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Seven Biblical Principles for Being the Man God Wants You To Be

Reclaiming Masculinity

I always find it interesting to pay attention to trends within Christian publishing. As certain ideologies appear within wider society or as certain questions are brought to the surface, the publishing industry inevitably responds with books on the subject. In the past couple of years, we have seen a good number of titles dealing with masculinity. And no wonder, for masculinity is now hotly debated. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be masculine? And is it possible to embrace any form of masculinity without it becoming toxic? This is the subject Matt Fuller turns to in Reclaiming Masculinity: Seven Biblical Principles for Being the Man God Wants You To Be.

Fuller begins by pointing out that where Western society used to have a widely accepted idea of what it means to be a man, this is no longer the case. “In the 21st-century West, there simply isn’t, and our culture is far more likely to ask ‘Why can’t a man be more like a woman?’ ‘Traditional’ male attributes such as competitiveness, stoicism (that is, bearing difficulties without complaint or displaying much emotion) and risk-taking are discouraged in classrooms and derided in sitcoms and films. The language of business management has shifted to emphasize ‘traditional’ feminine virtues of empathy, co-operation and emotional intelligence. Women do better at school and a higher percentage go to university. Men are far more likely (to an alarming extent) to go to prison, become homeless or commit suicide. Perhaps really we need to ask, ‘Why can’t a man be more like a woman?’”

Of course, society also tends to make the claim that there is no intrinsic difference between men and women and that anything men are doing women ought to be doing as well. “I keep hearing these two opinions, expressed in a variety of ways but basically boiling down to ‘Men and women are the same’ and ‘Men should be more like women.’ The upshot is that we’re getting a bit confused about what it means to be a man.”

Fuller’s burden in this book is to provide a positive vision of masculinity—to offer an answer to the question “What kind of man does God want you to be?” A good answer will necessitate setting aside the cultural assumptions of the 20th century as much as the 21st and instead allowing the Bible to guide us in its timeless way. And Fuller does this through seven principles “that describe a biblical, healthy, confident, helpful masculinity.”

The first of these is “men and women are different (but don’t exaggerate).” From the inner person to the outer, it is clear that God has created men and women to be different from one another, even as they share a common humanity. Where some societies have been prone to exaggerate the differences others have been prone to minimize them. Here he describes some of the differences and explains how these then work themselves out in ways that are bound by culture. He distinguishes between timeless truths and cultural manifestations of distinctions.

The second principle is “take responsibility.” Though men and women have much in common, God has assigned certain responsibilities to men and he means for them to embrace these. Though this is most often displayed in marriage, there are other ways in which men need to grab hold of their God-given responsibilities.

Next is “be ambitious for God.” Men are tempted to aim their God-given ambition at power or video games or sexual conquests, but God has something better for them. Men are to be ambitious in life, ambitious in work, and ambitious in godliness.

From here Fuller advances to “use your strength to protect,” “display thoughtful chivalry,” “invest in friendships” and “raise healthy ‘sons’.” The word “sons” is in quotation marks because a man’s task is not merely to influence his biological children but also to influence sons in the faith, much as the Apostle Paul did so well.

At the end of all this, being a godly man means “taking responsibility to lead, being ambitious for God’s kingdom, using your strength to protect the church and serve others, investing in friends, and raising ‘sons’.” Men who commit themselves to this kind of life will be displaying God’s design and living out God’s purpose.

At a time when confusion about masculinity reigns within the church as well as without, I am grateful for books like this that offer clarity—clarity grounded in the infallible, inerrant, timeless, and culture-transcending Word of God. I trust it will help many men live in a way that is confidently, biblically, and definitively masculine.

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