Every Man’s Battle
By Stephen Arterburn & Fred Stoeker
232 pages +study guide
I’m going to approach this review slightly differently than I would normally approach a review. That is, it will not be as long or detailed as it normally would be because this sort of book really does not lend itself to the sort of criticism I would normally level against a book. After all, who can argue with the need for sexual purity, especially among Christians for whom it is expected?
That said, I cannot really criticize this book because, as the cover boasts, the series of which it is a part has sold a whopping 3 million copies (and I assume that number continues to grow as people learn about the series and as more and more people finally figure out that they are sexually out of control.) Again, who can argue? So I have only a couple of thoughts I would bring to the table for discussion and, as always, these are my perceptions which will necessarily differ from the perceptions of others. This is a good thing because it provokes conversation.
It is sort of difficult to read this book without being confronted with the fact that yes, indeed, we all have issues when it comes to purity. It is true, as the authors say, ‘impurity is a habit.’ I was confronted by this page after page. Personal anecdote: I went back to graduate school two years ago at a relatively local university. I am 41. Enough said. Purity issues are complicated and difficult, and it is terribly easy to fall into the habit of taking a peak or hoping for just a glimmer or hoping, secretly of course, that the young coed, easily half my age, forgets she is wearing a short skirt or remembers, as the case may be.
Young coeds on a university campus abound in mischief when it comes to clothing or the lack thereof. I will never cease to be amazed at how creative girls/women can be with the exposure of flesh—and frankly, it does not require as much imagination as they expend. I very much agree with the authors that I have to make a decision to be sexually pure and that it is not just a matter of graduating from the university and no longer being tempted; the temptations will be all around, every day.
I also agree that we need to have a shield or protection. I found mine one day when I was reading the daily office: “I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (Psalm 101:2-3). I have to focus myself in the mornings because typically, for some reason, my weakness is in the morning. In the mornings I have to be alert for that is when the enemy prowls around my head. We have to be careful and alert to the tricks of the enemy.
A couple of criticisms that are more along the lines of style and not so much content. First, I think maybe the book needs a little updating or generalizing. It was almost amusing to read about lusting over billboards, female joggers, beer and bikini commercials, and receptionists (Chapter 11, elsewhere). Maybe in California female joggers are a problem, but not so much where I live. It could be that the authors merely want us to generalize and that space prevented them from saying things like: your hot neighbor across the street while she cuts the grass in her white t-shirt, the really fine looking Facebook friend who is always changing her profile picture, or the 20 year old coed walking around campus in her short skirt and high-heels. But again, that might just be me.
I also thought the whole shtick about ‘playing the dweeb’ is kind of corny too. And so too the whole thing about being a horse and allowing women to ‘approach your corral.’ The authors write, concerning Dweebman, “Show her that her initial attraction to you was a ridiculous mistake. Choose to be boring, and do it fastidiously. Later, when she’s no longer attracted to you, you can be your normal, interesting self again” (178). Or you could just be honest and say, “I’m taken—since, evidently, the wedding band did not clue you in.”
Finally, the notion that I should refer to my wife as a ‘ewe lamb’ is patently absurd. If I told my wife something like that, she’d either vomit or punch me or both (not to mention the fact that I believe this seriously misses the point of the parable Nathan told David). I think there are better ways to love our wives and respect them and care for them without resorting to such a childish image.
This book is clearly written for men who have already lost the battle and want to recoup something of their identity. However, and this is key, if sexual purity is a matter of habit—and I believe they are correct on this point—then there is no reason whatsoever that young, single men cannot read this book and benefit greatly. Habits are formed early and it is easier to prevent a habit than it is to get out of a habit. Furthermore, the best quote in the book sums up the entire point: “Spiritual maturity is always dictated by our willingness to sacrifice our own desires for the desires of others or for the interests of the kingdom” (quoting Rick Joyner, page 187).
And here is the point: for the Christian man, sexual purity is about spiritual maturity. We are meant to grow up and leave behind those things from our childhood—whether it is sexual, emotional, or whatever and if reading 200 plus pages about two men’s struggles with masturbation and ogling does not help heighten the purity and stretch the maturity, then I do not know what else will. Seriously.
I recommend this book to married men, Christian or otherwise, and also to single men who want to develop good habits before bad habits consume and destroy them.
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Every Man’s Battle online
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