Kickin’ it Hard Corps: Discipleship for us Manly Men (a book review)

The Hard Corps: Combat Training For the Man of Godby Dai Hankey

Author and  South Wales church planter, Dai Hankey, wants to help raise up a generation of strong committed Christian men and he doesn’t think that following Jesus makes men weak:

Well, the good news is that, contrary to popular belief, there’s not a single verse in the Bible to suggest that when a man starts to follow Christ he has to hand in his testicles at the door. Far from it. Scripture teaches that men should be strong, adventurous and willing to fight for what matters! As such we should seek to emulate the heroes of the Bible, who were passionate, courageous, uncompromising, and spiritually solid.

Dai Hankey (2012-07-09 12:44:35+01:00). The Hard Corps (Kindle Locations 50-53). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.

And so instead of rolling out all those lovey-dovey, gentle gospel passages, Hankey goes O.T. on us by turning to Second Sam and David’s Mighty Men  (Hoo-Rah!).  These are the decorated officers in David’s army and through the strength, courage and virtue, they have lots to teach us. Hankey profiles several of these  mighty men to help us super manly men become more like the heroes we were meant to be.  Among the Mighty men profiled:

  • Josheb-Basshebeth shows us radical trust in God by defying the odds (800:1) and killing lots of people in battle.
  • Eleazer slays the Philistines until his arms get tired, which means that we also should be good ‘sword handlers’ and be able to quote lots of bible verses when we feel tempted.
  • Shammah stands his ground in a bean field because he knows he is defending the Lord’s promise to his people (in the OT, God’s promise is ‘the land’). Likewise we learn purpose and commitment from him, holding fast to God’s will in our relationships, family and work life.
  • Three ‘Nameless Ninjas’ whose devotion to their king cause them to risk their lives to fetch him a drink.
  • Abishai, who though a great warrior in his own right, was not among the three (the first three names listed above); nevertheless he proved faithful to David and was humble (Josheb-Basshebeth killed 800 at one go whereas Abishai only managed a measly 300).
  • Beneniah  courageously bested two Moabite freaks,  went toe to toe with a lion in a pit on a snowy day,and  killed an Egyptian  giant. From him we learn to face our fears.

Hankey uses these manly, manly killing machines to metaphorically speak of the Christian life, and along the way he also points  to New Testament texts.  These are the OT heroes, Jesus is the über hero.   Dai Hankey is a  humorous communicator (from him I learned of a 1980’s UK phenomenon-the ‘milk tray man.’ I enjoyed reading this and thought he did a wonderful job encouraging the virtues of faith, courage, purpose,  devotion (loyalty) and humility.  However I also had a few issues with this book.

First, I was unsure of Hankey’s exegetical method. Sometimes Hankey extrapolates the motivations of these mighty men to make a point, and he goes farther than the text warrants. The thing about David’s Mighty Men, is we don’t really know much in the text about them outside of a few exploits. There personal character is not known to us, but Hankey ascribes to them Godly motivations to make a point (he also points out where they clearly screwed up). Other places he allegorizes their feats to make a point (i.e. Eleazer’s ‘sword handling’ is really about ‘how well we know our Bibles’). Hankey tends to make suggestive and evocative leaps, but I felt like the passage he quoted weren’t saying what he thought they were saying.  I wish his exegesis was a bit more careful.

Secondly, I felt that David’s Mighty Men did not really carry the freight that he placed on them.  Some men are exemplary soldiers. They are dedicated,  effective, courageous and really good at achieving their military objectives.  There are good things  that we can and should learn from them, but we should not assume that effective, courageous soldiers are necessarily godly. They could just be really good at killing people and really dedicated to their jobs. The one to one ratio between soldiering and discipleship is off-kilter. When I read 2 Samuel 23, I read a chapter which recounts the exploits of military heroes. This is historically significant, and God achieved his purposes through them, and we should learn from their virtues, but they are not the hero of the Bible. God is. In 2 Samuel 24, God sends a plague in judgment for David’s census and trusting in his own military might (rather than God). I certainly think that these men are held up as examples, but it is striking to me, that the very next chapter of scripture challenges the notion of trusting in anything but God.

A third minor point, is I want to set the battle metaphor alongside other metaphors for discipleship.  Some Christians are uncomfortable with any warfare/militant language and tend to soft pedal hard truths. But if the battle metaphor becomes dominant, likewise the gospel is misrepresented.  Certainly we need to be told to man up (as men anyway) but we also need to live in the experience of grace in our life. By all means read this book and be challenged, but do not read it along side your Bible and other literature which speaks of God’s radical self-giving love.

So yes, this could be a good discipleship book if you are a young man (high school or early college) and have action hero fantasies (like when you are stuck in the line at the bank and you wonder how you would save everyone there is 800 Philistines took you and the others hostage). You will enjoy it and it will encourage you to pursue God and grow in your faith.  However, eat the meat and spit out the bones.  There is good stuff here for the careful reader.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Man Alive: A Book Review

Men’s ministry leader Patrick Morley is an expert on men. He must be, he keeps writing books about them. The Man in the Mirror sold more than three million copies, he has a Bible study with 5000 men (okay most of those watch the webcast) and he has had coffee with thousands of guys. He also has a Ph.D in management and races his 1974 Porsche 911 for sport. All this tells me, he knows and understands what it means to be a man!

Okay, so the case for Morely’s expertise may be laid on a little thick, the proof is in the pudding. Does Man Alive prove his mastery over manhood? Well yes and no. Morely is complementarian in his approach to gender roles (which I am not) but most of his advice is sound. A lot of what he says would applies equally to both genders but men behaving badly don’t always get the message. His ‘seven primal needs’ which, when addressed, can transform your spiritual life can be summarized as follows: the need for community, the need for faith in a benevolent God, that one’s life has purpose, that there is freedom from sin/addictions, the need for transcendence, the need for love/intimacy.

None of these needs seem particularly gender specific to me but I agree with Morely that if you address these needs of the soul, you will become a better man (providing you already are a man, otherwise I can’t help you). This book is full of personal stories and stories of men that Morely has been privileged to walk alongside. It is evident that Morely has helped men come out of their isolated shells, fulfill their God-given potential, and grow in their love for God and others. So, yes, Morely has some good stuff to say here.
I agree with Morely that part of what men want is to love and be loved, do something significant with our lives, and that we were created for transcendence.

Where I would critique Man Alive is that Morely seems to apply an instrumental and formulaic approach to spiritual transformation. The stories shared here are all victory stories. Sometimes men follow God and their lives still fall apart. With Morely, I trust in God’s providential care, but I wonder how helpful this book would be for those guys who have been ‘doing the steps’ but are still stuck in the mire. I know, because Morely tells me, that he has walked alongside men facing divorce, contemplating suicide, and other really bad stuff. So I know he probably sees the reality of things, but what is presented here is a little too simplistic.

That being said, this book would be read profitably in church men’s groups and ministries. Each chapter has questions for reflection and discussion and there is a brief leader’s guide at the back of the book (and a two page bio of all Morely’s accomplishments).

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review