Book Review: “ Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood” By Nate Pyle (Zondervan, 2015) -- By: Taylor James Murray
Book Review: “
Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood”
By Nate Pyle (Zondervan, 2015)
Taylor James Murray, a graduate of Crandall University and Tyndale Seminary, is currently studying at the Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is a recent contributor to The Encyclopedia of Canadian Religion (forthcoming).
Nate Pyle is a pastor in Fishers, Indiana. His recent book, Man Enough, tackles the question of biblical gender roles from a fresh perspective. His offering is the latest in the recent influx of gender studies in the “spiritual memoir” genre. While authors like Rachel Held Evans (A Year of Biblical Womanhood, 2012) or Sarah Bessey (Jesus Feminist, 2013) have provided important insights on the ongoing complementarian versus egalitarian debate, they have commented largely on how this debate has affected women. This focus is, of course, understandable, given the alarming ways the church has mistreated women for hundreds of years; however, this is only half of the discussion. Pyle focuses on the often-ignored role of men and asks the question, “What makes a man?” Pyle’s study answers this question by demonstrating that Christ’s teaching and example set men (and women) free from the traditional stereotypes.
Pyle’s study hinges on the idea that cultural context informs how one defines “manhood.” Simply put, according to one popular version of society, men should enjoy cars and sports, and they should be warriors, pumping with testosterone. Those who do not fit this mold, or who are unable to participate, are considered “less than.” Additionally, within this definition of manhood is the prerequisite that men must suppress their emotions. Anything that one might construe as weakness is disallowed, lest one’s contemporaries label him “a girl” (32ff.).
According to Pyle, the church has largely endorsed these stereotypes with little to no pushback. Undoubtedly, this cultural depiction of manhood fits some of the men in today’s churches, but it does not fit every man. For some who already feel ostracized, these are impossible standards. This raises a number of important questions: What if the husband is not the primary breadwinner in the family? Do stay-at-home dads fail as men? Pyle argues that one’s definition of manhood should not rest on such standards, rather on one’s identity in Christ. Those who are adopted as children of God should feel free from the pressure to prove that they are “real men”—Christ frees believers from these unattainable standards (42-43; cf. Gal 3:28).
In his assessment of the church, Pyle addresses major biblical passages that deal with purported gender roles. He observes that the qualifications found in
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