Series: Parenthood Category: Core Seminars, Family, Children, Manhood & Womanhood, Parenting
CHBC Core Seminars
Fatherhood & Raising Boys
What do you think is the most commonly asked question of expecting parents? My vote: “Do you know what you’re having?” And the expected answer, of course, is not “a baby,” but “we’re having a boy” or “we’re having a girl.” And even those who don’t find out ahead of time still get the balloons announcing: “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” And the balloon for the girl will be pink, and for the boy it will be blue. One question
we want to ask over the next two weeks is, Does the fact that we’re having a boy or a girl make any difference beyond the color of their balloons—or nurseries, or outfits? More specifically, does the sex of our children make any difference in the substance of our parenting? And then, turning to parents, we want to ask whether the sex of the parents make any difference in the substance of our parenting? The answer according to Scripture, on both scores, is emphatically, Yes.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the vast majority of our course has been applicable to both boys
and girls, and fathers and mothers. And there is much about boys and girls, and being fathers and mothers, that is interchangeable. There are many things that are nature (not just “boy or girl nature…”) But there is much that is not. I read about a little girl whose mother gave her a train to socialize her as gender neutral, and the girl took the train, carefully wrapped it up in a blanket, and put it in her stroller to go to sleep. As interesting as this is, our focus this morning will not be on describing observable gender differences between boys and girls – or between fathers and mothers. human
Instead, we’re going to talk about the differences in God’s
purpose in making boys and girls, who of course become fathers and mothers. In a series Mark did a number of years ago on gender (for those who may remember), he referred to gender differences as a “portrait” of the Gospel “embedded” in creation—teaching us about the Trinity, in which different roles do not signal lack of equality among the persons, but instead complement one another. This morning, we’re going to start by briefly reviewing God’s big picture on gender, and then spend the bulk of our time talking about the roles and responsibilities God has given men, and—at the same time—how we can teach our boys to live those out (as one CHBC mother of four boys put it, we’re not raising boys; we’re raising men...) Next week, we’ll talk about mothers and girls, and then in a few weeks we’ll have a panel of mothers and fathers that’ll give you a chance to explore this, and other, themes a bit more.
What is God’s big picture on gender?
We should start by very briefly reminding ourselves of God’s big picture on gender. It is this:
God intends to display his image differently through men and women, who are created equally in that image. [REPEAT]
This point about equality is critical. In the very first chapter of Genesis we read that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:27. Reflecting on this verse, Wayne Grudem (who co-founded the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) writes that “[e]very time we . . . talk to each other as men and women, we should remember that the person we are talking to is more like God than anything else in the universe, and that men and women share that status equally. Therefore we should treat men and women with equal dignity, knowing that men and women have equal value” to God.
Building Strong Families, p. 29.
At the same time, men and women are not The word is not “compliment,” as in saying nice things about one another (though we should do that, too), but “complement,” as in interchangeable. Instead, the biblical idea is that they complement one another. completing one another, or serving as another’s counterpart. In God’s design, the “weaknesses of the man are not weaknesses and the weaknesses of the woman are not weaknesses. They are the complements that call forth different strengths in each other.” John Piper, BMW, p. xx.
Often this complementary design is discussed in terms of headship and submission. We see this in marriage, where the husband is described as the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23), and in the church, where only men are authorized to teach (I Tim. 1:12). Of course, these positions don’t equally extend to every area of life—think, for example, of a single woman in the workforce. But the Bible is clear that, in certain spheres, certain men are called to headship (i.e., authority) and women are called to submission.
But this is not the entire story. Authority and submission only go so far; they do not tell you what men and women are to be
doing while the man occupies a position of authority and the woman submits. In the Bible, the complementary design of men and women is also fleshed out in their activities or roles. John Piper writes that “differentiated roles for men and women are never traced back to the fall of man and woman into sin. Rather, the foundation of this differentiation is traced back to the way things were in Eden before sin warped our relationships. Differentiated roles were corrupted, not created, by the Fall.” BMW, p. 35. Let’s turn to these pre-Fall roles.
What role does God intend men play, and how do we cultivate this role in boys and live it out as fathers?
What were men, as men, created to do? While any list inevitably will be incomplete, John Piper usefully puts it this way: “
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.” BMW, p. 35. Let’s unpack this sentence.
