reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why I am NOT....Wild at heart

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Ok, this post has been a long time in coming.

Recently I had the mispleasure to read Wild at heart by John Elderedge. Now usually when I am about to completely slate a Christian book, I like to start by saying something positive, and then saying BUT, and then continuing.

In this case - impossible. There was one small section about the fatherhood of God that was vaguely Biblical. Otherwise it goes up there on my list of "least favourite Christian books ever" with The Prayer of Jabez and The Left Behind Series, as being full of utter crap from start to finish.

Honestly, I was reading it on the train one morning on the way to work and actually said a shocked and horrifed "What??!!" so upset was I by what I was reading.

First things first - the handling of Scripture in this book is truly awful. What's more, he seems to set the authority of other sources such as the Eagles "Desperado" (a great song by the way "You been out ridin fences for to long bah da bah bum bum" - but not the inspired word of God as far as I am aware) on the same level as the Bible. The whole book rests on an incredibly out of context quote from Matthew 11 and goes downhill from there. Definitely of the "our daily bread, the bible has a golden nugget for me today" school of Bible reading. Grrr.

Second, the picture of what "manhood" is in this book is throughly unbiblical. The aforementioned "what" on the train incident (should be call it "Whatgate"? I'm not sure) was, if I recall correctly, at the great bit, where Elderegde talks about congratulating his son on becoming more of a man on the day he punched his dad in the face and split his lip. Real men carry guns (and, apparently, an instinct towards gun control is a feminine one) real men are aggressive. Elderedge makes no attempt to deal with "man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God requires" or other verses that would contradict his view.
I loved this bit (please detect sarcasm.)
"A woman would say, what does it matter if a guy can handle a boat, throw a curveball, bag a deer, throw a left hook, this is 1993. But that is a womanly view of manhood". Sigh.
This is where this book stops being amusing and starts being damaging. Because if this is what we believe manhood is, it's no wonder that the church only ever appeals to one type of person. Sporty, aggressive, manly. This is a silly insipid cultural assumption of what a man is, and alienates large numbers of men, who, unsurprisingly, pick up the message from the church that they don't fit in. I wonder if Elderedge has ever paused to wonder why the evangelical church in America is so non-diverse, so politically homogenous, why there are significant parts of society, such as the gay community where it has failed to make significant inroads. It's the fault of people like him. Thank the Lord I don't go to a church full of men like that - because there would be no place for me.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Elderegde encourages idolatry. It made sound harsh, but it is true, the book encourages men to worship their own desires.
When you are working out what to do "Don't ask what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that."
What utter rubbish. Where is "deny yourself"? Where is "blessed are the meek"? Where is "love each other as I have loved you"? The path to the Christian life is precisely the opposite of this - we NEED to ask what others NEED, not (effectively) what we want! It's no wonder no men take the lead in church, serve their families, love their wives as Christ loved the church, if this is the advi ce they are taking. This is a carte blanche to do whatever you like! Now aside from the fact that for 90% of Christians outside the US this is not an option (if you are a subsistence farmer, you are stuck with that no matter whether it makes you "come alive" or not) and therefore cannot be the path to manhood

(tangent - in fact for huge numbers of Christian men in the US this isn't an option cos they are working $5 an hour jobs just to make ends meet, propping up your economy, so that you can spend your dollars on glossy covered books like this)

it is just SINFUL to live your life by the maxim of doing whatever you feel like doing. Elderedge himself risked taking his family below the breadline just because he FELT like going to graduate school.

You see, what the world needs is men who will be men, take responsibility, step up the plate, and do what is NEEDED, not what they feel like doing. That is the weakness that the church suffers, men who take John Elderedge's advice and do what they want.

My advice, for what it's worth? Forget Elderedge, follow the one who didn't do what he wanted, but submitted to serving our needs and the commands of his heavenly Father. He writes a better book.


Anonymous Christy said...

Wow Mo. Ha. Can I say your opinionateness cracks me up. It just makes me laugh. But I love it. Ha. Anyways, very interesting. I like reading your thoughts. I too don't think too much of W@H. You didn't mention that says that men, like God are risk takers, since God took a risk in sending Jesus.. whoooaaa back the cartload up! Risk?! Dear heavens let's not start on that road! I agree with you that it boxes up men in a way that is not biblical. My theory? It is a reaction against passifying men (*which i agree is a problem in our country) but ends up being an emotional play and doesn't challenge men to step up and live out what biblical manhood, which starts in character and builds up, not in movie fantasies. We need a foundation for real manhood AND real womanhood. And that foundation HAS to be a rock to build on.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Little Mo said...

Hey Christy - I didn't know that you read my blog!

