At the heart of the gender debate is the question of who gets to define, God or man? If God defines, does he allow us to use the light of nature, (natural revelation) and Scripture (special revelation) to that understand how God has defined us? We say God has defined us, and we can see something of that ‘essence’ in both general and special revelation.
But sticking with special revelation, (the Word of God) we see that God says it is an abomination to crossdress, since he doesn’t like a confusion of masculinity and femininity. (Deut. 22:5, 1 Tim. 2:9-10). Therefore, there is something objective to what masculine and feminine is. Even if we may be fuzzy on it, God is not.
Defining masculine is best done in connection to feminine, since man is not complete without woman. We see that women are called the weaker vessel, (1 Pet. 3:7) and that a woman is a helper to man in his calling of taking dominion (thus making him the leader and the protector (Gen. 2:18).
So, we are seeing duties tied to manhood that also reflect the male physiology; strength. It is interesting that Proverbs 31 does not also portray the ideal of a man. The virtues of the ideal woman are not the virtues of the ideal man. We must ask, why does the Holy Spirit not say, “act like men and women,” but instead, “act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). Is it just male chauvinism or cultural misogyny? The Christian cannot say so.
To continue, God manifests who He is in creation, as Creator; the stars portray their Creator as powerful, but also beautiful and awe inspiring.
Now, if we know that man (male and female) represent God and his image, and yet, there is a difference, what does this difference signify?
Suppose we cannot say what is unique about the spirit of man and woman. We can easily (and empirically) say of the body of each, that man represent strength, overall, and woman represent beauty. And so, (though there is overlap; men are beautiful and women are strong) but characteristically, masculinity is strength and femininity is beauty.
This is why we see man called to lead, provide, and protect, and these are ‘strong’ responsibilities, whereas the woman and femininity represent beauty, which is shown with the beauty of producing life, and cherishing and nurturing that life, etc, all which can be pretty easily supported by facts about men and women’s anatomical and even psychological make up (women more prone to anxiety, less aggressive, 3/4 upper body strength, etc).
To deny that these things have something to do with the definition is to irrationally reject both Scripture and common sense.
Now, it is true that masculinity and femininity manifest a variety of ways in various cultures. However, it is false to declare that it is purely and only a cultural construct. For example, God clearly links a leadership role in taking dominion with man, and therefore, man-ness itself.
We could continue, but the general contours should be clear.
IN SUM: Womanness and manness overlap, but characteristically, Scripture (ordinarily) uses the picture of strength to define man, and therefore, manhood.
For Further Discussion:
Desiring God on The Meaning of Manhood
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