The Silence of Adam:
Becoming Men of Courage in a World of Chaos

, by Larry Crabb (with Don Hudson and Al Andrews), Zondervan, 1995, 192 pages.
Reviewed by Jack Heppner.

This book was written at the height of the recent Christian Men’s Movement, represented most visibly by massive Promise Keepers gatherings. While applauding the reawakening of a search for spirituality among men, Crabb feels that the movement at that time had not yet found the center of what Christian manhood is all about. He admits that big crowds can produce some good things but that they also scare him. For him, the true and enduring work of God is usually found in smaller settings. So in this book, Crabb and company set out a vision of how men can live authentically in the context of the local church community.

As the title implies, Crabb builds a theological foundation for his thesis on the creation accounts in Genesis. He points out that it is clear from the text that Adam was present when Eve was tempted and ate of the forbidden fruit, but he was silent. Instead of speaking with sensitivity and strength into the darkness of the hour, he simply let things happen. This, notes Crabb, is the grid through which the rest of Genesis can be read. And it is a paradigm of how most men in history tend to be physically present but emotionally absent.

This way of life has been deadly for men, says Crabb. It creates inauthentic men characterized by a selfish and destructive approach to life with a need to control. And underneath these outward manifestations, such men feel powerlessness, rage and terror – leading in turn to aggression, abuse and addictions. The only hope to move beyond the clutches of this downward spiral is to “enter the darkness” in which one finally must admit that one simply doesn’t know what to do. Only in the presence of suffering, excruciating brokenness and deep repentance, says Crabb, can men be led from the sphere of management into the realm of mystery where true manhood is found.

True men, notes Crabb, must come to trust a God who often doesn’t tell us exactly what to do. So they must be open to hear the Spirit encouraging them to do what is in the character of Christ to do. This may lead men into darkness and mystery, but again, that is the only place where true manhood is forged. Crabb is well aware that this understanding of the presence of God in our lives runs counter to some popular pietistic notions that suggest that true believers should wait on God to give clear directions for all decision making.

Based on his extensive counseling experience, Crabb suggests that all men find themselves somewhere on a spectrum on which the extreme left represents neediness and the extreme right toughness. Both, he says, are sinful positions to be in. If one is moving toward the center from the left a man tends to be more sensitive than strong. If one is moving toward the center from the right a man tends to be more strong than sensitive. The only man who found a perfect balance of sensitivity and strength in the middle was Christ. The rest of us find ourselves somewhere else on the spectrum. That means that we never have arrived but attempt to approach the proper balance from one side of the center or the other. All have sinned and all need grace to be real men – both sensitive and strong.

Crabb’s vision is that we recover a vision of Christian community where truly godly men are valued more highly than managers and tough leaders. These “fathers” will serve as mentors to younger men to whom they speak three messages: It can be done, you are not alone, and I believe in you. But more than that. “Brothers” will begin leaning on each other as they share the secrets of their lives. This dream, notes Crabb, is a far cry from where most church communities are at, but moving in that direction is where hope of authentic, manly living lies.

I found myself resonating with many of the perspectives Crabb expounds in this book. On his grid it is clear that I am “more sensitive than strong”. It also helps me understand a little better some leaders I know who are “more strong than sensitive.” Perhaps if we were all willing to recognize the shadow sides of our respective positions and determine to move toward a better balance of sensitivity and strength Crabb’s vision of a reformation of sorts might in fact come true.

I did sense that at some points Crabb was stretching the creation account to fit into a counseling model that he finds helpful. Many of the same points could have been made without reference to Genesis 1-3. Nevertheless, I found the book provided some light for the sometimes difficult and painfully slow journey toward authentic living I am trying to be on.