Act Like Men: A Response

This clip comes from Humble Stumble, who attended an Act Like Men Conference, and I have some questions:

What to say? What’s a better approach? What’s a better story to tell? How can men be most what they are meant to be?

I entered Friday night knowing that I would not agree with everything taught. I have an egalitarian view and advocate for gender equality. The conference leaders do not.  Knowing my belief, I had chosen to be aware of my heart and open to receive from God. As I expected, God did show up and the Holy Spirit was present. It was beautiful to see 200+ men deciding to (re)commit their lives to Jesus and live into the forgiveness he has given them. It was also fun to be in a space where men were worshiping and seeking relationship with Jesus.  One would think I would have peace and joy leaving from the conference that night.  I cannot say that was true.

Chauvinistic mistreatment of women and pointless insensitive generalities peppered the teaching earlier in the night. Women take forever to get ready. Real men aren’t vegetarians. Women are only helpers. Men don’t follow, they lead. Real men don’t order low fat decaf lattes. Women are the weaker vessel.

In essence, let’s make fun of women and call them weaker; but we were told “it’s ok because women are awesome and we get to go home to them after this conference is done”. Phew.

I was embarrassed to be a man in this setting. I was saddened by the attitude of these teachers who shared my gender. And I was actually texting a woman mentor for advice, wisdom, and prayer in those moments. Does that make me a weaker vessel?

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  • Elane O’Rourke

    Before we moved away, my husband was part of a men’s organization that valued truth and kindness, as well as strength, determination, accountability, responsibility, etc. He regularly lamented its (literally) pagan leanings, and wished that men’s teams in Christendom were supportive of both masculinity and care.

  • Brian Metzger

    The author is clearly a pansy.

  • LOL! Obviously!

  • Rick

    Reading the comments at Humble Stumble, and having read some of the positions on the topic by some of the speakers, it sounds like the goal was good: get men to stop being lazy and uninvolved in the lives, including the spiritual lives, of their families.
    However, it looks like there were instances in which tone and language went too far (some attribute it to attempts at humor) and became stereotypical culture talk.

  • Two of the men speaking at the conference, Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald, behaved much like teenage boys, when skipping over to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference and crashing his party the weekend of both conferences. Where was the example of how to behave like a godly gentleman?

    As to “manliness,” I couldn’t help but notice from Scripture examples of men who did not fit the bill of the latest Christian-neanderthal fad. “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet [tam, peaceful, blameless, integrity, wholesome] man, living in tents” (Gen. 25:27 NRSV). The manly-man was not chosen of God to bear the lineage of the Messiah, but the contemplative man was. Hmmmm . . .

    (Yes, I’m being smarmy.)

  • Phil Miller

    But if we don’t demean women and reinforce gender stereotype, men won’t want to attend our church…

    The funny (or probably sad) thing is that in my former life as worship team member I played a bunch of women’s conferences (I’ve attended many more women’s conference than my wife I always joke), and they often ended up reinforcing the same type of stereotypes a lot of the time. Fortunately not all were bad, but there’s still a lot of demeaning going on all around.

  • To Scot’s question… I think there is a real need for serious work to be done in men’s ministries. I have been to so many events like this and walked away feeling exactly like this. For some reason, the picture of manhood that is portrayed at these kinds of events is most often more of a hypermale characature of generalities than a real picture of what men are like. And women are painted as the polar opposite, and generally negatively. What’s needed is a place to explore what’s unique in how God created men across the spectrum, recognize the strengths of those characteristics and how they reflect God’s image, and honestly deal with the weaknesses in us as well. For the most part, I think we need to start at the beginning because it’s been done so badly for so long. But it’s important work.

  • David Wegener

    “Women are the weaker vessel.” How silly. Wonder where they got that?

  • I have not good answers but I would love to see some.

  • smurf

    so glad for my church (PC-USA) where we have men’s groups, women’s groups, but many, many more groups of women and men together–teaching, studying, praying, serving–sometimes the men lead–sometimes the women lead–each according to the gifts they are given.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The insecurities bubbling over at this conference are of boys (and that’s an insult to boys as I know boys of middle school age who are more mature).

    Real men don’t go around worrying whether they are manly enough and go about putting down others so they can feel better about themselves. Maybe the author was overtly sensitive (I’m not going to waste my time looking at Conference footage) but to even have a conference called “Act Like Men” just comes off to me as stupid.

  • 1Pastor_Pete2

    I find the article out of step with the current emasculating culture
    we have inherited from over 60 years of mysandry and androphobia in this
    country. Far and away the gender bias is on the side of feminism and
    political correctness. Poking a little fun at the gender targeted
    nuances in the behavior of many women comes nowhere close to the utter
    shaming and humiliating that goes on from virtually every aspect of our
    culture, causing so much identity confusion in boys and emasculation in

    Author David Warren wrote: “Among the most urgent
    requirements of our moment in the “evolution of western society” is to
    halt the progress of emasculation. An effeminate society will never
    withstand the challenge of psychopathic masculine aggression — in the
    form of, [for example], contemporary “Islamism.” We need men who are
    men, to defend us; men who are not merely shrill, from the pain of
    [being gelded].” John Steinbeck once made the observation that “The
    impulse of the American woman to geld her husband and castrate her sons
    is very strong.”

