advocates Calvinistic doctrine—convened June 10 at The Westin Birmingham for a day-long conference on “mature manhood in an immature age.” The conference occurred in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting, where sexual abuse awareness and prevention were spotlighted.

Among Founders speakers, Buice pointed to Jesus as the ultimate example of manhood. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Mark Coppenger noted common maxims on manhood that have been misappropriated, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Owen Strachan called men to discipline themselves for godly living.

Preaching from Ephesians 5, Buice said God-ordained gender roles are the solution to sexual abuse.

A low view of women was common in first-century Ephesus, where temple prostitution and other forms of sexual immorality abounded, Buice said. Ephesus was a city “filled with abused women.”

To counter such a culture, Paul cited Jesus as the “prime example of mature manhood,” Buice said. Christ cared for his bride, the church, by dying for her in the physical realm and seeking to make her holy in the spiritual realm.

“Step out in front. Care for your wife,” Buice said to husbands. Risking safety and even life to protect a woman physically is “not male chauvinism. That’s not misogyny. That’s not sexism. That’s not macho male ego. That’s what you call male headship up on display in the context of marriage.”

Yet a husband’s care for his wife should extend beyond the physical realm, and beyond stereotypical notions of manhood, Buice said.

“You may hold a coral belt in Brazilian jujitsu and be able to bench press 300 pounds,” Buice said. “And you may be able to climb a high mountain, skin a deer and shoot class-three weapons like a champ. But if you don’t know how to care for your wife spiritually, you’re not a biblical, mature man.”

Coppenger, professor of Christian philosophy and ethics at Southern, said “there is a grain to creation. And when we act as though gender doesn’t matter, then we’re going cross grain and actually making fools of ourselves.” 

But in an effort to uphold the natural order of creation, Coppenger said, well-meaning believers sometimes misapply common maxims related to manhood. Among the misapplied maxims:

On a man’s deathbed, he won’t ever wish he spent more time at the office.

“I think more men ought to say, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work,’” Coppenger said. Men have callings in life that include work outside the home, and they must pursue those callings. “There is something worthy outside, and you can overdo the inside” even though family is of great importance.

God first, family second, ministry and career third. 

While the maxim contains wisdom, Coppenger said, at times a wife or child may seek mistakenly to dissuade a man from accomplishing his God-given calling outside the home. In such instances, a family member’s desire should not trump God’s call.

Christians sometimes imply wrongly, “If you’re not [home], you’re slacking,” he said.

At times, God calls wives to support their husbands’ work at great cost, Coppenger said, as in the case of military and police wives, whose husbands are away from home for long periods of time.

“All of us ought to have the attitude that at a moment’s call, if God desires, we’re up and going,” Coppenger said. “And the wife should have the attitude, ‘You go. You get after it.’”

Men never should ignore their families, he said. Yet idolizing family is antithetical to godly masculinity.

“It seems like all the push is toward just making the man less of a man,” Coppenger said. “And so I’m doing some awkward pushing back.”

Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern, critiqued western culture’s view of manhood as “schizophrenic.” 

American culture “is not set up for the flourishing of women,” Strachan said. “American culture today tells us not to commit abuse, which is right. But it schizophrenically also tells us to do whatever we want sexually … That is a schizophrenic, double-minded culture that is not set up to bless and protect women. It says it is. But it is actually set up to destroy women.”

To withstand the cultural onslaught against women, Christians must “train men in the image of the warrior king, Christ Jesus,” Strachan said, noting Jesus was “so disciplined and so controlled.”

A key facet of male discipline is “to kill lust,” Strachan said. Men should not merely “bounce our eyes.” They should combat sexual immorality “at the level of desire” by confessing and repenting “the instant” sinful desire emerges.

Men also should discipline themselves “to win a woman’s heart” in marriage and pursue the biblical ideal of what it means to be a man. 

Among other truths Strachan said men must learn:

  • Same-sex attraction is never a man’s identity.
  • Identity and anatomy are one. The Bible knows nothing of transgenderism.
  • Men may be called to marriage even if they don’t desire it during a particular phase of life.
  • Even men called to singleness must allow God to change their ungodly desires.

“By the power of Christ’s atoning cross and empty tomb, we must embrace our God-given manhood,” Strachan said. “Manhood is not fundamentally defined by American culture or any culture … There are implications of it in any culture, and there are some wisdom issues in any culture.” But “the core of manhood” is “God-defined and God-given.”

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