What Happened to Manhood?

From the book Biblical Manhood
By Joel Hilliker

What is manhood?

Surely almost every adult male considers himself a man. Yet if asked to define just what it means to be a man, they would give a variety of conflicting definitions.

If you want to define manhood for yourself, you will probably always meet your own criteria.

But if you want to define manhood in reality, you need to look into the Holy Bible and consult the Creator of manhood.

He has a lot to say about it. And if you are male, you should be deeply interested in His view.

How well do you measure up to God’s definition of manhood? Are you stepping up as a man as He intends? Are you fulfilling your duties as a man in your home, with your family? In your job? To your neighbors and other people in your life? Within society? Frankly, few men could look their Maker in the face and answer yes to these questions.

Meeting God’s standard is a challenge—a noble challenge—and He intends it to be. But it is made all the more difficult by powerful forces within modern society working against you. Over a period of decades, society has employed a variety of tools and weapons to prevent men from fulfilling their God-ordained role. Confusion over just what is expected of man is rife. The result is that many of us fail even to fully understand what it means to be a man, let alone to embody it.

The absence of biblical manhood today represents a revolution in modern society. And when you truly evaluate the effects, you realize just how devastating it has been.

God, however, has a solution. He is working with a group of men today—men whom He is preparing to assist Jesus Christ in restoring biblical manhood, setting this upside-down world right-side up.

You can be one of those men.

Seeing the full picture of the masculine duty God has vested in you is awesome and inspiring. It can also be intimidating, even overwhelming. But take heart. Maturing as a godly man is a lifelong endeavor, and it is never too early or too late to start. Every man struggles. Every man can grow in biblical manhood. You have everything to gain from studying this subject. Every bit of effort you put toward better grasping and fulfilling the powerful, spiritually rich and enriching role God has given you will be worth it.

This book is a frank discussion by men for men. It is not intended for women (although anyone studying biblical manhood will receive an exhilarating vision into the mind of God). Any woman who listens in on this discussion is requested to keep to herself the elbows she may want to place in the ribs of the men in her life, never to use against them anything she happens to read here.

We will begin by surveying the world as it is today. As we do, assess how much of society’s thinking has rubbed off on you.

The Incredible Shrinking Man

What is manhood in society today?

In a world of same-sex “marriages” and transgender bathrooms, the answer to this question has never been more confusing. This generation has challenged, castigated and changed virtually everything that has defined manhood throughout human history.

Consider some facts.

In 1960, about two thirds of American men, by age 30, had finished school, left their parents’ home, become financially independent, gotten married and had a child. By 2000, that number was cut in half. In 1970, 80 percent of 25-to-29-year-old American men were married. Now that number has also been cut in half. In 1950, one in 20 men of prime working age was not working. Today, it’s about 1 in 6.

Today, about 60 percent of 18-to-24-year-old males live with their parents. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, it’s about 20 percent—almost double the rate among women the same age.

In secondary education, boys are outnumbered by girls in student government, honor societies, debating clubs and on school newspapers. They are outperformed on tests of artistic and musical ability. The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing skills. Boys are more likely to be held back or suspended from school. More boys drop out. More boys are on Ritalin, and more get involved in crime, alcohol and illegal drugs.

Women are pursuing higher education in far greater numbers than men. Every year, 170,000 more women than men earn bachelor’s degrees. They expect higher earnings and better professional advancement than young men do. And although the average man earns 10 percent more, the average 20-something woman earns more than the average 20-something man.

Women are even avoiding serious relationships so as not to derail their career goals. When they decide they want to marry, they are finding fewer men who have developed their minds, bodies and skills. Their choice is to either “marry down” or not marry at all.

More single women than single men are buying their own homes. More and more are having children on their own. Many think marriage would be nice, but they find it unnecessary. They can take care of themselves, after all, and don’t need another dependent, another mouth to feed.

These developments are a reversal of the relationship between males and females that has existed for virtually all of human history. This is no small change; it is a complete restructuring of a social order. Social historian Stephanie Coontz calls it “a historical revolution every bit as wrenching, far-reaching and irreversible as the Industrial Revolution.” She told the Atlantic, “When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down” (November 2011; emphasis added throughout).

She is describing the destruction of virtually everything that has defined manhood for much of human history!

Feminists may celebrate, but more and more people are recognizing that this trend comes with some steep costs we are only starting to see.

A Relic

For millenniums, men have been providers: providers of defense, security, shelter, food and the means for other heavy necessities of life for women, who themselves provided the finer necessities of the relationship. As pioneering, farming and other occupations gave way to wage-earning jobs, men did the smithing, ranching, mining, felling, milling, building, clerking and other work outside the home—the work of providers. This integral role in life propelled males forward through their childhoods, their educations, their careers and their lives.

