Monday, July 5, 2010

LHP Review: Christian Manliness in a Broken World

Bond, Douglas. Fathers and Sons Hold Fast In a Broken World. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008. 285 Pages. Paper. $14.99.  (LHP)

Struthers, William M. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 196 Pages. Paper. $16.00. (LHP)

I've often said that girls are complicated and that boys are gross. Granted, this is an oversimplification of male and female interactions, but it is intended to bring a little levity to tense situations with a nugget of truth.

Men and women are different. Men need strong male mentors. Men are visually oriented. Men are sinful human beings and so are women. Men are tempted to misuse God's gift of headship within a Christian household and God's gift of sexuality which was intended for one man and one woman married to one another until death parts them.

"Douglas Bond’s latest book Hold Fast In a Broken World is a ramped-up call for young men to prepare for stalwart leadership in the family, church, and culture. Hold Fast is a frank discussion of the cultural topics that a young man must biblically master if he is to be the winsome, servant leader of the rising generation. From stem-cell research to abortion, feminism to gay marriage, multiculturalism to death art, Hold Fast will help fathers prepare their sons to live with courage and wisdom in a hostile world, to be strong men who live and die to the glory of God" (publisher's website). 
Douglas Bond is a gifted writer that has a heart for men of this and the next generation. He pulls no punches. Lutheran readers will not be able to miss his Reformed perspective and respect for Calvin and Luther. We will disagree with him on the meaning of "Sabbath" (Chapter 2), yet I must commend the author for his Bibliography and manly Christian hymns (247ff, 249ff).

This is the second volume in this set, the first being Fathers & Sons, Vol. 1: Stand Fast in the Way of Truth, reviewed in QBR 3.3.

Bond's writing is honest, sobering, and necessary because of our broken, sinful world. This is necessary law. Repent. Hear Christ's absolution. Give the young men in your family and life a Christian example to emulate.

I see the need and the opportunity for more volumes in this series or a companion series from P&R.

The second book in this review is also sadly necessary. Porn is a dangerous drug. Satan cannot create new things, so he perverts the good things of God for his own demonic ends. Porn changes how men deal with women. It leads to guilt, denial, and further sin. It wastes time, money, and far too many people. It can lead to other addictions, disappointments, and unreasonable expectations. And it is a sin committed in our own bodies, a temple of the Holy Spirit.

"Pornography is powerful. Our contemporary culture as been pornified, and it shapes our assumptions about identity, sexuality, the value of women and the nature of relationships. Countless Christian men struggle with the addictive power of porn. But common spiritual approaches of more prayer and accountability groups are often of limited help.

"In this book neuroscientist and researcher William Struthers explains how pornography affects the male brain and what we can do about it. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments. By better understanding the biological realities of our sexual development, we can cultivate healthier sexual perspectives and interpersonal relationships. Struthers exposes false assumptions and casts a vision for a redeemed masculinity, showing how our sexual longings can actually propel us toward sanctification and holiness in our bodies.

"With insights for both married and single men alike, this book offers hope for freedom from pornography" (publisher's website).

The author writes as a Christian an as associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He writes from his strengths. My initial and lasting impression is a book heavier on sociology and psychology and brain chemistry than theology. There is a Law focus.

Human wisdom is great at being a scale, a ruler, and rendering a diagnosis on sin. Such struggles with a sin that so easily entangles is not something a man can deal with alone. Accountability is good, but it is a Law approach.

Pastors need more resources and helps in this subject. Thank you to IVP for adding to my list of helps for the men in the congregation I serve. IVP would do well to provide a companion volume focusing more on the pastoral care side of addictions like that of sexual images.

In short, one needs more of the Gospel of Christ. That is the missing ingredient to well-intentioned but Law-based Christian strategies. Reform a sinner and you get a reformed sinner. Educate a sinner and you get a disciplined sinner. Discipline a sinner and you get a disciplined sinner. Forgive a sinner and you get a forgiven sinner who is at the same time a Saint in Christ Jesus.
The Appendices are a good starting place, but fathers, brothers, a good mens' Bible study, an an honest talk with a Biblical Christian pastor are a better way to deal with sin. We need to hear of the forgiveness of sins in Christ.

These two books for men complement one another but are only a part of the picture. Christianity has been seen as a feminine religion due to misunderstandings and subversive cultural motives for the last century. It is time to equip our men in their vocations as manly Christian men, Baptized, Christian Husbands, and Christian Fathers who are Christian Heads of Household. The Word is our only offensive weapon in our struggle against sin, death, the power of the devil, and our own sinful flesh. And that Word should be properly and clearly distinguished between the Law and the Gospel, with the Gospel predominating!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.