    CS Lewis commented on the double-bind modern society puts men in by insisting
    they get castrated of all those qualities that are associated with heroic
    while keeping its expectations for men to behave in a brave, courageous
    and manly manner in the event they are needed to do so. Lewis wrote in
    the Abolition of man “All the time… we continue to clamor for those very
    qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical
    without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is
    more ‘‘drive,’’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘‘creativity.’’ In a
    sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function.
    We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We
    laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We
    castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

    Seiyo observed that “Europe has been destroyed partly because gelded men
    have streamed insane socialist women into positions of power….”

    anonymous writer wrote: “Not only do we live in an age and time where
    the average male is treated with disrespect in the media, raped in the
    family court system and can be killed at any time by his wife who will
    then falsely accuse her
    victim of abuse in order to avoid paying for her heinous crime. But we live in
    a day and age when the average father (who in reality has been gelded by his
    wife) intentionally teaches and actively encourages his daughter how to both
    control and destroy her husband and the father of her children.”

    feel the sensitivities of the author of this article are a bit naive as
    well. Getting men to laugh at common stereotypical behavior in women is
    a good strategy in opening them up for both edifying and encouraging
    information on what has been done to them over the years (psychological
    or emotional emasculation) and what is needed to revive authentic
    masculinity in this country, which must first take place in our
    masculine, man-making communities first before it can take place in our
    boys (a boy will be the man he see’s). And for men to truly change and
    be transformed into honorable, chivalric and god-fearing men, means they
    will first have to change the way they have been influenced to believe
    about masculinity and manhood in general, and more specifically, what
    they believe about themselves. Because a man can only be the story he
    believes about himself. And the story men have been told about God and
    Christ also needs to be cleansed of the re-socializing efforts of the
    last 60 – 100 years, so that the manly side of Jesus, which was a
    perfect balance of steely characteristics and velvet characteristics
    also need to undergo a change so that men can better identify with Jesus
    and so see themselves in Him so as to be inspired to be like him, a
    good balance between courageous and compassionate masculinity.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “But we live in a day and age when the average father (who in reality has been gelded by his wife intentionally teaches and actively encourages his daughter how to both control and destroy her husband and the father of her children.”

    I actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of this comment. My Freudian magic 8-ball says you have maybe had some strained relationships with the opposite sex.

  • scotmcknight

    And “weaker” meaning?

  • Collins


    Have you read The Abolition of Man? That quote from Lewis is totally lifted out of context. That comes at the end of the chapter “Men Without Chests,” and he is NOT talking about gender identity. Nor do I think he’s specifically talking about *men.

  • Karen Gonzalez

    Thank you, Scot for this post. It really highlights how gender inequality hurts men and women. What’s it like to be a man who is gentle, bookish, and quiet at that conference? What’s it like to be one who’s an artist married to a corporate executive? They must struggle with the shame of being “weak” since they don’t fit the masculine standard promoted at conferences like this. If it’s OK with you I’d like to include this excerpt it in my sermon this Sunday–it’s about lies we believe that keep us from abundant life in Christ.

  • Karen Gonzalez

    I really hope you’re not really a pastor! I don’t want to offend you but everything you write sounds mysoginistic and vengeful. I think you’ve accepted a lie for truth.

  • Phil Miller

    This is kind of the Wild at Heart type of thinking… I read that book a number of years ago, and I remember even thinking that it wasn’t horrible. The thing is, though, I think that the idea that men a hardwired to warriors and women are hardwired to be princesses is simply not true. For one thing, there are far too many exceptions for it to be true.

    I will say that in some ways I do think that our society does a disservice to young boys simply because the educational paradigms we work out of are geared more towards inactive learning. But this could be hurting girls as well.

    Overall, I just don’t think it does anyone good to say that traits like strength, courage, and bravery are masculine and that things like kindness, tenderness, etc. are feminine. Seriously, why can’t a woman be strong and courageous?

  • MMattM

    And for that matter, why can’t a man be kind?

  • Patrick Mitchel

    Roger Olson has quite the post arguing for women to lead govt and society and 10 years since all the evidence is that they are simply better – better human beings and at leadership … Quite the contrast to Driscoll et al’s theology to put it mildly (that must be my effeminiate side coming out).

  • Christyinlosangeles

    This is why I always hated evangelical women’s conferences. They tended to be the girly flip-side of the Manly Men type of gathering – all floral and pink and emphasizing a very narrow and specific type of femininity, with a lot of the “My husband would just starve to death in dirty underwear if I weren’t around, aren’t men dumb and insensitive, ha ha” kind of humor, mixed in with very earnest exhortations to be gentle and submissive because men are the leaders in the home and father are super-important (even though they talked like men are incompetent when it comes to child care.) There were always weird mixed messages – the humor tended to be very demeaning to both men and women, but the straight stuff would be very earnest and idealized.

    For a subculture that is uber-invested in proper gender roles and relations, they seem to have a very hard time getting their messaging straight.

  • Benjamin Shurance

    Gareth Brandt has a book called Under Construction, which I’ve not read, but which promises alternatives (from a Anabaptist perspective):

  • Collins

    I have a question–but before I ask it I feel the need to establish some street cred. I feel very “egalitarian” in my views on gender–my sister is an ordained minister and I am a very theologically happy member of an Evangelical Covenant church that is vibrant and healthy with men and women working together in leadership and in their personal lives.

