I was listening to a local Christian radio station where Mr. Patrick Morley was being interviewed about this book. I liked what I heard and ordered it. Better yet... I like what I have been reading. I recommend this book to every man.
An important contribution to Biblical masculinity.
January 2, 2013
The author of Man Alive is a smart guy. Dr. Morley graduated from Harvard, Oxford and completed a stint at Reformed Theological Seminary. Yet he is better known for the ministry he created, The Man in the Mirror, which strategically focuses on biblical masculinity.
He begins this book with one of his many inspiring stories, directing the reader to his thesis statement: Every man has seven primal, instinctive needs (each need is unpacked within a specific chapter). Morley believes that most men they lead "lukewarm, stagnant, often defeated lives". Because these primal needs are neglected, men default into physical isolation and spiritual indifference. This book grandly proclaims that it will bring hope, healing and practical help for such a man.
I am pleased to state that Dr. Morley succeeds in his literary purpose. Each chapter is embedded with sagely advice and anecdotal offerings. In addition, each of the seven primal needs are addressed with levity and simplistic language. It is clear that the author is sensitive to his audience and seeks to walk with the reader, rather than bark instructions from the sideline.
An example of this is found in chapter four, Created for a Life of Purpose. Morley states that men have a primal need to "believe that my life has a purpose and that my life is not random". To elucidate his point, the author draws from his experience as a successful businessman. Yet after the euphoria of success wore off, he was miserable. Broken and humbled, God graciously revealed his Big Holy Audacious Goal (BHAG, as Morley calls it): It is for My children to become My disciples. The integration of the big Story and Morley's story is compelling with obvious implications for the reader.
Lastly, chapter two is worth the price of the book. Through anecdotes and focused orthopraxy, the author unpacks the profound truth Ã¢â¬Ëthat you and I are wired by God with an instinct to be in authentic relationships'. In other words, isolation is bad and community is good. Excellent, practical stuff.
I am little surprised at the way the author use of certain biblical texts. In chapter one, Morley endeavors to show the difference between a successful Christian and an unsuccessful Christian. He points the reader to The Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13) and states,
"Most men today would recognize themselves in the first three soils, where the seeds don't grow. Yet they honestly want to be like the good soil_..What is keeping men's lives hard, rocky, and choked with thorns when so many urgently want more and when God created us for moreÃ¢â¬âmuch more?" (p.10)
The problem with Morley's use of this passage is that the three seeds symbolize false or undetermined faith, not explicitly weak or stunted faith. In other words, Jesus doesn't comment of spiritual position of the three seeds. Some will prove to have embraced self-deception, bearers of the bad fruit. To give no warning to the readers of their possible self-deception is an unfortunate omission.
But a more tragic example of this is Morley's use of the Sadducees in Matthew 22 to buttress his point. He states,
"Jesus gave us an insight when He was speaking to a group of confused religious men. He said, "Your mistake is that you don't know the Scriptures, and you don't know the power of God. (Matthew 22:29). Do you see it? Jesus made a direct connection between knowing the Bible and leading a powerful life." (p.11)
Now I strongly applaud the author's emphasis on the priority of "knowing the scriptures" and drawing the connection that this spiritual discipline will produce a life of power. This is certainly a biblical concept. Yet to use a Sadducee as an example is reckless. The Sadducees were a group of religious elite who denied the concept of resurrection. Matthew repeatedly put the Pharisees and Sadducees in the same group and denounced them both (Matt. 16:6). Again, to call them anything other than spiritually dead and blind is to ignore the plain implications of the text. Yet the baffling part is that later in the book Dr. Morley acknowledges the dangers of easy believism and cautions his readers.
"But there is a caution. Receiving Jesus, having your sins forgiven, and receiving the gift of eternal life is easy, but only if it's sincere." (p. 58)
Overall, Man Alive is a worthy contributor to the genre of biblical masculinity. I would encourage the use of this book in a small group dialogue (with a discerning leader) or as a gift to a spiritually indifferent man.
Men, are you feeling like you were meant for more? If so, what's blocking you from being more? Is it because you feel as if you're in a lukewarm existence? Do you have feelings of defeat?
As men, do we try to fail intentionally? I wouldn't think so, but when we accept feelings like we're standing alone while life rushes around us or accepting defeat due to our own destructive behaviors it seems that we DO intend to fail. Patrick Morley's Man Alive, he lays out in truth seven primal needs of a man. In his book, Mr. Morley helped me see a significant difference between a man accepting a mediocre life and a man coming alive to be what God intended him to be. We have a choice as we draw closer to God. We can choose to be discouraged by life and the lies Satan uses against us or we can choose to be ALIVE and claim victory through God's promises. Patrick Morley follows each chapter with questions to reflect and ponder that may cause you to ask questions of yourself that dig deeper than you may be accustomed to. I felt a stirring inside of me. It was a feeling that's been absent due to my own daily choices. Do you want to be ALIVE or do you want to live in a meek existence? I chose to become ALIVE_
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
I must admit that I took this book with a bit of an ulterior motive. When you hear a title like Man Alive! it makes you think that what is going to emerge is some hierarchical/complementarian reading of the text meant to prove why men are awesome and women should stay at home and make dinners for their awesome husbands. A subtitle like, "Transforming your 7 primal needs..." doesn't help with that picture much either. As an egalitarian I didn't have high hopes for this book.
So with a mixture of fear (what is this book going to say) and excitement (I can't wait to blast it) I set into reading the latest book by Patrick Morley. Morley attempts to identify basic needs that men have that keep them from reaching their full potential. Morley's list highlights the following: community, being loved by God, meaning and purpose, freedom from oppression, connection with God, deep love and connection with another person, and leaving a lasting contribution to this world.
I agree with his list. I liked his action steps. They were mostly free of the male machismo that is typically found in these types of books. He highlights things like being part of a genuine community, taking time for fellowship, spending time with family, the sacredness of all life/vocation and opening up in love to others in the world. I can support those claims.
I don't agree with his premise that this is something uniquely masculine. To his credit he did eventually identify that these needs were a universal desire but it just took too long to get that stated. It would have been a better premise had he stated early on, "These are seven desires that every person has. I want to show how men can identify with these and live in greater fulfillment."
One of my greatest joys in life is spending time with my kids. I love our one on one times. I long for more Ã¢â¬Ëdaddy daughter date-nights' which include hamburgers, a play place, a night away from work and my daughters love, giggles and awesome stories. But doesn't my wife like those sorts of things too?
The problem, in general, is that we tend to associate Ã¢â¬Ëmanhood' with things like anger, aggression and superiority. It was one of my critiques with this article. Is that really what we want manhood to be about?
There were a couple of times that Morley came close to stating a complementarian view only to back away. I felt a bit played with wondering where he was going to go at times, but on the whole was please with his outcome. Here is an example:
"Jesus changed the world by inviting twelve men to join a small group. That was his strategy - to invest in men who would invest in other men." (page 34)
At this point in time I begin wondering, "Sure, but what about all of the women Jesus invested in? He discipled them too!" Morley concluded the paragraph by saying:
"Jesus understood that most meaningful change takes place in the context of small group relationships." (page 34)
I get what he is trying to say. His target audience is men. He leads a small group for men. He's well known as a writer to men and he tries to help them connect on a deeper level to God and be better husbands, fathers and neighbors. But what about small group life (community) is inherently masculine? It's these sorts of comments that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Like I said earlier, he would eventually admit (towards the end of the book) that these basic feelings are present in everyone but it took too long for that view to come out.
But on the whole Morley stays away from those polarizing ideas. Our Ã¢â¬Ëprimal' (his word) or Ã¢â¬Ëbasic' (my word) instincts are to say that there is more to this life than can easily be explained away. We desire to connect with something deeper and outside of ourselves. We intuitively sense that there is more to this life that we are often told. A desire to know that God loves you, not just tolerates you, is something felt by everyone. A better acknowledgment of that up front would have made for a better focus later in the book.
Overall: 3/5 stars. It's not a bad read. It's quick, clear and has group discussion questions. Comments above considered I could see this book being useful and helpful to a group of men.
Recommend: Yes, but cautiously. It really would need to be in the right group to work. The leader of the group would have to easily point out the dangers of thinking in terms of hierarchy and steer the group away from that. This isn't about being a dominating and aggressive man; it is about developing relationship in authentic community with people that what to know and be known by Jesus.
Disclaimer: I reviewed a free copy of this book through the BloggingForBooks program offered by WaterBrook Multnomah publishing. I was in no way compensated for this review and all views are solely and completely my own. I was not required to offer a positive review either through the publisher or author.
Here's a winning addition to the growing shelves of Christian books for men. There's no lack of need since men as a general rule are lagging behind in spiritual advancement. Frankly, we need the help.
Mr. Morley talks a language you can understand. It's where we live-good or bad. He says "_as many as 90 percent of Christian men lead lukewarm, stagnant, often defeated lives. They're mired in spiritual mediocrity-and they hate it." True on both counts, wouldn't you agree?
The book arranges around what he calls the seven primal needs of men. You might think some of them selfish, or addressing brokenness, but they are undeniably the fabric of men's lives. We don't want to live life alone despite the male tendency for aloof isolation. Our actions, like being swallowed by a career, pull us away from meeting our real need. See the difference in approach? Not spend time with your family because it's a good thing, but because it meets your own deepest needs. We so often misunderstand ourselves.
In our complete misunderstanding we run from God and the fellowship of other believers in a local church when that is our very need. We need the "transforming" mentioned in Romans 12:2. He distinguishes between heart transformation and behavior modification. Which do we need? But where do we put our emphasis? No wonder we have such a hard time. Learning that the Father really loves me, individually me, is another. He explains how the tendency for macho behavior among men is at its core just a cover up in this area.
We also must believe our life has purpose. Sadly, most of us do not. He gives practical insight that can help. He progresses to explain our need to break free from destructive behaviors, which likely spring from the aforementioned. Needs 6 and 7 seem, to me, to be found in the earlier mentioned ones, but they are critical enough to be worthy of the extra effort to grasp.The 8th one is a good summary-To make a contribution and make the world a better place. That's not as selfish as it sounds, and I imagine, is where Christ would be glad (on His terms of course) to help us. There's psychology here, but the Bible lurks in the wings as well. I recommend the book.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 .