Trivium Pursuit

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge: A Compilation of Review Excerpts

Ron Foster

…Wild at Heart has been a catalyst for removing the Bible from Bible studies and replacing them with DVD/VCR players. Men’s groups no longer spend time reading and “digging” into the word of God. No, men now watch clips from Braveheart and discuss how William Wallace is what a real Christian should look like – rugged, outdoorsy, adventurous. … I cannot subscribe to the defense given for books like Wild at Heart, that God uses these books in spite of their theological flaws. I find it hard to believe that God would use something that robs Him of His glory and gives it to men, something that diminishes God’s name for the sake of man, something that directly and blatantly contradicts His written word. …
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Randy Stinson

…very significant problems which undermine the entire book…. Eldredge’s description of God and his “adventure” leave the reader with a confusing and unbiblical picture of God. For him, men are risk-takers and adventure-seekers at heart because God is a risk-taker and adventure-seeker. He [Eldredge] claims, ‘In an attempt to secure the sovereignty of God, theologians have overstated their case and left us with a chess-player God playing both sides of the board, making all his moves and all ours too.’….For those familiar with the current debate over what is sometimes called open theism, Eldredge explicitly states that he is not advocating this position. But this is even more problematic. If he is familiar with the debate, and he is not an open theist, then why would he use language that is so closely tied to that position? ….
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Tim Challies

“A few months ago I mentioned on this site that I was reading John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart and intended to write a review of it. After reading the book I elected not to write a review at that time. The book was so full of error and absolutely ridiculous nonsense that I just didn’t have the heart to document it all. … Though Eldredge denies he is an open theist, the evidence does not support his claim. Time and time again he speaks of God in ways that can only be explained if you hold such views. ‘God is a person who takes immense risks (p. 30).’ ‘It’s not the nature of God to limit His risks and cover His bases (p.31).’ ‘As with every relationship, there’s a certain amount of unpredictability. God’s willingness to risk is just astounding. There is definitely something wild in the heart of God (p. 32).’ … Eldredge views Satan as the one who is to blame when we sin. He seems to believe that we are little more than victims rather than being fully, 100% responsible for our own sins. … Eldredge says that God talks to him directly. He also speaks to him through movies, books and so on.

Tim Challies

…My evaluation is that Eldredge is not a trustworthy teacher of the Word of God. While he presents an attractive message and often does so in an attractive way, much of the content simply does not line up with Scripture. He denies many of the truths orthodox believers have long held to. I do not recommend his books and encourage you to exercise extreme caution when dealing with his teachings.
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Daryl Wingerd

Simply stated, the problems are as follows: First, John Eldredge mishandles Scripture badly. Second, the central theme of the book is not consistent with the teaching of the Bible. Third, the book conveys a degrading, humanistic, and even heretical view of God….Not only can I not recommend this book, I feel compelled to warn Christians to keep it away from others, especially from the lost and from the immature believer. Books like Wild at Heart–books that humanize God and glorify man–books that teach a generation of Christian men, already weakened by humanistic philosophy and biblical ignorance, to look anywhere other than the pages of the Bible for guidance–have a seductive appeal to the flesh….
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Jim Harmon

Popularity aside, Wild at Heart is a notable example of the integration of secular ideas, theories, and practices with Scripture. As a result, clear Biblical teaching regarding the nature of man, how he should live, and how he changes is compromised, undermined, and obscured…..from the outset he paints the Christian man with a distinctly psychological brush—a victim, one who has been “wounded,” most likely by his father, but also by the church, his wife, and others as well. All that follows is an eclectic mix of ideas and assumptions embroidered with Scripture. This mixture (known today as integration) can give the impression that the commentary is Bible-based and therefore misleads all but those discerning readers who insist upon Biblical integrity…. Eldredge describes a needy God, a God with fragile hopes and desires, a God who comes in search of attention and affection….
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Dennis Gunderson

I haven’t read “Captivating” but I know “Wild at Heart” well. ..They are both emotion-driven books with very little biblical emphasis. “Wild at Heart” was designed to persuade men that they should be adventurous and a little crazy, break loose and get outside, do exciting things, on a theory that God made us for this sort of thing. Kind of dominion theology gone wild. Anything worth saying in the book could be said in one paragraph to a reclusive young man, to get out and try more new and different things. I don’t trust the author to show good judgment, so I doubt his wife’s book is much better. Reviews of it on amazon.com seem to indicate that critically thinking writers were disappointed and found it more fluff than substance.
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Gary Gilley

Wild at Heart is so full of unbiblical content and downright error that even Christianity Today wrote a negative review. When Christianity Today, which embraces everyone from Robert Schuller to Tony Campolo, and seldom has a pejorative word to say about anything, feels compelled to issue warnings, it ought to cause warning signs to pop up in our minds. Christianity Today implied that Wild at Heart is a “syrupy pop book that pleases undiscerning ears” and then stated clearly, “The therapeutic virtues of the book, however, do not outweigh its theological and cultural vices…. Theological error emerges by page three.” …Eldredge has bought into every form of psychobabble imaginable. For example:

