Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 269–293 | Cite as

From Grace Alone to Grace Alone: Male Body Image and Intimacy at Princeton Seminary



This essay explores recent literature on male body image and reports the findings of empirical research of male body image on the campus of Princeton Seminary. While the author did not find that Princeton Seminary men suffer from what is being called the “Adonis Complex” in any pathological sense, the author did find that the “talking taboo” among seminary men regarding intimate matters is still operative and that these men seem to be longing for male intimacy, as evidenced by their eager and voluntary support of my study. Surprisingly, the author found that, during the course of his interviews, theological language about grace seemed to be subverting the experience of intimacy and, ironically, the experience of grace itself.


Adonis complex Culbertson Dittes Rogers Sullivan Grace 



This essay, which is a revised version of my senior thesis at Princeton Seminary, is dedicated to Robert Dykstra, my mentor and friend.


  1. Adler, J. (2004). Toxic strength. Newsweek, 144(25), 45–52 (December 20).Google Scholar
  2. Agliata, D., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (2004). The impact of media exposure on males’ body image. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(1), 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bordo, S. (1999). The male body: A new look at men in public and in private. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  4. Cole, J., Smith, R., Halford, J., & Wagstaff, G. (2003). A preliminary investigation into the relationship between anabolic–androgenic steroid use and the symptoms of reverse anorexia in both current and ex-users. Psychopharmacology, 166, 424–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Crisp, A., Halek, C., Humphrey, H., & Joughin, N. (1992). Religious belief and anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 12, 397–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Culbertson, P. (1994). Counseling men. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.Google Scholar
  7. Dittes, J. (1996). Driven by hope: Men and meaning. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox.Google Scholar
  8. Dunn, S. (2000). Different hours: Poems. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Erikson, E. (1962). Young man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  10. Frame, M., & Stout, E. (2004). Body image disorder in adolescent males: Strategies for school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 8(2), 176–182.Google Scholar
  11. Herren, G. (2001). Body obsessions. Lambda Book Report, 9(7), 10–12.Google Scholar
  12. Labre, M. P., & Law, C. (2002). Cultural standards of attractiveness: A thirty-year look at changes in male images in magazines. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 79(3), 697–711.Google Scholar
  13. Leit, R., Gray, J., & Pope, H. (2002). The media’s representation of the ideal male body: A cause for muscle dysmorphia? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31(3), 334–338.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Maglio, C., Richards, S., & Smith, R. (2004). Examining the relationship between religious orientation and eating disturbances. Eating Behaviours, 5, 171–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Marsden, P., & Morgan, J. (2002). “Spiritual starvation?” A case series concerning Christianity and eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 28, 476–480.Google Scholar
  16. Moore, S. (1996). God’s gym: Divine male bodies of the bible. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Morgan, R. (2002). The men in the mirror. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 49(5), A53–A54.Google Scholar
  18. Pope, H., Phillips, K., & Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis complex: The secret crisis of male body obsession. New York: The Free.Google Scholar
  19. Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  20. Sullivan, A. (1999). Love undetectable: Notes on friendship, sex, and survival. New York: Vinatge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religious Studies—MS 15Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations