John Piper and Darrin Patrick on Biblical Manhood (Part 2)

Darrin Patrick is with me here, and he’s the Lead Pastor at The Journey in St. Louis, where he’s been for almost 10 years now. He planted the church in 2002. He wrote this book called Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. When I opened it and read the preface in particular, and it said, “Why focus on men?” I was really jealous to have Darrin come and be a part of the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in January of 2012. Thank you for being willing to do that.

On page 11, you quote this researcher who says, “In 1970, 69 percent of 25-year-olds and 85 percent of 30-year-old white men were married. In 2000 (30 years later), only 33 percent (not 69) and 58 percent (not 85) were married, respectively, at those ages.” You suggest this data is probably not slowing. Now, when I read this, that’s astonishing to me. There are names being given to this phenomenon. Say the names and anything about that you think would be helpful first to hear. Why is it happening and what are the implications for ministry?

Yeah. One of the terms is “adult adolescence”. A term that I kind of put together for men is ban. It’s kind of like half-boy, half-man, or it’s three-quarters boy and one-fourth man.

B-A-N, boys and men.

Yeah. I think it goes back to the brokenness of our culture. I think a lot of people saw their parents’ marriage and said, “No, thanks.” They didn’t see dad loving, didn’t see dad sacrificing, didn’t see him speaking to, encouraging, and nourishing his wife’s heart. Then they saw bitterness in mom, and they saw brokenness. It’s the collapse of marriage. I think a lot of children saw that and said, “I’m not going to do that.” So, I think that’s part of it, but I also think that not only did they not see almost passively a good marriage, but then actively, they weren’t parented well. So they’re not equipped financially, they’re not equipped emotionally, they’re not equipped spiritually, and they think to themselves, almost subconsciously — although they articulate it more than I can believe in my ministry — “I’m not ready for that. I can’t do that. I can’t take responsibility for myself, how am I going to be responsible for another person?”

Let me try out a couple of definitions of manhood and womanhood and then come back and say, “How can we help at that point?” Because that does sound pretty bleak and pretty hopeless, whether or not the church at that moment can insert itself and get something changed.

One of the burdens I have in the way I’ve come at this over the years in wrestling and debating with egalitarians is that when a typical egalitarian tries to define the essence of manhood and the essence of womanhood, they almost always talk in generic terms that are human. They say things like, “Gentle, humble, kind, caring, and servant-like.” I say, “Well, yeah, that’s what all Christians should be. But it doesn’t make any distinction between man and woman, so you’re not answering my question.” The way I’ve tried to say it is, what are we going to say to a father who has a nine-year-old son when he asks, “Daddy, what does it mean to grow up and be a man and not a woman?”

If the answer you give him is kindness, gentleness, love, and servanthood, he’s not going to know what manhood is because that’s what he’d say to his daughter. I want to know the answer to the question, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman? So my effort is to try to pinpoint what I see biblically rooted in creation is that mature masculinity or manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility. You may not always have the resources to take it in any given situation, but you’ve got this sense inside that you should assume some responsibility and accountability here to lead and provide for and protect women. And that sounds like marriage, but I would say it’s in ways that are appropriate to the differing relationships.

A 13-year-old boy in relation to a 12-year-old girl should orient himself on the playground differently than with another boy in how he cares for her, protects her, and honors her. There’s a difference. There’s a dynamic there. It’s not just two human beings. They’re different. I used to use an illustration when I was teaching. Imagine two students walking from the college over to McDonald’s, a guy and a gal dating, and a guy jumps out with a knife. Now, suppose she has a black belt in karate. She could take this guy out. Suppose this guy knows she does. I would say if he says, “You take him,” he’s not a man. He’s not a man. He should step in front of her and say, “Over my dead body.” Now, she may win the battle at the end and kick him, but he’s done manly things.

He has the sense that he should.

Precisely, he had the sense, “This is what I’m called to do here.” It’s not a competency issue. It’s not a competency issue in marriage. It’s not a competency issue in the world. It’s a God-given sense of leading, protecting, and providing. And then the reverse at the heart of biblical, mature femininity is a freeing support and affirmation and nurturing of that leadership and that strength. She comes alongside men in ways that are appropriate to the various relationships. She might be, as a 30-year-old single woman, a bank manager, and the teller is a guy. The dynamic there of him walking with her to her car in the parking ramp after dark is something she would receive as, “That’s what you should do. You should want to care about me in this dark parking ramp. And I receive that. I honor you for that.” That’s a dynamic. She’s single and he’s single. This is not a marriage thing at all.

That’s my effort to just get to the core. Now, let’s come back to the issue of the fact that we live in a day where you’ve just described thousands of men who are postponing their adulthood, extending adolescence, and feeling like “I’m not there.” So, what do you do now to help that situation? We can’t get them into homes and go back into mama’s womb and relive. So, what can we do?

