Richard D. Phillips (M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary) is senior minister of the historic Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., and chairman of the Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology, which was founded by James Montgomery Boice. Prior to his calling to the gospel ministry, he served as a tank officer in the U.S. Army and was assistant professor of leadership at the United States Military Academy, West Point, resigning with the rank of major. He lives with his wife, Sharon, and their five children in the Upcountry of South Carolina.
This book couldn’t have come at a better time. Men’s roles are being attacked by mainstream public opinion more now than any other time in history. Men are becoming more and more polarized: manliness is epitomized either by hardened pride or feministic overtones; we’re forced to pick a side, to either become a prideful, bodybuilding patriarch or an overly sensitive, passive conformer. But Richard Phillips takes a biblical look at the role of men, he examines God’s calling for us since the beginning of time in the Garden. It is a refreshing look at God’s intended purpose for men in the midst of the world’s perversion.
Men are made by God to work. Men have a duty to work. I love that. This is the foundation, the basic message of what Phillips writes. He writes that, “Men are to be planters, builders, and growers.” Men find satisfaction in a job well done because we were made for it. “Even in our leisure, we see that men are made for work.” When men read, or learn, or follow basketball games, or even weight-lift, we’re working (hence the term “working out”). This is a point often overlooked but is thankfully emphasized here. But what does this look like for the man of God, or a guy striving to be godly? Thankfully, Phillips doesn’t leave us hanging, he helps men see what a godly lifestyle should look like.
Philips does a thorough job of giving men their biblical job description and giving practical applications. The second part of his book is appropriately titled, “Part Two: Living Our Mandate.” He writes that, “Christian men should use their God-given abilities to the uttermost, seeking to give God pleasure through the labors we offer up to Him…whether student or employee, we do not honor the Lord if we neglect the work obligations that we have accepted and which others are counting on us to perform.” He’s very straightforward and honest. Furthermore, he fleshes out the role of men by explaining how we are made to be cultivators. We’re also made to protect. All of these roles Philips touches on and gives practical life applications for—I think he purposely makes his points clear for all those lazy men out there.
The most helpful part is the section where Phillips provides a list of questions that Christians should be concerned about when considering the value of jobs. Questions like “Does this work glorify God?” or “Do I consider myself called to this work, or can I at least do it well and find enjoyment in that?” and even, “Does my work honor God through integrity and decency?” makes men look at occupations through God’s lens. This type of thinking should continually affect our minds on a daily basis, but many of us don’t know what that’s supposed to look like. It’s a good thing that Phillips focuses on this, and he does a good job of helping us sift through it all. As if that wasn’t enough, he also provides “Questions for Reflection and Discussion”; he’s giving us all the tools we need so that we don’t have any reason not to grow in our biblical manliness!
As a university student, I think this is a must read for college men (and it might be appropriate for women to read in order to better understand men). Society shades college guys to step into the world’s defined roles for us, which naturally neglects God’s calling for men, especially in the family unit. As I read this book I felt as if God’s calling for us as men was so great that I couldn’t help but get excited about the roles I get to play in His divine design. My comments don’t do this book justice at all.
*Note: Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries will be sending me a copy of this book as compensation for this review. The review however remains objective and was not affected by this.