I wasn’t sure what I was in for when I first picked up a copy of Dangerous Men: Beginning the Process of Lust Free Living. The book is published with a real rugged feel to it: the pages look nothing like a text book, but more like the field manual of a man who’s been in heavy combat. Before readers can digest a single word of the book, the look of the book sends a clear message: be ready for spiritual war.
Included at the end of each chapter are a series of written testimonies from men who have been through the material and have been transformed by it. The book also comes with a “Coaching Guide” DVD, which features the same young men talking to one another about how each chapter challenged them to think and live differently. The videos and written testimonies show real young men talking about the real life tensions and questions many of us ask when it comes to lust.
Summary of the Book
The author, Lowell Seashore, has a no-nonsense style of writing. The chapters of Dangerous Men are short, easy to digest, and immensely practical.
His title says a lot about the nature and content of the book. First, Dangerous Men is clear that it is presenting only the “beginning the process” of fighting lust. The material is not presented as a step-by-step program but a “process,” something written to help men in the ongoing battle for purity.
Second, the author’s objective is that Christian men begin living again as “dangerous men,” spiritual warriors who fight the kingdom of darkness and bring the gospel message to a dying world. So many men are taken out of the spiritual fight because of being defeated by sexual sin, so it is the author’s intent to help men take an offensive stance against this temptation and become “dangerous men” for the kingdom of God.
The theological backbone of the book is understanding principles of spiritual warfare. Indeed, the whole book reads like a crash course in fighting the powers of darkness. The author teaches that the great strength of the devil is his ability to lie to us. We sin because we believe these subtle lies. As we rid ourselves of lie-based thinking and embrace truth, we are set free to live lives of purity.
One of the major themes of the book is to challenge men to an offensive rather than just a defensive strategy against lust. According to Seashore, a defensive strategy involves trying to control externals in one’s life, such as maintaining self-control over masturbation, installing an Internet filter, and “bouncing the eyes” away from images of women. The problem with these strategies, the author states, is that they never deal with the heart. One young man writes in his testimony, “[Lust Free Living] ended my defensive stance; I reawakened as a warrior and took up the offense against the enemy.”
And what is the offensive strategy? James 4:7 states, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” These two commands—resist the devil and submit to God—form the basis for the offensive strategy in the book.
Much of the book outlines the need to understand the devil’s strategy and resist him. The devil whispers lies into the minds of God’s children. Seashore states, the victory of God’s people over sin hinges on our recognition of those lies and then verbally denouncing them as we notice them. This is what Seashore means by “resisting the devil.”
For example, one chief deception that Satan often uses is condemning language. When the devil can get you to believe that you are a “sinner” like the rest of unsaved humanity, then we believe we are bound to behave as sinners. But if we verbally renounce this lie—saying something like, “I reject the idea that I am a condemned sinner or a second rate Christian. I am God’s boy”—we resist the devil’s lie and choose to believe what God says about us instead. Dangerous Men goes back to this idea of our true identity again and again. The author continually states that when we believe and repeat aloud to ourselves that we are “God’s boys” it will change how we behave.
Because we all have negative and untrue thought patterns burned into our minds, we still give into Satan’s lies about God, about ourselves, about sex, about pleasure, and everything else. Confessing our sins, confessing the lies we have believed, and turning to God to heal us, will open us up to God’s transforming power. This, according to Dangerous Men, is what it takes to win the battle of the mind and thus begin the process of lust free living.
Dangerous Men not only teaches guys that they are “God’s boys,” but that God made them horny boys too. The book draws a hard line between true lust and sexual attraction or enjoyment of one’s sexuality. Seashore writes,
“Since we are horny boys and men (and what man isn’t?), then we should enjoy being horny! In other words, enjoy being sexual; that is how we were created! Enjoy the positive sexual things, the excitement you feel when you are sexually stimulated! Enjoy your erection! It is a natural and positive experience. I am not saying to lust and be stimulated with lustful thoughts. What I’m saying is that we are sexual people, and it’s fun when our bodies work the way God intended them to—within the boundaries that He gives us.” (p.15)
In using this sort of language, Dangerous Men encourages single men to be okay with being “turned on” by a woman’s beauty and thus attempts to move men away from false guilt. It teaches men to believe that God delights in their sexuality because He made it, to hear God saying, “Yes, that woman is beautiful, but she’s not yours to have.”