Yeah, well, I think there is an element of re-parenting that pastors have to do now that maybe they didn’t have to do 15, 20, or 30 years ago. There are just some baseline things that mom and dad should have taught, specifically dad should have taught, but didn’t. I think we should identify that and say it’s okay. It’s really not your fault that you weren’t taught how to balance your checkbook. It’s really not your fault that you were not taught how to keep your pants on. You didn’t know the culture moves you towards basically throwing off all restraint and doing whatever you want to do. That’s what manhood is. We’re going to help you with that. So number one, it’s a posture. We’re going to help you and it’s okay. You don’t need to be full of shame. God brought you here. We’re going to be your spiritual family and help you with these things and help you understand it.

I think for most young men that I’ve seen, they really respond to that because they know they’re in trouble. You don’t have to tell them they’re in trouble. They know it. They know that they cannot keep a relationship. They know that they prefer porn to an interaction with a real woman. They know that’s wrong. They get it. And I think it’s our job then to come alongside them with a posture of, “Hey, I’m going to be a dad and I’m going to walk alongside you and I’m going to call the best out of you. There are things in you that you have pushed down, glossed over, and I’m going to speak to that because God has made you differently. You were made to have courage. You were made to sacrifice first. You were made to forgive first, and we’re going to call that out of you, and we’re going to use the Scriptures and help you orient your life to the story of Scripture so that you see yourself not as the main character, but as an important character in God’s story.” And it can change a man’s life.

We’ve talked enough, and I’ve read enough in your book to know that you believe that manhood and womanhood are rooted in nature and in creation. It’s not merely cultural. There are things about it that are sunk deep. It’s so amazing to me today that in the Acts 29 movement and other complementarian groups, it isn’t in the way. In other words, believing that men should assume a certain role and women should assume certain roles and that they should compliment each other is not hindering evangelism, but can actually be a part of the rescue operation. So, how does that work? I think you said in a previous video that you were told that to plant a church you have to be egalitarian and fit into the culture. Now, you’re obviously going in another direction and you’re succeeding. People are coming to Christ. They’re coming to the church. Why? How does that work?

Well, I think we can reflect culturally for a moment. Look at movies, and specifically the whole Twilight thing, which I’m really confident you have no idea what I’m talking about at that point.

I’ve heard the word . . .

Praise the Lord that you do not know, and I’ve never seen one and I won’t. But I know the premise, the idea with several movies, and specifically these movies, is of this protector, this male who’s a protector, and he knows the heart. He responds with courage, but tenderness — all those kinds of things. People know it. They just know it. So, when you speak and you have Bible verses and you help them understand, “Hey, big picture, this is how you were made, and this is why God talks about these things this way,” the light bulb goes off and it makes sense. It makes sense of their childhood, it makes sense of their broken relationships, it makes sense of their divorce, and it makes sense of the struggles in their marriage and the glories of their marriage and the glories of children. I think you have to be careful. You have to be nuanced. You have to know what you’re speaking into.

If you want to call it contextualization, it’s been our greatest one because it just hits the heart in ways the young men go, “I knew that’s the man I was supposed to be.” The young women go, “You know what? That’s the man I want, and I’m offended. My feminism is getting tweaked, but what I’m going and dealing with and reading, it’s not working. That’s the kind of man I want. That’s the kind of man he’s talking about. That’s the kind of man God says he should be. I want to be that kind of woman.”

So, finish it off like this. We’re talking about manhood and womanhood, but we are not on a crusade mainly to create men and women. We’re on a crusade to create Christians. As we want people to believe the gospel, love the gospel, and magnify Jesus Christ, this is part of the package. But how does manhood and womanhood get completed with the gospel or get completed with Christ?

Yeah, the idea with Jesus is that he’s tough and he’s tender. He absolutely will get in the face of wicked, self-righteous religious leaders and then hug a child. So I think when we come to Christ and meet him, men get appropriately tougher and appropriately more tender. And I think the same thing happens in women, and I think what happens is we are completed. It’s like the end of the story, the last chapter that resolves, the final scene of the movie. There is a sense that, all right, my life makes sense. My experiences make sense. Women think, “I am a female, but it’s a bigger deal than that. I am a part of a greater story. I have a sense that I’m bringing to the table not just my femininity, but my spiritual gifts, not just to serve a family or to get a husband or to love some children, but to bless a church.” And men think, “I’m here as a man, not just to make money and climb a ladder and have a hobby. I’m here to give my life away for the body of Christ.” And that only happens through conversion.

The Desiring God Conference for Pastors is at the end of January 2012. If you are a pastor or your pastor could benefit from this kind of conversation, this kind of dialogue, this kind of probing into the meaning of manhood and womanhood and how it makes a difference in ministry, we hope you’ll be there.