10 December 2011

Book Review

The Resolution for Men by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick, Randy Alcorn, and Lawrence Kimbrough

Here’s another book I won’t ever read in its entirety.  It was a good run; I got to page 76.  Then I read this:

So lead your wife by serving her well.

The Resolution is, as I had initially suspected, just another piece of “man up” SoCon religious propaganda.  This was somewhat disappointing, as the book had a rather compelling start, but it is absolutely useless for providing any advice for men in regards to leading one’s wife.  Ironically, in so many ways, men would be better off with Athol Kay’s book instead of this claptrap.

The biggest problem with telling men to lead their wives by serving them, aside from the technical impossibility of this command, is that this concept is inherently unbiblical, at least in the sense of actually being found in the Bible.  Surprisingly, there are only three commands in the New Testament given to men regarding how men should treat their wives.  They are:

1. Only have sex with your wife and don’t deprive her of it (I Cor. 7:1-4).  In the context of the passage, Paul is addressing husbands and wives who had a tendency to deprive each other, which he forbade, except by consent for a time (v. 5). Incidentally, the word translated “benevolence” in verse 3 (eunoia) was used as a euphemism for conjugal relations, and Paul refers to deprivation of sexual relations as “fraud.”  Interestingly, Paul even concedes that this is advice, and not a binding command from God (v. 6)

2.  Love your wife (Eph. 5:23, 33; Col. 3:19).  The word translated “love” in each of these three verses (agapao) refers not to sexual desire (eros) but to the highest form of love:  moral love.  In this case, love means that one seeks what is in the best interest of the recipient (in a sense, regardless of whether the recipient of that love wants it or not).  This particular form of love has spiritual overtones in the New Testament.  The application of these commands, then, is that the husband must do what is best for his wife.  Note that this command does not in any way imply submission or compliance to one’s wife.

3.  Dwell with your wives according to knowledge and give them honor as unto the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7).  The exact meaning of this phrase is unknown.  The language of the former part of the verse indicates that husbands and wives are to dwell together in the same abode, and that men need to understand the general differences between men and women, in terms of roles and abilities.  The phrase “giving them honour” [KJV] would be better rendered as “understand their value” (cf. Gen 2:20-25).  In a sense, Peter is arguing that their relative fragility is evidence of their value, and so women should not be viewed with contempt but with concern.  In many ways, hating women for being weaker than men is like hating crystal for being weaker than Tupperware.

And that’s it; there are no other commands given to husbands about how they act towards their respective wives.  One could argue that, per Eph. 5:22-33, that the wives’ expected submission to their husbands would imply that the man should lead, but that general expectation seems to be implied in the command to love one’s wife.  Beyond that, though, husbands have no other moral obligations to their wives beyond what was described above.*

And yet, Resolution only quotes 1 Peter—and selectively at that—and somehow manages to come to the entirely erroneous conclusion that “giving honor” somehow means serving her.  Worse, as mentioned before, this servility is called leadership.  And that’s when I was finished with the book.

Beyond that, the book’s actual usefulness is not necessary.  James Dobson’s works on parenting is more specific and helpful than what’s found in Resolution.  Furthermore, a lot of the assertions made in the book are inherently tautological, which means that it is assumed that those receiving the message of the book already agree with it.  And given that the main message of this book appears to be that men need to step up and solve the world’s problems (by doing as conservative religious leaders say), they may as well title this thing “How To Be A Better, Sexless Beta.”

As can probably be guessed, we here at Le Cygne Gris do not endorse The Resolution for Men.  The book is peppered with vague, tautological exhortations to “man up,” which apparently means to assume more responsibility, regardless of whether a) you can** and b) it actually belongs to you.  These exhortations are occasionally unbiblical, occasionally illogical and ignorant, and often irrelevant.  As such, no one need waste their time reading it.

*  Unless you’re especially dense, it should be obvious I’m referring to the a husband’s moral obligation in the context of marriage.

** For some reason, SoCons do not seem to realize that not all women want their (ex-)husbands back in their lives after a divorce, and so they file for sole custody (along with child support and often alimony), so the command to reconnect with one’s children may not always be legally possible.

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