Why I’m Not Wild at Heart

If you pay attention to to popular Christian trends, you are no doubt aware of the phenomenal success of John Eldredge’s book, Wild at Heart. I read the book a couple of years ago and was profoundly disturbed with its careless treatment of the Gospel and its irreverence to the very nature of God. This post is not intended to be a book review. Reviews have been conducted by several people much more astute than I. If you want to see what others have said about the book, I suggest that you read book reviews by Daryl Wingerd, Randy Stinson, Rut Etheridge III, and Tim Challies. My intention is merely to chronicle some personal reflections that I have with Eldredge and his influence on men’s ministries within the church.

I certainly don’t want to imply that Eldredge has nothing valuable to say. Certainly, in our culture, and to some extent, in the contemporary American Church, there has been a move to curb the natural aggressiveness and competitiveness of men. And Eldredge is certainly an eloquent spokesman for his cause. His writing style is gripping and moving. He is a masterful storyteller. I don’t want to demean Eldredge on his motives. He seems to be a sincere person.

Yet I am left with some troubling observations after reading Eldredge. Rather than feeling empowered by his propositions, I tremble at a universe where God is stripped of his godliness. A transcendent being devoid of the power in which we, as Christians, find our strength.

Briefly, a few of my concerns are as follows:

1. Eldredge’s central thesis seems to be little more than a christianized reworking of Robert Bly’s Iron John. Rather than prove his argument from Biblical sources, Eldredge relies on quotations from Bly and from multiple Hollywood movies.

2. Eldredge’s view of God is low. By low, I mean that Eldredge’s God is not the omniscient, omnipotent God that I have grown up believing in. Several times, Eldredge refers to God a someone who takes risks. “God is a person who takes immense risks.” (page 30) As a professional risk manager, I know something about risk. And one cannot have risk without uncertainty. Uncertainty is embedded in the very definition of the word risk. A God who risks cannot therefore be a God who is omniscient.

3. Eldredge’s use of Scripture is reckless. Daryl Wingerd’s review make an excellent point about Eldredge’s haphazard use of Scripture in the book. The most troubling example is Eldredge’s citation of Proverbs 20:5. The New King James Version which Eldredge cites reads, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out.” Yet, Eldredge quotes it (page 1) as “The heart of a man is like deep water…” He has effectively edited the verse (changed the subject of the sentence) to fit in with the theme of his first chapter. Eldredge also proposes several ludicrous interpretations of Scripture such as the assertation that man is “wild” because he was created outside the Garden of Eden. Did God then curse Adam by placing him there? Did He also reward Adam for his sin be expelling him? (see pages 3 and 4)

4. The book is having great success in the Evangelical Church. This is probably the most troubling aspect to me. It points to a general lack of discernment in the Church. I know of many good Christian men who have gone to or go to “Wild at Heart” groups and yet do not really analyze critically what Eldredge is saying.

So I am left with the conviction that while I deeply want to be a part of any great movement of God (especially as concerns men), I am not Wild at Heart.

I am not Wild at Heart because I acknowledge and revere the omniscience and omnipotence of God.

I am not Wild at Heart because I believe that Scripture is God breathed and is not simply a tool we can bend to support our pet theories.

I am not Wild at Heart because my “wound” was not caused by my father. My “wound” lies in the sinful state into which I was born. And my salvation is not to reclaim my wildness, but to embrace the salvation the God has graciously given to me.

And finally, I am not Wild at Heart because I am forced to conclude that the god of Wild at Heart does not look like the God of the Bible. Instead, the god of Wild at Heart looks remarkably like John Eldredge.

soli Deo gloria


2 Responses

  1. I do not think that by saying that God is a risk taker that Eldredge meant to take his omniscience away… God knows what we are going to do… but by giving us free will his is will to take the risk of having us walk away for the chance of a real relationship with him…

    Make sense?

    • @npfthunfan,

      Thanks for the comment, and yes I understand what you are saying. However, this is the problem with your argument – the concept of “risk” is incompatible with omniscience. Risk is not risk without uncertainty, and an omniscient being cannot have uncertaintly.

      Let me put it this way. It is not risky for me to try to jump over the Grand Canyon on my mountain bike. The outcome is not what I desire, but it is certain.

      Eldredge may say he is not an open theist. And I can perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt on that. However, he uses the language of open theism and conveys a picture of God that is false.

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