Ancient Wisdom for Modern Manhood, Part 1: Living a Mythic Life

But after God created man, he did something different that he didn’t do with the other parts of his creation:

mythic : having qualities suitable to myth : LEGENDARY

When you think about mythic men in history, who comes to mind?

I’m not talking about people who aren’t real. I’m talking about the men whose lives have transcended their time on earth and today set the standard for all others who’ve walked in their footsteps.

Think about Abraham Lincoln, who we could call mythic in American history. Lincoln was a man of courage and a spokesman for the noble things of life. He exhibited courage and valor, and he’s now the standard by which we so often compare all other presidents.

You could say the same thing about the legendary Alabama football coach, Bear Bryant. He was a coach if there ever was one — so much so that Alabama football and Bear Bryant are synonymous. If you go to Tuscaloosa, Alabama today, Bear Bryant’s shadow is cast over the entire football program and he’s passed away decades ago!

We could also call the Book of Genesis mythic. I’m not saying Genesis isn’t true, because it certainly is. What I am saying is that the creation narrative is mythic in its scope and implications. Especially when it comes to manhood. In fact, I would argue that Genesis is the foundational book on authentic manhood the way God designed. 

So when I use the word mythic when talking about Genesis, I mean that it provides the standard by which we measure biblical manhood. Genesis is the mountain we go to to discover what it means to be a man. And it gives us the explanation for the fallenness we now experience.

Over this and the next three blog posts, I’m going to investigate what I call “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Manhood” from the first three chapters of Genesis. Today, we’ll start with the wisdom we find in Genesis 1:26-27, which says:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Here we discover three vital observations:

  • Unlike the rest of creation, man is singled out alone to bear the image and likeness of God. 

That’s what makes man more than just part of God’s creation — man is the crown of God’s creation. Man alone bears the image of God. Man alone has a consciousness that the rest of creation doesn’t have. Man alone has a will and a self-determination that the rest of creation doesn't have. Man alone has a reasoning ability that the rest of creation doesn't have. Man alone bears the “Imago Dei,” or the image of God, on his heart. 

  • In this moment, man is split in two halves, male and female, which are equally endowed and equally valuable. 

God didn’t create Adam and Eve and parcel out his image one percentage to one and one percentage to the other. Man and woman were equally endowed with God’s image as male and female. It's this powerful sameness of sharing God's likeness that then casts a shadow over the differences they have as male and female.

  • Man and woman are special and unique to God because they are his image-bearers.

As we move through the creation story, we see that God spoke everything into existence: light, plants, animals, and so forth. But after God created man, he did something different that he didn’t do with the other parts of his creation: he spoke to man and woman personally. So mankind wasn’t just part of creation. Man and woman are unique in that they were created to have a personal relationship with their Creator. 

That’s why God did what he did next in Genesis 1:28, where it says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

As we look at this blessing, there are three commands God gives them, which are key to living a mythic life: 

  • Be fruitful and multiply. Within the context of marriage, release a healthy next generation into the world.

  • Subdue the earth. Use your creative intellect to bring out the best in the part of the planet where you’ve been placed.

  • Have dominion over the earth. Be a good steward of the earth and its resources.

These three simple statements make up the calling of men — your calling as a man. How well you fulfill that calling has a lot to do with your sense of meaning and satisfaction and whether or not you live what you would call a mythic life.

There’s so much more to discover about authentic biblical manhood when we look at the ancient godly wisdom from Genesis. In my next post, we’ll zoom into the first couple’s relationship, where you’ll learn about your authority and responsibility as a man.