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Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World Hardcover – June 2, 2015

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


God’s intention for the appropriate flourishing of human life has been severely thwarted by culturally captive expressions of masculinity that have oppressed both women and men. Malestrom offers us a reminder from Scripture that God’s intention for men was not for a dysfunctional masculinity that devastates the image of God within us. Thank you, Carolyn Custis James, for your historical and theological insights that will reshape how I live out my faith in the world. Thank you for a book that benefits both my son and my daughter. -- Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, , Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism; author of The Next Evangelicalism

Women aren’t the only ones bombarded with conflicting and harmful messages about their identities. More than ever men face an onslaught of expectations, both from the culture and the church, about what it means to be a ‘real man.’ Through this treacherous landscape, Carolyn Custis James proves a trustworthy guide. With her characteristic warmth and wisdom, she examines manhood through the lens of Jesus Christ and offers a better way forward for men, a way characterized by partnership, joy, and humility. There are few writers who bring as much clarity and conviction to their work as Carolyn Custis James. This book is biblically faithful, immensely timely, and delightfully readable. Every last page is charged with healing power. -- Rachel Held Evans, , author of A Year of Biblical womanhood and Searching for Sunday

Malestrom takes a close and provocative look at the dangers of patriarchy by taking a close look at what Scripture says about it. This book will lead you to ponder the type of person God asks all of us --- male and female --- to be. It is a good question to meditate on. -- Darrell L. Bock, , Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Malestrom is not of this world, just like God’s kingdom to which it bears witness. Carolyn Custis James is a modern-day Deborah, whose work serves as a prophetic challenge to all men to image Jesus. Against the backdrop of patriarchal and radical feminist perspectives that degrade and discount men, James invites Adam’s progeny to display profound courage and dignity as they gain a biblical sense of their true identity. This is not a book for the faint of heart: liberated male readers will join forces with women to conquer despair and celebrate the transformative power of God’s cruciform and unifying love. -- Paul Louis Metzger, , Professor of Christian Theology, Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University

In Malestrom, Carolyn Custis James takes us by the hand and leads us through the story of how God dismantles patriarchy in the Bible. By the time we’re done reading, a new space has been cleared. Men can now be men. Women can now be women. And together we can live God’s gendered salvation. It is a remarkable accomplishment. -- David Fitch, , B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary

Finding a crack in the door of patriarchy, which still patterns the life of both the church and the world, Carolyn Custis James swings it wide open, redirecting the gender conversation towards its rightful focus: the malestrom. Through careful biblical exegesis and an intersectional awareness of the actual social currents that daily sweep over men and boys, this book rightfully articulates a vision for men rooted in the imago dei particularly revealed in the life of Jesus Christ. The church is indebted for this resource for opening up a new set of questions at an accessible level, and for remembering that ultimately what makes something Christian is its ability to conform image of the Son. -- Drew Hart, , writer for Taking Jesus Seriously, a Christian Century hosted blog

Carolyn Custis James writes with urgency, clarity, and meticulous research about issues that don’t just concern every man, but relate to the health and stability of the entire church and our wider world. This is a call for men and women to live in the health and freedom of God’s calling for both genders. -- Ed Cyzewski, , author of A Christian Survival Guide and Coffeehouse Theology

Men have indeed lost sight of who God created them to be as human beings and as men! The signs of this reality are visible all around us. From bloody violence on an international scale to the abuse of the most vulnerable little child in the privacy of a home, from ‘fatherless’ children to abusive marriages, there just seems to be no end. Malestrom does a masterful job of first articulating the catastrophic mess we are in, and then walks the reader through a journey unfolding God’s divine vision and plan for man through an engaging study of the men of the Scriptures. I simply could not put this book down. Does it offer a final and definitive solution to the problem that began in Genesis 3? Perhaps not. Has it begun a conversation in my mind? You bet! And this conversation is long overdue within the global church today. A timely, well-articulated, and thought-provoking book! -- Abraham George, , Director of International Church Mobilization, International Justice Mission

With wisdom and fresh imagination, Malestrom challenges business-as usual patriarchy and calls men and women of faith to a deeper and richer Blessed Alliance. In this inviting and absorbing book, Carolyn Custis James probes the narrative of Holy Scripture and concludes that patriarchy is ‘in, but not of’ the Bible. As I read, I began to envision what masculinity might mean when redefined from a kingdom perspective that inverts the social pyramid that so distorts our gendered lives. With more in mind than just a kinder and gentler patriarchy, James opens up the Scriptures, directing the reader through the pitfalls of traditional thinking about men, women, power, and hierarchy. As you turn pages you’ll meet anew people like Abraham, Judah, Barak, Boaz, Matthew, Joseph, and pivotal women of the Bible who, through God’s grace, come to stand against the malestrom and enter into the new hope of Jesus of Nazareth. A bracing book for an embattled world; I read hungrily and came away nourished. -- Matthew S. Vos, , Covenant College, Department of Sociology

This is the book I’ve been waiting for --- as a wife, as a mother of a son, as a woman committed to the blessed alliance God intended between men and women. This book will be healing and restorative for so many. It’s a beautiful invitation to manhood in the Kingdom of God. -- Sarah Bessey, , author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts

Unchristian patterns of culturally conditioned models of masculinity are the norm for many Christian men, with disastrous and, far too often, tragic consequences. By surveying the diverse biblical landscape with wisdom, insight, and conviction, Carolyn Custis James calls for a Christ-centered understanding of ‘male,’ where men and women are equal image bearers of God, truly one flesh, and thus coworkers in the mission of God on earth. James’s Malestrom is a prophetic and healing voice. -- Peter Enns, , Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies, Eastern University

From the Author

Who defines what it means to be a man? Is masculinity inherently violent? Have we embraced fallen ideas of maleness? What does Jesus have to say about manhood?