Note that he starts by mentioning
. mature masculinity
We don’t want just any masculinity for our boys. There is plenty of immature masculinity in this world. As Owen Strachan (former intern) put it in an article, our culture favors three types of men: wimps, goofballs, and thugs. We are
not shooting for wimpy men, or goofballs stuck in protracted adolescence. (There’s a whole genre of film now devoted to depicting this guy – think Dumb & Dumber…) Nor are we shooting for thugs – domineering, insensitive, authoritarian, condescending men. That kind of “man” is at least partly to blame for fostering radical feminism.
Fathers (and mothers), hold out a biblical vision of
mature masculinity for your son(s). When you see in the culture an adolescent being held out as a man—whether it’s on a sitcom, or an advertisement for a movie – ask your son whether that looks like the Bible’s picture of a man. Ask how that compares with what he sees in daddy (or, if daddy is not around, a godly man in his life). For boys of all ages, cast a vision of mature masculinity in your prayers. [A constant refrain in a former CHBD elder’s father’s prayers for him was, “Make Andy a great man of God.” However he turned out – that would have an impact…]
As one leader put it, “the best way to raise masculine sons . . . is for fathers to embody masculinity . . . . What we intentionally practice daily will eventually be formed in our sons . . . .” Are you giving your son a caricature of masculinity, or the thing itself? Consider your marriage. C.J. Mahaney has written, with great conviction, that “the most effective fathers are husbands who make it their aim to love their wives biblically.”
Sex, Romance & the Glory of God, 30. In other words, it’s not just sons who will be blessed by good fathering, but sons and daughters. Now, why would that be? Let me offer one possibility: Could it be because the husband-wife relationship is a picture of the ongoing love relationship between Christ and the church? A father loving his wife biblically – giving himself up for her, nurturing and cherishing her as he does his own body – is picturing for his children the Good News.
Dad, are you embodying this type of self-sacrificial, mature masculinity? Are you giving yourself away more and more for your wife? Are you giving yourself away more and more for your children? Your rest, hobbies, work ambitions – are you growing in sacrifice? This is mature masculinity.
This leads to the next part of our definition: we want to raise our boys to have a
of benevolent responsibility. Note the word “sense.” sense
Even if our boys cannot completely live out their benevolent responsibility towards women (say they are in an all-boys school, or are single, or become injured), we still want them to sense, at a deep level, their responsibility and look for ways to express it towards women. “For example,” John Piper writes, “[such a man’s] sense of responsibility will affect how he talks about women and the way he relates to pornography and the kind of concern he shows for the marriages of the men around him.”
Fathers, would your wife say you are working for good, concerned for and aware of the good of your family, even when time is against you—when you are busy or traveling? For some of you there are extreme demands, such as those in the military who are deployed. One CHBC father, who was in the military, set a good example in calling and e-mailing, checking in on his children, talking with them about spiritual things, letting them know he’s keeping up with them. Another father who traveled often ordered flowers in advance. Take a look at your schedule, see when busy times are likely to come up, and plan to show your sense of benevolent responsibility for your wife and children. This is a masculine thing to do.
So men are to have this “sense” – what is it a sense of? It is a sense of
. We have already, effectively, talked about benevolence—using one’s strength to do good to others. As John MacArthur says, many men know the Bible tells them to lead; but actually, in Ephesians at least, it uses a different word: “love.” The word “responsibility,” John Piper writes, shows that masculinity is a “God-given trust . . . not a right.” BMW, p. 37. “It is less a prerogative than a calling. It is a duty and an obligation and a charge.” benevolent responsibility Ibid. The man “will be uniquely called to account for his leadership, provision and protection in relation to women.” Ibid. We see this pictured in Genesis 3:9, when God says to Adam, “Where are you?” Eve sinned first, but “Adam must give the first account to God for the moral life of the family.” Ibid. So too in our families.
Parents, teach your boys to take responsibility – not only for themselves, but others. Train them to think about their responsibility for their siblings and friends. When we have had people over to our home who had small children, our son has proven to be a big hit with the toddler crowd – playing with them, entertaining them & looking out for them – doing things that probably aren’t the most fun for a 14 yr old, but a big help to the adults. That’s an example of acting like a
man. This is exactly what we want him to grow up to do. This is what fathers do.
Fathers, do you feel your responsibility? Do you think of yourself as having a “God-given trust”? Share this with your sons (and daughters). Talk about the trust, the calling, you’ve been given. Talk about how unable you are to handle it, but how able Christ is. Ask them to go to God on your behalf. Ask God before them to make you a better husband and father. What an instructive, clarifying, precious moment that is – when they hear you acknowledging before God your weaknesses and asking Him for help!
And let’s be practical: Are you a constant source of good in your home? Are you absent? Are you too busy? Are you more interested in your Blackberry, or your 50-inch Visio, or your video games, or your wife and children? Would your wife say you are a force for good in your marriage? Would she say you are a force for good in your home? (Ask her.) Are you looking for ways to benefit your family or avoid them? Do you view times of discipline as nuisances or opportunities? A man taking benevolent responsibility will approach sin, not in anger, but to show the child their desperate need for a Savior. Do you discipline out of love for your peace and quiet, or love for their souls?
A sense – a sense of benevolent responsibility – a responsibility to do what?
To . That word can mean lots of things to lots of different people ( lead e.g., do I need to push the button on the elevator?), so let’s clarify it with a few statements:
service and sacrifice. As John Piper writes, it is “not a demanding demeanor. It is moving things forward to a goal”—specifically, “holiness and heaven.” BMW, p. 38. “Jesus led his bride to holiness and heaven on the Calvary road. He looked weak, but he was infinitely strong in saying NO to the way of the world. So it will be again and again for mature men. . . .” BMW, p. 38 (emphasis in original). We want to train our boys, whether actively with their sisters now, or by watching us with our wives, to move others forward, by self-sacrifice, toward a goal of holiness and heaven.
Leadership does not presume superiority, but
cultivates and mobilizes the strengths of others. We want to train our boys not to demean or ignore girls (ultimately women), but to nurture them in the service of Christ. As a former pastor has put it, we want to teach our boys to lead through nurturing. This usually does not come naturally to boys, who are interested in serving themselves. They have to be trained to be attentive to others, especially those who are weaker, and to foster their growth.
Leadership does not have to initiate every action, but
feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative. This sounds very nice—and very theoretical. So John Piper puts the point very practically:
[T]he leadership pattern would be less than biblical if the wife in general was having to take the initiative in prayer at mealtime, and get the family out of bed . . . on Sunday morning, and gather the family for devotions, and discuss what moral standards will be required of the children, and confer about financial priorities. . . A wife may initiate the discussion and planning of any one of these, but if she becomes the one who senses the general responsibility for this pattern of initiative while her husband is passive, something contrary to biblical masculinity and femininity is in the offing.
BMW, p. 39.
Give your sons opportunities to lead. This means starting small! My wife reminded me that, one year, I had [our older son and daughter] helping me in the yard. I had a job I wanted done, that I thought they could do, and I put [my son] in charge. I was watching to see whether he would take advantage of the situation and assign all the work to [my daughter], or would he exercise benevolent responsibility? I let him lead us on our family walk. He’s 14 now – so I on occasion will have him lead our family devotions.
By the way, if your son follows the crowd, he’ll have trouble leading his family. So let me ask you: Do
you fear what people think? If so, you will pass that on to your children. Read When People Are Big And God Is Small.
This isn’t about personality. Not all boys have a leader-y personality. But they don’t get a pass because of their personalities. Al Mohler has helpful words on this point. He says that, to be a man, every boy should have a number of qualities, including the “verbal maturity” sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.
A man must be able to speak, to be understood and to communicate in a way that will honor God and convey God’s truth to others. Beyond the context of conversation, a boy must learn to speak before larger groups, overcoming the natural intimidation and fear that comes from looking at a crowd, opening one’s mouth, and projecting words. Though not all men will become public speakers, every man should have the ability to take his ground, frame his words, and make his case when truth is under fire and when belief and conviction must be translated into argument.
Mohler says further that boys must have “character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire,” and “biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.” We don’t have time to go into those here, but I’ve given you a link in your handout where you can find the article. He lays out 13 marks of manhood, and none depends on personality.
Fathers, how are you leading? As we note in the marriage class, you can either lead well, or you can lead poorly; but you will lead. Let me suggest a leadership assessment. Ask the following questions:
How are you leading your wife? Are you nurturing and cherishing her, as you are commanded to do in Ephesians? Surround her with care, warmth, guidance to equip her to do the work God has given her.
How are you leading your children? Are you leading them tenderly, sharing yourself with them, as the Father does with us? Are you enjoying them, not just instructing them?
Are you taking time to set priorities and instruct your families?
