In "The Masculine Mandate," Richard Phillips aims to recover and promote a biblical understanding of God's requirements for men. The central thesis of the book is based on Genesis 2-3 in which God made Adam and commissioned him to work and keep the Garden of Eden. The author argues that as God's co-regent and representative on earth, Adam had the mission to spread God's rule and glory outwards from the Garden to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the sin that Adam and Eve committed by eating the forbidden fruit led to their respective punishments and banishment from God's presence. Though there is punishment, God also provided a means of reconciliation ultimately through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Phillips points out that in spite of the disastrous effects of the fall, men today are still commissioned with the same mandate that God gave to Adam to work and keep what God has entrusted to them. The book is divided into two parts with the former discussing God's requirements for godly men and the latter exploring the practical implications for Christian men today. At the end of the book, the author also includes discussion questions for personal or group study.
I enjoyed much of the book as Phillips offers plenty of guidance on how men can strive to work and keep what God has gifted them with. The author uses simple vocabulary and personal examples from his own life to engage the reader to examine their own struggles towards godliness. Instead of providing bandage solutions to suggest how men are to act more manly, Phillips goes much deeper in addressing the sin of failing to fulfill God's mandate and admonishing men who resort to excuses for not acting rightly. I especially appreciate his insistence on men to be firmly established in prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments. In a pastoral manner, the author gives useful advice to men concerning the spheres of marriage, child-rearing, work, and church. Not all his suggestions are applicable or appropriate for every reader but they do serve as helpful pointers to prayerfully reflect and ruminate upon.
However, I would also like to point out one part of the book where I found the exegesis and application of Scripture to be slightly strained. In chapter 7, the author states that "Adam fell into sin by means of his allegiance to and love for his wife."(p. 53). Although Adam certainly blamed Eve for leading him to sin, the critical issue is his blatant contravention of God's command that was given to Adam specifically in Genesis 2:16. Thus I think that Adam's own failure to obey God's explicit command is more central to his falling into temptation than his desire to please his wife. Moreover, Adam was the one who received the command before the creation of Eve thus implying that he had the responsibility to convey this command to her and protect her accordingly. Of course, we cannot negate the influence of Eve and her actions but the primary failure of Adam was in his disobedience to God's command. Furthermore, a few pages later, the way that Phillips interprets and draws out the implications of the curses of Adam and Eve also seem to lack biblical support. He suggests that "men often feel their wives are too controlling and too demanding in their relationship expectations. So men push back, just as God said: 'and he shall rule over you.' Remember, this is not just a problem that some women have. Rather, it is God's curse on women in general and on marriage." (p. 56). On the other hand, the curse of men is that "now, the man's outward orientation is so demanding that he will show practically no attention to the woman at all. This is the very dynamic in virtually every marriage: the woman feels neglected because the man is consumed by his work, and if not his work, then his play: cars, music, sports, paintings, stamp collections, and whatnot."(p. 56). For both quotes I find it troubling that Phillips then suggests readers to take a look at magazine covers to confirm his assertions as stated (p. 56). I understand that the curses on Adam and Eve have many implications but I find that the author strains his interpretation without engaging into a deeper discussion of the text. Given the author's emphasis on marriage and family in the book, it would seem most appropriate to have a fuller treatment of Genesis 2-3 to establish a firm biblical foundation for the author's practical applications in the latter part of the book.
In conclusion, I would gladly recommend "The Masculine Mandate" to Christian men and women who hope to learn more about biblical manhood. Instead of dwelling on theories and models, Phillips makes the book personal and engaging with real-world illustrations and practice advice. Contrary to popular culture, the author appeals to men to act as shepherd-leaders who tend the flock that God has provided him with love, respect, and diligence. This is a much needed message for many Christian men today who would rather sit idly on the sidelines than engage actively in bringing honour and glory to God in all that they do. Throughout the book, there were many opportunities for me to reflect on my own life and how I have failed to honour God's calling for men in various spheres of my life. My hope then is that more Christian men will combat the temptation to give up in their journey towards biblical manhood. If we humbly seek God's guidance on this journey, He will most surely provide all that we need to fulfill His mandate for us.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Reformation Trust in exchange for a book review.
I am always amazed by the way God works. In the past month I have received two books on one theme. The theme is Biblical Manhood. The books are Real Valor by Steve Farrar and The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips.
"It is remarkable to me how easily precious things can be lost." Rick Phillips writes in the first chapter of the Masculine Mandate. "An individual can quickly lose precious possessions such as innocence, integrity, or a good reputation. The church can lose precious things, too, and this seems to be happening today. One ideal we may be losing is that of strong, biblical, and confident Christian manhood...This book is written for Christian men who not only don't want to lose that precious biblical understanding, but who want to live out the calling to true manliness God has given us. We need to be godly men, and the Bible presents a Masculine Mandate for us to follow and fulfill. But do we know what it is? My aim in writing this book is to help men to know and fulfill the Lord's calling as it is presented so clearly to us in God's Word."
Adam was given two charges in Eden. To Work the Garden and to Keep it. These same charges that governed the man's work in Eden govern his work today, and govern his love for his wife, his care for his children, and his friendships. To Work and to Keep are the charges in every portion of a man's life. Working and Keeping are the Masculine Mandate.
This is not secret knowledge, nor a magical, mystical thing, or a spiritual revelation gleaned from studying the original language. It is Scriptural, practical truth.
"Work. To work is to labor to make things grow. In subsequent chapters I will discuss work in terms of nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, and ruling.
Keep. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved. Later I will speak of it as guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for, and maintaining.
The term work signifies God's broad mandate for a nurturing and cultivating masculinity, which causes people and things to grow and become strong. The second term, keep, refers to man as a watchman and defender, keeping safe those under our care. By diligently observing the work-and-keep mandate, men fulfill their calling by building up and keeping safe."
When all of life is lived out in terms of this mandate, men can be confident and bold as an Ambassadors of Christ. Men can be tender and gentle as Shepherds.
Working and Keeping will be a man's charge at home, in his field of work, and in his Church. And this will be the result: "In our families, our presence is to make our wives and children feel secure and at ease. At church, we are to stand for truth and godliness against the encroachment of worldliness and error. In society, we are to take our places as men who stand up against evil and who defend the nation from threat of danger."
In Masculine Mandate we read that man was created to work; to marry and to multiply and fill the earth.
I enjoyed his chapters on Work. Men are made to work, and anyone who wants to know what makes a man tick must understand: Man will find his identity in his work to a great extent.
A healthy nation will be full of men at work. Digging ditches, building houses, writing music, butchering cows, putting out fires, planting fields, wiring and plumbing houses. And their work will have value, not just because it accomplishes a good purpose, but because God gave work value.
"Why does labor have this inherent value? Because we were made for it. God placed Adam in the garden and put him to work. Therefore, because God is good and has chosen to be glorified through our labor, we are able to enjoy work and find a significant part of our identity in it."
I loved his chapter on singleness and marriage. Going straight for the heart of the issue, Rev. Phillips calls on single Christians who don't intend to stay single all of their life (the gift of singleness) to step up and marry. Our culture glorifies singleness that is selfish and has nothing to do with Kingdom building. We must return to a full picture of God honoring marriage.
Listen to him describe why God called Eve a helper, not just a mate or a companion.
"God said Adam needed a "helper" because it places the primary emphasis on the shared mandate to work and keep God's creation under the man's leadership."
My favorite chapters of all were the ones on the way a man Works and Keeps his wife's heart. The command to Nourish and Cherish our wives is part of the masculine mandate of Working and Keeping. Isn't Scripture full of beautiful parallels? Nourish-Cherish, Work-Keep.
A great deal of a man's duty to his wife is his ministry of God's Word to her heart. Texting her with Scripture. Speaking Scripture's blessings over her. Defining all of Life's experiences in Scripture's Words. Giving her God's Word from her husband's lips. "So when a husband knows his wife is weighed down under the burdens of child-raising, he might say to her, "[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). A husband who knows his wife feels unlovely or depressed can minister the balm of God's Word to the bruised spot in her heart: "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing" (Zeph. 3:17). A husband who knows his wife is grieving a loss might encourage her to take her heart to the Lord: "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Ps. 34:18)."
I also loved the chapters on Working and Keeping our children's souls. This means giving them our hearts, our love, our mercy, our pity, our time, our gentleness, our firmness, our discipling, our discipline; dispensing God's Grace and Truth.
"If I had to pick just one verse on parenting from the book of Proverbsâ€”the main source of our biblical wisdom on this subjectâ€”it would be Proverbs 23:26. Here we have the very pulse of the Bible's teaching on a father's relationship with his children, including God the Father's relationship with us, His sons in Christ. This verse provides the perspective behind all the wisdom passed from father to son in the Proverbs. In it, the father simply pleads, 'My son, give me your heart.' This is the prime aspiration of a true father toward his children. All the advice and commands found in Proverbs flow from this great passion: the desire of a loving father for the heart of his child, and for that child's heart to be given to the Lord."
Masculine Mandate is a book that returns us to Scripture's truth, truth that is both delightful and everlasting.
It is so good to see men living as God made them to: Working and Keeping, under their King.
I am grateful to Reformation Trust for sending me a copy of this book to review. Another blessing to add to my family's library!
Every once in a while I come across a book that not only exceeds expectations but challenges me in areas I thought I was doing well. Richard D. Phillips book The Masculine Mandate is one such book. Seemingly on every page is an aspect of my life as a man that Phillips turns up-side-down. I won't soon forget this book.
Phillips purpose is to challenge the popular ideas of what a man is supposed to be by taking us to Scripture, specifically Genesis 2:15 where we read God's instruction to man. It goes as follows, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." The two charges God gave each man are to work and keep. The book begins by examining in detail those commands. Phillips then shows us how to live out this mandate first in our marriages, then as fathers, as friends then as servants of God.
The book is written in a humble way. Phillips makes it clear that he doesn't have this mandate perfected in his own life which makes the book more personal. That doesn't mean that he holds back his punches. We men need that.
I can't recommend this book enough. Any person of the male gender needs to read this book. And more than once. Your life will be transformed which will result in a better marriage, being a better father, a better friend, a better servant of God.