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.