Nijay Gupta on Owen Strachan’s Comments on Christian Manliness

Nijay K. Gupta (PhD, University of Durham) is Associate Professor of New Testament at Portland Seminary, George Fox University, Oregon, and author of Worship that Makes Sense to Paul. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

A few days ago, Owen Strachan made this statement on Twitter

“The gospel of grace takes men who have been softened by the devil and makes them hard, strong, lean, loving, and ferocious in pursuit of God and his glory. See νδρζεσθε in 1 Cor. 16:13, best translated “act like men.” Men aren’t soft. Men must be tough in Christ.”

There are quite a number of things that are unclear and unbiblical about this statement. Strachan seems to have a developed a theology of “softness” that he doesn’t bother to define or explain here. His theology has more in common with a Hans and Franz SNL sketch (watch one HERE) than the Bible. I think his statement is easy to refute. (And I am sad that it needs refuting at all.)

I. The Devil does not seem to have a man-softening agenda

A study of satanology in the Bible will quickly reveal the Devil’s main objective is to convince people to sin. In fact, we find that his agenda tends to involve getting people to acquire power rather than relinquish it (see Matt 4:9). He is associated with murder (John 8:44), acts of power. Man-softening is not his MO.

II. Strachan does not (and probably could not) define “softness” as a vice relevant only to men

Strachan fails to define softness in a clear or convincing way. Does it mean gentle? All Christians are called to be gentle (Gal 5:23). Does it mean warm and intimate? The model for this is Jesus who lovingly leans on the Father’s chest (John 1:18). Or perhaps it means cowardly? But in that case no believer should be cowardly, man or woman. All are called to be brave, resilient, strong. Who would favor “softness” if it meant cowardice? And perhaps again he means “weak in faith”—again, not a sin only relevant to men.

III. The verb νδρζεσθε is not best defined as “act like a man”

It is true this literally means “act like men,” but that does not assume that is the best way to translate it or understand it in 1 Cor. This verb comes from a cultural image of the courageous and fearless man, a nod to the great warriors of the day. But we must not assume all men were always courageous. And, likewise, we must neither assume all women were always cowardly. Hebrews extolls the brave faith of Rahab (11:31). Note too the intrepid and clever mother of the Messiah (Revelation 12). And what shall we say about the early martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas? The verb νδρζεσθεwould naturally apply to all of these because they were brave.

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Source: Christianity Today