I’ve found that a prayer list for my children is extremely helpful in clarifying issues of concern for them, setting my agenda with them.
Sit down with your wife and walk through the child’s development that year, and goals for the next year. Try to weed out idolatry of material gain and academic achievement, and focus on eternal rewards.
Plan your year’s events, including the traditions you are going to develop. Children love surprises, but they thrive on routine. In many ways, to lead is to plan and to plan is to schedule. [In our home we have (or strive to have): annual vacations, monthly Father-son and Daddy-daughter dates, Saturday pancakes, and nightly devotions.] Does your wife plan these things? Does she plan the traditions?
Where are you leading them?
Fathers, let’s not be passive. Passive fathers raise passive sons. If you don’t know whether you’re too passive, ask your kids: Who seems to lead our home, mommy or daddy? A truly masculine father is actively, deliberately, thoughtfully leading His family in God’s ways.
A mature man also has a sense of benevolent responsibility
to . What do we mean by this? We certainly do not mean that a woman cannot help support the family financially; but we’ll talk more about the complementary role of the woman next week. What we mean is that, as John Piper puts it, “when there is no bread on the table it is the man who should feel the main pressure to do something to get it there.” BMW, 42. provide
This is implied in Genesis 3 where the curse touches man and woman in their natural places of life. It is not a curse that man must work in the field to get bread for the family or that woman bears children. The curse is that these spheres of life are made difficult and frustrating. In appointing the curse for his rebellious creatures God aims at the natural sphere of life peculiar to each. Evidently God had in mind from the beginning that the man would take special responsibility for sustaining the family through bread-winning labor, while the wife would take special responsibility for sustaining the family through childbearing and nurturing labor. Both are life-sustaining and essential.
. . . .
Again I stress that the point here is not to dictate the details of any particular pattern of labor in the home. [For example, Who does the laundry? In our house, we both wash dishes; we both vacuum…] We’re not endorsing traditional jobs for their own sake. The point is that mature manhood senses a benevolent responsibility before God to be the primary provider for his family. And the same is true for a social group of men and women who are not married. Mature men sense that it is primarily (not solely) their responsibility to see to it that there is provision and protection.
BMW, 43 & n.15 (citing Deut. 10:18; Jer. 31:32; Eph. 5:23; Col. 2:19).
There are many things we can do to encourage our sons to be providers. Let me suggest, for example, that chores are especially important for boys. Tedd Tripp and his boys lived in the country, and he put one of his sons in charge of their pigs. A neighbor criticized Tedd for having his son going out to the barn early on frigid winter mornings to take care of the pigs. But Tedd explained that the difficult work was good for his son, to learn responsibility.
We also want to give explicit instruction: It is a man’s responsibility to provide for his family. Teach him about the sluggard. Don’t over-spiritualize it. How many men in their mid-twenties are still thinking about what kind of career they might want. As Mark has put it, “young men worship at the altar of options.” Don’t accept the culture’s model of extended adolescence. Instruct your boys about manhood, especially work. The books recommended on your handout by Bob Schulz are excellent on this—not excellent on the Gospel, but extremely practical about work.
Mothers, encourage your children that their fathers are working, and take the opportunity when you spend money to acknowledge your husband’s hard work.
Fathers, some of you need to be encouraged not to work so much. Does your job serve your family, or does your family always serve your job? I say this to myself, too: Be careful you’re not putting more weight on your job than it (or your family) was meant to bear.
Others need to be encouraged to work harder. Do your work roles with your spouse suggest a “same-sex relationship”? Genesis 2 shows that the man’s assigned role was to work the ground; his wife’s role, corroborated in Titus 2, is childbearing and managing the home. Brothers, the burden for provision rests on you. Do you want to go to grad school? Historically, a man couldn’t get married until he could provide a home for their wife. “A real man,” Al Mohler writes, “knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility and take care of the needs of his wife and family.”
And a mature man has a sense of benevolent responsibility
to . We see this in Genesis, when the man was put in the garden to work and keep it—keep, as in protect. And Ephesians 5:25 instructs husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” As John Piper puts it, “Christ is here sacrificing himself to protect his wife, the church, from the ravages of sin and hell. This is not an arbitrary assignment. It is fitting because men were created for this. . . . The sense of responsibility to protect is there in man by virtue of this design in creation, not by virtue of the marriage covenant.” BMW, 44 n.16. We also see this in the Old Testament, as the men, not women, had the duty of going to war. protect
In my own marriage, one of the primary ways [my wife] wants me to care for her is to give her my protection – to be looking out for her. Let your sons see this. Talk to them about it. Encourage them to do the same. When there’s a dark stairway in the house, and none of the kids want to go up first, I’m sending my son up at the head of the line. When the ball goes in the thorn bush, he may NOT send little sister in to get it….
