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Made in His Image by John MacDonald, Sonship Ministries, 2020. Available here.

I liked this book, a lot. 5 stars. Despite having read many books on the issue of women in the church and home, Made in His Image has a unique approach that resonated with me. It is written in a conversational and down-to-earth style; the author John MacDonald is real and relatable. In fact, the book begins as he shares some of his personal story, highlighting how he lacked good male role models in his youth in regards to how to view and treat women.

The first section of the book focuses on the misogyny and sexism that is sadly prevalent in our world. While there is a surface appearance of equality (after all, women did gain various rights in the 20th century), there remains an underlying but potent current of sexism. The church, rather than leading the way in equality, has found itself (historically and presently) embroiled in inequality. In case anyone doubts that misogyny is still alive and well, various examples are given. MacDonald also shares how misogyny hurts men too, and we’ve ended up with a broken masculinity – one chapter entitled “Masculinity Lost” – men having to suppress aspects of who they are. (More on that below.)

While this is a distinctly Christian book, I feel like an unbeliever or nominal Christian could get pulled into the book, relating to MacDonald’s story and the examples of sexism in our world. That’s a good thing! The book flows, and slowly builds on itself. Certain issues are touched on early in the book, and later brought up again – not in a repetitive way – but expanding on the issue after groundwork was laid and the reader more prepared to delve into it.

The book focuses on the opening chapters of Genesis considerably, often referring to them in one way or another, because this is where we learn how things were once right in the world but then went terribly wrong. Genesis 3:15 is a theme in regards to the enmity between Satan and the woman. I saw this satanic element pointed out by another author, but MacDonald really develops it in a way that I have not seen in other books. Even as Christians, we can downplay the spiritual world, and we do so to our peril. Satan is a real entity and enemy. In regards to this, MacDonald states:

“I am convinced that the opposition to femininity and womanhood is driven by spiritual forces in this unseen realm. At the root of it all is a malevolent, spiritual force using misogyny as a tool to divide the human race and destroy the image of God in humanity.” (page 94)

Eventually the book addresses the meaning of woman as helper, and the issues of submission and headship – all areas where there is misunderstanding. The chapters are all brief, so instead of one chapter on submission, there are several. That may sound choppy, but it was not, and I found it effectively kept me reading – not feeling like I was getting bogged down.

MacDonald gets into history, Bible interpretation, and academic concerns – but writes in such a conversational way, explaining things and using helpful analogies, that a person who may not usually appreciate in-depth content should stay interested, continuing to read.

Passages in Timothy and Corinthians are often the first ones to come to our minds (and get the most focus in discussion) about women in the church. These passages are not addressed until the last section of the book. I think MacDonald did this by design. Isn’t it really a bit odd that a couple of isolated passages get so much attention, while so much other relevant biblical content is neglected and overlooked? I think MacDonald skillfully designed his book to counteract this, not dealing with these isolated passages until a bigger biblical picture was presented first.

As I bring this to a close, note the book’s title: Made in His Image. It is emphasized that both men and women are made in the image of God. It took a male and female to reflect our Creator God, and that means God has traits that we’d consider feminine and masculine. Men are men, and women are women, but that does not mean a man can never express “feminine” traits or a woman “masculine” traits. Men can be gentle, and women can be courageous. A situation has been created where men must be at war with themselves, suppressing aspects of their being because it is not deemed masculine, being told to “man up.”  Similarly for women – a woman with certain proclivities can be seen as lacking in femininity.

The book, while maintaining gender distinctions, wants men and women to be free to be the person God created them to be – better able to serve God in their families, churches, communities, and world. Satan fights against this!

This is from a final page of the book: “I long for the day when we see the qualities of the masculine and feminine as qualities which support one another rather than as differing qualities which compete with and hinder the other…I believe each human being can flow in both femininity and masculinity as they embrace those parts of their makeup. We have been at war with ourselves and with each other for too long.” (page 308)

Again, I recommend this book and hope you’ll consider reading it. The reader will also come away with a real sense of God’s great love for each and every one of us, and how Christians should likewise love one another.

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