LOUIS SULLIVAN (1856-1924), THE FATHER OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE, famously articulated this crucial design principle “form follows function.” In other words, the design of a building or object should enable or expedite its intended function or purpose. 

Sullivan probably didn’t know it, but his principle was biblical. When God designs, form always follows function. This is especially true with human sexuality.  God created the “form” of male and female to enable the “function” he intended each sex to accomplish. Both genders have an intended purpose, and God has structured us physically, emotionally, and mentally to accomplish them. 

For example, God created the male sex to lead. He created Adam to be Eve’s head (1 Corinthians 11:3). The order of creation makes this clear. God created Adam first. God also tasked Adam to “work and keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15). He gave Adam the task of filling the earth with his image and likeness. He commanded him to exercise dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26-28). 

By contrast, God created Eve to be Adam’s helpmate (Genesis 2:18). He made her to help Adam exercise dominion and fill the earth with God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28). God created Eve to support Adam, encourage him, and bear and nurture their children. They were a team, a partnership. In the words of my friend, Robert Andrews, God created them to be a one-flesh fighting machine. 

After Adam’s sin, God confirmed the reason for their creation by judging the tasks he had assigned them. He cursed Adam’s assignment, the ground (Genesis 3:17). Adam would now “work and keep” it in sweat and toil. He would experience scarcity and stress. He cursed both Eve’s childbearing and her role as Adam’s helpmate (Genesis 3:16). 

Biological Masculinity

There is a difference between being born male, (biological masculinity), and achieving every Christian man’s goal—spiritual masculinity. Biological masculinity is genetic. It is OEM, the original equipment from the manufacturer. But spiritual masculinity is learned, and family, church, and culture rise and fall upon our willingness to transform biological into spiritual masculinity. Only the gospel is powerful enough to get the job done.  

Every cell in a male body has an XY chromosome, while every cell in a female is XX.

Every cell in a man’s body contains an XY chromosome, whereas every female cell contains an XX. The characteristics of the XY chromosome are well known to the social sciences.[1] Men are more aggressive. They are more prone to initiate. Men are more comfortable with risk and more attracted to competition. They are less likely to be compliant. Spatial reasoning comes easier, while verbal skills are generally weaker. Men find it easier to separate their logic from their emotions. When it is necessary for their maturation, men find it easier to let their children experience pain. Men are less conscious of their bodies and feelings. Lastly, there is the obvious fact of different genitals and greater physical size and strength.

However, biological masculinity, by itself, is insufficient: it needs to be socialized. Unredeemed biological masculinity, enslaved to sin, often oppresses women and children. The #Me-Too movement is a reaction to this reality. Rape, beatings, sexual abuse, mass murders, child abuse, adultery, impregnating women then walking away, plus a host of other sins can be laid at the feet of unredeemed biological masculinity.

However, throughout history, cultures affected by the gospel have successfully redeemed biological masculinity. Chivalry didn’t originate in Hindu or Moslem culture. It arose in Medieval Christian Europe. 

Spiritual Masculinity

Spiritual masculinity occurs when the Holy Spirit morphs the attributes of biological masculinity into tools for the service of women, children, the church, and the broader culture. The “morphing” begins at conversion and is a life-long process. 

Masculinity is often misunderstood. For many, it is beards, broad shoulders, athletic ability, muscles, extroversion, and aggression. But spiritual masculinity is inward. It is a constellation of heart attitudes. This means you can be an all-pro linebacker but be feminine by character. On the other hand, you can be a five foot four, 135-pound piano teacher and model masculinity. Here are some attempts to define what the fruits of spiritual masculinity look like in practice.

“Form Follows Function”

The leaders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. define masculinity as “a sense of benevolent responsibility to tend God’s creation, provide for and protect others, and express loving, sacrificial leadership in particular contexts prescribed by God’s Word.”[2]

In his book, Church Planting Is For Wimps, Michael McKinley defines it as, “Being responsible, dependable, humble, and strong. It means pouring yourself out for your wife and kids. It means walking closely with Christ and taking care of people in need.”

John Piper writes, ” At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”[4] 

In his book Boys Adrift, physician and social commentator Dr. Leonard Sax, Phi Beta Kappa M.I.T., Ph.D. The University of Pennsylvania, writes, “What does it mean to be a man?” It means “using your strength in the service of others.”[5]

For C.S. Lewis, masculinity was the willingness to initiate, especially in spiritual things like prayer, Bible study, church attendance, etc.

And pastor Douglas Wilson adds, “Masculinity is the glad, sacrificial assumption of responsibility.”[6]

From these definitions, a central idea emerges. Spiritual masculinity is about serving— but in a way that is appropriate to the male sex. Spiritual masculinity serves by leading, and then it leads by serving. This kind of masculinity is desperately needed, and all attempts to disparage it express a cultural suicide wish. 

Where do we get spiritual masculinity? Jesus was the perfect model of all that God intended the male sex to be. We get spiritual masculinity by looking at him, imitating him, and thinking about him. Since the gospel is all about Christ, gospel-centered men are most apt to perfect spiritual masculinity.

[1] For more details see Stephen Clark, Man And Woman In Christ, (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1980), George Gilder, Men and Marriage,(Pelican: Gretna, LA, 1986), chapter 2; Charles Murray, Human Diversity, (New York: Twelve, 2020), Chapters 1-5

[2] Complementarianism-A-Moment-of-Reckoning-9Marks-Journal-December-2019.pdf

[3] Mike McKinley, Church Planting is for Wimps, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010) pg 102 

[4] Grudem, Wayne (2006-08-31). Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (pp. 5-6). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

[5] Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift (New York: Basic Books, 2009 Kindle Edition). p. 181

[6] Douglas Wilson. From a video interview entitled “Masculinity is the glad assumption of responsibility” at www.desiringgod.org