I really hate giving Christian books on manhood a low rating but teachers of the word should know that judgement begins in the house of the Lord and if you don’t do your homework well, you will not be judged any less strictly. You get no good-effort points from me. No one in Christianity gets off the hook. I’ve written my own books and fully expect (and hope) to be treated with the same level of strictness toward my own treatment of the Bible–which is precisely why I spent ten years working on my theology of manhood and womanhood. I wanted to be rock solid that I didn’t overlook anything significant.
Theology and doctrine of manhood (or womanhood) simply cannot be based and built upon a single verse. That’s not good scholarship. That’s cheap scholarship. Does anyone in academia write a thesis or dissertation intended to solve a problem in this way?
This is the essence of The Masculine Mandate. His book is initially a response to John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart as being wrongly based on the idea that God created Adam outside the Garden and therefore the core of a man’s heart is “undomesticated.” Phillips counters by telling us everything should be looked at through the lens of Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Phillips idea is that we are to be tame at heart. Or domesticated.
To work it and keep it: here is the how of biblical masculinity, the mandate of Scripture for males. It is my mandate in this book, therefore, to seek to specify, clarify, elaborate, and apply these two verbs to the glorious, God-given, lifelong project of masculine living. (p.8)
The whole of biblical manhood is summed up in two words, work and keep. This is by far the narrowest view of biblical manhood I have come across to date. And that says a lot if you see my extensive list of book reviews. What is particularly insightful to me is that this book is essentially the Calvinistic approach to manhood, published under Ligonier Ministries. One glaringly, and painfully, obvious thing missing from the entire book is the fighter-warrior-conqueror paradigm. I have wondered for awhile what the deal was with the Calvinist’s idea of manhood. Now I know. I’ve never read a Christian book on manhood that left out the warrior face of God entirely. Can someone out there explain this to me? What the hell are you Calvinists thinking??
There are far too many problems to address in this book so I will address my favorite one:
God looked on his creation [Adam] and declared that it needed improvement…something remained incomplete…. this is where the Bible’s teaching on marriage begins, with the man’s need for a partner…”This is not good.” God says the same thing about single adult men today. He looks into their apartments and refrigerators and sighs, “Not good.”…God looks into our hearts and our characters, and says: “I have made man to be in partnership with a woman. It does not work very well when a man remains unmarried.”…When it comes to physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual well-being of a man, it is not good for him to be alone.” (p.57)
Man, the exegetical scholarship in this is just incredible. I mean, it’s so uplifting and insightful. As an adult single, I never would have thought my refrigerator could be so displeasing to God!
Not only was I thinking how much of a load of garbage this was to my own life experiences but also to that of a someone I know who had lived with a bad kidney his whole life and couldn’t get a kidney transplant until about 40 or 41 years old, having to go through dialysis several times a week or something ridiculous like that just to live. Suffice it say, he was never in any condition to even think about marrying. This doctrine is at the heart of complementarianism–that man is incomplete without a woman. It’s based on an interpretation of Genesis 2:18, “it is not good for man to be alone”. How the idea of “incompleteness” in any sense was ever derived from that verse, I’ll never know. I can’t think of anything more sad than being an incomplete creation. But this is what men are being told by these pastors. He goes on,
We do not become whole through our male friendships, however great it may feel to “hang out with the guys.” A dog may provide a certain kind of companionship, but a dog cannot be a true companion to any man. We say that a dog is “man’s best friend,” but God doesn’t think so. The only way a man can fellowship with a dog is by stooping to the dog’s level, which is fine on occasion, but not as the basic rule of a man’s life. God intends for man to have a partner who bears God’s image along with man… (p.58)
I’m honestly not sure what I just read in that statement. Did brotherhood and brotherly love just get equated with “stooping to the dog’s level”? And there we see the infamous bifurcated God again–the woman bears half the image of God.
By God’s design, as seen in Genesis 2, a man is completed by a woman. (p.59)
This doctrine is perverse and might even be abominable considering God’s law in Deuteronomy 22:5. It’s incredibly damaging to both men and women and their sense of identity. He makes the remark that some men can “have the gift” of singleness but gives us zero explanation about it. Meanwhile, countless Calvinist singles are clawing at the walls trying to figure out why God hasn’t helped them with their singleness yet. Awful. Just plain awful.
If you have shied away from marriage, let me urge you to reconsider and to commit to the necessary growing up.
This is an especially important message for young adult men today, who are bombarded with the opposite message. “Dude, don’t get married!” their friends say…So while God says, “It is not good for men to be alone,” men tell each other to avoid marriage like the plague. (p.59)
It’s not my intention to defend that single “dudes” out their but this author is painfully out of touch with reality. He goes on to do the same male-shaming that a lot of pastors are ignorantly doing today:
In my opinion, and in keeping with the Bible’s teaching, one of the biggest problems in the church today is the failure of young adult men to value and pursue marriage. The problem is played out in the frustration of Christian women in their twenties, whose God-designed bodies scream, “Babies!” and whose God-designed emotional make-up is geared for marriage, but who find practically no Christian men in their peer group who are ready for or interested in marriage. As a result of a male culture that fears marriage… (p.60)
This is infuriating. Did he forget that 70 percent of divorces are filed by these same women whose God-designed bodies scream “Babies!”? Does have no clue that 95% of women are also screaming out of their mouths, “women’s rights! down with the patriarchy!”? Is his head so far in the sand that he can’t see how women in their twenties are absolutely not screaming babies but instead idolizing success and master degrees?? Does he never venture out of his house to see that men are constantly derided for being “insecure” in their manhood because of their lack of interest in “strong” women? And all he can do is slam young men for not wanting to marry? My God, we wonder why the men in the Church are so hosed.