It’s Good To Be a Man — A Review

It’s Good To Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity by Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant. Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho, 2021. Paperback, 242 pages, $17.95 (Amazon), Kindle, $9.99. (Page references in the review are to the Kindle edition, which in my copy has 170 pages.)

Why is the book popular?

Our world’s attempt at autonomy and rebellion against God comes to expression, among other areas, in human sexuality. Gender fluidity contradicts the way that God created mankind, male and female. Even when rebellion is less explicit, one sees a great deal of gender confusion. Would be autonomous mankind denies the authority of the Creator by rejecting human authority. These are areas that Scripture addresses, and thus areas to which the church ought to speak. I believe this is why It’s Good To Be a Man (IGTBAM) appeals to so many. (Amazon’s “Best Sellers Rank” currently places the book as #12 in its category of “Christian Men’s Issues.”) The book is correct in telling us that our problem is sin. IGTBAM is seen as an antidote to that sin and confusion in society. Another positive reason for the book’s popularity may be that it does attempt to deal with aspects of a man’s life which are broader than his personal relationship with God and his family. Nevertheless, although we need something that encourages Christians to have a godly impact on the world around them, I do not believe IGTBAM meets that need. Instead, it seems to perpetuate the church’s sad history of rejecting an error on one side of the road and reacting by driving into the ditch on the opposite side.

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Excursus on the Fifth Commandment

A friend, knowing that I was concerned about the book, It’s Good To Be a Man (IGTBAM), put me in touch with one of the authors, the Rev. Michael Foster, pastor of East River Church (CREC) in Batavia, Ohio, and we exchanged a few emails as I was preparing to review the book, here. Mr. Foster responded graciously to my concern about the reference to the Shorter Catechism mentioned in my review. He suggested that the proof texts cited in support of Q. 129 of the Larger Catechism, which deals with the responsibilities of superiors, include Colossians 3:19 (calling husbands to love their wives) and 1 Peter 3:7 (commanding husbands to honor their wives as the weaker vessel) show that the authors of the catechisms “made it clear by citing these marriage relationship texts that they saw husbands as superiors (in rank, not essence) owing their wives loving care” [personal correspondence, January 29, 2022, quoted with permission]. He continues: “The point we were making in the chapter had to do with rank, not essence. Women aren’t ontologically inferior to men. Headship and submission isn’t due to women being lesser or men being greater. It’s simply part of our God’s created order.”

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Does Your Tongue Attack God?

Cursing, taking God’s name in vain, violates the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7). In the third chapter of his Epistle, James warns how easily we sin with out tongues. He underscores that point when, in James 3:9–10, he points out the utter contradiction of using our tongues to bless God and then using the same organ to curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.

What sets mankind apart from the rest of creation? God made us in his image. Instead of just speaking us into existence, the pattern set earlier in Genesis 1, God deliberately creates mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Although sin warps that image, mankind is still image of God. That gives value to human life (Genesis 9:6) and is reason to protect even the most vulnerable in our culture — the yet to be born and the elderly. Taking life unjustly sins, not only against the victim, but also against the God who created that person in his image.

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Ministerial Voices

Several years ago the presbytery of which I am a member was so seriously affected by divisions that the General Assembly appointed a committee to visit and seek to assist us. While there was a theological issue that was the focal point of much contention, the Committee to Visit the Presbytery of the Northwest reported to the General Assembly its view of underlying problems which had resulted in two congregations withdrawing from the OPC with their pastors and a third minister renouncing the jurisdiction of the OPC. The Committee spoke of “divisive speech and attitudes” in the presbytery. It reflected on “the mistaken notion that the PNW merely suffers from a theological dispute leads to an unhelpful tendency to inadequately address and acknowledge the more significant causes of division…. On the personal level, brothers within the presbytery have failed at crucial times to deal openly and honestly with one another about various personal grievances.” (quotes from the Minutes of the Eighty-third General Assembly, p. 326).

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Three Complaints, a Summary

When the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met last summer, how did it deal with three items on its agenda that involved how Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller had been treated in some church circles? (The General Assembly is the broadest body in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.) A friend of mine recently asked if anyone had written a summary of the actions the assembly took regarding those items. I was not aware of such a summary, so I tried to help him by providing the following.


               A complaint, as the term is used in the constitution of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), is not simply a gripe or objection, but rather, a written document “charging a judicatory with delinquency or error.” (Book of Discipline IX.1) A complaint is first brought to the body that the one complaining believes has erred, giving it the opportunity to make a satisfactory correction. If the complainant is not satisfied, the complaint may be appealed to the next higher judicatory.

               The Rev. Glenn D. Jerrell authored three complaints against the Presbytery of the Southeast (PSE), of which he is a member. All three dealt with actions, or failures to act, as the presbytery dealt with officers who had made sweeping, public attacks against several members of the OPC. When the presbytery denied his complaints, he appealed them to the 87th General Assembly (GA), where they were numbered Complaints 7, 8, and 9 (because the Assembly did not meet in 2020 due to the pandemic, an unusually large number of complaints were before the body).

