Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fully Alive by Larry Crabb

Crabb asks what it means for a man or a woman to be fully alive, to be the person God truly created them to be. He suggests that is found out when one discovers how men and women are to relate the way God intended.

Crabb begins his study by exploring gender, the root of who we are. “Our soul's center is alive with either masculinity or femininity.” In our sexually confused culture, Crabb says, Christians need a biblical basis. Is it men lead and women submit? (Complementarians) Is it equality of women with men? (Egalitarians) He looks at the Bible to see what thoughts God has on the issue.

For Crabb, it is all about relating. He believes the Bible indicates “that femininity and masculinity consist of unique and deeply embedded ways of relating.” They relate in a way that reveals something unique about God's relational character. It is our fear, the core terror in our souls, that prevents us from relating to others as God desires. “Invisibility is a woman's core terror – displaying what nobody sees, offering what nobody wants.” I think Crabb is a little vague on man's core terror. It seems to be related to doing and not being introspective, being afraid of failure. (Crabb does write, “The core terror is difficult for men to identify...”) He shares his own experiences revealing the “terror of weightlessness,” that he has no power to accomplish anything of more than passing significance. He writes, “Recognized terror opens the door to relational masculinity.”

Crabb then has a section on identifying our relational sin. He explores how unfeminine women and unmasculine men relate. He explores spiritual formation and theiosis. He writes of finding one's center and living from it, evaluating the church's role. He reminds us of the dying to self before living to God. He suggests “wisdom from the womb,” a passion for self. He then relates God's solution to the problem.

Crabb writes, “I am writing this book to answer one question: What did God have in mind when He made us male and female?” We are made for His glory and we glorify God in the way we relate, revealing something about the way God relates.

Egalitarians will not be satisfied with this book. Women invite and receive. Men have substance and deserve appreciation. Women reveal God's openness “through life-inviting relational femininity” and men reveal God's movement “through life-giving relational masculinity.” And when he writes about “mutual submission,” he says, “For men, submission centers on loving authority.” And, “For women, submission means loving obedience.”

One of my reactions to Crabb's book is that he is wordy. He tells stories and writes lots about his own life. He repeats himself. He uses lots of psychological jargon like “angst.” And he writes much about women's “beauty.” Even though he may not have meant physical beauty, it still bothered me.

Another reaction was that it was too theoretical and not practical enough. But the more I think about it, the more I think he might have uncovered a deep issue. He argues that the truth probably more often and most easily compromised in the life of Christians is this: “to be formed like Jesus means to become radically other-centered, no longer looking out for ourselves but living entirely for God and for His purposes in others.” Thought provoking!

Has Crabb revealed what God had in mind when he created male and female? I am not sure. He is heavy on theory. But when it comes to practicality, I find it lacking. For example, he says a woman asked him if she should submit to her husband when he asked her to have sex with another man. “I replied, 'Of course. Submit in everything. Tell him no, gently and quietly.'” If that example from Crabb makes sense to you, then you will love this book. If, like me, you were looking for a more practical understanding of what it means to be a man or woman before God, you may need to look elsewhere.

There is a DVD teaching series on this book and I think that would be beneficial. I do think this book would need to be experienced in a dialog kind of setting. There needs to be discussion around this book.

Larry Crabb is a well-known psychologist, conference and seminar speaker, Bible teacher, popular author, and founder/director of NewWay Ministries. He also offers several weekend conferences and a week long School of Spiritual Direction. He is currently Scholar in Residence at Colorado Christian University and Visiting Professor for Richmont Graduate University in Georgia. Dr. Crabb and his wife live in the Denver area. You can find out more about him and his ministry at

Baker Books, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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