What is a Man?

God created man, and He is the One who knows best how we should live. As created beings, we do not own ourselves, but we belong to Him who made us, loves us, and died and rose again for us. What is a man? Whatever He says we are.

By Mark D. Harris

I was called upon to speak at our recent men’s prayer breakfast at Memorial Baptist Church in Beckley WV. As I was thinking and praying about what to discuss, God brought to mind a recent incident at the US Capitol. Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Ketanji Jackson, who was hoping to become a Supreme Court Justice, “please define woman.” Ms. Jackson replied, “I can’t, I’m not a biologist.”[1]

My first reaction on hearing that story for the first time was laughter. The progressives, to whom-Justice Jackson now belongs, argue that transgenderism is possible because gender is not biologically determined. Justice Jackson’s answer reveals that she, at heart, believes that gender is biologically determined. In six words, this paragon of the progressives undermined their entire case.

My second reaction was to ask the complementary question, what is a man? The internet has a variety of answers:

The world’s answers to the question: what is a man?

The Good Men Project[2]

What is a man not?

  1. Out drinking the next guy.
  2. Defining myself by my possessions: a fast car or big home.
  3. Having to out-lift the next person at the gym.
  4. Having the loudest voice or most-valued opinion in a conversation, an argument or a meeting.
  5. Carrying a weapon or being able to do violence against another person.
  6. Being able to fix things.
  7. My gender or my genitals

What is a man?

  1. It does not come naturally; it is something extra.
  2. You have to find a way to enter through the narrow gates of your own consciousness, your soul.
  3. You soon learn that being a man is knowing yourself and your strengths.
  4. Being a man first of all is the willingness to be honest with yourself.
  5. Accepting the discipline of a career and the responsibilities of being a father have also awakened something within me.
  6. Creativity and art push me to explore areas of my being that make me uncomfortable.
  7. Having the courage to slow down, to breathe and close my eyes is also helping me to become more alive.

Do any of these characteristics clarify to you what a man is? Is this primarily psychobabble? How many of these things could not be said of a woman as well? Is it true that we have to find our own way? Are we each the arbiters of our own body? Our own soul? What if Someone Else is the owner of your soul…and mine?

19 Characteristics of a Man’s Man[3]

  1. Tough
  2. Stoic
  3. Self-reliant
  4. Dependable
  5. The capacity for danger
  6. Adventurous
  7. Daring
  8. Successful
  9. Loyal
  10. Impressive
  11. Gritty
  12. Persistent
  13. Consistent
  14. Courageous
  15. Self-sacrificing
  16. Focused
  17. Rough around the edges
  18. Disciplined
  19. Relentless

Which of these characteristics do you have? Do you have enough that you consider yourself a man? Is there any mention of God? How many of these would be considered “toxic masculinity” by the world? If you want these characteristics, how do you get them? Do males have to work to become men, or are they simply made men, and work to become good men?

The End of Men[4]

  1. The transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy has made men’s traditional skills and roles less important and women’s more important.
  2. Advances in technology which decrease the importance of physical strength and other male advantages will further this trend.
  3. Women will assume the key roles in society and reshape the world in their own image.
  4. This change is inevitable.

The theory of the End of Men has not aged well. Writing off half of the population is not a plan for international, national, regional, community, family, or personnel success. People are rediscovering the value of the trade careers such as carpenter, mason, electrician, mechanic (auto, boat, aircraft), and plumber. These primarily male-occupied jobs are required for any economy and are at least as equally honorable and well-paying as those requiring a college degree.

Experiences of men today

The world has lists for men to follow, all of which are focused on the man himself and all of which are largely contradictory. Where are real examples of men that the world tells us to imitate? We hear about “toxic masculinity,” which refers to assertiveness (or aggression), dominance, toughness, and stoicism. But we don’t hear a consistent message about what a man is and should be.

For 50 years, men have faced discrimination, discouragement, and disengagement as the media, academia, business, and government push men down to try to raise up women and people with other sexual preferences. Laws penalize traditional marriage, and boys grow up without fathers. Men are passive, conflict avoidant, confused, and fearful.[5] Men are hesitant to lead.

Many of those reading this article will not feel like you struggle with any of these issues. If not, thank God for His grace to you. And then, tell everyone you know what you have learned here, because every person in our world needs to know what a man really is.

Holding to Biblical Truth is unpopular

I went to a Promise Keepers conference in Seattle WA in the late 1990s. Feminists had been protesting the message, which affirmed Biblical truths about marriage, sex, and sexuality.[6] Encouragements to lead your family, stay faithful, and care for your wife and kids, were objectionable to these feminists.

Holding to the Bible is unpopular in the Western World and seems to be increasingly so. Susan B. Anthony said, “The worst enemy women have is in the pulpit.” Journalist Cath Elliot wrote:

“Whether it’s one of the world’s major faiths or an off-the-wall cult, religion means one thing and one thing only for those women unfortunate enough to get caught up in it: oppression. It’s the patriarchy made manifest, male-dominated, set up by men to protect and perpetuate their power.[7]

Whether popular or unpopular, Christian men must hold to the Bible. We cannot shirk our duties to God and our world. The bottom line for men, and women, is that the people of God on earth have one mission, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To do so, we must know what He commands, and joyfully do it.

