Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

I’ve put off reviewing this book for a long time – so long that most of the content is now just a blur. But the important stuff has stayed with me. The reason I put the review off is because I didn’t know how to tackle it. The book fell into that category that a lot of Christian literature falls into: a mix of truth and misinterpretation. That sounds arrogant, but it comes from having over fifteen years of Christian experience and learning.

Thankfully, Wild at Heart contains much more truth than misinterpretation. My main criticism is the author’s tendency to offer flowery interpretations of Scripture, going beyond the actual meaning of Bible passages. The book also projects a kind of “find yourself” mentality that Americans seem to like. But that’s enough criticism. In the book’s favour, I have to say that it is dealing with a very important theme that is largely being ignored by everyone.

I was finally prompted to write this review after reading a particular news article on a blog. I heard about a college student who used his computer to design a first-person shooter map of his school; other students played and enjoyed it. Then the school administration found out (not that it was a secret) and got the police involved. Despite no actual crime having been committed, the student has been transferred to another educational establishment to complete his course, and the police have forbidden him ever again to make a map of any actual public place.

Okay, we all know what prompted this harsh reaction from the authorities: the recent real-life school shootings. But nobody’s asking the important question: what prompted the student to create the college map? You see, I work in a school. As a gaming fan, I’ve oftened walked the corridors imagining how cool it would be to have a game map of the building. I’ve looked at the various nooks and crannies and thought how wonderful it would be to be able to leap around in inventive ways, finding interesting spots to gain a tactical advantage over my opponents. Does this make me a potential psycho killer? Of course not. This kind of thing appeals to me simply because I’m male. And that’s why the student made the map – because he’s male, and males do male things.

Wild at Heart makes the daring suggestion that we should not be preventing our boy children from playing with toy guns – that the desire to play in this way is not an expression of human sinfulness, but of male identity. The book suggests that men have a wild streak – that they are more at home in the wilds of nature than in a nice tidy house. We crave to be seen, not as well-mannered polite people, but as courageous and dangerous. When a young boy gets a cowboy costume for his birthday, and he straps the guns into their holsters and puts on his wide-brimmed hat, he’ll probably want to wear it all day, whether he’s playing with friends or sitting at the dinner table. He is unlikely to have the same enthusiasm for, say, a doctor’s costume. The cowboy costume is more than just an outfit; it’s an identity. He wants to be seen as dangerous, even if it’s just makebelieve. I reiterate: this has nothing to do with sin. It’s just the way we’re wired, as men. Girls have different interests. Look at how many girls’ toys that have themes of home and children, whereas boys’ toys are concerned with conflict and battle.

This book suggests that the churches of today are creating a breed of men who have been completely stripped of their proper identity. The virtues of niceness and politeness are hailed as the things to which we should aspire. But what we really crave is “permission to be dangerous.”

Speaking from personal experience, I’m a man who lives alone, and I have a slight distate for the domestic life that I’m entrenched it, whereas women have natural instincts for home-building. Do I sound sexist? Maybe I do. Maybe I should. Because the modern way of thinking – that men and women must be the same to be equal – is just wrong. Men and women are not only physically different, but psychologically wired completely differently. And these days, men are getting a real raw deal.

Wild at Heart is an important book that can be read and appreciated by the Christian and non-Christian alike. It’s a real eye-opener.

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4 thoughts on “Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

  1. I don’t know if I’ll read the book, but your post was fascinating. I used to consult at the state department, and I remember one day chatting with a couple of the other guys at the help desk about a Doom mod that could convert the whole thing to an office building. We got a little weird about that, picturing sculking around in the building, eventually making our way to the eighth floor…

    I’ll stop writing here, because I don’t want to be arrested or have the secret service knocking on my door tonight. But the point is, we were just some guys blowing off some steam. I think you’ve got a good point here.

  2. Brandon says:

    I have started to read this book and I keep asking myself, is my heart really programed like this or is this something that is going against the nature of God? It took 40 years for God to take the “wild” out of His children when they left Egypt, so is my heart really that “wild”? It would seem that God is about relationship and community and not about being wild and alone. Am I the cowboy or Billy Graham? Is life about unity and togetherness or about being the lone star bad, you know what?

  3. Bret says:

    This book offers up a completely misguided view of not only manhood, but of God, the Gospel, and the mission of Jesus. Where in the Bible does it say that God created men to enjoy war and conflict? Where does it say that anger, aggression, and wildness are things that men (or women) should pursue as desirable attributes? God created both man AND woman in a garden. A controlled, small, beautiful garden. They were created to live in unity with the order that God had provided them with. Our call as men and women is to be more like Christ, not the Hollywood interpretations of fictional characters such as William Wallace.

    Jesus preached that our primary commandment is love. Not battle, conflict, war, manhood, strength, bloodshed, aggression, or even passion. Take your idolized version of hyped-up, steroid-injected manhood down to the inner city or center for abused women and tell me that what you or John Eldredge are preaching is what Jesus calls us to be as men. Jesus took hookers out to dinner and washed the feet of the untouchables. He did not ride down from Heaven on a white horse and slay the Romans with a 5 foot sword with the so-called glory of a gladiator.

  4. peter d says:

    ill stick up for a good man when they charge him…

    Eldredge knows that true love comes at a price. Unfortuately that price is the price of war and we remember Calvary first and foremost as THE battle we are all talking about daily. Love is seen in THE battle. Our whole existence is a battle. We were born into THE battlefield on the wrong side. tell me its not true……

    To Bret above. Do not forget the battle at Calvary. Love would be nothing to do with you without it. Thats why we are told to don the Armour of god and fight. To be more like Jesus? You misunderstand what he means by asking us to be warriors. You mention a sword. Life is a daily battle against sin against self, against the ‘old man’, it is the fighting spirit of the male and female christian in their own lives that he and his wife are being called to rouse.

    All the theology in the world wont make a man. Leaving everything to God by copping out and being scared of having anything important to fight for is a contributory factor in feminism. Men are bored. we are weak. We like porn. we feel misplaced anger daily. we are caught up chasing mammon and the things of the world, which are not bad but consuming us. females are harder for us to understand. Kids are lost in drugs and underage sex and drinking. Half the world are broken men who hate their dads, who have no dads. Half the world are women with no men who’d want to stick with them and are broken and lost. Look at divorce rates in the churches…DISGRACE.

    Some luvvy duvvy worldview where there is no bloodshed is anti-scriptural. however, Eldgedge isnt supposing that we are to fight with men. Our battle is not with flesh and blood. Its the FIGHTING SPIRIT we want.

    Men spiritually have a very different fighting spirit to women.

    We all have total faith in God of course but not yet enough LOVE TO STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR THE ENEMY WE ARE ASKED TO FEED. We are largely defeatist because we beleive we are identified as sinners and therefore have some indirect excuse not to live in the fullness of holiness. BE YE HOLY. I am not identified as a sinner anymore. I am santified by His Blood. Satan has no charge. The battle is won.

    i dont look at yesterday. i press onwards as in a race ( not the rat race to pay the mortgage) to win the prize..yeehhhaaaa cmon brethern 🙂

    amen

    i love you all

    peter

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