How the Other Half Reads: What I Learned from a Book on Manhood

Discovering the universal truth in our gender-specific teachings

Rather than pursuing biblical masculinity in order to reach Christ, men should pursue Christ first and become the men God has already made them to be. This is Pyle’s banner, and it bears a striking resemblance to Hannah Anderson’s conclusion in Made for More. There, she invites women to recover their primary identity as being made in God’s image.

 

Here’s one of my “book confessions”: In relationship guides with separate chapters addressed to men and women, I always read the men’s sections too. Like a teenager peeking in on someone’s diary, it has the forbidden-fruit quality of reading something that isn’t aimed at me. Beyond that, just as men are mystified by the ways of women, we women are also curious about the inner workings of men.

And so, once Nate Pyle’s new book, Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood, arrived on my doorstep, it went straight to the top of the teetering “to-read” pile on my nightstand.

The Indiana pastor addresses the current conception of masculinity in our church and culture, which expect men to prove themselves with strength, productivity, athleticism, and coolness. Pyle identifies the deep feelings of unworthiness that these standards produce in men, often seen in an aggressive competitiveness borne out of their fears of being seen as a “not-man.” Who can live up to our cultural idols of masculinity: the suave appeal of James Bond, the athletic prowess of NBA all-stars?

Pyle confesses that even though he’d lost weight, got a degree, and married a beautiful girl, he still felt his life cracking under this pressure to “man up.” In Man Enough, he recounts the journey through which he learned that the gospel assured him—and assures all of us—that in Christ we are enough.

Manhood, then, is not something to be proved or achieved: it is something to be affirmed as men pursue the example of Jesus, the perfect man. It’s a message Pyle wants every man, starting with his own son, to hear as they pursue courageous, vulnerable leadership.

We do damage if we focus too much on the hyper-masculine swashbuckling, horse-riding Jesus of Revelation or the hypo-masculine children-cuddling chick-gathering Jesus on the mountains outside Jerusalem. Jesus models manhood perfectly, says Pyle, because he modeled personhood perfectly. He demonstrated love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). He had the strength and agency to save the world, and yet also was the most relationally healthy person to have ever lived.

Rather than pursuing biblical masculinity in order to reach Christ, men should pursue Christ first and become the men God has already made them to be. This is Pyle’s banner, and it bears a striking resemblance to Hannah Anderson’s conclusion in Made for More. There, she invites women to recover their primary identity as being made in God’s image. More important than discerning what “women’s roles” are or aren’t, Anderson reminds us that we are first and foremost made in God’s image and, in partnership with men, tasked with caring for creation.

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