Yeah - I didn't even get started on the sovereignty of God issue, (rooted in the handling of Scripture issue)

Yeah, I suppose I should have given Elderedge the credit for asking the right question, not just coming up with the wrong wrong wrong answer.

Big up to the Agape massif.

3:22 AM  
Blogger C.K. said...

Wow Maurice, it seems as though u have managed to visit everyone that has a blog in liverpool indeed!!!!

Yeah talk about social networking......!!!!!!

But its a great way of keeping in touch with people and to avoid saying the same thing half a million times to different people!! just get them to read your blog.

I didnt really think that you were one for having a webpage of your own...guess I was wrong :( [one of the billion other things I got worng!]

I would catch up with you one day. Im kinda in a hectic situation with packing my things to move houses now!

see you around. :)

5:56 PM  
Blogger Nghia James Brown Room said...

dear Mr Mo MO.ur cool. lol.well u are u always make me smile and this blog although i dont have many opinions is great fun to read the thought of someone who does. i do miss everyone at christ church and will be praying for u all. keep MO

love Nghia munkie

5:04 AM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

Bout time someone wrote a competent review of this one... shame there is so little discernment in the church.... all your least faves being "christian bestsellers"

Can't wait for Mo on Purpose Driven and other bestsellers.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not read the book and have only heard rave reviews on it, so I appreciate your looking at this book in a biblical light not just accepting what society calls a "best seller". Your thoughts are clear, well thought out, and challenging. It encourages me to read Christian literature more critically seeking to find the nuggets of biblical truth explained in light of scripture. You are awesome! Your sister across the pond... Shannon

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm astounded, that was one of the best books I've read, and you just misquoted it. While referencing small passages of the book, I feel like you've completely missed the point of the book. After reading the book, It gave me a sense of how much the church really needs true men who are willing to fight the spiritual war that is raging around us. His point was not to tell men to leave their wives or to become ultra macho. The main point of the book was for a man to pursue his lifes' calling as dictated by God. As opposed to being a businessman and being miserable, the author went back to school for a masters degree. I am sure he discussed it with his wife before hand and that an immense amount of prayer went into the decision. He was called, and didn't merely feel like going back to school. It appears that he has touched many lives in a positive manner. The book was recommended to me by a good friend whom I trust. Halfway through the book, I found out it was a bestseller. Not beforehand. I do appreciate an honest review based on what you felt, but I feel like the review is based upon misconception and a misquoting of the book.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous alcatraz said...

I don't think you've understood what Eldredge is talking about because you've applied your own theological preconceptions and presumed he's talking about things the way you would. Yes, there are areas where one can debate his theology - what Christian writer ever gets it 100%? And I also don't fully agree with his conception of manhood as 'wild at heart'. (EG I actually get a kick out of working in an office and achieving things for my clients with the skills that I have.)

But the core issue that he addresses is that somewhere along the line the church has reduced the Christian life to one of dull, boring duty. He's calling men - and women - back to a passionate relationship with Christ, that changes us from within. That call is an important one, I think, because so much of the church these days looks just like the rest of the world that it is painful to watch.

Mind you, I'm coming from the point of view of someone who's also read Waking the Dead, and Captivating, which are much better books in every way. Wild at Heart is not the best example of Eldredge's work.

BTW at least you could get the spelling of his name correct.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeahhh, At least SOMEONE !! Hit it right. Lets See, I read and own the book Journey of Desire, Years befgore I read Wild at heart and had never even heard of J.E. And liked the book. But now having just finished Wild at Heart. It hit home for me in SOOO many ways. I simply could not believe it. SAo THANKS Anynomous and Alcatraz. I guess were the ONLY ones who really understood what J.E was trying to say. I've become a really big fan of his work !

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey guys, check out this article. I think it gives a very concise, critical analysis of Wild at Heart and separates the good from the bad.


5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, bad link. here's the correct link ->


5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok so it keeps cutting off the end of the link which is supposed to be ....eldredge_wah_review.php this better work! :/

if it doesn't and your interested in the link just e-mail me


5:34 PM  
Anonymous Paola said...

Hi, I just want to say that this book has change my husband`s and my own life, Captivating, that is the women`s version is just wonderful. I think that we must have more tolerance and critical thougths, if people respect what your think, you must respect other`s opinion.For me it is a great book, I lovve it and God has made many good things througth the book.


6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He did some bad things

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He raped one and got other girls pregnant who had abortions. He did a lot of LSD,and hurt many. Dont be fooled.

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am a womanm, I've just finished reading this book and the things JE talks about are ringing so true in my mind and in so many men in my life, so I am now going back to the bookshop and buying as many copies as I can and sharing it to as many men as I can.
JE is unassuming, he is humble and fearless, he's changed the way i look at men.

10:23 AM  

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