What is Manhood?
When discussing how to engage or address something, it is always wise to first define the terms with which you are working. One of the reasons you do this is to make sure that everyone is on an intellectually level playing field. Debates can ensue about whether the definitions are proper or should be expanded or retracted, but at least everyone knows what discussion they are joining.
Manhood has been discussed at length at Spiritual Manhood. However, it is prudent here to offer a working definition for this writing, as well. As Wyatt McIntyre discusses, an authentic understanding of manhood starts with seeing man as made in the image of God. Manhood is given in the directives from God to Adam, and each of these has nearly endless sub-categories and implications.
- Multiply: Marriage, Build Families, Provide, Educate/Disciple, etc.
- Subdue the Earth: Rule, Judge, Discern, Direct, etc.
- Cultivate the Earth: Preparation, Develop, Use, Stewardship, etc.
These three particular items are given as instructions to Adam. These commands were all to be done as one who shared in the image of God. Thus, this was to be done by exercising some of the communicable attributes God shared with man. For the purpose of this introduction, we will say manhood is the exercise of specific God-given attributes within the capacity of man’s duty, some of which we will discuss later.
What is the Culture?
Culture is primarily and simultaneously a question of both “what?” and “whom?” The Oxford dictionary definition of culture is the “customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Ultimately, this idea is upon which we want to focus. The “what” are these specific items defined for us by Oxford. However, the “whom” is what drives the “what.” Each nation and even subcultures within a nation will have its customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements.
Thus, to earnestly discuss how men should approach their culture, we must locate each man in his own time and space and speak to him specifically. In other words, there is no practical one-size-fits-all format to have this discussion, and, in many ways, we have to be specific to each set of men. It should also be said that there are undoubtedly moral foundations that are unaffected by that time and space, but this is a discussion for another time, as right now, we wish to isolate how to approach culture. With that said, this author will speak to men in the American culture, as this is the culture of familiarity.
How does Man Function in the Culture?
First, a man functions by knowing that he is to discern, judge, and disciple in the context of his local customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements. This work is often more in-depth than a simple good or bad, but dissecting the nuances of messages, principles, purposes, and end goals. In the context of musical arts, discernment is more than “is there a curse word in the song?” That should not be the depth of our discernment and judgment. As is often the case, the truth can be found in the unlikely of places. Read the entirety of a song’s lyrics and weigh the balance of acceptable language to non-acceptable language versus the message’s entirety.
Art often imitates life, and while we often try to withdraw ourselves from the world, our lives given on Earth will not allow us. Remember: In the world but not of the world—prepositions matter, especially here. In the area of picture art (in this case, television and movie), the same principles apply. Discerning both the forest and the trees is helpful to decide what is worthwhile and what is not. Often, unbelievers create Christian messages without even knowing it in their art because ultimately, they share the marks of their creator, just like you, but without it being known to them.
It is also worth noting that there is some liberty to be had, should one use it. If you find you can dissect much of the culture without being caused to stumble, you should consider your role in helping others discern what is in the world as well. This statement is not an invitation to watch adult films and the worst of what is among us, but too often, Christians avoid everything instead of doing the hard work of discerning what is in front of us, and it is to the detriment of ourselves and our Churches.
Finally, we must beware of the cult of personality. In discerning the culture around us, we must understand that what often makes the pieces we define as culturally relevant is who makes it so. Frequently, because someone of notoriety has said something is good or bad, we take their word as the absolute truth. It is ok to take the word of a trusted advisor; however, we should discipline ourselves to put our research into anything we can as men and leaders. If we look to the function of manhood as briefly discussed early, it is incumbent on us to exercise the mental and spiritual disciplines of reason, logic, discernment, and discipleship to know what is good, evil, profitable, damnable, enjoyable, or anything in between.
Discernment is a viable type of biblical discrimination. If you do not have the tools to carry out the duty given to you as a man, you will find yourself failing yourself, your family, and the culture around you, as we ought to be leading in our Churches, those Churches being the conscience of a nation.
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Heb 5:14)
Christopher N. Croom, M.BEx is the Director of Cultural Engagement at Spiritual Manhood, as well as the Founder and Managing Member of CROSS & Culture. He is currently completing his PhD in Practical Theology with a focus on Moral Theology at Columbia International University
 (McIntyre n.d.)
 (“CULTURE English Definition and Meaning | Lexico.Com” n.d.)
 (Fokt 2017)
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Heb 5:14.