    One thing that I am troubled by of late is the ability of the NeoPurtian camp to capture the narrative, so to speak, in the evangelical world on gender roles (I think Scot’s comment in the thread yesterday about social media is really helpful). I think that many times people like Driscoll, Piper, and Strachan use bad arguments and often (particularly in Strachan and Driscoll’s case) make their cases quite uncharitably.

    My question though, is how are we doing at even discussing the issue of gender within an egalitarian context? So much of our energy is spent on showing why complementarians are misguided in their approach that I just haven’t really seen a whole lot on the positive side. What *does it mean to exist as a human being as either a man or a woman? It seems like this is something our faith HAS to speak to since it is such an important part of how we experience being human beings. And frankly, for the most part, I don’t see a whole lot of egalitarian air-time being devoted to talking about what it means to be male/female beyond just saying that we’re equal. It isn’t what we’re meaning, but I think it could be misunderstood to imply in some capacity that “gender doesn’t matter.” I feel like most egalitarians would disagree with that. But what is significant? What does it mean to reflect the image of God as a man or as a woman? Complementarians are at least trying to answer this question for our culture (their spectrum of answers are just too simplistic, in my opinion)

    Does anybody have any thoughts on this? I’m completely willing to admit if my thought process is off-base or if I’m just a wrong-headed millenial. I’m just frustrated that this is something that I don’t see in this dicussion from the side that I’m more inclined to agree with. I, for one, need more than an apophatic theology as it pertains to gender. Anybody else?

  • Josh T.

    I was thinking the exact same thing. Very much out of context.

  • Phil Miller

    My answer probably won’t be very satisfying to you, but I guess I would say that I don’t see that there’s very much in the way of a template. What I mean by that is that I can’t say I think that there’s something we can point to and say, “here’s what Godly man or Godly woman looks like”. Now, I can point to specific people I know, but they are all in vastly different situations in their lives.

    Why can’t we just say that what God desires for us is for us to thrive in the life where He has us at the moment? The situations we go through are unique and they change as we go through life. When I was a campus pastor one of the thing I dealt with most was students dealing with the expectations that their families or church put on them. I remember on girl in particular who felt very guilty that she desired to go to medical school… We explained to her that if that was really what she desired, than that was a good thing, certainly not something she should feel guilty about.

    I think that a lot of the pathology surrounding gender is wrapped up in the whole idea of Evangelicals obsessing over what “God’s plan for their life” is… Sometimes I like freaking people out and tell them that I don’t think God has a plan for their life… What I mean is that I don’t think God desires for us to live life as we’re acting out some script. He does desire for us to follow Him and be wise in our choices, but I don’t think He wants us to live in fear that we’re somehow making the wrong choices. Sort of a tangent, I guess, but I think the whole gender role thing is related to this.

  • Josh T.

    Neither my wife nor I have ever been very keen on gender-specific gatherings. She hates the stereotypical “girly” atmosphere, and I hate the macho stuff. Just last week a man in our church was announcing a group trip to a men’s-only event planned for next year. Part of the mission statement on the group’s web site:

    “To use what men love — hunting, fishing, football, baseball,
    motorcycles, classic cars, sporting competitions, racing, extreme sports
    and other outdoor activities — to bring them closer to the heart of

    I have very little interest in most of the things on that list, and I suspect that there are plenty of guys out there that aren’t so “stereotypically manly,” either. If it’s an event geared toward men generally (and I think it is), they assume too much. Even if it’s geared toward a specific type of man, maybe the mission statement should be amended to say “many men” or “a lot of men” instead of just “men.”

  • David Wegener

    You tell me. It means women are in some way weaker than men. I mentioned it since he was making fun of a direct quote from Scripture and we shouldn’t do that. I hear very little talk about this verse. No one wants to touch it. And the application for men is pretty clear.

  • Collins

    Yes, sadly I didn’t find your answer very satisfying 🙂

    I agree with the last part of what you were saying–I think we do have an evangelical problem of being overly concerned with “God’s plan for our [specific] lives” without as much attention to what God’s big picture plan is for the cosmos. I wonder though if your point runs against the problem of assuming that callings are TOO individual. As an American, I love the idea of being invidiual and making individual choices. But I feel one of the ones that Scripture critiques American individualism is this constant reminder of being part of God’s people. Alas, I think I’ve gone on my own tangent.

    I must press my point again: I think we need to have some type of egalitarian ethic of gender even if for no other reason than being valuable in protesting our culture’s values on this topic which often run to the crazy side.

    I certainly agree that the Bible doesn’t really give a template for “biblical manhood or womanhood.” Neither does it really give an explicit template for being a Christian voter. But it does teach us how to be the kind of people that can, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, make decisions as Christians voters on the whole spread of issues that affect our day-to-day lives. I’m wondering if there is a similar idea at work in Scripture regarding “manhood/womanhood” that we can look to as Christians without collapsing into caricatured and culturally conditioned ideas like “men are supposed to be the sole breadwinners and women are supposed to take care of the children.” Thoughts?