Related to this is the author’s hard line between masturbation and lust. Because masturbation is a strictly external process (that can be done without lusting, according to Seashore) men need to stop making “quitting masturbation” the goal of their purity. If we try fighting the battle of self-discipline before we fight the battle in our minds, we will lose every time. But if we learn to “fight spiritually” first (i.e. fight the lies of the enemy in our minds) then any time we do masturbate it will not need to be accompanied by lust. Seashore is careful to say that turning to masturbation for comfort, to mask our emotional issues, or to let masturbation control us are all sinful habits. He teaches a process of taking our thoughts captive and bringing them to Jesus.
At the heart of Seashore’s book is a belief that confession of sin needs to involve confessing to other men. Dangerous Men is about men fighting the battle of purity together. Watching the testimonies on the DVD give the strong impression that these men are not just lone warriors in the battle, but a brotherhood dedicated to one another. Real accountability, according to Seashore, is not a cop mentality but a warrior mentality—it is about fighting alongside your brothers through brutally honest confession and mutual prayer.
The last half of the book includes Dr. Neil T. Anderson’s work, “Steps to Freedom in Christ,” which is a step-by-step self-assessment that guides the reader to examine what influences the devil’s lies have had in one’s life.
How important is our personal identity?
The book professes a strong belief that personal identity will change the way someone behaves. Overall human experience tells us this is true. What we believe about ourselves will affect how we live. Seashore writes, “Be a man to men, a warrior to demons, and always a child of God” (p.8).
There are many in the Christian community, especially those versed in biblical counseling, that find this sort of advice to be misleading, even dangerous. True transformation, they contend, does not happen when we focus on ourselves but on God. In other words, the key to my transformation is not in knowing what God says about me, but knowing and believing what God says about Himself.
Consider what word we emphasize when we say, “I am God’s boy” (to borrow Seashore’s phrase). Is our emphasis on “I” or “God”? For the man who is born again, the expression is true either way it is emphasized, but the focus is different. When we emphasize “God” our minds turn to the question, “And who is this God?” Our focus then becomes understanding and becoming engrossed in the wonder of who God is. Our worship shifts from self to God. We become fascinated with Him and His beauty, and thus the lusts of this world will lose their luster.
I need to be careful when I am encouraged to place emphasis on “knowing who I am in Christ”: it could be something that appeals to my sinful and false idea that I “deserve” something in my own right. When I continually affirm my identity as a child of God without a definitive belief that in myself I “deserve” only death, I emerge with an unbalanced and faulty view of my sin. In other words, if I say to myself, “I am a child of God,” over and over, without affirming that He adopted me into His family only on the merits of Christ, then I am missing a critical piece of the puzzle.
Is this splitting theological hairs? Some might think so. While I have a caution about advice that teaches me to “affirm who I am in Christ,” Seashore does present a balanced and helpful perspective to his readers. At the heart of Seashore’s encouragement is a desire that men rest secure in their salvation based on what the Bible says—not to doubt their standing with God based on what their inconsistent or lustful actions may indicate. He challenges the boys to pray aloud when they feel condemned, “In your name, Jesus, I reject the lie that You are not enough for me and that You won’t take care of me. I accept the truth that You are enough, You have paid the price for my sins, and You love me.” This sort of advice is very Biblical and practical and I see nothing wrong with it.
If I were coaching a group of young men through Dangerous Men, I would be sure to put the emphasis on God, not the men. It is not the fact that we are adopted sons that will change our identity; it is that we have been adopted by the Creator and Judge of the world.
Is shame a bad thing?
Connected very closely to this idea of identity is Seashore’s discussion of guilt and shame. Seashore believes that the emotions attached to guilt may not feel good but have a good purpose. Guilt says, “I have sinned,” which is designed to be a pointer to the One who can forgive and cleanse the conscience. On the other hand, emotions of shame come in the form of lies and accusations. According to Dangerous Men, shame attacks our identity. Shame says, “I am a mistake,” or “I’m a bad person for doing what I did.” Shame moves us to isolate ourselves from God and others that we feel should reject us because of what we have done. In Seashore’s view guilt is a good thing and shame is a bad thing.
I think it is important to call into question, though, whether shame is the real problem. I agree with Seashore that guilt and shame are distinct emotions. Guilt is the emotion of feeling culpable for our offenses: “I have done something wrong,” or “I have sinned against God.” Shame is an emotion that is usually tied to guilt but comes with an added dimension of humiliation and disgrace. In other words guilt is focused internally on what we have done; shame is focused externally on how our guilt affects our relationships and how we are seen by others.
The impulse of shame is to hide: shame admits that I am fundamentally flawed and sinful, that I am worthy only of rejection, and therefore I should hide from God, others, and even myself. I contend that this emotion is built into human nature. As moral beings created to be in relationship with God, we SHOULD feel shame when we sin. Our sin should not only make us feel guilty; but it should also make us feel the shame and humiliation of a strained relationship.
(It’s a whole other matter to talk about shame that extends from false guilt, when we haven’t done something wrong and feel we have. That sort of shame is another topic for another day.)
If we should feel shame when we sin, what about God’s forgiveness? If shame is our natural impulse, if we believe we should be rejected for our sin, isn’t this a bad impulse to have? No. Shame is not the problem: it is what we choose to do with our shame that is the problem.
When we believe that we will be rejected by God we are doing the wrong thing with our shame, for we are rejecting the gospel message itself (some call this “chronic shame”). This is believing the bad news about our depravity over the good news of God’s forgiveness. Instead we need to acknowledge the rightful emotion of shame and believe the gospel anyway. The Good News ceases to be truly “good” unless we also embrace the “bad news” of our shame. In other words, I say to myself, “I am unworthy to receive forgiveness. I deserve rejection from God. I do not deserve God’s acceptance. But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ was rejected in my place. He absorbed God’s wrath for my sin. Now He accepts me and has adopted me as His child.”
When the enemy assails us with accusations—“You are a bad person for what you did; you don’t deserve God’s forgiveness; you should be ashamed of yourself”—the proper response is not to reject this as false, but to reject it as incomplete. We can say to ourselves and the enemy, “Yes, my sin shows my utter helplessness. I do feel ashamed. I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. But Christ has taken my shame.”
This being said, at the heart of Dangerous Men is a commendable and godly desire for readers to accept the forgiveness that Christ offers to His followers and not be hindered by Satan’s accusations that would prompt us to hide from Christ. After watching the video testimonies of the young men who have been through Dangerous Men, it is clear that Seashore’s advice has been liberating for them. These men have quit standing under the weight of condemnation and have accepted the forgiveness offered in the gospel with joy. They’ve quit their head games and have chosen to rebuke the devil’s lies. They’ve quit trying to work off their sin and accepted the grace and forgiveness offered by Christ. They believe that no sin is too deep that it cannot be wiped away.
If I were leading a group of young men through this material I would make sure that I distinguish between a good use of shame and chronic shame. It is important that men not live under the weight of condemnation and that they verbally reject the lies of the enemy in this regard. But it is equally important that men see the benefit of shame: the humiliation of sin is one factor that makes the good news of Jesus so good to begin with.
Is masturbation a sin?
This section of the book will probably receive quite a bit of flack from the Christian community. Seashore uses an argument from silence when talking about the subject of masturbation: If the Bible is so explicit in its mentioning a host of grave sexual sins, it should also mention masturbation (if it is a sinful action), but since the Bible doesn’t mention it, he contends that there is nothing inherently sinful about it. Seashore also appeals to statements made by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family: “I do not believe that masturbation is much of a moral issue at all,” says Dobson (p.47).
Personally I find nothing wrong with Seashore’s simple separation of masturbation and lust: one is an external activity, the other is an internal attitude of sin. Still, the male reader is probably left wondering whether it is possible to masturbate without lusting.
In all fairness to Seashore, his clear objective is to shift the focus of his readers away from “getting control of my masturbation” to fighting the battle of the mind where lust begins. To believe that masturbation in itself is the critical issue is to ignore the root of the problem. Seashore is also clear that the only legitimate use of masturbation is the physical release of sexual tension, something the body can do naturally. He states that the eventual goal is to rely on masturbation for release less and less.
Because masturbation has controlled the habits of so many young men, Seashore advises men to schedule times to masturbate (without lusting) and thus train the body to need sexual release less and less. So if we don’t think lustfully in the midst of masturbation, what can we think about? Seashore writes,
“We can think about how cool it is that God created us so sexual and horny. We can think about how much we enjoy being a sexual person created in God’s image. We can think about how good this feels right now. We can think about a lot of positive things, but we cannot think about lustful things” (p.50).
In saying this Seashore makes masturbation as benign as eating: a natural, physical action that can be tied to sinful motives but does not have to be.
Some may find Seashore’s advice liberating; others will probably find it too hard to swallow. Just as drinking alcohol is not in itself a sinful act, for an alcoholic that has always linked alcohol consumption with his sinful motives, “trying to drink without sinning” may be a futile venture. For most boys, the exploration of masturbation in their teen years establishes a clear connection between lust and self-gratification. Trying to break the pattern may prove difficult and unnecessary.