Now, this model is mocked. Two-income families are the norm, with neither husband nor wife fulfilling their historic role. Feminists encourage women to stand on their own, shunning dependency on men, and becoming laborers, wage-earners, managers, executives and even soldiers.

Women have proved to be spectacularly capable, and men have gotten the clear message: You are no longer needed.

It’s a proven, demonstrable aftereffect: In areas where they compete, women’s success tends to discourage men. You can attribute this to chauvinism, sexist indoctrination or whatever you would like, but it is real, and it is potent. Once men see women providing for themselves, they lose interest in doing so. This effect is apparent throughout the workforce. As women enter a profession, men lose interest in it. Thus, men are abandoning more and more jobs, and women are rushing in even faster to fill the void. Women’s options for employment keep expanding as men surrender them.

The upshot of all this is “the emergence of an American matriarchy, where the younger men especially are unmoored, and closer than at any other time in history to being obsolete—at least by most traditional measures of social utility. And the women are left picking up the pieces” (Hanna Rosin, The End of Men).

Unmoored. Obsolete. These are painfully accurate terms for far too many of today’s aimless, indifferent men. This is the void that now exists where the sense of duty to provide used to be.

This is what happens when you throw out “all the old ways” without even asking where they came from, whether they had validity, or what might take their place. This is what happens when you cut society from its moorings. But there is more.


Lacking any apparent responsibility, men have devoted themselves to their own pleasure. It is a self-perpetuating cycle: A man with less motivation to provide devotes more time to senseless pursuits, which renders him even less capable of fulfilling that role. And the instant he turns away from his masculine responsibilities, a black hole of vice and wastage sucks him in.

Video game addiction is about four times more common among boys than girls. The average American boy spends 13 hours a week absorbed in video games, compared to five hours for the average girl. Half of college students admit that video games preempt their studies “some” or “a lot.” By the time the average American youth reaches drinking age, he will have devoted 10,000 hours to gaming—enough time to have earned two bachelor’s degrees.

Those 10,000 hours are often spent viewing and interacting with fictional characters in outright sexualized, violent or ghoulish worlds. Millions of young people are immersing themselves in realistic games that encourage them to become killers, sadists, mutilators and monsters that use every conceivable weapon for murder, torture, dismemberment, decapitation, impaling, ethnic cleansing and rape.

When they turn away from video games, millions of boys and men turn to pornography. Explicit sexual media are now mainstream, pervasive, socially accepted, devilishly easy to get and intensely addictive. The demand is monstrous: For every two feature films made in America, the country produces forty-five full-length commercial pornography films. The average high school boy watches two hours of pornography a week. Researchers conducting a study in July 2011 on pornography and prostitution had so much difficulty finding nonusers that they had to loosen their definition in order to muster 100 men for a control group.

These perverted images and warped concepts filling men’s minds have devastating effects on men’s relationships and mental health. Video games and pornography tend to become a substitute for normal face-to-face interactions, which makes users more isolated, socially awkward and susceptible to depression. They have also been shown to suppress the willingness to take risks and to navigate the intricacies of real-world relationships, education and employment.

These influences are crushing manhood. One specific proof: Academics have uncovered a correlation between pornography viewing and an increase in a man’s willingness to move back in with his parents. Risk-averse men who cannot handle life’s complexities are deeply disadvantaged if not crippled in ever being able to support a family and assume other responsibilities of manhood.

When Father Is Not Around

Feminists applaud the breakdown of long-held traditions in male-female relations. But look what has taken their place: academically and financially thriving women with no one to marry, juvenile men huddling in caves of self-indulgence, and children who think this is normal, then grow up and break down these historical norms even further. Is this what feminists want?

The loss of bread-winning men in favor of perpetual adolescents has produced a swarm of other problems that result when men disengage from family and from society. Yes, women are succeeding financially and professionally—but families are fragmenting, and society is morally and spiritually disintegrating.

The role of fathers has shrunk dramatically. More and more children are growing up without fathers at all. And the science is in: Fatherlessness causes severe problems. Nearly half of children who live with their single mother live in poverty. Children who have limited interaction with fathers have higher rates of behavioral issues; these show up as early as age 1. Children without a positive father relationship are more negative about school and their teachers. Fatherless boys are far more inclined to commit crime, take illegal drugs, smoke cigarettes and abuse alcohol. Males with an absentee father are nearly three times likelier to carry a gun and engage in drug deals than those who have a father at home. Fatherless girls are much more prone to fornicate; teenage pregnancy for girls who grow up without a father is four times higher than among those with a father in the home. And fatherless girls who marry are far more likely to file for divorce as adults.

