Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity

Title of Work:

Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity

Author of Work:

Jeffrey Hemmer


Pastor Evan Chartrand

Page Number:


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In Man Up!, Jeffrey Hemmer seeks to answer one question: What does it mean to be a man? His answer in chapter one is simple. Being a man is not about growing a thick beard, sporting chiseled muscles, woodworking, hunting, or other societal marks of manliness. Hemmer, pastor of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church (LC-MS) in Fairview Heights, IL, argues that true masculinity “is not rugged independence. It is sacrificial giving” (8). In other words, men are fully masculine when they are serving for the good of others. The opposite of masculinity is “selfish abdication of a higher calling to serve others” (12) or “moral softness of self-indulgence, self-centeredness, and self-preservation” (10).    

In chapter two, Hemmer defends his uncommon definition of manliness by going back to the beginning. He uses the creation account to prove that men exist to serve others. It was not good for Adam, the first man, to be alone (Genesis 2:18), so God created someone for Adam to love, serve, and protect. Serving others – your spouse, your children, your friends, and your fellow believers – was God’s perfect plan for men from the start (42).  

Chapters three and four discuss how the Fall into sin distorted God’s plan for masculinity. Since the Fall, men are self-centered and self-serving (51). These sinful attitudes cause men to serve themselves and not others, thus abandoning true biblical masculinity (76). Hemmer also notes two powerful societal forces hampering true masculinity: feminism and hypermasculinity. Hemmer is not anti-feminist or anti-woman, but he sees feminism as harmful when it tries to make men and women the same, conflating the unique roles God has given to each. Hemmer sums up the effects of feminism on masculinity by saying, “Men are simultaneously being upbraided for traits that are inherent to their masculinity and then excoriated for not possessing the traits that real men should have and real women desire” (74). On the flip side, Hemmer sees men overcompensating in their manliness. He dubs this overcompensation “hypermasculinity,” which has made masculinity a caricature of large muscles, full beards, and big trucks (82).  

Chapters five and six are where Hemmer shifts from the problem with modern masculinity to the solution. In a fallen world where men are influenced by the Scylla of harmful feminism and the Charybdis of hypermasculinity, there is still hope for men to reclaim true biblical masculinity. Hemmer puts it this way: “In the person and work of Jesus, the perfect Man…flawed, imperfect men have hope” (119). Growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus is the only way to grow into the biblical ideal of masculinity. Hemmer phrases it well when he says, “Christ’s service to you (that is, his life, death, and resurrection) sets you free to express this essence of pure masculinity: selflessly serving others” (157).  

Part one of Man Up! is more theoretical. It helps readers understand the ideal of biblical masculinity and how far we are from that standard. In part two, Hemmer gets more practical and explains ways that men can reclaim true, God-pleasing manliness. He offers the examples of Adam and Jesus. Chapter seven is the portrait of Adam, where Hemmer posits that men today should strive to be like Adam before the Fall and fulfill the tasks of headship, dominion, spiritual leader, protector, provider, and procreator (183). Chapter eight is a portrait of Christ as the perfect man. Using examples from Christ’s life, Hemmer shows that Christ is the perfect man because he is good and strong, he gives and loves, he fights and prays – things that true men do (200-219).  

Chapters nine and ten are brief digressions. Chapter nine focuses on God the Father as a portrait of fatherhood. Fathers protect, provide for, love, and teach their families because that’s what God the Father does. As Hemmer puts it, “Every earthly father derives his identity as father…from the nature of God the Father Himself” (225). Chapter ten briefly examines the paradoxical nature of biblical masculinity. Hemmer explains that masculinity is not a bunch of easy-to-do maxims; instead, it is a balancing act between being powerful yet kind, assertive yet humble, and courageous yet sacrificial. Hemmer brings these up to show that biblical masculinity is an ongoing process to find the middle ground between these characteristics (239).  

Chapter eleven is the most practical part of Man Up! It’s all about what a proper, biblical man does. According to Hemmer, men must pray, love, give, and fight (253). A biblically masculine man prays and so entrusts to God his manly calling (253). He strives to love with an agape love (263). He gives his time and energy so that others may benefit (266). He fights against his sinful nature and helps others fight against their own sinful flesh (270-274).  

Finally, Hemmer ends his book with suggestions for growing in biblical manliness. These suggestions include finding mentors who model and teach proper masculinity, practicing sacrifice and satisfaction, having a strong personal and family devotion life, and cultivating a growth mindset when it comes to being a biblically masculine man (281-310). 

There are several positives to Man Up! First, Hemmer clearly explains his main thesis that true masculinity is sacrificial giving. His copious use of Scripture shows that this is not his idea, but an idea thoroughly grounded in Scripture. Hemmer writes not as an expert who has attained true masculinity but as a man looking to journey with other men toward the biblical ideal of manliness. His writing style is engaging and appropriately relaxed. He makes several strong exegetical and doctrinal points without sounding overly formal or stuffy. He shows his pastoral heart as he uses the law to show our failings as men, then uses the gospel to heal, empower, and motivate men to live as biblically masculine men.  

Man Up! is not without flaws. Hemmer’s logic and thought progression is sometimes hard to follow, especially in the early chapters of the book. He states that he wants to challenge his readers (xii), which he does well by using the law. However, he makes some very strange sounding applications and observations. For example, he says that not wanting children is “subhuman” (21), he disparages microwaveable meals and daycare centers (29), he takes a very Catholic-sounding stance on birth control (36), he equates an Old Testament “fascination” with male anatomy to locker room talk (60-65), and describes having a personal relationship with Jesus as being “feminine” (84-88). In the spirit of fairness, Hemmer appears to be making his point in a challenging, memorable way. However, some readers will see such eyebrow raising statements as detrimental to his cause.  

Overall, this reviewer recommends Man Up! While some might balk at a few of Hemmer’s applications (for example, he recommends that men become Scout leaders [298]), there’s no denying the value of his thesis. Hemmer’s point that true masculinity is all about sacrificial giving is a valuable lesson for men of all ages, so in that sense every Christian man will benefit from reading this book. Man Up! would be an engaging study for a men’s group. Each chapter has built-in discussion questions, and Hemmer’s sometimes less traditional manner of writing is sure to spark profitable debate and discussion. Husbands and wives could read Man Up! together and use it as a springboard for growth in their marriage. Church leaders looking to strengthen their young men could make this book part of a mentor program for recent confirmands. Though there are some flaws in this book, the lesson of Man Up! is timeless and worth studying.