We are all victims (pp. 124-25, 132).
Sinful behavior is explained as psychological disorder.
Pages 88, 89 – Parents, especially fathers, are to blame for our problems.
Pages 91, 92 – Pornography is addictive because down deep we believe if we can just find and win the beauty we will recover our own lost masculinity.
Pages 94, 95 – “Homosexuality is an attempt to repair the wound by filling it with masculinity.”
Pages 147-149 – “Sexual struggle [is] not so much… sin but… a battle for… strength…. Remember—a man’s addictions are the result of his refusing his strength.”
Pages 148, 149 offer a particularly disturbing example of visualization which is definitely tending toward the occult, along with some dream analysis that would impress Freud.
We all have been wounded in life, most likely by our parents (Eldredge believes it is usually fathers). Until we recognize this wound, grieve over it, enter into it, we will be dysfunctional and troubled people….

… there is no question that [Eldredge] misunderstands the devil. First, he believes the devil fears the courageous Christian man (pp. 87, 166). On the contrary, God warns us of our arrogance in attempting to deal with the devil (Jude 8-10; 2 Peter 2:10-12), and calls for us to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist, not attack (1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:6)…..Next, rather than recognizing that our sinful flesh is the primary, if not exclusive, source of our evil thoughts, he attempts to blame these on the devil (p. 152). Our sinful emotions can also be blamed on Satan, and dizziness apparently is a symptom of demonic oppression (p. 164-165). Finally, when a man falls into sin it is not really his fault (a common theme as we have seen); it is the devil who has picked him off (pp. 169-170).
…Although he denies it, Eldredge is clearly an open theist. Open theism teaches that God not only does not control all events in the future, He cannot even know them…. This is no light matter. In recent times the Evangelical Theological Society has declared open theism to be a heresy and has attempted to expel several theologians who hold it. Surely Eldredge is not ignorant of the fact that one of the most popular open theism books is The God Who Risks by John Sanders. I do not believe that Eldredge is unfamiliar with the issues here. He is popularizing a view of God that is clearly heretical. …
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C. Pressnell on Amazon

….. One horrible example Eldredge gives is when he encourages his son to beat up the playground bully (pp. 78-79). After instructing his son to “hit the bully as hard as he can” after being pushed to the ground he goes on to justify this advice in this way, “Yes, I know that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. But we have really misused that verse. You cannot teach a boy to use his strength by stripping him of it. Jesus was able to retaliate, believe me. But he chose not to. And yet we suggest that a boy who is mocked, shamed before his fellows, stripped of all power and dignity should stay in that beaten place because Jesus wants him there? You will emasculate him for life. From that point on all will be passive and fearful. He will grow up never knowing how to stand his ground, never knowing if he is a man indeed. Oh yes, he will be courteous, sweet even, deferential, minding all his manners. It may look moral, it may look like turning the other cheek, but it is merely weakness. You cannot turn a cheek you do not have. Our churches are full of such men.” At what point will Eldredge correct this teaching to his son by letting him know that Jesus’ response was actually the more powerful one?….
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Steve Olree

…Eldredge has a method for dealing with those who would disagree with him by standing on Biblical Truth – people he calls “Doctrine Police” and “Doctrinal Nazis.” In the Wild at Heart Facilitator’s Guide for “facilitators” of his workshops, Eldredge recommends a psychological technique of manipulation used to control and direct the outcome of small group discussions. By the use of marginalization and isolation, he instructs facilitators on how to “shut down the doctrine cop” (page 4). Again on page 5, he warns the facilitator to watch out for the “…doctrine Nazi – a guy who’s got some theological ax to grind.” Here again Eldredge instructs the facilitator to dismiss and evade any doctrinal issues being made and to marginalize and isolate the man who brings them to the group’s attention. “Doctrinal Nazis” and “doctrine cops,” as Eldredge calls them, must be silenced because Eldredge’s teachings will not stand up to the light of Scriptural Truth…

…His discussion of penis size in the book, and his use of profanity in the lecture series, including the ‘F-word,’ ‘G__ damn,’ and ‘sh__’ should be objectionable to Christian men, and a warning signal that Eldredge is not qualified to impart wisdom about biblical manhood….…John Eldredge has built his “wild at heart” theme on the works of Jungians like Robert Bly, Sam Keen, and others. … We must really concur with Byron Borger, in his essay on Wild at Heart, when he says this book “is so laden with wrong-headed biases that the book is unsound.”
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Thinker on Amazon