Today, about 40 percent of all 18-and-under children in America—27 million kids—do not live with their biological fathers! Yet few Americans are upset about it. Many even argue that society is better off with a diminishing father’s role and children growing up in single-parent homes!

Anyone who looks at these real-world results and applauds them is insane. Anyone assessing them honestly sees that this revolution has been a disaster. The loss of strong manliness is a plague on our society.

Believe it or not, this exact calamity was prophesied in your Bible thousands of years ago.

Where Are the Real Men?

The prophecy is in Isaiah 3, and it is primarily about the end time, which other passages prove is the era we are living in right now. It specifically focuses on “Jerusalem” and “Judah,” biblical language for the modern descendants of ancient Israel, including America and Britain. Look around! Isaiah described exactly what we see before our eyes: nations where strong male leadership has virtually disappeared.

Notice: “For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah … The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (Isaiah 3:1-3). On the whole, mighty, heroic, discerning, farsighted, wise, honest, skilled, articulate, spiritual male leadership is gone.

This prophecy reveals the true, but hidden, cause: God has removed strong men as a curse on our nations—because of our sins.

Yes, He considers the loss of masculine men a terrible curse.

This prophecy also speaks of another, parallel trend: the infantilization of men. Verse 4 is a prophecy that our adult leaders will act like children. Notice what kind of children: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (verse 5). This is talking about spoiled, undisciplined, selfish, disobedient and angry children who never really grow up! Rebellious children simply become unruly adults.

Consider the effect on our boys—tomorrow’s men—of a world where men have abdicated their God-given role as the loving head of the home and where popular culture lures children into perversion. Feminists look on masculinity as a potential evil that needs to be feminized. The “boyish culture” encourages boys to indulge in depraved sins, and men to become more reckless and irresponsible.

When strong men are not here to lead, something fills the void: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them …” (verse 12). Some say more work needs to be done to secure women’s rights. God says the opposite! He says women and children already lead society!

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary shows that this verse can also refer to men who act like children and who rule like women. Look around: Do you see leaders who are immature, effeminate and worse?

Reaping What We Have Sown

Problems associated with the disappearance of strong male leadership are everywhere in America and other English-speaking nations.

Modern education is increasingly sacrificing intellectual excellence on the altar of anti-masculine liberal ideology. Students are embracing ridiculous utopianist notions that absolve them of personal accountability. Like spoiled children, they blame their personal failings on a supposedly unfair and unjust world rather than growing up and taking responsibility for themselves.

The loss of masculine wisdom, righteousness, honor and virility has hollowed out the strength of the world’s most powerful militaries and economies. America’s military is plagued by weakness of will. Political correctness has become the priority over effectiveness and victories. Sex integration has gone so far that women are now purposefully sent into combat situations. Many strong warriors and military leaders have left the forces in disgust at the changing policies.

Our governments are plagued with immaturity and selfishness. Vicious divisions prevail, and politicians increasingly express blind bias, unabashed arrogance and open hatred for their opponents. Politicians approach their responsibilities like spiteful children. In America the political atmosphere has become so hostile and the government is so paralyzed by division that it is killing the government’s ability to manage crises. Our leadership is incapable of acting wisely and decisively on important security, defense, foreign-policy, economic and social concerns. Meanwhile, law and order are giving way to social breakdown, racial hatred and criminal activity.

This weakness domestically is undercutting America’s global leadership role. Like Great Britain before it, the power that has been used to benefit the world for decades is being squandered through poor decision-making and leadership. Tyrants are filling the void. America’s weakness is enabling the rise of Iran and radical Islam, a belligerent Russia, an ascendant China, and other dangerous and unpredictable powers. The instability seizing today’s world can be traced directly back to America’s retreat—which is a result of the disappearance of godly men.

Disappearing masculinity, which many view as a minor cultural or societal issue, has real-world consequences for you, your family, your finances, your health, your future and your very security!

Decades of godless living are taking their toll. We are reaping what we have sown. Unless we return to the Bible’s wisdom, men will continue to flounder. Boys will grow up aimless and rudderless, uninterested in filling a constructive role within families, communities and nations.

The Path to True Manhood

Feminists say they want equality for women. But how many of them actually want weak men? No woman applauds a man for being addicted to video games and pornography. What is honorable and worthy of admiration is the man with self-mastery, who refrains from being entrapped by such sins. We yearn for the man with self-control, with temperance, with strong moral character.

