Anthropology 301

Cornfield Theology
Cornfield Theology
Anthropology 301

Series Intro

Every month in 2022, I will be writing a blog post about anthropology, humanity, and sexuality. This series of blog posts will be used to foster discussion and to drive the reader back to Holy Scripture to learn about God’s grand design for men and women. I pray that these blog posts will offer greater clarity about God’s design for men and women. And I also pray that learning about God’s design for men and women will result in worship. This blog post builds off two other blog posts entitled Anthropology 101 and Anthropology 201.


What is ontology? According to Merriam-Webster, ontology is “a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being.” Here are ontological questions about humanity. What does it mean to be a man? And what does it mean to be a woman? These are simple questions with profound answers and implications. For the answers and its implications, we turn to Holy Scripture. 

Very Good

In the last verse of Genesis 1, we read, 

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

– Genesis 1:31

Leading up the sixth day of creation, God said that everything he made was good (טוֹב). However, after the sixth day, God said the creation of man and woman was very good. God sees something more in man and woman. As I have said in a previous blog post, man and woman are created in God’s image. They are the crown jewel of God’s creation, a unique designation. For example, I love my dog, Winston. He is a fantastic dog, and even non-dog lovers can tolerate Winston. But there is a massive difference between the creation of dogs and the creation of man. The creation of Winston is good, but the creation of a man and woman is very good. 

After Genesis 1, we read how God created man and woman in more detail. So, in Genesis 2, the meaning and function of marriage take further shape. God creates man from the dust of the ground, and God creates woman from the rib of Adam. Kevin DeYoung summarizes Genesis 1 and 2,

Genesis 1 describes the making of male and female as a generic act of creation (1:27). In the zoom lens of Genesis 2, however, we see that God created each in its own way. The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground (2:7), while the Lord God built the woman from the rib he had taken from the man.

– Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church

And then Genesis 2 ends with these words. 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

– Genesis 2:24–25

Genesis 2:24–25 are paramount. How do a man and woman become one flesh (Genesis 5:31-33)? The math does not add up. In a future post, I will spend an entire blog writing about the mystery of marriage and how the mystery of marriage has been revealed in Christ. But let us not put the cart before the horse. Before discussing marriage, a word needs to be said about the ontology of a man and woman because, without ontological foundations, it is easy to skip past people who will never experience marriage or having children. 

Before Getting Into Marriage, More Ontology

There can be a hyper-focus on marriage and parenting in theologically conservative churches. Even writing that seems anathema, but hang with me. I understand why churches which love and preach God’s Word are resolute in upholding strong families. A traditional and biblical vision for the family is under attack. I am sympathetic because of the increasingly devaluing of marriage in the culture and it is easy to see the culture creep into the church. There are many biblical reasons for churches to cultivate strong marriages and families. At present, Redemption Hill Church is going through a DVD teaching on marriage in our Community Groups. The hope is to see marriages strengthened. The church should not compromise God’s design for marriage and families but must embrace and lean into the beauty of God’s design and order. 

However, it is essential to back up and ask what does it mean to be a man or woman? The answer to the question has a profound and immediate impact on how a person thinks about anthropology in general and marriage, sinlessness, and parenting more specifically. The fact is that not every man becomes a husband, and not every woman becomes a wife. When God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..” (Genesis 1:28), not every married couple can produce children. Therefore, defining what it means to be a man or woman is not necessarily tied to marriage or having children. A man or woman who is not married does not suggest they are of lesser value or dignity. A married couple who do not have children are still made in God’s image. All of this can be stated while at the same time holding up marriage as good, beautiful, and worthy to pursue. 

So what can be a working definition for a man (or manhood/masculinity) and a woman (or womanhood/femininity)? Over the years, there have been multip le attempts to define manhood and womanhood succinctly. Of course, some definitions are better than others, but I appreciate the approach of Patrick Schreiner. He wrote an article in entitled Man and Woman: Toward an OntologyHis definitions of manhood and womanhood are as follows. 


The fundamental meaning of masculinity is sonship, brotherly love, and potentiality toward paternity. 


The fundamental meaning of femininity is daughterhood, sisterly love, and potentiality toward maternity.

These definitions focus on what makes man and woman similar and distinct. In one sense, all Christians are children of God. But more specifically, a man is a son of God, and a woman is a daughter of God. Schreiner focuses on the importance of the spiritual family. God is a Father who adopts sons and daughters. Schreiner also focuses on brotherly and sisterly love. Love transcends a person’s age or marital status. Schreiner says he includes love because it is the supreme virtue in the Bible. Now compare Schreiner’s definitions with the definitions of John Piper. Piper states, 


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.


At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

The definitions by Piper are biblical and true. They affirm the roles of man and woman. But Schreiner rightly steps back and attempts to show us the foundations of manhood and womanhood. Perhaps it’s helpful to first use Schreiner’s definition as the foundation and Piper’s definition as the practical implications of the foundation. Nonetheless, Schreiner’s definitions create an easier onramp to biblically talk about singleness and marriages without children. Schreiner’s ontological definitions capture all people who are in Christ, including singles and marriages without children.

The Value of Singleness

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul lays out the pros and cons of marriage and singleness. His sentiment is crystalized in verse 38, 

So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.

– 1 Corinthians 7:38

The same guy inspired by God to write 1 Corinthians also wrote the Book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 5, we read, 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

– Ephesians 5:31–32

Two ideas can be true at the same time. 

  1. There is a value to singleness. The cares and worries of marriage are nonexistent when a person is single. A single person is free to serve the Lord in ways that the married cannot serve (and vice-versa). One cannot help but think that Paul was speaking from personal experience. 
  2. Marriage is a beautiful reflection of Christ (the bride) and the church (the bridegroom). The mystery of two becoming one makes sense in light of Christ and the church. 

But for the married and single, there is equality in sonship and daughtership before God. Therefore, the single person should not be viewed as less than the married. 

A Husband and Wife without Children

The same holds for a husband and wife without children. Are children a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3)? Without a doubt. Are parents called to raise children in the knowledge of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)? Yep. The command to be fruitful and multiple comes with great rewards and challenges (Genesis 1:28). However, the essence of manhood and womanhood does not change with having children. In other words, a person’s ontology does not change with the presence or absence of children. 

Imago Dei + ἐν Χριστῷ

The foundation of a Christian’s ontology can be summed up with a Latin and a Greek term. In Latin, Imago Dei means image of God. Every human being is made in God’s image. No exceptions. The Greek term is ἐν Χριστῷ which means in Christ. Not all people are in Christ. The former and the latter are essential to understanding Christian onology. Taken together, we see a beautiful picture of the nature and essence of a Christian. If you read Genesis 1 and then Ephesians 1, you will begin to see the fundamentals of Christian onology. 

For Further Discussion

  • Describe in your own words what it means to be a man or woman.
  • Is there a danger to underemphasize or overemphsize marraige in the church?
  • What is the difference between being made in God’s image and being in Christ?
  • Reread Schreiner and Piper’s definitions of manhood and womanhood. Do you agree or disagree? Is there anything you would tweak or change?
  • Discuss what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 about marriage and singleness.

Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM