Book Review: It’s Good to Be a Man

Foster, Michael and Tennant, Dominic Bnonn. It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2021. 242 pages. Paperback. ISBN-13: 978-1954887398. $17.95.

1. Introduction

Michael Foster is the pastor of East River Church in Batavia, Ohio, and Dominic Bnonn Tennant is a freelance copywriter and web designer living in New Zealand. Together, they host the It’s Good to Be a Man podcast and run its corresponding website, with Foster serving as its managing director and Tennant as its creative director. In It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity, their proposed solution to the decline of modern manhood in the West is a retrieval of biblical patriarchy, guiding men in their God-given mission to exercise dominion as their ultimate prerogative (x). Seeking to usurp the hold that the secular “Absaloms” such as Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan have on many Christian men, Foster and Tennant want to return them to their proper Adamic calling of male rule shaped not by culture but by creation itself (14).

2. Summary

Foster and Tennant construct their theology of masculinity according to their governing assertion that “Patriarchy is inevitable” (1). Male rulership, rather than accidental according to a given civilization’s values, is in reality absolute and can only be undermined, not replaced. Adamic headship grounds patriarchy’s normativity, yet because of his fall, male rulership has become distorted by sin (5). Thus, it is solely the task of Christian men as those called to lead in the home, the church, and ultimately the whole of society to “rebuild the walls” of a decadent world (13). To build their case, they start with where it went wrong in order to lead us to how we make it right again: Genesis. Their teleology for manhood is that which “fruitfully order[s] the world in God’s stead” in ruling and subduing creation (19; 21). Such they claim is innate to the masculine nature, a drive to render order and create in the image of their Father (26). Their design then leads men to want to make more of themselves, fulfilled in marriage through women who, in contrast to men’s capacity for ruling the world, are “best fitted to filling it” (30). Men must pursue women in marriage so that they can lead godly households that serve as catalysts for the increase of patriarchy and by extension the “substance of God’s kingdom” (36). For this reason, they argue that Satan actively works to disrupt “the hierarchy of God, man, woman, creation” by undermining Scripture’s conception of sexuality and gender so as to distract potential patriarchs from fulfilling their mission (49; 51-52). Essential to Satan’s plan is keeping men from ruling well, for their doing so is reflective of “the Patriarchy in heaven” and thus opposition which must be overcome to advance darkness (53). Androgyny was introduced by Satan for the sake of frustrating men and confusing the order of creation, cultivating chaos rather than harmony between the sexes and the world (65). He fosters this disequilibrium further through “toxic femininity,” realized interpersonally through women seeking to subvert the rule of men by denying their own purpose for childbearing as well as campaigning against male leadership in the church (75; 82; 92). Nevertheless, men must contend for their God-given masculinity as grace enables them in restoring their true nature (104).

After presenting this broad outline for their theology of patriarchy, they proceed to explore the groundwork for the pursuit of godly masculinity in the modern age. First, they recognize the centrality of fatherhood to the flourishing of men and the raising up of patriarchs, being reflective of God’s fathering of all men (113-14). Fatherhood secures the transmission of godly masculinity from one generation to the next, and it is thus imperative men commit to be fathers so that the mission of patriarchy in creation might endure (120). More fundamentally however, they contend that the process of fathering in general, flowing from God through earthly fathers both biologically and spiritually, causes the formation of gravitas. For them, gravitas serves as the grist of godliness for sustaining men in the pursuit of dominion. Getting gravitas consists of entering into one’s true nature as the glory of God by imaging him in patriarchy (130; 133). Since men are those meant for representing God’s patriarchal rule on the earth, they are responsible for growing lodestar virtues and traits to procure gravitas, making them worthy to fulfill their mission (145-58). At this point, they counsel the male reader to avoid the “effeminacy of wallowing in red pill rage” that is encouraged by many men’s rights activists (161).[1] The proper response of men toward this androgynous world is by girding up and committing themselves to making patriarchy a reality in their own lives and pursue God’s mission above all else (173).

Having established a framework of godly masculinity, they begin to offer a schematic for embodying it. At the bedrock for any man is knowing his particular mission, which they understand simply as “wisely integrating your interests, skills, and circumstances into a personal vision for exercising dominion over what God has given you” (175). Recognizing that the shape and form will vary from man to man, they simply acknowledge that a man must understand where he knows he wants to be within God’s kingdom and commit his time, talent, and resources to getting there (185-87). By pursuing his mission, a man will find his manhood. However, he must possess two essential guardrails for ensuring success: brotherhood and marriage. Finding community with fellow men on mission to maintain accountability in fulfilling it (192). Having godly fraternity keeps a man from going down the path of those who militate against the mission of God being performed through them in patriarchy, as the practice of masculinity is essential in finding true biblical manhood (197; 205). Yet ultimately a man must find a wife since he “cannot build a household without a good woman by your side” (207). For them, pursuing the mission of dominion as a man is only fulfilled in raising up a godly family to advance God’s rule over and against Satan’s usurpations. Therefore, men pursue their mission to provide a home that a wife can then aid him in sanctifying and filling with children (209). However, they caution against making marriage the mission itself, when it should only be seen as “a complement to your mission” as a man (211). They claim getting a wife can by no means be treated as an end in itself (219). Being a man consists of positioning himself as ideally as he can “to raise up godly seed” in furthering the reality of patriarchy according to God’s blessing in the created order, and that makes it “good to be a man” (226-27).

3. Positive Critique

Foster and Tennant are not wrong to promote the importance of male leadership in the home and the church as well as acknowledging their unique capabilities in society. Christians cannot shy away from how God has called men as husbands and fathers to possess the necessary strength and maturity for faithful stewardship in their families, nor can we ignore their distinct roles of authority within the local church. In particular, their promotion of godly fatherhood, their sobriety concerning the purpose of marriage, and their emphasis on male friendship are certainly sound. Although these points by no means advance the particular thesis of their work, they at the very least demonstrate an awareness of key fault lines for the pursuit of biblical manhood in the present cultural moment.

3.1 Men Must Be Fathered

A crucial component of pursuing manhood is having positive models in one’s life which embody it, and fathers possess the foremost role in shaping the character of their sons so that they might one day do it for their own. They are right to see this pattern established in Scripture as the “natural chain by which God trains up young men to take over the work of their fathers as fathers,” grounding how men can lead their families, churches, and communities with integrity (114). No matter how often the modern world has tried to usurp fatherhood’s centrality to human flourishing, time and time again it is shown to be a significant factor to societal stability. Indeed, many recognize the problem of “lost boys” in America, and a common undercurrent in these assessments is the need for fathers. Without someone to imitate, young men are left to craft masculinity in their own image. The Absaloms that they decry are thus especially alluring to the “Rehoboams” who are blind to traditional paternal wisdom rooted in godly fatherhood. Having strong Christian men takes those who already depict in themselves “the life of the man whose son you wish to be” to set the standard so that boys might not flounder in perpetual spiritual adolescence (116-17). Expecting fathers to fulfill their divinely-sanctioned responsibilities toward their sons in order that they might hopefully become “sons in the faith” is one of the surest ways God-honoring masculinity can be transferred from one generation to the next (120).

3.2 Marriage Maketh Not Man

Potentially surprising for some of their critics, Foster and Tennant explicitly reject  marriage itself as being the immediate fulfillment of manhood. A stereotypical critique of patriarchy advocates often consists of thinking they make marriage and children the onlypriority of Christian men in their pursuit of manhood. Yet as they make clear, a man should at least know what he is ultimately wanting to do with his life before he invites a wife and children into it (211). Simply getting married does not mean a man has finished his work in pursuing biblical manhood but has simply entered into the foremost context in which it will be proven. Consequently, men are to be discouraged from simply taking the nearest woman as a wife (212). They recognize that Christians will at times  depict marriage  as something to be immediately seized rather than prudently received. In other words,they are trying to prevent young Christians from making a hurried and foolish  relationship choice when choosing a spouse. Their discouragement of  zeal without knowledge in romance helps one understand the greater purpose of marriage beyond its immediate provision of sexual gratification. A man might not know what it takes to actually raise a family before starting one, thinking that getting married will automatically sort everything out on its own (213). Assessing what it takes to have a flourishing family then demands planning and preparation, allowing a man to be a proper husband and father in the timing God allows.

3.3 Fraternity Before Patriarchy

The overlooked malady of friendlessness plaguing men in the twenty-first century is thankfully brought to light in this work. Foster and Tennant rightly infer that in his pursuit of masculinity, a man risks becoming so obsessed with proving himself to be one that he loses his soul in the process, forgetting his own need for encouragement along the way. More to the point, he must have men who will actively call him to account for his deficiencies in his Christian life, since he would not become aware of them on his own (199). Sharing in the same calling, mature Christian men investing in one another keeps them mutually sustained as opposed to separately depleted. Furthermore, while “Absaloms” are certainly always trying to allure men into godless masculinity, Rehoboams, those who would keep them in perpetual adolescence, abound as well. Thus, a man could be deluded that he is fulfilling his manhood when in reality he is still lost in boyhood, irrespective of his current age (197). Being a godly man necessitates having godly men who will practice it alongside you and uphold you when you falter.

4. Negative Critique

Despite some good directions that Foster and Tennant take in their approach to the meaning of Christian masculinity for today, there are several problems present in their case for a patriarchal model.[2] The beneficial aspects of the work already indicated are not unique to their paradigm for biblical patriarchy, meaning that they do not contribute to the overall assessment of the book’s worthiness for Christian readers.[3] As will be shown, the chief issue with the work pertains to method and consequently their primary exegesis concerning a biblical anthropology for manhood, leading to a vision for “godly masculinity” that puts forward the ultimacy of patriarchy at the expense of biblical faithfulness. On account of these problems, I find that they fail to make a convincing case for biblical patriarchy that can be taken as universally binding upon Christians to realize. Instead, their work only serves to reaffirm the convictions of those already persuaded of their view who are merely in search of further vindication.

4.1 A Manmade Masculinity

Foster and Tennant’s predominant tenor for their argumentation is that of pure assertion. The claims they advance are often based solely upon their own mutual conjectures with very little direct appeals to Scripture, doing so only obliquely so as to maintain ostensibly tethered to the text. For instance, they delineate some key duties and traits which they claim “have been traditionally associated with masculinity,” such as planning, enterprise, and readiness (153-57). They then conclude that “Scripture suggests [all of these] as integral to manhood,” yet they do so without citing any remotely relevant passages in the Bible that would make that plain to the reader (158). More often than not in this work, Scripture is cited in support of a claim that is not exclusively relevant to men in its application, such as the need for wisdom or the mortification of pride, yet they present them as categorically masculine concerns nonetheless without any real qualification.

An especially curious connection is made concerning their notion of gravitas that evidences this trend of extrabiblical assertion. Explicitly acknowledging it as a “Roman virtue,” Foster and Tennant attempt to connect it to the Hebrew word kabod (“glory”) so as to establish it biblically. However, not one of the instances in which they cite kabod being used has anything to do with virtue formation specifically regarding men  (127-29). Because gravitas is presented as the central force for maintaining their vision for godly masculinity, their thin exegetical trail severely compromises their argumentation. And since they insist that this “weight” is integral to manhood, it forces them to conflate it with tangentially-related terminology found in Scripture to justify it. Resorting to an extrabiblical concept of pagan origin in critiquing “the pagan sexual ideal” is contradictory to say the least when claiming to be defining distinctly Christian principles for masculinity (59). In fact, seeing how this is the central virtue for godly masculinity in their framing functionally makes it more pagan than Christian in terms of what motivates it at a practical level. This extrabiblical emphasis perhaps explains their strange silence regarding Christ’s own model of manhood in his humanity. Foster and Tennant do not consult the virtues of Christ himself for any of their potential implications for biblical manhood besides acknowledging that his own glory must ground man’s pursuit of his own (129). His principle role within their model for patriarchy seems to be his representative status as “the radiance of God,” with men reflecting him in their own sonship who are themselves “the image and glory of God” (113). Beyond this typological application though, there is no extended discussion of Christ’s character present, a strange deficiency for that which claims to be for sons of God rather than of men alone.

With extrabiblical categories then come extrabiblical enemies for Foster and Tennant. Besides the “functional bastards” they aim to reform with this work, a group of men that apparently actively stands in the way of reasserting patriarchy in the church is the “‘white knight[s]’” (87). They accuse white knights, be they pastors or laymen, of a litany of apparent evils such as “defer[ing] to female approval” and instituting an “eleventh” commandment: “thou shalt be nice and never unmannerly” (93). White knights are thus seeking to force their fellow men to “lay aside their masculinity” in favor of assuming what they deem an effeminate Christianity that defers to women at the expense of their true manhood (95). The only real guilt imputed to this concocted class of men though is for not getting on board with the particular patriarchal program they envision. Without any vindication beyond their own frustration, the reader is not behooved to accept their indictments for these proposed gatekeepers of the “Church effeminate” as more than a rant, unless they happen to have the same one on hand.

Ultimately, I find this consistent arrogation to be a feature, not a bug, for Foster and Tennant’s conclusions in this work. Presenting their view as if it is self-evident implies that it should be taken less as an apologetic and more as a polemic. This methodological faltering manifests a common trope among Christian advocates for a traditional approach to gender roles in the West: conflating cultural norms with biblical mandates so as to ensure strict obedience, making their coalescence absolute rather than provisional. In their crusade against the “thirsty white knights” and men with a “crab mentality” who seek to silence true godly masculinity, they are on the offensive due to this intentional conflation. They are the ones against those who would challenge the fittingness of patriarchy in God’s world and have no regard for those presently unconvinced (150; 202). Thus, they see little need for constructively defending their claims against their interlocutors who have taken the “blue pill.” Demanding the presupposition of their vision for patriarchy on the front end, anyone of a contrary perspective is left out of the running from the beginning, making few new disciples for them but retaining plenty of the priorly proselytized. Since their catalog of virtues for godly masculinity is based predominantly upon their own intuitive deduction, it very well might appeal to a certain kind of Christian man aspiring to the classical ideal of a patriarch within Western culture, but for those who don’t share such zeal, they will instead find a framework beholden to traditional tropes of masculinity they’ve come to expect from this perspective. In reality, Foster and Tennant are intentionally appealing to the kind of man who is prone to the Absaloms of modern masculinism, not Christian men in general. Beckoning this imagined man to come into the church, they do a great disservice to those men already faithfully serving within it.

4.2 Getting the Garden Wrong

Should one find Foster and Tennant’s assertions personally plausible, the theological anthropology they construct which they claim grants legitimacy to their view is still quite dubious. The core of their argument is that “everything is in Genesis” since it is “the seed of all Scripture” and thus sufficient when accounting for the ultimate differences between men and women as a whole (18). Upon initial inspection, their treatment of the call to dominion in Genesis 1:26-28 is orthodox enough: humanity exists for “productive, representative rulership” (19). However, issues begin to appear in a subtle shift they make concerning the whom of exercising dominion, causing significant problems to arise. Foster and Tennant change the appeal of the creation mandate for dominion to man collectively as male and female to Adam as representative of man singularly (20). By treating this reading as a given, practically the entirety of their case against modern “androgyny” is situated, since a denial of hierarchy according to male rulership, not just complementarity in fulfilling the exact contents of the creation mandate in itself, is in actuality a denial of nature (52). For example, they presume aggression to be an integral trait for biblical manhood despite this inner psychology having nothing to inherently do with fulfilling the obligations placed upon husbands and fathers or the expectations of Christ-centered, God-honoring manhood in general because it is that which gives him the drive to rule (25). On this account, a man not given over to this temperament by default could be accused of effeminacy even when he might be doing everything explicitly required of him by God as a man to perform. Yet for Foster and Tennant, this trait is definitive of a “masculine nature” that consists of “desiring to strive, to overcome, to harness” (26). For a man to fulfill his function as one who rules, he must have this kind of mental makeup, leaving those whose Creator might make them with a different one apparently bereft of manhood from the start.

