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Review of Michael Foster & Dominic Bnonn Tennant: “It’s Good to Be a Man”

June 18, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following book review appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant, It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity, Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2021, 2022.

The title of Michael Foster and Dominic Bnonn Tennant’s book, It’s Good to Be a Man, may not have made sense had it been published twenty or thirty years ago. But times have changed. Rampant fatherlessness and cultural headwinds have men questioning not only what it means to be a man, but whether it’s worth being one at all. 

This is why Foster and Tennant have not set out to write a timeless book, but “a timely one” (x), one addressing current issues. While It’s Good to Be a Man is for the same audience as previous books aimed at Christian men, the books of decades past shared an assumption that can no longer be granted: that it’s okay, or even good, to be masculine. Foster and Tennant go further back and start there.


Foster and Tennant have written a useful guide that understands the times, and there are many things to appreciate. For one, they grasp the role of nature in understanding manhood — that men are, by nature, built to lead: “Male rule is natural, and so it is inevitable…because it is natural, it cannot be destroyed—but it can be twisted” (5). The question is not whether men will lead, but what kind of men will lead and how they will do so. Would that this were widely acknowledged.

Second, they give strong, sound counsel throughout the book. For example, an entire chapter calls men to cultivate gravitas as a masculine virtue. Lest that be too abstract, the following chapter describes what gravitas looks like. Positively, it looks like growing in wisdom, workmanship, and strength (145–49). Negatively, it calls men to stop seeking praise, stop being self-deprecating, stop complaining, stop making excuses, and stop breaking promises (150–52). Any man would do well to listen to such exhortations. 

Third, Foster and Tennant extol the ancient paths of marriage, fatherhood, and work. Their chapter on fatherhood is especially helpful, as they see the absence of fathers to be the source of so many cultural ills. They use the phrase “clueless bastards” to refer to the young men who grew up without good fathers, rightly claiming that “the collapse we face today is primarily caused by clueless bastards who don’t know how to be fathers—upholders of order. And they don’t know this, because they have not had fathers” (113). They cite both data and Scripture to show how a good father is an unparalleled force for good, and urge those without good examples to find a good church and emulate the godly men there. Amen all around. 

While I would recommend the book — and have already referenced it positively in conversations with people in my church — I would not recommend it without qualification. The problems fit into two categories: theology and precision.

Theological Problem

Many evangelicals were sharpened by the Trinitarian conversation of 2016 and chastened not to play fast and loose with appeals to theology proper. Unfortunately, It’s Good to Be a Man runs afoul on a similar point. Foster and Tennant do not appeal to distinctions within the Godhead — which was at issue in 2016 — but rather to the distinction between God as Creator and his creation.

Understanding the Creator-creature distinction is vital for faithful doctrine. If that line of distinction gets blurry, there will be, and have been, negative theological consequences. It is not that the distinction between Creator and creature gets blurred in It’s Good to Be a Man, but that it gets misapplied: 

Man is the image of God; yet also, male and female are an image of the creator and creation. . . . the principle of male and female doesn’t originate in Adam and Eve, but in God and creation. . . . What happens when [man] denies the distinction between God and creation? He continues following the devil in confusing, denying, and ultimately trying to obliterate the image of that divide (61, emphasis original).    

If I understand the claims correctly, Foster and Tennant argue that the distinction between men and women is akin to the distinction between Creator and creature. Why is this problematic? Because the distinction between God and his creation is absolute — there is an ontological chasm between God and man that finds no parallel among image bearers. Further, the Creator-creature distinction, in addition to highlighting the superiority of God over his creation, actually accentuates the similarities between men and women, not their differences: both bear the divine image, both are given the creation mandate, and both reside on the “creature” side of the distinction. 

It is, therefore, a misuse of the Creator-creature distinction to say that it is imaged in the difference between men and women. 

In addition to being a misuse of the category, this appeal is also unnecessary. Scripture already supplies metaphors that describe the distinction between men and women. For example, the Bible claims that a husband’s relationship to his wife images God’s relationship to his people (Is. 54:4–8; Eph. 5:22–33). The Bible also claims that a husband’s headship images the Father’s headship over Christ with respect to his mediatorial office (1 Cor. 11:3). However, these are images of roles and relationship, not ontology. The Creator-creator distinction is not given to highlight relational truths — the way these images are — but ontological ones. 

This theological misapplication could go badly in the wrong hands. If a husband believes himself to be as superior to his wife as the Creator is to his creation, it is not hard to imagine poor outcomes. Foster and Tennant are right to emphasize the important and underappreciated differences between men and women, but the Creator-creature distinction is not the way to do it.

Precision Problem

The second problem has to do with the way the book is written. Specifically, the consistent overstatements, generalizations, and lack of precision all undermine what the book aims to do.

For example, consider these statements from the book:

  • “Feminism reigns in the Church” (ix). 
  • “Most Christians today spend very little time in Genesis. When they are not actively embarrassed by it, they are indifferent to it” (18).
  • “This is a point lost in modern Christianity, where the focus is almost exclusively on the model of Jesus in the gospels” (23).
  • “Men today…reserve sharp cuts exclusively for those who call us to imitate the whole Christ” (25).
  • “The Western Church is overwhelmingly comprised of women—of both sexes” (86).
  • “The Church has for centuries emphasized wisdom…always seeking respectability in the academic world and fearing to be cool-shamed for thinking God’s ‘backwards’ thoughts” (149). 
  • “The Church has betrayed you for a kiss” (160).

My issue is not with strong speech or a sharp tone, but with precision. How does one establish whether feminism “reigns” in the church? And on what basis can an author claim that “most Christians” are “indifferent” to the book of Genesis? And in what ways has “the Church” “always” sought respectability or betrayed men for a kiss? 

At best, these are overstatements that cannot be proven. At worst, some of them come awfully close to slandering the bride of Christ. Additionally, these kinds of generalizations are at odds with the virtuous, temperate, measured, self-controlled, and gracious speech that should mark men and that Proverbs commends (e.g., Prov. 10:19; 17:27; 22:11).

There are other matters of precision that could be mentioned, such as the lack of clarity over whether the dominion part of the creation mandate is given to men and women or to men only. At times, the authors affirm that Genesis 1:26–28 is given to both men and women, yet at other times the emphasis is that dominion is given to men. These statements are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they were not clarified and explained. There are also occasional appeals to men-as-victim that are counterproductive. But these problems are less worrisome than the others.


The strengths of It’s Good to Be a Man outweigh the weaknesses, but the weaknesses are not to be overlooked. I commend Foster and Tennant for writing a guide that addresses the issues men are facing, but a more carefully written book would have better accomplished the task.

Matt Damico is the pastor of worship and operations at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville.

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