  • SPM

    Collins, I think your point and question are spot on. We do need to have continuing conversations within the egalitarian community about masculinity and femininity. I think, in an attempt to answer to Phil Miller’s question, that we can’t “just say that what God desires for us to for us to thrive in the life where He has us at the moment” because there are so many cultural voices competing to define “masculine” “feminine”, particularly in the lives of our children.

    Does being a man mean drinking lots of beer and bedding lots of women? Does being a woman mean cleavage baring as empowerment? Where are the egalitarian Christian voices helping to establish a different narrative? One that isn’t reactionary or based on stereotypes.

    As equal as we want things to be, men and women experience life differently. Our culture portrays men and women, manhood and womanhood, differently. People of faith need to be able to speak about manhood and womanhood in meaningful ways in addition to speaking about what God desires for “personhood.” So the original question – “What’s a better way?” is one we must continue asking.

    And, clearly, I don’t have the answers. 🙂

  • Aaron Lage

    William, I’m not saying I agree/disagree but I think Mark’s perspective of the situation is well written here and not how all the blogs about it made it sound. He actually seems to treat MacArthur quite honorably.

    I’m not arguing for or against the action taken, I’m just saying it’s not what it’s been made to sound like.

  • Aaron,

    Yes, I read Driscoll’s open letter to MacArthur earlier today. But I’m trusting that you saw the on-line photos of Driscoll and MacDonald in the parking lot at MacArthur’s conference acting like two teen-aged boys. Fine, they disagree with MacArthur. I wasn’t pleased with MacArthur, either, even though I’m not a continuationist. But showing up at the conference like two buffoons? Really? I certainly don’t want to argue with you over it, but I think the irony of their actions is worthy of note: they’re speaking at an Act Like Men conference and Acting Like Boys.

  • patriciamc

    I think you hit the nail on the head in that the Bible does not give a template for biblical manhood or womanhood. But, it does say a lot about how to be a person who follows Christ. Maybe that should be our gender ethic as egalitarians: for each of us to be the person God made us to be and to follow Christ in all we do. I once told someone that Jesus did not come to show men how to be men and women how to be women, but to show all people how to be people of God. As for me, sure, I’m a girly girl, but I don’t worry so much how to be a woman as how to be the Patricia that God made me to be.

  • Let me add: Mark Driscoll has never, in my eyes, been a “man” to emulate. Notwithstanding the MacArthur incident — even if it is blown out of proportion — Driscoll is not the model of a godly “man.”

  • Aaron Lage

    I’m not advocating for Driscoll’s character in this situation or others nor do I necessarily disagree with you… mostly just stating that it seems to have been blown out of proportion.

  • Karin Deaver

    Look for a new 8-ball. This man has deeply honoring relationships with his Mom, wife, daughter, daughter-in-laws and daughters in the faith. The chivalric love and veiled strength he is calling men to foster these quality relationships that characterize many of the men in our church. He has forged his family and his congregation with the fires of honor and humility and no finer steel can be found than in the men of our church as they step forward as warriors to defend their families and God’s truth. The women are taught in such a way that they become true vessels of God’s glory as they step forward under the men’s covering as warriors of faith and healing.

    One who has steeped too long in this society’s immoral juices will struggle to conceive of the potency of these truths that men such as Pastor Pete fight to bring to the men and women under their authority. It is one of those times when it is wise to tread lightly when bringing ungrounded criticism against a leader before you truly know the construct of the man’s heart.

  • Karin Deaver

    This man is a pastor and is the least mysoginistic and vengeful man I know. I read his post and could not read into it anything that could lead a person to believe this of him unless that person came to the conversation with a preset resistance to the teaching that men should be strong and wield the authority that they have been given with wisdom. And it is this pervasive anger in women when men speak of these things that is the knife we wield in our attempt to castrate them. I have discovered that the very nature of a little girl is being shaped daily to resist the settled rest that she should be able to find in the authority of the men around her, such as her father, the men of the church, her pastor and eventually her husband should she choose to marry. It was a preset that was in my heart due to years of public school, involvement in competitive sports and society’s indoctrinating messages that I had to intentionally confront in my own heart before I could settle into restful peace in my relationships with the men in my life. Yet, what most women are missing is the fact that it is out of that rest that our true giftings can find their deepest value. As men take their position as chivalric warriors to cover and defend their families and to fight for the truth of Christ, we as women can take our positions as warriors of faith and healing spreading in a sense God’s glory as a sweet perfume.

    You may read these words as just that, words. But I live this reality under Pastor Pete, my husband and the men in our congregation. He lives what he writes. The fruit in evident in the beautiful relationships that he has with his mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-laws and daughters in the faith. He is as gentle as he is fervent and it is in this atmosphere that women can truly thrive.

  • Karin Deaver

    What we need to be careful to consider in this conversation is that although men and women are considered of equal value in God’s eyes, we cannot forget man’s position of authority. Why? Because it is this authority when wielded sacrificially and with humble humility, that releases a man to be fully masculine and women to be fully feminine (not necessarily girly-girl). I believe it is God’s intention that a man become a warrior who defends his family and church while offensively fighting for the truth of Christ. Under that masculine cover a woman is released as a gentle warrior of faith and compassion, courageously displaying mercy and bringing healing to those in her care, including her husband. This is a beautiful partnership in which the man and woman can truly appreciate and celebrate one another.

  • Karin Deaver

    “Weaker” as in needing special protection/cover in order for it to be able to be used to it’s greatest glory. Every garden has it’s strong shrubs/trees to give structure and cover to the “weaker” delicate flowers that offer color and fragrance. Value is different than strength. Weaker here is always misinterpreted as “of inferior quality” instead of as “more delicate in nature.”

  • Phil Miller

    I must press my point again: I think we need to have some type of egalitarian ethic of gender even if for no other reason than being valuable in protesting our culture’s values on this topic which often run to the crazy side.

    What about “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Seems like a good egalitarian ethic to me.

  • Kristen

    Well you are misquoting the verse. 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

    “as” not “are.” And WIVES not women. Big difference. Heres a website that handles this verse nicely from an egalitarian perspective.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I agree with you Phil. I don’t get the whole stressing about “God’s plan for proper gender roles” thing. Human beings are complicated, with people falling on a very wide spectrum. Many (and maybe a majority of) men and women are comfortable in traditional gender roles. Some women thrive in more traditionally ‘masculine environments’, and some men in more traditionally feminine environs/roles . . .it’s been this way since humans have existed.These things naturally tend to work themselves out.

    I agree the over-riding Christian ethic for relationships between men, women, dogs, cats, hamsters 🙂 should be the Golden Rule and don’t be a a-hole . . difficult, yet amazingly simple, and effective if followed!

    Concurrently, I do recognize that many males have a feeling of losing control/inadequacy through the U.S. and in the West in general, but the reasons are primarily economic as stable jobs become a thing of the past and men have a harder time providing for their families. But of course in typical fashion, evangelical Christians don’t look at free market globalization or rising inequality as causes . . it’s the women’s movement, Mister Rodgers, and the growing liberal/demonic culture turning men into little wussies! (roll eyes)

  • Luke Breuer

    Olson’s article: A Modest Proposal for Fixing the World: Let Women Run It. It’s not clear that you know about A Modest Proposal, which is satire. Roger chose to be coy about whether his blog entry was satire. 🙂

  • Luke Breuer

    Christian Men fight for what is right in the way that Jesus fought for what is right. We men have a fighting spirit, but we use it for so many retarded things. We call so many things ‘evil’ which aren’t, and refuse to call things ‘good’ which are. Regardless of its historicity, the OT was a massive metaphor using the physical to talk about the spiritual. Jesus dives into the spiritual and says that is where the war is to be fought. Paul and others affirm this.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Tread lightly? This man came on here and constructed several paragraphs full of conspiracy theories about societal male oppression/castration (and sorry, anyone harping on about castration that much has some issues in my book). When you do that in a public forum, no-one should be surprised if they receive criticism in return.

  • patriciamc

    I guess I’m an exception. As a woman, I work with many men, are friends with men, go to church with men, and are related to several men. I have no pervasive anger towards men, no wish to manipulate them, or “geld” them (geesh, I’m sorry, but that concept is a bit bizarre). I walk along side them as equals in Christ.

  • patriciamc

    I love your comment about real men. In my experience, I’ve noticed that good, strong men want women who are equals. This was discussed in a blog post about why Christianity attracts men who are narcissists – and it was a complementarian blogger who wrote the post!

  • patriciamc

    Sure, weaker physical strength wise, but it could also mean a weaker position in society.

  • patriciamc

    Great lack of judgement, but lots of publicity!

  • Perspective is king.

  • Christopher Erik

    That’s all fine and good, but as Kristen rightly points out, the biblical context in question here simply cannot be any clearer, “husbands dwell with them (wives).” It is a massive hermeneutical misstep to attempt to lift this phrase concerning “the weaker vessel” out of its immediate relational context of “husbands and wives.” The only reason I can imagine for doing such a thing is if one is committed, above all else, to making a categorical statement about gender. Karen, based on the passage in question and the analogy that you invoked, would you have us believe that *men* provide “special protection/ cover” for *women*? Are *men* commanded by IPet 3:7 to “dwell with” and “give honor” to *woman*? If you answer yes to these last two questions, then I can understand how might make the ultimate leap of editing the verse to say that that “men” (as opposed to husbands) are called to “give honor to *woman*, as to the weaker vessel.” This discussion only proves that one’s ideological commitments, are never a worthy substitute for clear-eyed, exegesis of the given text of scripture.

  • Christopher Erik

    There there are two kinds of “men” in this world. There are “men” and there are males who are forever trying to “act like men.” The first group lives in the creaturely gift of manhood (both Christians and pagans). The second group sees “manhood” not as a free gift but as an uncertain goal.

  • David Wegener

    So woman only becomes a weaker vessel when she gets married?

  • David Wegener

    So a woman only becomes a weaker vessel when she gets married?

  • David Wegener

    I’ve never heard anyone say weaker vessel means “of inferior quality” or value.

  • Christopher Erik

    David, your comment begs the question. I’m saying that the meaning of the text cannot be deduced outside of the context in which we find it and the context in question is clearly talking about “husbands and wives.” Are you truly prepared to say that “husbands and wives” and “men and woman” are interchangeable terms? The fact that you keep reading “*woman* are the weaker vessel” is really problematic and supports my point that Ideological commitments about men and woman continue to eclipse clear-eyed exegesis of the text under review. So what if this passage does not support your a priori views of gender? I believe the term for this kind of scriptural myopia is iso-gesis.

  • Joshua Wooden

    I won’t comment on the conference – I didn’t go. I wasn’t able to hear what the speakers said.

    But I’d like to answer the original question posed by Scot: “What to say? What’s a better approach? What’s a better story to tell? How can men be most what they are meant to be?”

    I’m not sure that I know the answer to this. And, for all of the shortcomings noted by the conference and others like it, I think that they do a lot of good. In fact, I wanted to go to the “Act Like Men” conference in Long Beach, with my good friend, whom I also thought would benefit immensely from the speakers. For all of the talk about how they resorted to stereotypes, some of what passes as “stereotypical” isn’t culturally shaped and, therefore, not a stereotype – it’s actually how God makes men, and I think that should be celebrated, because we live in a culture that doesn’t often celebrate masculinity. I mean, we live in a male-dominated society, that much is a fact; but I don’t see that being a man is seen as a good thing by our culture, in general – I feel like we’re more-or-less treated either as disappointments or as threats.

    I don’t think that masculinity is “under attack,” but I do think it’s undervalued and under-appreciated. I have a host of memories growing up as a strong-willed, strong-opinionated, type-A boy, in schools and church meetings run and generally dominated by women. Frankly, they didn’t seem to know what to do with me, and they usually communicated in some form that I was a problem to be dealt with, as though I was a dysfunctional girl. And now, as a 25 year old almost-man – I see the same thing happening to little boys all the time, and it kills me, because I remember the effect that it had on me at the time.

    I don’t know about fully grown men, but boys need to be taught that it’s good to be a boy. They need strong male leadership and guidance to help them reign in and hone their passions, to learn discipline and, more than anything else, boys need to be challenged. They want it. I know I wanted it, even if I wasn’t fully aware of the fact.

    I don’t think a men’s conferences needs to look much different. Men DO need to be challenged. Sometimes, they DO need a metaphorical punch in the face. And most of the time they not only CAN handle it, they NEED it.

    I don’t really care for soy or lattes (and certainly not soy lattes), nor do I care for hunting, fishing and NASCAR, and I also don’t see what that has to do with masculinity. I’m sure a conference would be better off leaving this kind of crap out.

    But what about the importance of men to be strong. To take responsibility. To be leaders. I can’t speak for men who don’t have any leadership potential, but there are SO many men who DO have potential to lead, and instead of leading they act like zoo lions who don’t know how to hunt anymore, if they ever learned in the first place. And there are a lot of wives and mothers who WOULD love to see their husbands become leaders in their families. Is it wrong that they want that? It seems like some people think so, and I don’t understand why.

  • David Wegener

    So, Christopher, a woman is not the weaker vessel as a single woman, but she is the weaker vessel once she gets married. Is that what you’re saying?

  • Phil Miller

    But what about the importance of men to be strong. To take
    responsibility. To be leaders. I can’t speak for men who don’t have any
    leadership potential, but there are SO many men who DO have potential to
    lead, and instead of leading they act like zoo lions who don’t know how
    to hunt anymore, if they ever learned in the first place.

    The thing is, and I know I sound like a broken record on this, is that there are women who illustrate these same qualities. My wife, for example, has the classic Type A personality. She’s driven, works hard, hates losing, but rather than channel those good qualities, she was consistently told that the only things she could do at church was make meals, teach Sunday School, or serve in the nursery. It’s not that’s anything bad with any of those things, but if it not where a person’s heart is we can’t make it so

    Honestly, my experience with Type A males in churches is a lot different than yours. All the churches I’ve been part of have been dominated by Type A males in one way or another. I can see perhaps in some mainline denomination the idea that church is female-dominated would be more true, but Evangelicalism has been a boys club for some time now.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Thank you. For me its akin to something my father taught me growing up. You want to know who the tough guy is in a certain situation, its not the guy talking smack and trying to talk himself up; it’s the silent one in the back. Because if you know you are tough, there is no need to strut around like a peacock and say “look at me, I’m bad!”

    I’ve found this to confer with reality throughout my life and similar sentiments can be found when talking about “proper gender roles.” The guys who make such a big deal about it are not your stereotypical “strong” men; they are usually guys who don’t fit that stereotype and thus have feelings of inadequacy (or have gone through very strained relationships with women/divorces and project that anger onto this issue).

  • Karin Deaver

    In a public forum, if you decide a man’s arguments are “conspiracy theories,” then expose the conspiracies don’t attack the man’s character and then be snippy at anyone who exposes your false accusation. Give a well thought out critique of the ideas so we can participate in the conversation.

  • Carolyn Custis James

    So Scot, is Paul really saying “Act like men”? As a woman reading this English translation, I’m suddenly stopped in my tracks and excluded from Paul’s words. Is Paul really confronting men about manhood (or lack thereof) and abruptly excluding women from this discussion? Or is he, as several translations read, calling the ~whole~ church to watchfulness, to stand firm, to be courageous and strong, and to do everything in love? Don’t woman need to hear this exhortation too? Seems to me that there’s good reason to question the entire notion of a biblical call to “act like men.”