I believe this undue expectation evidences the need for an essential distinction between manhood and masculinity, the former pertaining to how God has constituted man and his correlative duties and the latter certain traits generally associated with the performance of one’s manhood. By refusing to favor these distinctions, it seems that Foster and Tennant want to meld masculinity and manhood together, resulting in a masculinist Pharisaism they deem as mandatory without reference to the clearer norms of Scripture. Binding men’s consciences to this vision seems to be the primary goal, after all. Accusations of “effeminacy” from those of this persuasion will have more to do with a man not acting in accordance with what they perceive he should be entirely according to nature, not grace. Viewed in the court of unregenerate opinion, the fingerprints of modern-day Absaloms over the tenets of “godly masculinity” are far more present than Foster and Tennant are willing to admit.

Foster and Tennant’s apparent avoidance of accounting for how a man can constructively purpose his singleness indicates that despite how marriage is not depicted as a panacea for a man’s failures to practice “godly masculinity” (see III.1), they provide no alternative vocation for a man (or woman by extension) so far as it concerns their sexuality. It is true that they acknowledge a man might presently be single or even divorced when reading their book (226), but the overwhelming evidence points to his imminent need for matrimony in order to fulfill his mission of personally expanding “God’s kingdom.” Without offering how a vocationally celibate man can rightly manifest biblical manhood apart from raising up his own “godly household” in favor of serving the household of the godly with his life is a significant deficiency that does not seem to be uninentional so as far as I can tell.[4] Patriarchy presumes a family for whom one serves as a patriarch. If patriarchy is what remains imperative for Christian men to maintain, then they cannot fully be men just in the image of Christ alone within Foster and Tennant’s theology of gender.[5]

While this book by design is not intended to address their understanding of biblical womanhood, it unavoidably reveals itself in it, complications abounding equally for them as much as for men in this book. Since Foster and Tennant posit that women are made for the sake of procreation and tending to the home to allow men to further their “mission,” anything beyond this domestically-delimited range of responsibilities amounts to flagrant feminism (59). It is by definition impossible for women to have any mission apart from marriage to men within their view.[6] According to them, a woman’s subordinate role as “the glory of man” makes her dependent on men to fulfill her very created purpose (30; 83). Their overtly lurid description of male attraction to the female body seems to further implicate their unabashedly sexualized ontology for women within their schematic for biblical patriarchy (33). As they openly acknowledge, men most basically see women as “sex objects” since it “reflect[s] the baseline purpose of that sex” that men apprehend (147). But in light of their simplistic anthropology, it is unsurprising that they make such statements. For if a woman’s primary mode of being is sexual, then treating her in a mostly sexual way is a matter of consistency. Making the domestic sphere the only appropriate context in which a woman can exercise her vocation allows for Foster and Tennant to state that “It is a [man’s] home a [woman] should be caught up in building” since she exists only to help him fulfill an Adamic mission of dominion that is singularly his (81). A woman who might commit to her husband’s welfare and have children with him but tries to have a “mission” apart from his thus sins within this masculinist hierarchy, for to even go beyond, not simply deny, this imposed telos is a violation of her nature. Similar to their burdening of men, they create a false ultimatum between a woman’s uniquely procreative role and her greater vocation as an image-bearer with a totalizing hierarchy that makes her purpose subservient to man’s rule as that which “flows downward from God, to Christ, to man, to his wife” (47). Such totalization demands far more theological tissue than is granted to the creation narrative alone to make Foster and Tennant’s case remotely convincing. Distinctions that inform the warp and woof of marital companionship are one thing; distinctions which then become anthropological absolutes for the entire created order are quite another. 

Their treatment of the church itself as it relates to masculinity offers perhaps the best distillation of their overemphasis on creation in securing a comprehensive biblical theology of gender. In mentioning the church earlier in the work, they state that “Churches are headed by men because they are made up of households that are headed by men” (3). In one sense, the qualifications for eldership offered in the New Testament broadly track with a man’s roles as a father and husband, presuming his status as a leader. Yet more importantly, it is because he is to be “above reproach” as one who “desires a noble task,” thus headed by his piety and not his personal status as a patriarch (Tit. 1:7; 1 Tim 3:1, ESV). Texts such as Ephesians 5:21-6:9 and Colossians 3:18-4:1 robustly display these implications for men, but Foster and Tennant only gloss over them in showing how creation presently entails these hierarchical realities while still acknowledging that the church is nevertheless “the pinnacle of God’s intention” (61). Choosing to root pastoral calling in patriarchal excellence, men in this framing are simply asserting their right to rule, not properly earning it through qualification as recognized by the body of Christ. Overplaying their hand in making these realities entirely based upon nature, Foster and Tennant view the spiritual household of the church as only a further extension of patriarchal supremacy rather than a wholly new kind of community, seemingly relegating one’s spiritual family to the periphery in favor of a man’s earthly inheritance.[7]

Whether intentionally or not, nature triumphs over grace within Foster and Tennant’s treatment of gender. The faultiness of their anthropology is seen in making sexual differentiation with regard to the contents of Genesis 1-3 absolute without reference to its broader relationship to the rest of Scripture. This is not to say that such differentiation in creation has no consequences for how men and women relate to each other but that it is by no means totalizing in itself. Lacking robust regard for how the gospel reshapes relationships between men and women in light of its bestowal of a new nature, not simply a restoration of one previously lost, makes their overemphasis upon Genesis more than a mere oversight. Basing everything about gender exhaustively upon natural law and physiology under the guise of the “creation mandate” is inadmissible for those aiming to fulfill obligations reflective of the new covenant community.[8] Creation is certainly the beginning of all things, but it is by no means the end of them within the broader arc of redemptive history. In the final analysis, they are presenting a patriarchal solution in search of a patriarchal problem that operates from an intentionally truncated teleology for redeemed humanity, offering a theology of gender that is alluring basic but axiomatically flawed.         

5. Conclusion

Godly men are as sorely needed today as they always have been in every generation hence, and we should understand this book as an effort to reaffirm the goodness of biblical manhood against its modern discontents. Foster and Tennant admit that they were “not trying to create a timeless work but a timely one,” yet such an admission of authorial humility does not excuse the significant problems apparent throughout it (225). What is given here amounts to more of a disgruntled diatribe toward an already confusing status quo for the sexes in modernity. Jeremiads of this kind are satisfactory for a constituency that is already eager to receive them, and to that extent, Foster and Tennant will likely appear to have succeeded in their project. But to the unconverted, it will only cause greater hardening. While I would not recommend this work in terms of what it might positively offer to the reader, the gauntlet thrown by the authors should not be ignored. Yes, Scripture has held forth its counsel for men and women as to what they are to be for millennia, but claiming a special exigency can sometimes be warranted when basic reality is being brought into question. The sexual revolution within the West has sought to comprehensively displace human nature from divine design in favor of egoistic expression.[9] Therefore, the restoration of nature through grace surely must be proclaimed afresh in response. In this regard, Foster and Tennant are certainly timely. We must be confident to say that it is good to be a man by reminding him of what it means to be one. But though I do not doubt Foster and Tennant’s concern for men and society’s need for them (a concern I share as well), the patriarchal vision they are stridently promoting does little to advance past where most faithful Christians have already trod in defending biblical manhood and only seems to benefit from subverting it for its own sake. In her memoir Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber recounts an interaction with the man who would eventually become her husband about her distrust of men. Wounded by a father who abandoned her, Carolyn is reluctant to see much good in them. He gently but sternly corrects her misconceptions, stating that “‘Not all men are like the ones you describe…That is not my father. Or my grandfather. Or my brothers. Or any of the men I respect and know as close friends. That’s not me either. Nobody is perfect, but I know lots of men who strive very hard to be the real thing, who know God intimately and answer to something far greater than themselves. They are men who are humble, who respect women, who devote themselves in marriages and families. They are men whose genuine, disciplined lives model God’s goodness in a myriad of ways. These men, they exist.’”[10] It’s good that so many of them still do, despite those saying otherwise.


[1] Foster and Tennant draw upon a famous scene from the 1999 film The Matrix which contrasts the shock of reality against the ease of the artificial with the red pill versus the blue pill analogy (159). However, it should also be recognized that the red pill/blue pill dichotomy has a deeper significance within the present ideological discourse in America based upon the writings of Curtis Yarvin, who in the words of Jacob Siegel applies it to “the revelation of a suppressed truth that shatters progressive illusions and exposes a harsh underlying reality.” Thus, they presume of their audience both a familiarity with and a promotion of this rhetoric. See Jacob Siegel, “Curtis Yarvin, Political Theorist.” From Tablet Magazine. Published on March 30, 2022. Accessed on September 20, 2022.

[2] Foster and Tennant prefer the designation of “gendered piety” for their model of manhood and womanhood respectively, but patriarchy still encapsulates the primary thrust of their claim in this book as far as it concerns men. See Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant, “Mission & vision.” From It’s Good to be a man. Accessed on October 24, 2022.

[3] Works such as Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway, 1991) by R. Kent Hughes and The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men (Reformation Trust, 2009) by Richard D. Phillips outline the basic principles for biblical manhood as exercised in man’s unique calling according to creation, such as in his particular responsibilities concerning leadership and work within the church and the home. In addition, acknowledging the need to exercise prudence when pursuing a potential spouse as well as the need for friendship are general principles of biblical wisdom, as even Foster and Tennant acknowledge (192; 206; 207-09). Thus, while it is good that Foster and Tennant admit that marriage does not excuse one from pursuing the duties of manhood and that community is essential for men to flourish, it is not something that is central to their unique thesis of patriarchy as the only truly biblical realization of “godly masculinity,” which this review considers deficient based on the terms they set for themselves in vindicating this claim. Consequently, these positive aspects cannot be counted as advancing the worth of this particular work on these issues since they are not to any extent notably original to it. Nevertheless, they are welcome in terms of better understanding Foster and Tennant’s perspective as incorporating some principles shared by evangelical complementarians on these matters.

[4] Foster personally acknowledges that singleness when coupled with celibacy “can be a great thing.”  However, since he and Tennant defend their established continuum of godly masculinity leading to the creation of godly households as the priority without granting a proper exception to celibate men in this work, this critique remains warranted. See Michael Foster, “FAQ on Sexuality & Patriarchy.’ From This is Foster. Published on May 2, 2022. Accessed on October 26, 2022.

[5] Foster and Tennant’s harkening to Roman virtue provides a curious parallel to how the early church’s promotion of celibacy was viewed with spiteful suspicion by pagan society because it saw patriarchy as modeled according to traditional masculine virtues as a bedrock to their collective stability. Christianity’s possibility for lifelong singleness was thus seen as offensive since it undermined these norms. See Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (London: Faber & Faber,  1988).

[6] Foster himself has critiqued the notion of “singleness” (as distinguished from celibacy) for women as any kind of a “gift” since it is normative for them to be married. While he does acknowledge the “gift of celibacy” as legitimate, it is hard to see how that fits into the framework offered in this book with women’s role and anthropological purpose being singularly procreative. See “The Gift of Singleness? | Douglas Wilson & Michael Foster.” YouTube. Uploaded by Canon Press, June 10, 2022. Accessed on October 26, 2022.

[7] I understand that in light of other statements in the work they would not drive a radical disjunction between the spiritual inheritance of one’s “godly seed” and the growth of the church, but that demands already accepting those presuppositions to render this claim invalid, which ultimately concern matters of covenant theology and not theological anthropology.

[8] For how Paul’s household codes cast a contrary social vision that undermined traditional Roman hierarchies, see Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016).

[9] See Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).

[10] Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 211-12. Kindle edition.



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