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Reading as Rest

Reflections on Recovering the Lost art of Reading (continued, part 2)

Reading as rest? The concept may sound strange, but Leland Ryken and Glenda Mathes in Recovering the Lost Art of Reading refreshingly associate reading with the rest that God requires in the commandment that, as Jesus said, he made for mankind. “Our failures to read and read well have deprived us of an essential way to transcend our confining world of private preoccupations and worries.” (p. 30)

“[O]ur culture (including the Christian segment of it) has drifted towards reducing leisure to mere diversion and distraction” observe the authors. Not surprisingly they suggest, “Literature refreshes at deeper levels than many other leisure activities.” (p. 29)

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Reflections on Recovering the Lost art of Reading, Part 1

Is reading an art which needs recovering? I love to read. My life as a pastor is invested in both the people I serve and in books as I prepare to preach the Word and as I deal with the ideas surrounding us. When I’m on vacation, I always take along some books — usually a few more than I end up being able to read. As our children as were growing up I read aloud to them, and sometimes have the opportunity to do that with grandchildren.

Yet the pressure of deadlines can make it difficult to make the time to read. Months ago I received my copy of Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes. After opening it with anticipation, I wrote one of the authors:

[I]t is impossible to pull a book out of its shipping envelope without opening it, and opening it inevitably leads to reading. I made it through the Introduction and the first chapter, “Is Reading Lost?” before forcing myself to put it down. It is Friday afternoon. There is still work to be done….

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Walking through Judicial Process

Thinking about judicial process may strike you as soporific but imagine trying to work through church discipline without a guide! Many churches try just that. Faithful church discipline is one of the identifying marks of a church. In the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a member cannot be formally disciplined by either the pastor or the ruling elders simply accusing him of sin. Rather, a trial must take place. The Book of Discipline of the OPC provides the constitutional guidelines for conducting such a trial.

A colleague and I recently served as co-counsel, helping a session in a particularly challenging situation. Since members of the church planned to attend the trial, I tried to describe in informal, non-technical language, some of the highlights of what the book says about a trial, as judicial process can be confusing, particularly as formal charges are, thankfully, infrequent. Subsequently I expanded and modified that paper slightly. Here, in case it might be helpful or thought provoking, is a link to “Walking through Trial Procedure.”

I am well aware that the Book of Discipline is imperfect. Thought needs to be given, I believe, to improvements, particularly in the area of providing protection and care for those who have been harmed by the sins of others. And even the best book is administered by imperfect people.

Yet, I am grateful that we do have a Book of Discipline. And I am thankful for faithful officers who seek to honor the name of Christ, provide protection for those harmed, promote the purity of the church, and reclaim the sinner. Church discipline, done well, is pastoral.

Message to young parents

One of the unexpected joys of being a pastor is being asked to send out an anonymous email as follows:

Dear brothers and sisters,
Someone, no longer quite so young, asked me to sent the following to the parents of young children in the congregation, but to withhold his name. I asked, and received, permission to send it to the entire email list of the congregation. My immediate impression: the author understands God’s faithfulness to the promises (and responsibilities) of the covenant. I am grateful for his prayers.


To all the dear children of Christ’s church at Trinity that are raising young ones: you are never outside of our beloved Lord’s sight and rarely outside of our prayers. Raising young ones to the Lord is the highest calling in this life. You may not see that right now “stuck” at home all day with rambunctious children, mothers, but your warfare is not in vain. You indeed are greatly loved by God, and raising the next generation of covenant children is your life’s work-which will never end; though it will change. Do not despair you fathers who work in a job you really don’t want to do and barely pays the bills. When you go home tired from your day and have to summon up that smile and cheer for your wife: know that she feels the exact same way. Go ahead and change that diaper or discipline that child with the same joy in the Lord your wife deserves: you are are both fighting the same fight and your warfare is not in vain.    

You are all loved by us, and those of us who have gone before you know and understand.

John W. Mahaffy, PastorTrinity Presbyterian Church of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

The Balance of Scripture

When faced with an unbiblical, or even anti-Christian, emphasis in the world around us, the church is sometimes tempted simply to move in the opposite direction. But that runs the danger of adopting an equally unbiblical approach. The church needs to be guided by Scripture. And she needs to reflect the balance of the Word of God.

In 1988 the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church received a committee report on “Women in Office.” Although a basic question that the committee was asked to study involved the qualifications for holding ordained office in the church, the report explores foundational teaching of the Word regarding the relationship of men and women. 30+ years down the road a few of the the questions the church faces have changed — somewhat. The principles of the Word remain unchanged, however.

Because the report strives to be faithful to Scripture, reflecting its balance, I find it still to be a very helpful resource. Near the beginning of the report, introducing a section on Foundational Considerations, is a helpful, balanced, reminder

Because the report strives to be faithful to Scripture, reflecting its balance, I find it still to be a very help resource. Near the beginning of the report, introducing a section on Foundational Considerations, is a helpful, balanced, reminder:

“Care must be taken in applying sound hermeneutical principles to the subject of women and church office such that the church does not adopt extracanonical norms for Christian conduct and take patterns from modern society and use them to control the interpretation of Scripture. The Bible is God’s complete and final revelation to man and in its light all disputes ought to be settled (WCF l:X.). In considering the question of women in office we need to be especially careful not to yield to the Zeitgeist of either feminism or male chauvinism which dominate our humanistic age.”