I agree with Seashore’s conclusion that masturbation itself is not sinful but would caution a group of men going through Dangerous Men that we always need to examine our motives when it comes to these matters.
– – – –
Should we use Anderson’s “Steps to Freedom in Christ”?
Dangerous Men reprints in its entirety Dr. Neil T. Anderson’s “Steps to Freedom in Christ.” There is much that can be said about Anderson and his widely read works on spiritual warfare. Anderson has received serious criticism for his views, especially his ideas about how much influence the demonic has in the life of a Christian, and how Christians should fight the devil’s influence. It is impossible, due to space, to give a complete review of Anderson’s works here. Anderson encourages readers of “Steps to Freedom in Christ” to read a host of other books by himself so they might understand his theology and methods. Discerning coaches who are thinking of using Dangerous Men should keep this in mind.
“Steps to Freedom in Christ” has been used widely in the Christian community as a tool to break free from habitual sin. At the heart of the book is the belief that demonic forces can gain a foothold in our lives when we choose to believe their lies, deceptions, temptations, and accusations. By confessing what lies we have believed and how we have sinned, we receive needed healing from God. Anderson presents seven chapters chalked full of in-your-face questions relating to nearly every area of life: fears that have controlled us, generational curses, past/present involvement in other religions, what we believe about the use of money, food, and sex, how we have responded to approval or disapproval from others, what we believe about God’s nature and promises, and a whole host of sins, from anger, lust, bitterness, lying, hypocrisy and rebellion, to authority, and pride.
Anderson’s approach is good in that he is incredibly thorough. Someone who commits to sitting down for hours and praying through all of “Steps to Freedom in Christ” will inevitably be confronted with hidden sin issues. Anderson leaves no stone unturned. He presents a challenging spiritual inventory to his readers. Be prepared to be convicted.
Anderson’s approach is also healthy in that it focuses on repentance, mind renewal, and personal responsibility. He does not blame sin on demonic influences, but blames people for believing the lies of the kingdom of darkness. He teaches that God must grant us repentance for real change to happen. He calls his readers to confess the lies they have believed, repent of their sins, and renew their minds in God’s truth.
Anderson also doesn’t treat his “steps” to freedom like magical spells that set people free. He states clearly that these steps do not set people free: only Jesus does that. He presents these steps as a process of submission to God, a process of repentance and reaffirming God’s promises, a process that must involve trusting God to save us from our sins.
In criticism of Anderson, he makes much of renewing our “self-identity” and rejecting notions of shame. I’ve already discussed these issues in detail above.
Many theologians are uncomfortable with and leery of some of Anderson’s beliefs about a widespread satanic network, territorial spirits, specific types of demons for specific types of temptations, and generational demonic curses. While he doesn’t go into any detail about these ideas in “Steps to Freedom,” readers should know what theology undergirds his words. For many Anderson seems to encourage a kind of demonic sensationalism and superstition. Anderson has, in part, responded to some of these concerns, but it will behoove readers of Dangerous Men to be aware of the controversy surrounding his ministry.
– – – –
Dangerous Men is worth purchasing for the Coach Guide DVD alone. The video testimonies of the young men are both inspiring and entertaining. Their confessions and stories are raw and compelling.
Moreover, the DVD shows a side of Dangerous Men that the book does not show: how important personal discipleship is to the transformation process. The young men sharing their testimonies are not just guys who have read through Dangerous Men, but guys who have been personally discipled by the author, Lowell Seashore. Their stories reflect the value of older, wiser men discipling younger men in the faith. For these men, going through lust-free living was not just reading a new book they found at the Christian bookstore; it was having a more experienced man speak into their lives with power and conviction.
While I have a few reservations about some of the material in Dangerous Men, the author’s style and language allow maximum flexibility for a teacher wanting to use the material. Seashore doesn’t write like a theologian or a Bible scholar, because he is neither. Seashore is very much an ordinary man writing to ordinary men. Because of this, Dangerous Men is very adaptable. The chapters are short and simple, allowing a teacher to focus more on discussion and exploration of the scriptures together rather than reading through copious pages of material.
I have no doubt that spiritually mature and biblically knowledgeable men will benefit from using this book and DVD to disciple other young men in their battle against lust. I applaud Seashore’s work putting this material together, and I have no doubt that he is making “dangerous men” for the kingdom of God.