The New Man (Book Review)

new-manDan Doriani, author, teacher, professor, speaker, and “weekend warrior” is convinced that men can’t “just do it.”  What can’t we do?  We can’t live the Christian life by just exerting more effort keeping a bunch of rules, adhering to some helpful principles, collecting a few more tips, or psyching ourselves up to run across the finish line.  The problem is, we think we can.  And there is no shortage of Christian books marketed to men that feed this lie with more “do more this” and “be more like Jesus.”  But The New Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart is not one of them.  Doriani thinks what Christian men need more than laws, tips, and pep talks is a sanctification in the direction of Jesus.

That sounds trite, but what he means is the Bible speaks to what a real man is—one who has a heart like Jesus.  Like King David, God wants men who are fashioned after God’s heart.  And the way to become more like God is found in the Bible’s way to describing the various dimensions of a man, and in God’s powerfully using his Word in a man’s life to shape his heart as a servant of God.

Doriani devotes a chapter to the typical images of manhood that dominate our American culture.  He explores what it means to be an American Man, and compares him to the Biblical Man.  Actually, there are different types of “American Man” put forward as the ideal.  Tough Guy. Good Provider.  Softer Man. Self-Actualized Man.  All of these templates idolize something good and minimize everything else good compared to Godly Man.  The author writes,

We should identify the strengths and weaknesses of each, without reacting to them.  As we know, when a reaction leads us to swing to the opposite extreme, we simply move from one error to another.  We seek a model that gives us the best chance to start afresh.  We neither baptize our culture by sprinkling a few Bible verses on an essentially secular model, nor reject everything from it.  After all, no culture can thrive if it discards all of God’s ways.  I propose God himself as the model for godly masculinity.  In the cross, Jesus exemplified toughness and self-denial for the sake of others.  In creating the world and redeeming his people, God is the supreme provider.  Like the softer man, Jesus knew how to cry.  Like the self-actualized man, Jesus knew what he wanted to do with his life. [43]

And so the author proceeds to examine the Godly Man as he relates to other people and things.  Companionship and love in marriage.  Children and friends.  A man’s work and his wealth.  A man as leader.  A man and his body.  How a man plays.  Each of these roles and relationships is compared to Jesus and God’s design as revealed in the Bible.  Doriani spends a good bit of time exegeting Bible passages to draw principles but also to change a man’s perspective on manhood by changing his understanding and heart.

Each chapter includes a few discussion questions for useful group discussion or personal reflection.  There are also a number of excurses included in this revised and expanded edition that update the book in response to our rapidly changing culture.  These include the following:

  • A word on the legal status of marriage in the West
  • A word on pornography
  • A word on becoming a father
  • A word on working too much or too little
  • A word on the nature of play

Although these are quite helpful updates, and wouldn’t recommend someone replace their first edition book just to get these 5 articles.  Yes, they make the book better, so buy this edition if you don’t have the first.  But it is not necessary to upgrade if you have an old copy.

One thing I appreciate about Doriani is that he seeks to be a well-rounded man.  He doesn’t just write on the body, but seeks to stay in shape through sports and exercise.  He doesn’t just write about play as leisure, but talks specifically about what and how he plays with his children.  He is a man that values current friendships and cultivates them, not just reminiscing about the old friends he had in high school and college.  He is a man who strives to be a good husband, which means being a man who loves unconditionally (agape), as a companion (phileo), and erotically (eros).  For as long as couples are able, all three are vital to maintain a healthy, balanced marriage.

The New Man does not break new ground in the large corpus of Christian men’s literature.  It doesn’t try to be that book.  Rather, it is a corrective to “Just Do It” Christianity that men are naturally attracted to.  This book is a call to sit at Jesus’ feet, to learn from him, to love him, to worship him, to trust in him, and to follow him.  A tall order, indeed.  But what the Lord’s requires, he always provides.

Resources

Becoming a Man After God’s Own Heart: Four Questions for Dan Doriani, by Zoe Erler

Challies.com (can an author review his own book?)

Interview with Dan Doriani regarding The New Man

Doriani’s articles at The Gospel Coalition and Ligonier Ministries

Reviews

Goodreads

Servants of Grace

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3 Responses to The New Man (Book Review)

  1. jamabe12 says:

    Thanks Brian. This makes me want to look into getting a copy for myself. I’m a student pastor. Would this book translate well into a study for high school aged young men?

    • Thanks for the question.  It’s a good one.  My sense is The New Man is geared more for men a little older.  College men could profit from it, but it’s really written for men who are old enough to have a wife and kids.  Having them is not the thing.  But age, maturity, and life experience are assumed by the author.  

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