Book Review: Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole

20130817-110149Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole, Eric Mason; B&H 2013

I have little doubt that many of the problems we face in both our society and the church are rooted in the erosion of manhood.  With a false manhood on television and a church that has been feminized from years of absentee males, there is much confusion about what it means to be a biblical man.  Eric Mason presents us with a concise and biblical answer to that question in Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole.  He does this, not starting from actions that need to be corrected, but rather the heart changes that must take place for manhood to be restored.

Mason, Lead Pastor and Founder of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, begins by tracking the life and death of manhood.  He traces God’s creative work as He forms Adam into His image.  God gives man the greatest gift, the ability to “reflect the image of God into creation.”  Man was “to be an earthly representation of who God is.” This was to be mankind’s great joy as he was in this great relationship with his heavenly Creator.  However, sin killed this relationship and, in reality, killed manhood.  Men became “sin experts,” separated from God and ever increasing in their display of this separation.  “Because the scope of the fall is so great, the solution to the fall must be equally great or greater.”  Mason reminds us that programs, self-help, and training can only do so much.  “We need to be born again.  Being born again reverses the polarity of creation.”

If we flash forward to our contemporary culture, Mason illuminates the impact of “daddy deprivation.”  With fathers increasingly absent from the lives of their children, the result “is a tremendous loss of self.”  Men have developed countless numbers of destructive behaviors to “cover up what is really missing—our fathers.”  With the absence of fathers and the societal denigration of manhood, many men never grow up, always living in extended adolescence.  This, accompanied by severe emotional immaturity, leaves many men as children, in a stage of life “devoid of wisdom and understanding.”

In the absence of fathers, young men find replacements, most often in the wrong places.  God, however, intends for fathers to be not only present, but active in the lives of their sons.  Fathers serve has the clarifiers of identity and the spiritual leader.   God reveals himself to us as Father and thus serves as the ultimate and perfect example of fatherhood.

Who then can be the restorer of manhood?  Who can make men whole and stop this free fall of morals, enthusiasm, and commitment that threatens our society, institutions, churches and the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?   The answer is Jesus; who, looking at our lives, knows we need a “systemic restoration.”  Mason writes, “In transforming the soul of sinful man, Jesus will set in motion an eternal chain reaction that will change all things forever.”  Jesus has restored, is restoring, and will restore all things.  He is the “prototype man.”  Manliness is defined by Christ.  “Men are only as manly as it relates to the standard set by Jesus.”

For the remainder of Manhood Restored, Mason focuses on what Christ restores by His redeeming work. These areas include worldview, sexuality, vision, family, and church.  The restored worldview involves a change in priorities.  “A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who has renounced himself and pledged his life in a lifetime apprenticeship to the Lord.”  For men there is often an unhealthy individualism that comes from the death of manhood.  Men are prone to looking out for themselves as opposed to dedicating their lives to Christ, their families, and the community of faith.  Conversely, men need to develop a biblical worldview, rooted in their dependence on Christ and His finished work of restoration.

Congruent with worldview, Jesus seeks to provide restored sexuality.  Society has written off the sexual exploits of men as second nature—“Boys will be boys” as Mason puts it. However, God has a plan and clearly stated commands when it comes to sexuality.  He writes, “Genesis 2 tells us that in sex, the two become one. … Since God create man to be heterosexual, married, monogamous beings, fornication confuses our bodies as well as our souls. … [W]e still need to be teaching men about God’s intent for sex.  Right now young me learn about sex from the streets, friends, or pop culture; it must instead begin to be the regular practice of the covenant community to make sure sexual education of the young begins in our homes and churches”

Restored vision is Mason’s third area cleansed by the power of Christ.  Contemporary manhood is marked by a lack of direction.  Christ was a man of purpose, direction, prayer and wise decisions.  Restored men must be as well.  While there are plenty of obstacles to a healthy vision, men must have a plan to accomplish what God has called them to.  Mason reminds his readers that “God has provided the resources for making decisions. … [and] as we work through the process of arriving at the decision, God is continually present and working within us.”

Restored family is the next area where men are transformed.  Mason shows clearly how husbands are called to reflect the sacrificial love of Christ, calling Jesus a “sacrificial lover.”  In their love, husbands must concern themselves with the spiritual growth of their wives and tenderly cherish them fully.  He boldly states, “The husband’s role is to reflect Jesus’ self-denying death as he helps the spiritual growth of his wife.”  He calls on pastors to demonstrate this as the role model of personal character, family character, and community character for those men in his care.  Christ also desires to restore how men view their children, especially their sons.  “Heaven views children as a gift that needs to be directed.” Men should desire to see their sons become strong leaders in their homes, godly men who have “a masculine passion to defend the honor of the Lord and His desires.”

Finally, Mason sees a restored church in the restoration of men.  Men can engage other men with a clear and intellectual presentation of the Gospel.  Men are able to serve as the spiritual father of others.  This leads to the discipling of those who are younger or spiritually immature.

I leave you with this, “In the gospel, Jesus is restoring our vision of manhood.  He is blowing up our own versions of what it means to be a man with His own quintessential masculinity.  His life, death, love, and resurrection push us onward to our restored relationship with God and others. …[I]n Him and Him alone, we can find that the gospel is applied to all areas of our lives that we might become the men God intended for us to be—those conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.”

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