What God created man to be (Gen 1, 2, and 3)

  • Gen 2:7 – Man was created a living soul.
  • Gen 2:15 – Man’s work was to tend God’s creation.
  • Gen 1:29-30, 2:16 – God provided sustenance for man.
  • Gen 2:17 – God commanded man to trust and obey Him.
  • Gen 2:18 – God decided to make a helper for man. She was to help him in his task to tend the earth.
  • Gen 1:26-27 – God created man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over all the earth.
  • Gen 2:19-20 – Adam named every animal, thus exerting his authority over all the rest of the earth.
  • Gen 2:21-22 – God made woman of the same substance as man.
  • Gen 2:23 – Adam named Eve, just as he had named the rest of creation.
  • Gen 1:28 – God told man and woman to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
  • Gen 2:24 – Adam voiced God’s intention that man and woman become one flesh in marriage, as sealed by the sexual act.
  • Gen 2:25 – Husband and wife lived in perfect harmony and openness without shame and without fear.
  • Gen 3:7 – Due to their sin, the harmony between man and woman was broken. They covered themselves from God and from each other.
  • Gen 3:12 – Adam forsook his responsibility to lead and care for Eve, not protecting her from evil and then blaming her for it.
  • Gen 3:16 – Enmity grew between man and wife. Wives would try to usurp the God given authority of their husbands, but the husband would still rule, sometimes unkindly, over them.
  • 1 Cor 11:3, 8-9, 14:33-35, 1 Tim 2:8-15 – Men lead in the Church, locally and universally.

Men and women are equal before God in every fundamental way:

  1. Equal in having been created and being valued by their Creator.
  2. Equal in being sinful, condemned before the righteousness of God.
  3. Equal in being recipients of God’s common grace.
  4. Equal in having the opportunity to be reconciled with God through Jesus’ work.

Men and women were created to be different, to fulfill different roles in the family and in the church.

What God says men are (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:11)

I have looked at key men in the Bible according to how they might stack up against the Biblical requirements for leadership in the church. These ratings are debatable, but the ratings for these Bible characters are not the focus. Rather, how do you rate yourself? How do others rate themselves? How do others rate you? How can we all do better?

Abraham Moses David Paul Me You
Above reproach X X
Husband of one wife X X
Children are believers X X X
Not open to the charge of debauchery[8] X X X
Not open to the charge of insubordination X X X X
Not be arrogant X
Not be quick-tempered X
Not a drunkard X X X X
Not violent X X X
Not greedy for gain X X X X
Hospitable X X X x
Lover of good X X X X
Self-controlled X X
Upright X X X X
Holy X X X X
Disciplined X X X X
Hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught X X X X
Able to give instruction in sound doctrine X X X X
Able to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine X X X X
Provider for his family X X X X
Work quietly with his hands X X X X

Notice that a man is the leader of his family. The Bible does not say that he should be a leader or aspire to be a leader. The man is the leader, whether he likes it and does a good job at it or not. Men are leaders in family and church, and we must be the best that we can.

The world is seeing the fruits of their confusion and their rebellion against God. A people that rejects the Bible and opposes the natural laws of creation pays a slow but terrible penalty. In America, marriage rates are declining. Fertility rates are declining and are well below replacement.[9] Depression and suicide rates are climbing.

Clearly, the world’s answers are not working. The power to do good and live justly will not come from Washington and or someone else. It will come from Christ, through each of our lives, and into the wider world. The problems that we face in society must be solved by the Spirit working in each of us.

Christian men must rediscover Jesus Christ, and rediscover what He has made us to be.  We must learn His gospel, know His word, pray, give, and practice the spiritual disciplines. We must live and share His redemption. Then we can and must share His plan for our world, our society, and our lives.

What is a man? A biological male who loves and serves his Creator in the role that he was given. A man who Glorifies God and enjoys Him forever. Please also see my article, the Purpose of a Man.


[1] Caroline Downey, Judge Jackson Refuses to Define ‘Woman’ during Confirmation Hearing: ‘I’m Not a Biologist’, March 23, 2022, https://news.yahoo.com/judge-jackson-refuses-define-woman-122717280.html.

[2] Sean Swab, The Good Men Project, April 21, 2017, https://goodmenproject.com/guy-talk/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-man-snsw/.

[3] Chad Howse, Average2Alpha, https://average2alpha.com/what-it-means-to-be-a-man/#:~:text=19%20CHARACTERISTICS%20OF%20A%20MAN%E2%80%99S%20MAN%201%20Toughness,7%20Daring%20…%208%20Successful%20…%20More%20items.

[4] Hanna Rosin, The End of Men, 2012,

[5] “The Trouble with Boys/The Trouble with Men.” Esquire, 06, 2014. 108, https://go.openathens.net/redirector/liberty.edu?url=https://www.proquest.com/magazines/trouble-with-boys-men/docview/1543424310/se-2..

[6] Feminist Majority Foundation. “Feminists Protest Promise Keepers’ Rally.” Feminist Majority Foundation, October 6, 1997. https://feminist.org/news/feminists-protest-promise-keepers-rally/.

[7] Elliott, Cath. “Cath Elliott: Julie Burchill Is Wrong: Religion Is Anti-Feminist.” the Guardian. The Guardian, August 19, 2008. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/aug/19/gender.religion.

[8] Debauchery – extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures and especially sexual pleasure

[9] Elizabeth Bauer, “Another Record Low: Will the U.S. Fertility Rate’s Collapse Ever End?,” Forbes, November 30, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2019/11/30/another-record-low-will-the-us-fertility-rates-collapse-ever-end/?sh=7bf1fb1a5e45.

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