[CHBC guys are great at this kind of protection. Think of the single men who look out for their sisters by walking them home at night. And even more, think of all the single men who have embraced the courtship model of preparing for marriage, to protect their sisters. Think of the men who have confronted another brother who wasn’t being careful enough on this front!]
Fathers and mothers, teach this to your sons. Teach them to be sensitive to you and their sisters – to look out for them, to protect them, and to speak kindly to them. Train to be spiritual protectors.
Fathers, model this kind of sensitive, protective care to your boys. Here’s an assignment for you. Ask your son(s): Do you think I am harsh with your mom?
As CJ Mahaney says, “I will give up my life to prevent you from sinning.” Have you ever given thought to how your wife or daughters might feel vulnerable to temptation? Have you considered that pushing her to work may be pushing her to work under another man’s authority, where she will be outside your protection? Remember Adam’s silence in the garden. He did not protect His wife. What voices are clamoring for your wife’s attention?
Are you aware of the cultural attractions for your daughters? Read
Pride and Prejudice. Understand the mindset—wanting to be attractive, wanting to be desirable, wanting to have power over desirable men. If you don’t understand it, or know about it, you can’t very well protect your wife and daughters from it.
Fathers, set an example for your sons. What do you watch? Where do you put your eyes? In the grocery checkout; in what you watch on TV?. Protect yourself and protect you’re family. Don’t take for granted television, cable, the Internet with out thinking about their impact. Are you letting Satan into your home through the media? Feel your responsibility to protect.
Summary of Methods: Putting It Into Practice
Stepping back from this list, we see some themes for application. I want to highlight them.
Embodiment (or, Example). Al Mohler writes that that “the best way to raise masculine sons . . . is for fathers to embody masculinity . . . . What we intentionally practice daily will eventually be formed in our sons . . . .” For this reason, he continues, quoting the Dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Theology, to say that many evangelical Christians are in “same-sex marriages.” Meaning, not that they are in homosexual marriages, but that there is no role distinction between fathers and mothers. We have talked in this course much about parenting generically, but let’s be very clear: Biblically, parents are not interchangeable. Fathers are not the same thing as mothers. We want to model masculinity for our sons. Let your sons (and daughters!) observe biblical masculinity. Like so much else – masculinity will be as much caught as taught.
“We teach by explicit instruction what a godly man looks like. For the boys, we use the biblical language of leader, provider, and protector on a weekly, if not daily basis. When we come to a place in our family Scripture reading that exemplifies manhood, we make much of it. We attempt to explain what the passage means and extol the beauty of God’s good design for boys.”
“We rehearse scenarios - often as a result of an occasion where our vision has been undermined. For example, when one of my sons dishonored his sister by hitting her, I responded with a verbal rebuke and physical correction, and then required a replay of the entire scene as it ought to have happened. . . . . I have found that the most productive rehearsals, however, are intentionally planned as part of regular training in the home—not as a reaction to a recent flare-up.” As another leader put it, “[i]f parents want their children to be proficient at the piano, then they will provide lessons. If they want their sons to be resilient and inclined to lead, then they will help create moments for training.”
Stories, books, movies, songs... admire and hold up examples of great masculine men. (Example: read biographies together [we often read missionary biographies in the car]. When an example of biblical masculinity comes up, hold it up as praiseworthy and admirable.)
You may remember that we started the course by talking about how the
home is full of embedded portraits of redeemed relationships. Parent-child relationships model something of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and our relationship with God as Father. Brother-sister relationships model our relationship with each other. Children are therefore no afterthought in God’s plan, we saw, but one of His key means of preparing us to grasp the basic truths of the Gospel.
And so today, we begin the closing chapter of the course with another embedded portrait. We see that
gender is not an afterthought in God’s plan, but, especially as it is expressed in families, it is another of His key means of preparing us to grasp the basic truths of His nature and of the Gospel. Ask fervently of God that as parents and as a church, he would give us wisdom and—in this culture— determination to raise masculine sons (and as we discuss next week, feminine daughters), that the His FULL image may be clearly and beautifully shown to the world.