Title: How God Makes Men
Author: Patrick Morley
Publisher: Multnomah Books
[The FCC is convinced that you may somehow be led astray if I do not inform you that I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for this thoroughly unbiased and fair review of this book. I hope this helps you sleep better.]
There is a passage of Scripture found in 1 Corinthians 10 that says this: "Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of all the ages has come" (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 TNIV). I preface my review with this passage because it is important to remember, or to be made aware of, the reasons why the Bible was written and preserved and passed along. We are the beneficiaries of the wisdom of the saints.
A curious thing about books like this and my love/hate relationship with them is that sometimes I simply do not know what to make of them. I often wonder about those authors who take Scripture and reduce it to mere principals for living (or, as in Morley's case, 10 principles for living or making of better men.) Yet there is also this curious notion in Morley's book that 'nothing that happens to us by human decision can ever happen apart from the will of God' (24). That is, Morley seems to believe that, human free-will notwithstanding, everything that happens in this life happens in someway in concert with the will of God. He may not directly cause it, but neither will he necessarily always prevent it.
In Morley's words: "God wants us to know He is in control. He doesn't do 'random.'" (25)
If that is true, then even the fact that I chose this book from the selection list, read it, and am writing this review is not mere coincidence to God, but is something that he planned, or at bare minimum, he knew I would do. So what should I do? Paul says these stories were written down to teach us which seems to validate Morley's (and many, many others') use of Scripture to write about principles for living. Yet, I having this gnawing sense of angst that Scripture points to a much larger idea than can be reduced to mere principle (see Luke 24:27, 44).
But the truth is this: for all the talk about manliness, how God makes men, and the examples we should follow, Morley didn't talk about the one man who gives us the best example of what it means to be a man: Jesus. Oh, don't get me wrong: Morley talks about Jesus, but there's not a single chapter devoted to the example Jesus sets for us men. Maybe this is a good thing because maybe it means that Morley refuses to look at Jesus as mere example we should strive to imitate even though the apostle Paul seems rather convinced that Jesus is the one person we should imitate: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). This seems to be appropriate given what Morley states as his thesis:
Here's the promise of How God Makes Men. And it's a huge one. If you will absorb and embrace the timeless principles offered by these ten men, you can get past the shallow cultural Christianity that wants to gut your manhood and get to–or get back to–a more biblical Christianity.
If you will let these ten men mentor you, then, like them, you will become the man God created you to be. You will release the power of God in every direction and detail of your life. You will know how to sustain the passion of your faith. And you will be well on the way to writing your own epic story. Why? Because God is too good to let our lives merely turn out like we planned. (xiii)
To be sure, the man God wants me to be, according to Patrick Morley, is quite a stout individual. Of that, there can be little or no doubt. If I follow these principles, I will be virtually unconquerable and undefeated; nothing will dominate me. Perhaps this is a good thing, but maybe I will never know in this lifetime.
If I set aside my qualms about how authors us the Bible, I can safely say that I really enjoyed this book. As I noted above, I don't think I was reading it by accident and thus, it truly spoke to me in many places. It helped me understand, frankly, that it is quite alright to be ordinary, quite alright to struggle, quite alright to have bad days, and quite alright to thoroughly miss God's point time and time again. Morley said it this way: "…God is more interested in the success of our character than the success of our circumstances" (42). Funny thing is that the preacher I listened to this morning made a startlingly similar comment about the Christian and character.
Another significant aspect of this book is that even though I have my reservations, the book is thoroughly grounded in Scripture. Morley spends a lot of time in the Scripture in this book and I did and do appreciate that very much. It was refreshing to re-read the stories of Abraham, Gideon, Moses, Nehemiah and others. It was refreshing to have a fresh set of eyes surveying their stories and pointing out aspects that might otherwise be overlooked or disregarded.
Finally, it is also important to note that Morley spends a lot of time calling men out of themselves an into ministry. Now, I don't think he necessarily means that every man who reads this book is going to enter into full-time, paid, 'professional' ministry. But I do think he means that every man is called to be used uniquely by God in some small or large part of the world. This seems to correspond to something David wrote in Psalm 51: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." Morley's point is that when we go through the sort of trials he describes, we will find that often God is burdening our heart for a certain segment of the population.
I remember when I was a fresh-faced, enthusiastic 25 year-old just out of Bible college. I was eager to preach. That was my burden. Frankly, it is still my burden. So off I went, a day or two after I graduated to the first church that took an interest: far down in the hills of Appalachia to a small town so far from humanity that they bragged about not having a single traffic light in the entire county. I lasted all of a year and a half. About a year later, I was called back to preaching ministry. I lasted another 2 years and some before making a rather difficult transition to a new congregation where I stayed for nearly 10 years.
I am now a public school teacher and scarcely a member of any church let alone the preaching minister. I attribute this, in large part, to the fact that I have had no male leadership in my life. I remember the man who led me to Jesus, who baptized me, and who subsequently vanished afterwards. I gave my life to Jesus in 1983 and from there launched out on a one-man journey. I got lost along the way because I did not have the sort of adult male leadership in my life that was necessary for me to avoid all the pitfalls that have caused me struggle after struggle in my life and have caused failure after failure in my career. I often wonder what my life would be like, what my preaching ministries would have been like, if just one older man had taken me under his wing and treated me like a young christian man who needed guidance and love instead of as an employee that he needed to govern and control.
Fact is, those men have been non-existent in my life and the results have been painful.
It's not easy to become a man. Many young men today have grown up as practical orphans. They've been left to guess at what normal male behavior looks like. The faith of young men is under severe attack. That's where the battle is raging. And frankly, mature Christian men are just not getting the discipleship job done. (153)
So if it is true that nothing happens apart from God's will, then this book came to me according to God's plan and will for my life. And if that is true, and I am leaning in that direction, then it came at the right time because at my age, I still have no adult male leadership in my life. I'm still trying to make sense of it all–on my own. It is still difficult. I'm still waiting. I have a strong suspicion that there are more men my age who have the same sorrows and the same needs and who failed at local church ministry precisely for these reasons.
But I have the books the Lord keeps sending me. This book, How God Makes Men, is a helpful, necessary, and powerful tool. It is an important voice that I needed to hear right here, right now. And with that in mind, maybe there is hope yet that I will become the man God intends for me to be.