Eric Mason. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2013. 224 pp. $14.99.
As a rule, I don’t like books about being a “biblical man.” Too often they resort to describing a specific kind of guy: one who’s wild at heart and wants to slay a dragon, climb a mountain, and play with power tools.
I am none of those things.
In fact, I’m forbidden from using power tools because I’m so inept. So if these are the sort of things that define being a biblical man, what does that make me?
Fortunately, Eric Mason doesn’t resort to trite depictions of being a man of God. He understands that men aren’t ultimately motivated by declarations, covenants, and promise rings to do more and try harder to be better men. Manhood needs to be transformed by the gospel, and Manhood Restored is about how the gospel does exactly that.
Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, tackles four broad subjects: God’s original intent for mankind and sin’s distortion of it; “daddy delinquency” and the destruction of the family; Jesus as the restorer and supreme example of biblical manhood; and a restored manhood’s effect on worldview, sexuality, vision (think leadership), family, and the church.
I was surprised at how frequently I underlined and commented in my copy of the book. Every chapter is saturated with rich biblical teaching on manhood, the seriousness of sin, and our hope in the gospel. When Mason tackles sin, for example, he pulls no punches:
We talk ourselves into thinking that sin is just a bad choice; it’s not. It’s much deeper than that for us, just as it was for Adam. When Adam chose willful rebellion against the law of God, he was choosing to forfeit his birthright by rejecting his calling to represent, be responsible, and enjoy his relationship with God, his wife, and the rest of creation. This single act placed in motion the initial and progressive fall of creation and its order, one whose effects still ravage every facet of the world today. (12)
This is so important because our language of “bad choices” or even our category of “brokenness” at times leads to minimizing the severity of sin. However, the problem with sin is not that we make mistakes, but that we willfully rebel against our Creator. Frankly, the results are tragic as nearly half the kids in the United States go to bed without a dad at home.
Arguably, the standout chapter is the book’s third, “The Restorer of Manhood.” Here Mason combines two truths essential to our understanding of biblical manhood and the Christian life: Jesus both exemplifies true manhood and also restores us to a right relationship with God through his death and resurrection. Mason writes, “Jesus is the prototype man for men. All of us men are only as manly as it relates to the standard set by Jesus. . . . God’s design—his divine intent—is for those who are in Jesus to look like Jesus” (45).
Again, Mason observes:
Jesus, as the Son of Man, is not only inspirational—he is epic. . . . He is fully God and yet truly and fully human. He is a man just like—and yet wholly unlike—us, all at the same time. So if we’re looking for an example of manhood, we need look no further than the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus, over and over again, shows us what it means to really be a man. (52)
This is the key to a restored view of manhood, and it is such good news for men—especially for those of us who didn’t have a healthy male role model growing up.
Many men wind up repeating the sins of their fathers. This enables patterns of abuse, abandonment, and adultery to continue into the next generation. Others, however, base their “manhood” on the opposite of their example. For example, if their dad was an alcoholic, they become a teetotaler. They vilify the dads they didn’t know and reject the ones they did.
This is a problem only the gospel is powerful enough to rescue men from—to give us the ability both to honor whatever is honorable in the role models we had and also to break free from the sinful patterns we learned as children. I write this as someone who has experienced this transformative work. My father was absent for a large portion of my life (some by his choice, some by mine). For years he sought to reconcile with me, and I rejected him—again and again.
And then the gospel got ahold of me. Immediately, I was convicted of my sin toward my dad. Regardless of his actions, God showed me how I’d dishonored him nearly every chance I’d had—and then he reconciled the two of us.
This is what the good news of Jesus does. This is why we need it to rescue and restore us as men. We need God, through his gospel, to show us how to be repentant men, humble men. The gospel shows us that true manhood is cruciform; it is not about comparison games or guilt-driven appeals to do more and try harder or to be better men under our own strength. No, recovering and restoring manhood to God’s original intent only happens when we look again and again to the cross.
Manhood Restored is not a book intended to help you embrace your inner fisherman. The vision of that sort of book is too small anyway, and Mason’s goals are far loftier. By blending the Bible’s rich theological foundation and helpful practical application, he offers a book that may be one of the most compelling and helpful of the recent titles on the subject.
I still don’t like books on being a biblical man. But I really like Manhood Restored. Read this book, share it with your friends, and be encouraged as you see the role the gospel plays in restoring manhood.
Aaron Armstrong is the author of Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World and Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty. He is a writer for an international Christian ministry, serves as an itinerant preacher throughout southern Ontario, and blogs daily at Blogging Theologically.