Wild at Heart by John Eldredge has received a lot of press. 

Being a woman, I’d never read it, but when booksneeze.com offered me a free copy in exchange for a review, I thought… additional father’s day gift, perhaps a few insights into the male brain… plus, it’s revised and expanded! Why not?!

So, in I plunged. 

While I was reading this book I had two simultaneous and equally overwhelming reactions.

1)      He nailed it.  I mean, he N A I L E D it! 

2)      Something’s wrong.  This sensation didn’t jump out and grab me like the first one did, admittedly.  It was more a subtle nagging.  Yet, something was wrong, and I’ll get into that in a bit.

First, the good:

Eldredge writes about what is MISSING from a man’s life, the adventure, the use and the need of his strength.  He explains how most sinful behaviors are derived from this desire to not use or display his strength and makes a good case for how these things fit together with what a man IS to be and how the man adapts to fit what he’s currently ‘allowed’ to be.  As a wife, I will be the first to admit that I’d love to see my husband go further toward using his full ‘strength’ and going hard after ‘adventure’.  As a modern-day woman, I will be the first to admit that the thought of having a man who is thus inclined is harder in practice than in theory.  Every step he makes towards recovering those roles as a strong adventurer is a perceived threat to my own control.  Trust.  I apparently lack trust.  Don’t we all.

One of the most impacting statements in the thing for me personally (keeping in mind that I am NOT the book’s target audience and that this is NOT the central message of the book) is in his section “A beauty to rescue”.  The part where he explained that the author’s hesitancy in their relationship, both to take the lead and to interact with her, quickly confirmed to his wife the message she’d heard all her life, “You are not desired.  You will not be protected.  No one will fight for you.”  And now I’m fighting with all my energy not to digress into why Twilight has become such a cult classic despite its rather poor literary qualities.

Guys, despite our tough veneer and all our ‘who needs men/boys are bad’ bravado… women really do want to be desired.  We do want to be protected.   We want someone willing to fight for us.  If we do NOT, it is because we have learned we cannot rely on your protection or that we’ve determined that your desire for us and your willingness to fight are fickle.  Then we decide it is better to rely on self than on others.  And now that I’ve drawn all feminist fire to this particular paragraph, I’ll cap it all by saying, this is only part of the kind of message that the book holds, explain that it is a message our generation SORELY needs and move on.

Now, the bad:

It took me awhile to figure out the problems, aside from my observation that the Scripture use was scattered and sometimes irrelevant to the topic the author intended to use it for… and, of course, used less than movies and other ‘visual aids’ which bothers me barely at all yet is worth mentioning since others have already taken great pains to criticize this.  The fact that the book is a lot of psychology and little Scripture bothers some, but not me personally for the same reason that I favor using both Scripture AND logic or Scripture AND what is seen in science to state a case.  No, the parts that disturbed me became more apparent towards the latter half of the book when Eldridge began ‘mysticizing’ things.  ‘Ask God to give you your real name’ and things of that nature.  Now, to keep from cheapening a needed message with a bunch of what will most certainly degenerate into long winded nit-picking, I will confess that shortly after I found the source of my own dislike, I also decided I didn’t want to spend my review harping about them.  Instead, I’ll send you to the book “Fool’s Gold” by MacArthur where he spends a chapter dissecting this and other works coming away from this particular title with four main problems: an insufficient view of Scripture, an inadequate picture of God, an incomplete portrait of Christ and an inaccurate picture of man.

That sounds like a lot of “wrong” to wade through to get to the “right”.  BUT, keeping in mind that Christ and God are almost impossible to portray in their entirety even in a work that is DESIGNED to do so and that our view of Scripture and man have various facets to them, each of which needs to be represented.  The view that the Devil/flesh is responsible for our sin because our hearts are new creations is nothing MacArthur would have argued had he read it in the work designed to explain sin, called “The Enemy Within” based on a puritan work, no less.  However, that book was designed to explain this complex issue and the correct response to it and also provides the balancing information such a radical statement requires.  Using that single issue as an example, I highly recommend this book to the following persons:

Those who can discern truth from error, especially when the error is omitting key factors.

Those who understand that Scripture is complete and that no further revelation is needed in order to live a godly life.

I could continue, but perhaps, I should quit now and just shorten the list to “Those who have a sturdy theological bedrock on which to set the truths of this book and with which to compare and discard the overstated or enhance the sometimes severely understated portions which would otherwise be errors if not properly balanced by a complete picture of truth.” 

But, now that the disclaimers are out of the way, grab hold of that bedrock, crack this sucker open and be amazed as it puts a face and a cause on the problems you’ve known were there but never quit known how to describe. 

Someday I will find a book I can recommend without reservation, and this title will be replaced on my bookshelf, until then, this 3 star book will still be on my ‘you should read this’ list.