The Masculine Journey

The Robert Hicks-Promise Keepers Connection*

The Masculine Journey by Robert Hicks is a classic example of what passes for Biblical teaching in many circles today. Rather than turning to the Bible for truth, Hicks finds a concept in a secular book, then goes to the Scriptures to see if he can find someway to support that concept. Failing at that, he forces the Scriptures to mean whatever he wants in order to accomplish his purpose. He then passes off his views to unsuspecting, and apparently ungrounded professing believers, who swallow every line.

Hicks' book is built on the premise (not found in Scripture and unproven in research) that men pass through (or at least ought to) six stages of life. This theory did not emerge from the study of Scripture, but from secular psychologist Daniel Levinson's book The Seasons of a Man's Life. Hicks then identifies six Hebrew words that he believes dovetail with Levinson's teachings. No Bible scholar would agree with Hicks' exegesis, but that does not stop Promise Keepers from endorsing his book. [See Editor's Note.] Hicks says that males were meant to pass through the following stages: noble savage; phallic (sexual); warrior; wounded; maturity; and mentor.

Since Hicks develops his thoughts through a combination of personal experience, psychological theories, and Biblical principles. his views are a mixture of a great deal of error mixed with just enough truth to deceive poorly taught professing Christians. Space does not permit a thorough critique of The Masculine Journey (see BDM's report on Promise Keepers for more detail), but we will attempt to point out a few of the more obvious areas of concern:

1) Hicks' primary resources are secular psychologists, etc. His book is full of references to Freud, Jung, Levinson, Margaret Mead, Gail Sheehy, etc.

2) Hicks all but glorifies war and violence that is characteristic of his warrior stage. In addition, he does not recognize the element of pride that is behind much of this conflict. For example, he says with approval, "To be a male warrior is to be characterized by strength, competing to be superior, using one's energy to be prominent, or vying to be important or to gain significance" (p. 77). The believer might think of James 4:1-3 in light of such a statement.

3) Borrowing from Robert Bly (secular men's movement leader) and Carl Jung (demon-possessed contemporary of Freud), Hicks claims that, "In order for men to discover what manhood is all about, they must descend into the deep places of their own souls and find their accumulated grief" (p. 99). Nowhere in Scripture is anything like this taught, but it has become a fad, thanks to the writings of Larry Crabb (see Inside Out).

4) Hicks clearly has a low view of Scripture. The most blatant example of this is found on page 114: "I call the Psalms of David the musings of a manic-depressive."

5) Hicks also soft pedals sin. In an interesting paragraph concerning "Christian" homosexuals, Marxists, and Catholics that he has known, rather than confronting such people, he confesses, "I have learned that the way to look at God or the world is not necessarily through the lens or categories I currently believe are the correct ones" (p. 134). And in an incredible statement on page 177, Hicks says, "I'm sure many would balk at my thought of celebrating the experience of sin. I'm not sure how we could do it. But I do know we need to do it. For, example, we usually give the teenagers in our churches such a massive dose of condemnation regarding their first experience with the police, or their first drunk, or their first experience ... with sex or drugs. Maybe we could look upon this as a teachable moment and a rite of passage. Is this putting a benediction on sin? Of course not, but perhaps at this point the true elders could come forward and confess their own adolescent sins and congratulate the next generation for being human" (p. 177). Can you imagine someone who claims to be a Christian suggesting that we should congratulate the young person who has committed fornication or gotten drunk because he is simply being human? Unbelievable!!

6) Hicks writes, "If ever we needed to initiate the wounded in our midst it is now. We need to recognize a man's divorce, or job firing, or major health problem, or culpability in some legal or sexual indiscretion, as a wound to which we show deference as a part of the male journey" (p. 178). (Emphasis added.) The word deference means "honor, reverence, veneration, acclaim, homage, esteem, courtesy." So, Hicks is suggesting that we should honor, reverence, venerate, esteem, etc., the things he listed when they happen in a man's life. Included in these things we should venerate, reverence, esteem, and pay homage to are legal and sexual indiscretions. Rather than looking on them as sin we should reverence them. We should honor them. We should venerate them. We should esteem them. We should look on them as rites of passage along the masculine journey. Incredible!

7) Hicks has an obsession with the male sex organ. He writes, "We are called and addressed by God in terminology that describes who and what we are -- zakar , phallic males. Possessing a penis places unique requirements upon men before God in how they are to worship Him. We are called to worship God as phallic kinds of guys, not as some sort of androgynous, neutered non-males, or the feminized males so popular in many feminist-enlightened churches. We are told by God to worship Him in accordance with what we are, phallic men" (p. 49). This is the language of pagan religionists, not the Bible!

8) Hicks makes numerous erroneous statements about male sexuality. Claiming that the second stage of manhood is the phallus (penis) stage (p. 48), Hicks goes on to state, "The phallus has always been the symbol of religious devotion and dedication" (p. 51). And, "Improper teaching on the phallus will drive men into sexual sins because their spiritual God-hunger is not satisfied. Sexual energy is essentially spiritual" (p. 55). (This is teaching from the demon worshipers in India; it's called TANTRA sex yoga.) Again, "Our sexual problems only reveal how desperate we are to express, in some perverted form, the deep compulsion to worship with our phallus" (p. 56).

9) Hicks claims that what keeps men moving along this "masculine" journey is having some other male mentors in their lives and seeing Jesus as the primary voice of God in each stage. "Jesus ... was the second Adam ... was very much human ... was also very much zakar , phallic. ... I believe Jesus was phallic with all the inherent phallic passions we experience as men" (pp. 180-181). [This seems to be either the result of Freudian brainwashing or hanging out in locker rooms. Either way, it's blasphemous (4/94, The Berean Call).]

10) Hicks has a blasphemous view of Christ. He claims that Jesus experienced homosexual temptation (p. 181)! Even a cursory study of Rom 1:18ff would reveal Hicks' abominable error.

11) More blasphemy -- the movie The Last Temptation of Christ is referred to in a positive light! Claiming that Jesus is a "phallic male," Hicks says Jesus "may have thought about it as the movie ... portrays" (p. 181) -- referring to Jesus thinking about having sexual relations with a woman! But doesn't Hicks' suggestion make Jesus guilty of the sin of lust, thereby embracing the movie's blasphemy? In fact, the movie portrayed graphic sexual desire, not merely temptation.

The Masculine Journey Study Guide

Hicks obsession with the phallus carries over to the Study Guide to be used in small group studies along with The Masculine Journey. Here are a couple of "Bible" study activities that the groups are to enjoy as they discuss their phallic, or sexual side:

1) The leaders are first warned that if the men in the group are having problems talking openly and with empathy to each other about their sex lives, they are to stop and talk about why they are having difficulty (p. 32). (And you wondered why so many men suddenly wanted to go to Bible studies.)

2) After the leaders get beyond that hurdle, here is one of the discussion questions: "Our culture has presented many initiation rites, or passages to manhood, that are associated with the phallus. Which ones have you experienced? Do you have a story to share with the other men about one such event? Some examples are: When were you potty trained and when did you stop wetting the bed? Pubic hair and growth. An unfortunate experience with pornography. My first dating experience. My first really embarrassing moment with a girl. The wedding night. Conceiving my first child."

3) Another activity starts out like this: "Man's primary fantasy is 'having access to as many beautiful women as desired without risking rejection,'" says Warren Farrell, who polled 106,000 men and women from all walks of life. Farrell also tabulated many secondary fantasies, some of which are listed here. From these options choose the one that best completes the sentence for you: 'The daydream, wishful thinking, or primary fantasy that recurs for me is. ...'"

Does this stuff sound like Bible study or Freudian psychology? Isn't it interesting that Christian men can be united as they practice and apply godless theories from godless men, but they cannot discuss the Word of God!


Promise Keepers' stated purpose is to move men toward Christ-like masculinity. But PK does not understand how to do this. Maturity is not developed through pep rallies, psychological teachings, and sharing. It is developed though the application of the truth of God's Word (i.e., doctrine). However, to PK, doctrine divides, and should be shunned. Their philosophy is well stated by Robert Hicks: "I am often amazed at how God sometimes uses secular sources to communicate His truth better than Christian ones" (p. 162). But you cannot create godliness by going around the Word of God and seeking out the latest pop-wisdom of men. This is one of Promise Keepers greatest error.

BDM Note: The following is excerpted and/or adapted from the July-August 1996, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter:

Is it true that Promise Keepers is backing away from an enthusiastic support of Robert Hicks' book, The Masculine Journey? It may appear so at first glance. For an extended period of time, Promise Keepers provided a seven-page letter supporting The Masculine Journey to those who requested it. However, shortly after our article ("Promise Keepers Still Endorses The Masculine Journey) went to press in 3/96, they replaced the seven-page support letter with a brief statement, which said: "Promise Keepers no longer distributes the book The Masculine Journey by Robert Hicks, published in 1993 by NavPress."

After admitting that Promise Keepers distributed (gave) the book to every man who attended PK's 1993 national men's conference, the rest of that statement simply talked about Promise Keepers rather than about The Masculine Journey. No warning, apology, or repudiation of the book could be seen.

As of 6/17/96, Promise Keepers has begun to supply yet another position statement regarding The Masculine Journey. The current statement says: 

"Several passages in The Masculine Journey by Robert Hicks (1993, NavPress) could be understood in more than one way. Some of the content of the book has unfortunately lent itself to a wide range of interpretations and responses involving theological issues which Promise Keepers does not feel called to resolve." 

The statement continues to say that they don't want these unforeseen controversies to detract from the focus of Promise Keepers.

After again saying that they no longer distribute the book, they state: 

"At the same time, we believe Mr. Hicks' core theology is consistent with orthodox evangelical Christianity, and that The Masculine Journey was a forthright attempt on his part to deal with male issues from a biblical context." (Emphasis added.)

Unfortunately, the organization only seems to be trying to avoid further controversy over the book. There is still no hint of warning, apology, or repudiation. Any fair reader of Promise Keepers' present statement on The Masculine Journey would have to conclude that Promise Keepers still supports The Masculine Journey ! The fact that leaders of Promise Keepers were involved in the development of the book, identified it as a Promise Keepers book, and gave a copy to every man who attended the 1993 PK national men's conference reveals the psychological foundations of the movement. Until Promise Keepers makes a definitive statement confessing the error of being involved in the development of the book The Masculine Journey, as well as of promoting and distributing it, they must be held culpable. [Return to Text]

* Portions of this report have been excerpted and/or adapted from an article by Pastor Gary Gilley in the 2/95 Southern View Chapel (now Think On These Things) newsletter; and from an article in the June/July 1997 Think On These Things.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 8/97