The following is Q&A #2 from Christ the Center, episode 87 on Richard Phillips’ soon-to-be-released title The Masculine Mandate, published by Reformation Trust. In this discussion, Phillips explains the difference between his approach to applying Genesis 2:15 and that of John Eldridge in his best-selling book, Wild at Heart.
Host: I was intrigued by how you unpacked the mandate given to Adam to dress and keep the garden and how they work out in the physical realm of work and whatever labor you’re doing and in regard to your wife and children. It reminded me of the way Murray goes back in Principles of Conduct and roots everything in the creation ordinance. I had never heard that developed as much. Were these things you were reading, or was it just from your own study of Scripture that you were thinking about what was the principal work–what made a man a man, out of Genesis?
Richard Phillips: Well, you know, I mean, for the sake of the people who haven’t read the unpublished book, in Genesis 2:15, God says he placed Adam in the garden, and charged him to work it and keep it, and this book is an exposition of Genesis 2:15, which I’m describing as the masculine mandate. God put him in the garden to work it and keep it.
You know, what got me going on this was the book Wild at Heart. Because the first time I was asked to speak on this stuff, I got a copy of Wild at Heart, because I knew it was a massive best-seller, and I was absolutely mortified to read the first couple of chapters. He actually makes the statement that man was made out of the garden, and so he is undomesticated, and a male’s life is a life long quest to get in touch with your masculine side. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan making a statement like that?
No real men talk that way! “I’m on a quest for my masculinity.” That what life is, because Genesis 2:15 says–this is what he actually says–it’s a classic example of Bizarro hermeneutics–dominating today: God placed him in the garden, therefore he belongs out of the garden! And the way to get in touch with your masculine self is to get out of the place where God put you, and, as I put it in the book–I think you gotta think in these terms–you know, God placed Adam in the created, covenantal world with God-given relationships, duties and obligations. And Eldridge says, no no, you gotta go on a wilderness quest–ego trips, basically–self-quest. He actually goes so far as to say that Jesus’ forty days’ fast in the wilderness was Jesus seeking his masculine identity. I was just utterly horrified!
Well, I started reflecting on it, and I started thinking well he is right that this verse is paradigmatic. But it’s the exact opposite of what he’s teaching.
And I think, you know, two or three years ago, I did some men’s conferences, I just said, “Hey, let’s look at Genesis 2:15.” And I’m well aware that people are reading this book. I got my first copy of Wild at Heart, when an elder at my church (not this church) handed me a copy–how great the book was, and we need to buy the DVD curriculum of Wild at Heart to show all of our men.
Well, I read the book, and I go ballistic! But it occurs to me that he’s right that Genesis 2:15 is a very important statement. That’s what got me going in this direction. . .
. . . to be continued.