In Malestrom, I argue that the malestrom poses the greatest threat to men in the 21st century.

The malestrom causes men and boys to lose sight of God's vision for them as male. It impacts all of their lives. This crisis is every bit as serious and urgent as the global crisis facing women and girls. It has life and death consequence because concepts of masculinity are driving the violence, wars, and terrorism that saturate today's headlines.

Malestrom puts the subject of manhood on the table and raises candid questions about the role of patriarchy. Buried in the stories of marginalized men in the Bible is a revolutionary new vision of manhood that is good news for men.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310325579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310325574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important and timely book. Carolyn Custis James documents how patriarchy saturates our social systems and creates men who are frequently driven to violent action and feel a constant pressure to prove themselves. Sadly, patriarchy also permeates biblical interpretation even though it runs counter to the gospel of Jesus. She rightly urges us to extricate our biblical understanding from patriarchy (including its kinder-gentler versions) and see clearly what being created in God’s image (imago dei) really means for both men and women. Because patriarchy is pervasive among the peoples of the world, this book has a global message. Koreans, Brazilians, Nigerians, Filipinos, and everyone else in these fast growing parts of Christianity need to distinguish between biblical ideals of manhood and unacknowledged patriarchal presuppositions. For James this is not theory. Throughout the book, as a reliable guide, she retells Old and New Testament stories as she digs beneath the surface and exposes the corrosive effect of patriarchy. For global Christianity, this book couldn’t arrive a moment too soon. --Todd Johnson, Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
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Format: Hardcover
I started this book excited. Manhood is under attack and we need help understanding what the Scripture says about how to live as men.


When asked to present a positive understanding of the calling of God on men, her writing is lacking by her own admission. The last chapter ends with a self-reflective apology for not having enough to say.

The frustrating reality is that she has thoroughly developed ideas for the ways women should step into their imago dei. They are to be ezer kenegbo warrior princesses who play a major role in God's story. In fact, these ideas are so coherent that this book reads like a manual for how men should support women in their callings. Which is true, men should support the women in their lives. But that is incomplete.

Speaking of incomplete, the question: "so if patriarchy isn't accepted by the bible, what is?" Remains unanswered. This book has hundreds of biblical references, but none from 1 Timothy 3, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, or Ephesians. She tries to build a theology of masculinity without addressing the scripture when God talks directly about his plan for men.

I was willing to read a book about masculinity written by a woman. It sounded refreshing. But when the first 80 pages typecast men as domineering and malevolent, it was hard to see past the agenda.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 2010, Carolyn Custis James's book "Half the Church" presented a Biblical vision for women based on Scripture and something James called "The Blessed Alliance". Malestrom is a further reflection on the Biblical vision of manhood. Some of the concepts in Malestrom (Blessed Alliance, ezer) are more fully explained in Half the Church, so you could almost say this is a companion volume and you need to read both to get the full picture.

In James's book, the malestrom is the "swirling whirlpool" of cultural expectations that men are naturally prone to violence, threats, power plays, and "wild man activities". James maintains that the modern idea of manhood is tied to cultural constructs ranging from extreme machismo to more milder attitudes. The extreme versions of manhood lead to violence against women and a culture of dominance and humiliation between men. Neither is part of the Biblical picture of manhood. Patriarchy is tied to the Fall than Creation and when we read the Bible as westerners, we sometimes project our own vision of manhood into the Scriptures.

James doesn't man-bash, but she does take issue with western ideals. In the Blessed Alliance, men are half of a partnership and should display characteristics of valor, lovingkindness, righteousness and reliance on God. She invites us to step back and examine several stories of Biblical manhood: Abraham, Judah, Barak, Boaz, Jesus, and Saul/Paul. Because she is a woman writing about men, she acknowledges that there are loose ends that she can't tie up. She just felt that her book on women left the story incomplete.

I found this book thought-provoking and, as a mother of boys, a good approach for pointing out Biblical ideals that I want my sons to display (rather than some of our cultural expectations). James includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making this suitable for a book study.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Malestrom was an eye-opener for me. One of those moments where I asked myself, "where have I been?" I think the most freeing thought was to consider that Patriarchy in the Scripture is a descriptive reality not a prescriptive one. God worked within culture, even in-spite of culture, to accomplish His redemptive work. It opened my own heart to consider the "father wounds" that I carry and will pass on to my children. There is still a lot of work to be done now as I go through other texts, especially in the NT to evaluate my interpretation of God's view of gender relations and roles. It has generated lots of thought, sorrow, repentance, and excitement. Half way through I praised God for giving me my wife and see her through new eyes. I think the applications will extend to how we train women in the church to join us in this effort to advance the Kingdom while remaining committed to male accountability. Even now we see God raising up our sisters in new ways to join us in the work. Praise the Lord.
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