Book Review – Wild At Heart

In the past couple of months, I’ve gotten into listening to books on CD on my way to and from work. I figured that since I’ve got a 20 minute or so drive, I might as well use the time to listen to books. I’ve also discovered a great online source for audio books at www.christianaudio.com where they have a free book available for download every month. I’ve downloaded a couple and need to burn them onto a CD so I can listen to them.

While we were visiting my sister, her husband Doug lent me the audio version of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Having just finished it, I thought I would share a review of the book. Again, thanks to Doug for lending me this book. I’ll mail it back to you shortly!

To be honest, I was a little disappointed although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. From the very beginning, Eldredge seems to be painting a caricature of what a true “man” that comes hauntingly close to how Hollywood wants us to view men as – rugged, square-jawed, outdoorsy types that live to clock out at 5 and have their trucks in 4-wheel drive by 5:15 on some backwoods trail. In fact, many of Eldredge’s examples of “true” men come from such movies as Braveheart and Gladiator. It is apparent that Eldredge enjoys the outdoors and who can fault him for that? The danger is when he equates a necessity of enjoying all these things to how much of a “wild man” a guy really is. He even goes so far as to say that a true man can’t really like being inside at a desk all day, but should be longing to get outside. If he does, something’s wrong with him and he needs to reclaim his manhood by getting wild (outdoors). And this is the premise that Eldredge seems to base his entire thesis on – a man must be wild, adventuresome and ready for a fight in order to be a man. This is backed up with many examples including one where he advises his son who is being picked on to punch the bully in the face as hard as he can. This apparently was designed to make his son feel enabled and manly and have the freedom to fight back, despite the fact that we are to follow Christ’s teaching of turning the other cheek. (Eldredge defends his actions by saying many in the church misinterpret this passage, but never says how or why.)

There are two particular errors (among many) in the book that I want to hit on. The first is the noticeable absence of hardly any Scripture given to support Eldredge’s many false presumptions, and the Scripture that is quoted is so twisted out of context as to make it say something that does not ring true. Instead, Eldredge relies heavily on psychological analyses that fall short of correctly mirroring any Scriptural teaching. Don’t get me wrong on this point. I believe that there is a great use for psychology and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. But the danger comes when we replace Scripture with the psychology and try to make it sound Biblical.

The second and perhaps most disturbing error in the book is Eldredge’s claim that, in trying to support his view that God loves adventure, God is a risk-taker and even an “immense risk-taker.” To hear Eldredge’s view of the death of Christ, you would think the crucifixion was completely unplanned and God showed up just in the nick of time to set everything straight. “God lets the mob kill Jesus, bury him…then he shows up.” Although he tries to add a disclaimer that he isn’t a proponent of Open Theism, he apes Open Theism’s teachings quite well. Risk by definition involves some aspect of the unknown and to say that God takes risks is to say that He doesn’t know the outcome of certain things.

I do believe that today’s culture emasculates men in wanting to be in touch with their softer side and perhaps Eldredge was trying to fight against that. But instead what he ends up doing is going to the other end of the Hollywood extreme in idolizing he-men. In the end, Eldredge’s answer to regaining masculinity seems to be to get in touch with our inner caveman. While there were a few good points made, they are so few and far between as to not make reading (or listening to) the book worthwhile. If I were to rate it out of 5, it would be a 1.

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2 Responses

  1. A very good review, Stephen. MacArthur is the editor of Fool’s Gold – Discerning Truth in an Age of Error. One of the chapters is written by Daniel Gillespie and also addresses this book Wild at Heart.

    He concludes by saying, “There is no question that Wild at Heart addresses a critical topic in Christianity. There is a serious need for men with resolve, strength, and character. However, by failing to establish a high view of Scripture, a high view of God, and a proper view of man, Eldredge lays a faulty foundation for constructing true masculinity. His call to be a wild man is not only unnecessary – it is unbiblical…..So let the man who searches for true masculinity look no further than the pages of Scripture, for there he will find the truth about himself from the mouth of his Creator. Let his ears not be tickled by the whims of men, but let his mind be trained by the Word of God. And before any man looks for his battle to fight, his beauty to rescue, and his adventure to live, let him look to his God to glorify! (emphasis mine)

    Thanks for sharing Stephen once again. Great review.

    Love you, Mark

  2. As a woman, I read this book because I wanted to know what the “hype” was all about. In addition, I wanted the “truth” from it. I thought knowing men a little better wouldn’t hurt. However, I’ve read several books by Eldredge, and I have to agree with your critique. I was not inspired or “spurred onto good works” and I’m not sure men reading this book would have been either.

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