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Wild at Heart

By John Eldredge

 

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge



  • Wild at Heart

    by John Eldredge

    If you've been to Sam's Club lately, you've probably seen this book on the shelves there. It's also been prominently featured on the shelves of most bookstores, both Christian and secular. You don't have to look far, among Christians anyway, to find a man who will rave about this book. Men who pride themselves on not reading have read this book, often times more than once. Many churches have men's Bible studies that are going through this book.

    And then there's another group. Being nice guys, they don't want to make anyone mad by being contrary, but having read the book, their attitude is, "Well, that was a waste of time." In all fairness to the second group, most of them didn't read the whole book. They only read half of it, or maybe three quarters of it before abandoning it (and they only stuck with it that long because it had been given to them by a friend who they didn't want to offend).

    To those readers who abandoned the book before the end, I'll go ahead and say now they should stick with it. For the reader who found "Wild at Heart" to be pretty useless, I would like to say that the final fourth of the book almost makes up for the first three quarters. You may still think it was a waste of time, but I think it will move up from "waste of time" to "borderline waste of time" in your estimation.

    "Wild at Heart" is an attempt to awaken the male spirit that John Eldredge believes has been quashed in the Christian man. He may have something there, for one need only to look around most churches and see that the women are running them and getting the work done—not because they're power hungry but because the men have abandoned their roles and, if the women didn't do the work, it wouldn't get done.

    Eldredge believes that the problem is that men are—pay attention because I think this is where the book title comes from—wild at heart, having been created by a wild and risk-taking God. He argues that we have emasculated the Christian man by trying to make him "nice", as opposed to passionate about God (nice and passionate apparently being polar opposites in Eldredge's world), and so are not living as we should—and we and our families and churches are suffering because of it.

    It is not Eldredge's premise that causes most men who abandon the book to do so, but his conclusions. For, in the first 3/4 of the book, anyway, Eldredge seems to be advocating that men reclaim their wildness, their spirit, their heart, through "manly" activities like mountain climbing and camping and watching profane movies.

    In a telling passage from the book (reprinted in the "Wild at Heart Journal"), Eldredge writes, "If you have doubts whether or not God loves wildness, spend a night in the woods . . . alone. Take a walk out in a thunderstorm. Go for a swim with a pod of killer whales. Get a bull moose mad at you. Whose idea was this, anyway? The Great Barrier Reef with its great white sharks, the jungles of India with their tigers, the deserts of the Southwest with all those rattlesnakes—would you describe them as "nice" places? Most of the earth is not safe; but it's good. [Reviewer's note: he got that last line from C.S. Lewis.]

    "After God created all this, he pronounced it good, for heaven's sake. It's His way of letting us know He rather prefers adventure, danger, risk, and the element of surprise. This whole creation is unapologetically wild. God loves it that way."

    Now, when did God pronounce creation "good"? It should be pointed out that he pronounced it good before the fall. And remember, before the fall, there was no death. So thunderstorms, tigers, sharks and reefs would have been beautiful to look at, but they probably wouldn't have fit Eldredge's definition of wild for the simple reason that they couldn't have killed you. To reiterate, there was no death. Swimming with the sharks might have been great fun, but it would not have been dangerous.

    Within this little snippet this reviewer sees the greatest weakness of Eldredge's book. It's not the writing style or the length or anything grammatical, or even the fact that Eldredge finds the God he is looking for, but the seeming assertion that all other men must find God in the same way (through mountain climbing, hunting, etc.).

    In the final quarter of the book, for those who make it that far, Eldredge finally acknowledges (thought it's too late for many readers), that a man doesn't have to find his wild heart in the way Eldredge has found his. In the final quarter, Eldredge finally begins to encourage men to find their "wildness" where God leads them—which may not be outdoors, it may just be in doing what God calls a man to do; sharing the gospel with a neighbor, being a godly man before his family, etc. The first three quarters seem (to some readers, including this reviewer) to be just a Christian rehash of one of those chest-beating, drum-thumping, loin-cloth-wearing men's retreats, in spite of the fact that Eldredge says specifically that that's not what he was trying to do. In short, this is the sort of book one would get if "Tim the Toolman Taylor" from "Home Improvement" were to write a Christian book.

    Eldredge is a better writer than, say, Steve Farrar, but he deserves comparison for he covers similar territory to Farrar. Both speak to the idea of Christian men being men, but Farrar does a far better job of communicating Biblical truths to all men, rather than just men who like being outdoors. Also, Eldredge loves elipses (the three dot thing) and overuses them, but nobody's perfect.

    While I don't recommend this book, if you buy this book, I would actually recommend you get the journal, too, for it provides a valuable and needed venue for "talking back" to Eldredge and working out what you think of what he has written.

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