In spite of the popularity of this book, this has to be one of the most disappointing books I have read in a long time. What’s more, I think because of its popularity it is a dangerous book for biblically gullible people to read. It is one of those books to which our natural side gravitates but only for that reason—it’s our natural side. Though Eldredge attempts to construct the Christian man with both an old and new nature, he only encourages feeding the old and not the new. All of that part of us that wants to be aggressive and tough he feeds, but those tough virtues such as gentleness and meekness he either ignores or ridicules. I know he wouldn’t see it that way but those overtures were not subtle! When advising his son to haul off and slug the bully who pushed him down, he dismisses Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek by claiming that “Jesus was able to retaliate . . . but chose not to,” but that if you ask your son to do that “you will emasculate him for life” (p. 79). He claims that though Ruth and Boaz didn’t have sex that night on the threshingfloor, “This was seduction pure and simple—and God holds it up for all women to follow” (p. 191). Among the many derogatory remarks about the failures of churches he says that “the Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than a ‘sinner saved by grace,’” and that actually “in the core of your being you are a good man” (p. 144). He does not interact with or even refer to Paul’s description of himself by these very terms. I have heard conservative pastors using these terminologies and wondered why. Now I know where they got them. Coincidentally, my wife just read John and Stasi Eldredge’s companion book, Captivating, in which Stasi reads Proverbs 31 and calls this woman the “infamous icon” who has “sanctified the shame most women live under” and then asks “Is that supposed to be godly?” (p. 6).
Wild at Heart, Captivating and books like these are a contemporary form of antinomian perfectionism where the new nature of the believer is emphasized to the exclusion of the old nature and sin is only “a traitor within who wars against our true heart fighting alongside the Spirit of God in us” (p. 145). It’s not that you overcome this by a sanctification process, but that you ignore it until it goes away. Practical “license” to sin has always lost sanctification in its justification (whereby “legalism” has always lost justification in its sanctification). These books are popular because this is what a carnal generation of church-goers wants. Eldredge has the all-too-typical testimony of a rebellious teenager who fell away from God and left the traditional fundamental church. It was not until he found this fantastic way to recover himself that life made sense. (We ought to ask Oprah about being gullible toward hard-luck stories!) Will we ever go back and ask some of those older saints who DIDN’T fall away how to overcome sin? Probably not.