  • Christopher Erik

    No David. I am not saying that. I’m saying read the text and let the context inform our interpretation. I’m also saying, stop begging the question. He who controls the terms of the debate, control the debate. If the “terms” have something to do with IPet 3:7, then let the text arbitrate. Insisting on some other a priori issue i.e. “female weakness”, is simply begging the question. And since you insist on asking me the same question over and over, ignoring my appeal to context – well I honestly have nothing more to say.

  • Kristen

    No because the Bible never calls a wife a weaker vessel. It say ‘as’, the greek Hos which is used as a comparison. It does not say a wife IS a weaker vessel. In the same way the Bible does not say that Christians should act like literal sheep, doves, and serpents in Matthew 10:16 with also uses the Greek Hos.

    If one wants to says 1 Peters 3:7 calls wives weak then Matthew 10:16 means we must literally act like bleating sheep and crawling on our stomachs like the shrewd serpent.

  • Kristen

    I certainly have growing up in a complimentary church. One full grown man had the audacity to assert thatand I quote “men are saved by grace but woman are just lucky.”

  • Collins

    Karin–thank you for sharing your views. I definitely disagree with them because I think that in the abstract this turns men into a lower-case christ for Women. I think you’d have a real tough time making that case on Scriptural grounds.

    After a day’s reflection I think I could boil down my concerns and what I have learned from you fine folks that have helped me in this dicussion:

    -I should not have attached the word “roles” with gender in commenting about the Neo-Puritans. I mean that I think they have essentially monopolized the discussion of gender in general.

    -I also think referring to an egalitarian “ethic” was a confusing way of expressing myself. I had here in mind more of the idea of Ethik (or “Theology of Culture” to rip from Tillich). What can we culturally say about gender using a Christian lens? Can we say anything? Should we say anything?

    -I feel like I’m largely still intellectually unmoved. I think that yes, we should absolutely use the Golden Rule as our mantra for how to deal with people. But I don’t actually see how that connects to my question. I’m asking about an issue of identity more than an issue of “how should men and women relate to each other” (Which the only sensical Scriptural answer is “as equals”). We can’t simply say “gender doesn’t matter to who you are.” Or if that is exactly what we’re saying, we need to be upfront that this is what we’re meaning. That’s what I feel like what a lot of egalitarian expressions end up implying–that your gender is an unimportant part of who you are and even if it were important nobody could really say why it’s important. In short, this seems to say that we might as well be androgenous. This just doesn’t seem to jive with what I feel like Scripture is saying–even though part of me posting an unnecessarily large number of responses on a blog past is indicative of the fact that I’m asking, “Does Scripture really teach anything about this?”

    Tom Wright I think had a good essay on this where I think he came within striking distance of talking about what I’m asking…perhaps I’ll go reread it.

  • Collins

    You’ve got to be kidding me!?! Wow. Props that you made it out with your faith intact. That’s…really the grace of God.

  • Karin Deaver

    Thank you. I appreciate your tone and your arguments that support your views. I enjoy reading your comments because you give us something to think about and turn over in our minds so that we can grow in our thinking and engage in mature dialogue. Yes, egalitarian did throw me off. I do admit I even looked it up. That’s the hard part about blog commenting. An issue like this takes defining and redefining and listening and processing and that’s just not possible in this forum. Again, thank you for your respectful dialogue.

  • Joshua Wooden

    Well, it would appear our experiences are vastly different, then. And I wasn’t referring to the type-A personality specifically – only that I am a type-A personality, myself. I am well aware that women fall into the same categories of personality types as males. But men and women, on the whole and in general, do value different things (don’t name the outliers – I already know they exist). There IS an extent to which God has not only made men and women equal, but also complementary. It’s not wrong for men to have conferences celebrating those differences and helping them understand that those values and priorities are not wrong in a society that often communicates that those qualities are wrong.

    Let me reiterate the main point that I was trying to make: the stereotypical garbage (eg. “men don’t like soy, but they do like UFC”) that’s shaped entirely by our culture – we can do away with that. But there’s a gem behind all of that – there’s a message that many men are drawn to and it isn’t because of the culture, it’s because of how God made them. And it’s a message many of them are not hearing, and they should.

  • Phil Miller

    But men and women, on the whole and in general, do value different things (don’t name the outliers – I already know they exist).

    That’s the problem though… How can you say “don’t name the outliers”? The outliers are just as important as the ones who fit the mold,so to speak. And, honestly, I think that the reason a majority of people seem to fit the mold is that is the mold that they’ve been given, and a lot of people are just OK with fitting in that. If there were different cultural expectations, a majority of people would fall in line with that.

    I think my issue is that I have hard believing that masculinity and femininity aren’t largely defined by cultural terms. I’ve interacted with quite a few international students over the years, and I’ve rarely run into the same sort of anxiety as I did with American students over the issue.

  • DMH

    IF… “at the resurrection” or “in the age to come” people neither marry nor are given in marriage- but are like the angels in heaven… if that is the end game for humans… then maybe gender isn’t as important as many seem to think it is (thus no template). Functionally important in various cultural settings but perhaps it is not intrinsic to one’s identity- perhaps especially so “in Christ”. .

  • Joshua Wooden

    Respectfully, I disagree. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we’re going to see eye-to-eye on this.

  • MaryLouiseC

    I heard a sermon on that verse years ago in which the pastor said that “weaker vessel” suggests women are like a delicate china vase while men are like plastic garbage buckets. You can kick the latter around and they’ll remain intact, but the former, being more sensitive, are hurt more easily. Therefore, men should think before they say or do something to break that beautiful vase.

    It’s the one and only time I ever heard somebody try to make sense of that verse and, while he made a valiant effort NOT to insult women, I think he ended up insulting men in the attempt.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Sorry, I think the burden of proof is on the person posting something like “Europe has been destroyed partly because gelded men have streamed insane socialist women into positions of power” . . I’m not going to go into a thorough critique of that argument because frankly such a comment isn’t worthy of one.

  • Christopher Erik

    David, You say, “I hear very little talk about this verse. No one wants to touch it. And the application for men is pretty clear.” In light of my experience with you on this page, that statement appears entirely disingenuous.

    After repeated attempts to”talk about this verse” with you, I finally had to give up – you literally repeated the same question over and over again. David says he wants to talk about the verse but when someone tries to do just that, he will not engage. The problem here, as David describes in his above comment, occurs when one is so committed to a certain “application” of scripture that he must stop his ears to any bothersome discussion of exegesis (translation and interpretation).

    David appears to have no interest in engaging a discussion pertaining to discovering the meaning of a given text, if such a discussion stands to threaten “the application” of said text (though David never outlines what those “clear” applications for men look like). This is an example of someone’s stubborn insistence on reversing the hermeneutical sequence by putting “application” of the text before “interpretation.” Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.

  • David Wegener

    Sorry, Chris. I live in the country of Zambia, working among the poor. I’ve been preparing a sermon for today.

    I’ll try to find time to get back with you all. Warmly, David

  • Amanda B.

    For me, the very question of, “What does it mean to be a man and not a woman?” (or the reverse) is a bit ill-founded, for several reasons.

    Firstly, there’s the nature/nurture debate. As an egalitarian, I am not offended by the idea that men and women are different in some sort of metaphysical way. But I can’t imagine how we could ever establish how much of that is our “hard-wiring”, and how much of it is our own conformity to cultural expectations. There’s no way to find out for sure, because to raise a child completely apart from a culture would be unthinkably cruel.

    For my part, I’m not even especially concerned about teasing out the nature/nurture thing. We want to treat each other well and empathize with each other, regardless of if we were born or made into the people we are today. It just means it’s that much more difficult to nail down a definition of internal gender identity, because we have no idea how deeply we’ve been shaped by external cultural forces.

    Secondly, there are always outliers. There are women who are stoic and logical, and there are men who are emotional and intuitive. Some women thrive as major leaders, some men wither there. Some women go nuts staying at home full time, and some men could not be happier in any other profession. None of them should have to feel like a freakish exception to a healthy gender norm. Pastorally, I don’t want to pass down a teaching that alienates or shames people over things that the Bible never calls sinful.

    Thirdly–and in my opinion, of the most theological significance–this does not seem to be a question that ever crossed the minds of the biblical authors. To them, men are adults who possess man-parts, and women are adults who possess lady-parts. There are a few passages that describe what men and women should do, but none that elaborate on what men and women intrinsically are.

    Complementarians make a lot of inferences about masculinity and femininity from various places with the Bible–which, as interpreters of Scripture, is well within their reasonable practice. But egalitarians, as they interpret those same Scriptures, infer a diverse representation of masculinity and femininity, with little to no evidence of a cohesive, gendered godly ideal. This is why it’s difficult for egalitarians to give a positive, “Masculinity is ABC, and femininity is XYZ”–because we simply don’t believe the Bible presents gender in that way.

    I know that there is a strong urge among young men to find their identity as a man. Since I’m not a man myself, I want to be cautious about what I say here. But I do think there is a positive message to give. I think men need to be called into their identity as men, yet not in contrast to women–rather, in contrast to children.

    Maturity is something that every man should strive to attain to, and it is something that every man can strive to attain to. There is a concrete way to pursue maturity–namely, learning to imitate Christ. It is a process, something you grow into, not something that you either are (manly man) or aren’t (wimp/pansy/”man fail”). It is a matter of changing thought patterns and behavior, not trying to reshape, rediscover, or redefine some ethereal “nature” that no one can really put their finger on anyway.

    Maturity doesn’t vilify femininity or exclude women from virtues like courage and self-sacrifice. Maturity allows for a broad expression of masculinity. It affirms the desire of men to be recognized as “real men”. And it can rely fully on biblical teaching–humility, justice, holiness, etc.–without having to bring in pop psychology to prop it up.

    I think it is healthy for men to desire to be men–but in doing so, they should be moving away from childhood, not femininity.

    Sorry this is long-winded, but I feel strongly about this subject. 🙂

  • ELH

    “I think men need to be called into their identity as men, yet not in contrast to women–rather, in contrast to children.”

    Great thought Amanda – I haven’t seen anyone come at this discussion from this angle before and I think it is very helpful.

  • Collins


    This was a very thoughtful, pastoral response that has given me a lot to think about. Thank you 🙂

  • Collins

    I thought this was a really nice point she made too!