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Eric Metaxas and Seven Men

August 29, 2013

This is not a review of the book but an excerpt from the introduction which can be read in google books. Here is a piece of it,

In a world where all authority is questioned and in which our appreciation of real leadership – and especially fatherhood – has been badly damaged, we end up with very little in the way of the heroic in general. As we’ve said, the idea of manhood itself has become profoundly confused. And as a result of this, instead of God’s idea of authentic manhood, we’ve ended up with two very distorted ideas about manhood.

The first false idea about manhood is the idea of being macho – of being a big shot and using strength to be domineering and to bully those who are weaker. Obviously this is not God’s idea of what a real man is. It’s someone who has not grown up emotionally, who might be a man on the outside, but who on the inside is simply an insecure and selfish boy.

The second false choice is to be emasculated – to essentially turn away from your masculinity and to pretend that there is no real difference between men and women. Your strength as a man has no purpose, so being strong isn’t even a good thing.

God’s idea of manhood is something else entirely. It has nothing to do with the two false ideas of either being macho or being emasculated. The Bible says that God made us in his image, male and female, and it celebrates masculinity and femininity. And it celebrates the differences between them. Those differences were God’s idea. For one thing, the Bible says that men are generally stronger than women, and of course Saint Peter famously – or infamously – describes women as the “weaker sex.” But God’s idea of making men strong was so that they would use that strength to protect women and children and anyone else. There’s something heroic in that. Male strength is that Gift from God, and like all gifts from God, it’s always and everywhere meant to be used to bless others. … That can mean other men who need help or it can mean women and children.

So I thought that among the seven men there would be at least one man who are particularly known for protecting women and children as a class. Here is the list, George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Karol Wojtyla and Chuck Colson. There may very well be great men. I have no argument with that. But do they illustrate the God created difference between men and women? Were women allowed to run in the Olympics, to sit in Parliament, to participate in the military, to be ministers of the gospel and so on? Where is the control group for women? These men are not famous because of their physical strength but because of the risks they ran, their courage and participation. What about women?

Was it a factor for any of these men that they were physically stronger than women? Or perhaps they were in positions of power denied to women, nothing to do with physical strength. So did any of these men use their power to promote the equality of women? Is there any point at all to what Eric Metaxas wrote in his introduction? Does it relate to his book, or does it simply place him firmly in a certain camp.? Someone has dipped this man in the biblical manhood movement and there he is. Naked masculinity once again. Someone give the man a bathrobe.

If I wrote a book about how wonderful women were, I might say that they have a nurturing nature, and that this is how God made women. But, knowing the love that Wilfred Grenfell, a man’s man in every way, had for orphan babies, I would never say that women’s nurturing ability depended on the “difference between men and women.” Not at all. Women, some women, were raised to nurture physically, and made great missionary doctors, alongside male missionary doctors, not better than, not shining examples of how much better it is to be a woman than a man, no never. Just partners, that’s all.

The truth is that the Bible has a lot to say about those who are strong and those who are weak. But gender is only one factor. Perhaps the rich are strong and the poor are weak. Isn’t that the primary dichotomy in the scripture text? Can’t we read that? Can’t we see that just because men are stronger than women in some ways, that is only one axis, not the primary axis on which humanity turns? Wasn’t Paul constantly interacting with women who were stronger than him? Phoebe his patroness, Lydia his rescuer, Prisca who gave him work and Chloe the church leader? How many women are named that Paul protected and provided for? How many poor women did Paul interact with? Was Paul out there for poor women and children, or was he the darling rabbi of wealthy women?

As an afterthought, I shall list seven strong women from the Bible. Jael, who killed a man with a tent peg; the woman of Thebez, who killed a man with a millstone; the wise woman of Abel, who made sure the head of Sheba was tossed over the wall; Rahab who protected the spies and her entire household; Sheerah, who built three cities; the woman of Proverbs 31, who had strong arms; and Deborah, who rode to war.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2013 6:29 pm

    For one thing, the Bible says that men are generally stronger than women, and of course Saint Peter famously – or infamously – describes women as the “weaker sex.”

    Wasn’t Paul constantly interacting with women who were stronger than him?

    seven strong women from the Bible. Jael, who killed a man with a tent peg; the women of Thebez, who killed a man with a millstone; the wise woman of Abel, who made sure the head of Sheba was tossed over the wall; Rahab who protected the spies and her entire household; Sheerah, who built three cities; the woman of Proverbs 31, who had strong arms; and Deborah, who rode to war.

    just brilliant

  2. krwordgazer permalink
    August 30, 2013 2:08 pm

    Actually, Peter never says women are the “weaker sex.” He merely says the wife is the “weaker vessel.” Since “vessel” is a metaphor, it has been interpreted in several ways.

    But I think men as a sex are too caught up in what it means to be a man. Women don’t sit around and wonder if they’re being womanly enough.

  3. August 30, 2013 6:53 pm

    Great point, Kristen! The Greek adjective (for “weak/er”) is one that, in Pauline writings, the writer applies to himself; elsewhere in the NT it’s also applied to men. More than that, Pauline passages such as Romans 9:23 have the Greek noun (this metaphor for “vessel”) apply to men also. So the Petrine passage does not have to be simply interpreted ontologically or comparatively — as in “All women / wives are vessels that are weaker in comparison to all men / husbands.” Ann Nyland, taking the comparative, suggests it means the husband’s “realization that the wife has the weaker livelihood.” She is not weaker than him in his realization. The New American Standard Version may have the most favorable understanding of Peter’s Greek with respect to women: “in an understanding way, as with someone weaker” – which does not leave out the possibility that any “someone weaker” may also be a man.

    men as a sex are too… Women don’t sit around…

    Well, why do we have to essentialize at all? I just read something by one who many consider one of the most womanly of women – Luce Irigaray – who sat writing the start of her book to be two in its English translation with “Just reborn from her“; and she ends her book with “To Return to Her.” And through her book there’s this question about, that working out (of), what it means for a woman to be woman.

  4. August 31, 2013 2:10 am

    Kurk’s comment on the NASB interpretation made me wonder what the NAB said about this verse. Here’s the footnote: it’s more commentary than wordstudy, but I’ve emphasized a relevent bit:

    Husbands who do not respect their wives will have as little success in prayer as those who, according to Paul, have no love: their prayers will be “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). Consideration for others is shown as a prerequisite for effective prayer also in Mt 5:23–24; 1 Cor 11:20–22; Jas 4:3. After all, whatever the social position of women in the world and in the family, they are equal recipients of the gift of God’s salvation. Paul is very clear on this point, too (see 1 Cor 11:11–12; Gal 3:28).

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