What Is a Man?

Sharing Options

Remarks for Refresh Ministries/Boston 2024

I must begin with my gratitude to your organizers for having been invited to an event such as this. And I bring you greetings from your younger sister Idaho, which has recently banned what is called by some gender-affirming care, where there is no right to change your legal gender, where x gender markers will not be recognized by Idaho, and where government school teachers may not use pronouns or names that do not align with a child’s sex at birth. Quite transgressive, and the sky remains blue out there. And I also bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in Christ in Idaho, who would like to encourage you with these words, borrowing at least one term from the progressive left. Spiritual stupidity is not sustainable. Moral insanity is not the long game.

With such a beginning, perhaps you have gathered that I have come here to be naughty. If you don’t mind, and with your permission, I would like to unload the truck.

As much as a traditionalist might fear that the question my title indicates—what is a man?—is far too commonplace, it also appears that all of us have come to live in a time when such questions prove to be a stumper for all of us who are not biologists.

However easy it was to answer this question back in the olden days—back when everyone was a biologist—it has become the kind of question that has simply overwhelmed our ruling elites. I do use that phrase, but it should be remembered that they don’t rule very well, and they are not really elite at all. But at the same time, our situation is truly serious. If a person cannot answer basic questions like what is a man? or what is a woman? they are clearly unequipped to answer the question what is a human being? And if we do not know what a human being is, how on earth can we know what human rights are?

I do not know about you, but I have no desire to live under the oversight of the kind of “ruling elites,” in scare quotes or not, who do not know, and apparently do not care, what human rights are.

So given my assigned topic, I want to begin with this text . . .

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong,”

1 Corinthians 16:13 (KJV)

The one word translated here as “quit you like men” is andrizomai, which means play the man. Be manly. Be virtuous—from the Latin vir, which means man. But what does that mean? What does it mean in these crazy and turbulent times? What does it mean in the year 2024? Well, God’s Word is always sure, and so it means the same thing it always did. The grass withers, and the demented people are gender dysphoric, but the Word of God stands forever sure.

In responding to the question “what is a man?” my desire is for this talk to touch on three basic realities. The first reality is the androcentric nature of all human relationships. This is called by some “the patriarchy,” the construct that our feminist age wants “to smash.” Tragically for them, it turns out that it is not possible to smash the columns of patriarchy without also toppling the entire edifice that these columns support. That edifice would be our basic humanity, which means that their desire to smash the patriarchy is part and parcel with their long-term strategy to usher in the abolition of man. The second reality is related to this, and is summed up by the inescapability of headship. God has embedded the hierarchy of headship deep within our created nature, and consequently our options are not male headship versus no male headship, but rather constructive male headship, under the authority of Christ versus destructive male headship, under the authority of demons and devils. Those are the two options.

And the third reality that I want to discuss would be the five aspects of true masculinity. What does it mean for men to grow up into the roles assigned to them by God? What would that look like?

My desire is to address this question from a biblical perspective, and so I want to begin with a definition of the generic use of man, referring to mankind.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Genesis 1:27 (KJV)

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”

Genesis 5:2 (KJV)

The English language, before our politically correct manglers got hold of it, expressed this biblical reality wonderfully. The word man meant an adult male, on the one hand, and the same word man meant all of humanity considered together, men and women, boys and girls. Man meant mankind. And the first words spoken from the moon reflected both senses. “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”

This how God spoke about our first parents. He lined them up, male and female, one of each. He then blessed them. He then called them by their collective name—Adam, which means man. If I had been privileged to be the attending minister at that first wedding, it would have been appropriate to say, “It gives me a great deal of pleasure to present for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Adam.”

Nouns matter, and pronouns matter. If anybody should be permitted to select their own pronouns, it would be God, and He has chosen He/Him, both of them with a capital H. He has revealed Himself to us as a Father. Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father in Heaven (Matt. 6:9). He tells us that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). The Christian faith is offered to this sorry world as the divinely appointed way to be restored to the Father.

As C.S. Lewis once said of George MacDonald, “An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe.”

As I have said many times, all of our current cultural conflicts are in effect battles over editorial control of the dictionary. And to be in any way embarrassed over the patriarchal nature of the dictionary, whether in the realm of theology, history, language, or anything else, is to take the first step toward a final and complete apostasy. And complete apostasy, remember, is the outer darkness. Insanity. Hell.

In the second place, I find that I need to talk about the reality of headship for a moment. If you are a husband, you are a head. You may be a poor one, but there is no escaping the position. Scriptures never tell husbands to “become the head.” The Bible tells us that the husband is a head. Like it or not, whether you steward the position ably or poorly, the fact of headship is ineradicable.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

1 Corinthians 11:3 (KJV)

There is a difference between indicatives and imperatives. Indicatives are statements of fact. Imperatives are commands that can be obeyed or disobeyed. There is no command in the Bible to “be a head.” Rather, it is an indicative. There is a command to “love your wife as Christ loved the church.” That can be obeyed and it can be disobeyed.