A strong man is a blessing to his wife and children. He provides more than money—he provides security, attentive engagement, successful leadership, firm guidance, emotional stability and real love.

Society, often without realizing it, cries out for masculinity of substance: solid character, untarnished fidelity, exemplary behavior, empathetic yet decisive leadership. Deep down, we yearn for men with spines.

Society still appreciates such men, yet it teaches and pressures males to do the opposite. To grow into a real man, you must be strong enough to follow a different path.

Where is that path? How do you walk it? What is true masculinity? By now it should be clear that you won’t find the answer on cable television, the news media, bookstores, legislatures or universities. To know what manhood really should be, you must look into the Holy Bible and consult the Creator of manhood.

Learn God’s definition of manhood. Learn your God-given duties. Understand what masculinity truly is—a definition that does not change from day to day, from year to year, or even from generation to generation.

You live in a society that has undergone a successful revolution to overthrow biblical manhood. Most men have joined in or allowed themselves to be passively led along. You now have a choice: Will you be different? Will you live your life as a man according to the pressures of society—or according to the clear commands of God?

Your job as a man is perhaps the most challenging job God gives you! The Bible shows that you hold an office: the office of a son, the office of a brother, the office of a husband, the office of a father, the office of a man.

Any man who wants to live up to God’s definition of manhood has real work to do. He must devote his energies to swimming upstream against society. He must make it his unwavering aim to grow in those qualities that will arm him for the rigors of true manhood. He must eschew the pastimes that weaken men. He must avoid the addictions that eat away at men’s minds, blacken their consciences and destroy their confidence. He must stoke the flames of ambition in his life. He must aim high and equip himself to become an able leader of a strong, capable woman, and a builder of family and society.

If you want to be one of those men, the book you hold in your hands will help you in this noble, invigorating venture.

How to Use This Book

To fulfill any job, you must be educated in your responsibilities. The more challenging the job, the more effort you need to devote to that education, typically on an ongoing basis, continually striving to get better.

This is absolutely true of your job as a man—perhaps the most challenging job God gives you! You hold the office of a Christian man. Do you know what God expects you to do with that position? Whether or not you study it, you are responsible for fulfilling it!

Because of the inescapable spirit of this age, you may not feel like studying biblical manhood. Nevertheless, biblical manhood is a subject every man needs to study. Satan has ravaged manhood to the point that each of us is in danger of losing it! But God still offers you this truth!

If you don’t find yourself excited about it, study it anyway. Because God is excited about it. Study it and He will give you His excitement!

This book is an excellent start. It can kindle or stoke the fire in you. You will receive great joy and pleasure from it. You will want to consult it regularly for inspiration, guidance, correction and precious truth on what manhood really means.

The book is organized into seven sections, built around seven distinct roles God intends you to fulfill. Each section contains several chapters detailing specific aspects of each role. Interspersed throughout are short biographies of great men in the Bible who exemplified aspects of manhood worthy of aspiration and emulation.

You will gain a lot by reading the book from beginning to end; however, each chapter and mini-biography stands alone. Study the Table of Contents and feel free to jump to any portion of the book that speaks to a challenge you face at the moment. If you are having trouble connecting with your teenage daughter, for example, you might want to go straight to Section 6.5, “Be Your Daughter’s Hero.” If you are married to a woman with whom you are at odds because of your religion, read Section 5.2, “Lead Her Spiritually,” and pay particular attention to the material after the subhead “When You Are Not Her Spiritual Head.”

As you study this subject and grow in understanding, it is crucial that you resist any tendency to grow discouraged. Yesterday’s mistakes are past. Have a positive approach to what God can do with you today—and tomorrow. Always view those areas where you can improve as opportunities. Nourish a vision of the man God wants to help you become. Allow that vision to stir a fire within your heart, a flame of resolve, a determination to become a better man. What matters is growth—steady improvement, however slow, however incremental. The more progress you make, the greater rewards you will reap, the more personal satisfaction you will gain, and the greater blessing you will be to the people around you.

Men, we must allow God to shape us, to forge us into instruments firm enough to lead strong families, to give confidence to women, to give stability to children, to give solidity to society.

This is what God wants. This is how we were created. This is literally what we were born to do: to grow up, achieve, mature and embrace the role that our masculine minds and bodies were designed for.

This is the elusive solution—hiding in plain sight if your Bible is open—to our manless society. It’s not about getting back to the traditions of yesteryear. It’s about embracing how we were created. Discover that, live that, and you will be embarking on a life full of growth, challenge, fulfillment and happiness built on knowing what it really means to be a man.

Continue Reading: The Man of God: 1.1 Embrace Your Destiny