Eric Mason. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. Nashville: B&H, 2013. 224 pp. $14.99
One of the most confusing and most hotly debated issues within Christianity is what it means to be male and what it means to be female. The evangelical complementarian vision for biblical manhood and womanhood is greatly maligned in 21st century America as a misogynistic effrontery to humanity. Young boys today are being raised in a culture that is becoming increasingly fatherless. Because of this, manhood carries many definitions and its lines are muddled by those whose political correctness transcends reality. Much of the brokenness that exists in the world is a direct result from broken families, which in many cases directly flows from broken men who have no sense of manhood. In fact, one of the most confusing questions for a boy growing up in America may just be, What does it mean to be a man?
Eric Mason rises above the popular notion to describe manhood merely in terms of manly desires for adventure and reckless abandon to provide a work that truly examines what it means to be a man. Redemption and wholeness is offered in the gospel, and Mason demonstrates that biblical manhood is found in the gospel. He writes, “We need the life-giving, identity-establishing, purpose-defining gospel of Jesus Christ. Men can have covenants, documents, strategies, and pragmatic principles, but without the gospel there is no authentic empowerment to execute what is laid out in them” (1-2). Mason makes clear that commitment ceremonies and resolutions are simply not enough to empower biblical manhood. Manhood Restored is about how the gospel changes, redeems, and transforms men and manhood at large.
Mason, who is the lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, approaches four major subjects with regard to manhood. Mason first addresses what God intended manhood to be in relation to his intent in the creation of man. He also addresses the fall of man and sin’s distortion of manhood in this first section. Next, Mason moves to address what he calls “daddy deprivation” and how fatherless homes has led to the breakdown of manhood. Mason’s third subject deals with how Jesus restores manhood and stands as the supreme example of what it means to be a man. Finally, Mason explores how the gospel’s restoration of manhood affects worldview, sexuality, leadership, family, and the church.
While some of the more practical applications given in the latter part of the book are clearly influenced by Mason’s own context, and which could be in some ways contested, the overall message of this book should be gladly received by all evangelicals. And all pastors and church leaders should share his concern for the church.
In a book where it would be very easy to rely on progressive or pragmatic solutions to the deficiencies in manhood, Mason relies on faithful extrapolation of biblical and theological truths. In order to draw reliable conclusions on what biblical manhood actually is, Mason begins with what the Bible says and then makes application from there. This gospel-centered exegesis allows Mason to clearly see how God speaks to manhood and broken men. I have read few other books on manhood that can rival Manhood Restored in terms of constant focus on the gospel and consistently significant biblical teaching.
An example of this can be seen in the beginning of Mason’s examination of the key to the restoration of manhood. After explaining the deterioration of manhood in the fall of man and the cultural assassination of manhood through “daddy deprivation,” Mason gives a pointed glimmer of gospel hope for men everywhere:
Jesus is the paradigm for the new man. Through His courage to face sin, His restoration of order, and His status as the Son of Man, He not only serves as our example; He is the means by which any of us can really understand and be what God intended a man to be (55-56).
Jesus as the Ultimate Example
Although the primary thrust of Manhood Restored is how the work of Christ actively restores manhood by his substitutionary life, death, and resurrection, there is also an important element that I found to be incredibly practical. Jesus is also communicated as the ultimate example of manhood. Mason puts it this way: “Jesus is the prototype man for men. All of us men are only as manly as it relates to the standard set by Jesus” (45). Manliness is not defined by any particular stereotype, but is instead defined by Jesus, the prototype for every man.
This is incredibly important in light of the fact that boys have a natural inclination to look up to men in their lives for an example of how to live as a man. This is most directly determined by a boy’s father. The example set by the father will likely be followed by the son into manhood, and his vision of manhood will be impacted by this example whether for better or worse. Mason gives hope to those who do not have a godly role model to look up to. He writes, “[I]f we’re looking for an example of manhood, we need look no further than the cross and an empty tomb. Jesus, over and over again, shows us what it means to really be a man” (52).
Mason consistently communicates that Jesus is not only the supreme example for men, but his exemplary manhood is the only hope for boys who had poor and even detrimental examples of what it means to be a man.
Being a man is not about being an excellent hunter, fisherman, athlete, sports enthusiast, or cigar-smoker. Manhood reaches far deeper into the heart. It is about embracing and exhibiting humility, repentance, and leadership in the society, family, and church. The gospel defines manhood and Jesus exemplifies it.
Restoration Not Redefinition
God as creator is the only one with the right to define manhood. Through sin, we have distorted manhood, therefore any of our redefinitions will inherently be flawed. Manhood does not need redefinition. Manhood needs restoration. Mason shows that the restoration of obviously broken manhood is not found in following a specific to-do list, but instead by embracing and relying on the substitutionary work of Christ. Mason compels men to learn manhood from gazing upon a bloody cross, rather than from the deficient examples of cultural stereotypes.
Through faithful exegesis, rich theological explanations, and practical insight, Mason provides an incredibly helpful resource for men seeking identity and meaning. My vision for what it means to be a man was impacted by this work, and my desire for the kind of father I want to is only more enflamed because I read this book.
In a culture that is constantly redefining manhood and the meaning of gender identity, Manhood Restored is a shining star in the dark night of confusion and provides a glimmer of hope for broken boys and men by pointing them to the Christ who was broken for them to restore them to God. Mason concludes,
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 (187).
*Be on the lookout in coming days for a giveaway of Manhood Restored!*
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.