…A large number of 5-star reviewers admit that this is the very first book they’ve read in a long time, and sometimes it’s their first book period. With little else to compare, it’s easy to see why there is so much high praise and so little criticism. …
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A customer on Amazon

If you are a just-born Christian, or a husband, do not read this book, as it will give you misinformation that will confuse you and hurt your relationship with your wife.
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JackMcNeal on Amazon

If you want to advertise that you’re an insecure, gullible guy, carry around a copy of this book. It’s like wearing a billboard that says “I’m Weak and Easily Fooled” — at least everybody who sees you will know what to expect. It’s the same as seeing a 35-year-old guy carrying a bunch of comic books under his arm — you get a sneaking suspicion that he might not be quite grownup yet. … Take a long hard look at John Eldredge and his philosophy. …he’s merely giving us a caricature that exposes his own insecurities and father-issues.
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Ryan George on Amazon

….Teaches that the beginning of the Christian walk is when an individual admits that the sin in his life is caused by a wound that they have received from another. This stands in stark contrast to the Word of God, which teaches that the Christian life begins with repentance, which is when a man admits that he is solely to blame for the sin in his life. … Adds to and arguably supplants the doctrine of original sin with another universally applicable cause of sin, the “wound” or the “soul wound.” According to Eldredge, the “wound” is caused by the denial of a boy by others, most often the boy’s father, in word or deed, of the boy’s true powerful nature and the good, inborn desires that flow from such nature. …Finally and worst of all, the book tends to liberate men from guilt for their own sin without one reference to the cross of Christ
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Screwtape on Amazon

I must congratulate you on your fine work…. people rightly say that the devil is in the details….your work is a fine example of that. Man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his heart. On one hand, man has a wild heart, a sinful heart, a daring heart, a dangerous heart, an unsettling heart, always telling him to pursue one dangerous thing or the other…to chase a beautiful woman, to eat the forbidden fruit. On the other hand is that voice of conscience telling him to give up his own pleasure, to seek holiness… to obey and follow God, to follow the path of repentance and salvation? This book that you have written is a fine example of putting a seal of biblical legitimacy on encouraging men to follow the wild side of their hearts. I am so impressed by how effectively you use knowledge and examples from today’s R-rated movies (e.g. Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall) to create a role model for how a man should be (Jesus Christ is the past, Brad Pitt is the man of today). Let us mock the humbleness and meekness of men in church today, by telling them that they are bored, and themselves boring as well. Then let us draw the men away from that boredom by inviting them to become men after their own hearts. By doing this, we will be in effect encouraging them to follow the heart of our father below (not the heart of our enemy above). Keep up the good work. Affectionately, Your uncle, Screwtape
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Randy Brandt

…There’s bound to be some controversy over Eldredge’s approach to the story of Ruth. On page 191 he writes, ‘This is seduction pure and simple–and God holds it up for all women to follow. I envision leaders of church singles groups panicking as they learn that a single woman is at her best when she can arouse a man (page 192)’….
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Bob Struck

… His thesis is that “an intimate, conversational walk with God is available, and is meant to be normal…[and] if you don’t find that kind of relationship with God, your spiritual life will be stunted.” By conversational the author means that God speaks to His people, beyond the scriptures; that God’s people can hear His voice in their heads (in their minds? in their conscious awareness?) on any topic they care to pose to Him; and God wants us to speak to Him on all manner of things. To prove this he cites numerous examples from the scriptures where God in the Old Testament and the incarnate Son in the New Testament interacts verbally with people. He says once you accept this it then takes time to learn, but this view of the Christian life is vastly superior to that life that believes God’s speaking is confined to scripture. What follows in the rest of the book is a narrative of his conversational intimacy with God. Unfortunately, the examples do not paint the picture of a conversational God. His first examples are basically Yes and No questions. “Is it yes, you want us to go? Pause. In my heart I’m trying it on, letting it be as though this is God’s answer. We should go? Pause and listen. Or is it no, you want us to stay home? Pause and let this be his answer. We should stay home? Pause and listen again…” I’m sorry – but the first picture that comes to mind is of kids hovering over one of those Magic 8-Balls waiting for the little answer thingy to pop up. Not to worry however, more in-depth conversation follows with the author asking about his personal Bible reading. “What would you have me read today?” And God’s answer? “At first I simply heard John. So I open my Bible to the gospel of John, and as I turn there I ask, Where in John? And God says, Ten.” Umm… ok. Finally, he says “Often… I’ll turn my heart and thoughts toward God simply to ask him, What are you saying Lord? … For the past two months at least, what God has been saying in return is My Love.” Extraordinary! Not only was I underwhelmed by this example of conversational intimacy but the author seems to betray the same reaction saying, “Every time I’ve stopped to listen I’ve heard, My Love. And I’ve wondered why… I haven’t really known what to do with this.” …

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