Every husband is speaking, all day every day, about Christ and the church. The content of the speaking occurs in the realm of imperatives, in that we are either telling the truth about Christ or we are lying about Him. But we are never silent concerning Him. Married men do not have the option of silence. If a man ditches his wife and family, and flies off to the other side of the country, his empty chair remains at the dinner table, telling lies about Jesus.

The fact of male headship in the home can no more be outlawed by feminist legislation than the law of gravity can be outlawed by dream walkers, or the law of supply and demand be outlawed by socialists. When we pretend it has been outlawed, we have simply turned that headship into a destructive wrecking ball. If you doubt what I say, simply look around at our current cultural landscape. Look at the wreckage.

And then last, speaking to men—men individually, as males—who want to grow up into a true and robust form of masculinity, which is something our adversaries like to call toxic, I want to point to five aspects of masculinity, as first outlined by the late Bill Mouser.

First, I define masculinity as the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. In pursuit of this, men should want to mature (i.e. gladly assume sacrificial responsibility) in five areas—as lords, husbandmen, saviors, sages, and glory-bearers. I will delve into these five areas in just a moment. We don’t have time for the feminine counterpart, but because your wife will no doubt press you for details, there are five aspects of womanhood as well—mistress of the domain, helper-completer, life-giver, lady of wisdom, and glory of man.  

Let’s consider them each in turn.


Man was created for dominion. We are not intruders on this planet—it was created as a home for us. We are not interlopers, and we are most certainly not this planet’s cancer. Our sin is cancerous, but that is a different issue entirely. In fact, one of the most destructive features of our sin would be the way it interferes with our obedience to the cultural mandate.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Genesis 1:26–28 (KJV)

In boys, this is what we would call the “tree fort” impetus. Men should strive under God to be adventurous and visionary.

The counterfeit of this is that of being a reckless adrenaline junkie.


Men are not just supposed to explore new territory. They are also supposed to cultivate and tame it, tending to it.

“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”

Genesis 2:15 (KJV)

You are not just supposed to win the girl, but also to build a life with her. You are not supposed to be footloose and down the road. Husbandmen assume sacrificial responsibility through being patient, careful, and hard-working.

The counterfeit of this is that of being a boring and sedentary clock puncher.


God has placed deep within the masculine mind a desire to liberate or deliver. This is the story of the dragon-slayer. This is why the story of St. George is fascinating to young boys. 

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:14–15 (KJV)

This was the place where our first father had his great failure. Instead of fighting the serpent for his bride, he lost his bride to the serpent. The second Adam restored the balance, overthrowing the dragon, and showing us the way. A savior needs to assume sacrificial responsibility through being strong, sacrificial, courageous, and good.

The counterfeit of this is that of being a presumptuous deliverer, given over to a daydreaming version of white-knighting. No good.


Godly men are not allergic to books. Responsible men are not strangers to the life of the mind.

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:13 (KJV)

All husbands and fathers need to be in a position to bring up the children their wives have given them in an environment dominated by the Scriptures of God—when you rise up, when you walk along the road, when you lie down (Dt. 6:4-9). And the first nine chapters of Proverbs show us the level of instruction given by a wise father to his son, introducing the rest of the book. Men, lead your families in loving the Lord your God with all your brains. Read a book, for pity’s sake.

So a man who is a sage needs to be teachable, studious, and thoughtful.

The counterfeit of this is that of being a bookish sort, with a complete lack of understanding when it comes to issues of application.


One of the great sins of modern men is that they are not ambitious for glory. This is yet another inescapable concept. We were created for glory, and we can no more do without it than we can do without food, or oxygen. But because of the destructive ravages of sin, we are diverted from a pursuit of true glory. We will pursue glory, because we can do no other, but the enemy of our souls distracts us with false glory. So there are basically two options besides true glory. There is vain glory, found in the world of tinsel, and there is dark glory, found in the world of the sexual revolution. The two of them sometimes combine in the sashaying of young Christian men, who have somehow learned to walk with a little twinkle in their gait.

But we were created for true glory. What is sin? Sin is to fall short of glory. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To whom is the salvation of eternal life promised? To those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality (Rom. 2:7).

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”

1 Corinthians 11:7 (KJV)

A man who is prepared to assume the sacrificial responsibility of being a glory bearer, is going to be representative, responsible, and holy. In this he is prepared to imitate the way of Christ—remember that Christ was glorified when He was lifted up on the cross. Sacrifice really is true glory.

The counterfeit of this is that of veering off after vain trinkets—bowling trophy glories—or descending into the dank swamp of dark and perverted glories.

In summary of all, do not apologize for anything assigned to you by God through your chromosomes. The cosmos is patriarchal, having been created by the Father through His Son and Spirit, and so do not apologize any of that. Make peace with the fact that headship is assigned to you, down in your bones it is assigned to you. You can mangle it, but you cannot escape it. And last, grow up into the sacrificial responsibility of masculinity, as shaped and defined by the five aspects of the masculine mind. Lean into what God has given you.

And in conclusion, my prayer is that I may have given you some faint notion of what burnt marshwiggle smells like. Thank you very much.