Soul Cravings by Erwin Raphael McManus

Soul Cravings is sort of an apologetic aimed at the postmodern generation. Rather than persuade his audience with biblical proofs, scientific evidence or logical arguments, McManus has chosen a philosophical approach. His reasoning is that our souls crave three things: intimacy, destiny and meaning. The fact that all human beings have these cravings is evidence for the existence of God.

The big question is, if these cravings do point us to God, just where and how are we to find Him? The underlying theme throughout the book is that we will find Him in ourselves as we allow our cravings to lead us. In the introduction (it should be noted that McManus “creatively” does not use page numbers, rather he has 68 “entries” of various lengths) he writes, “This is not a book focused on empirical evidence for God. It is about coming to know ourselves…It is about our story; and if God exists, we should be able to find Him there.” To this end we are told to “follow love and it will guide you to God” (part 1, entry 4). Soul Cravings ends where it begins. In the conclusion we read, “All the evidence you need to prove God is waiting within you to be discovered.” And, “If you pay attention to your soul, it will guide you to God.” Again, “Explore nowhere else except deep within yourself…you will come face-to-face with God.”

Rather than take the reader back to Scripture (which describes and points the true way to God) or to Jesus, who most fully explains Him (John 1:14, 18), McManus would have us look inside ourselves to find God. And while Romans 1 and 2 would agree that God has planted evidence of Himself within our souls, the Scriptures are equally clear that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). One of the problems with pointing people back to themselves to find God lies in the wickedness of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) and the inadequacy of our souls to comprehend God unaided by the Spirit using the Word. This is the fatal flaw in McManus’ system. At no point does he explain to his reader the gospel message. It is as if such information will get in the way. Rather, we follow our cravings and our cravings lead us to God. The Scriptures do not agree.

An interrelated problem found in Soul Cravings is the insistence that God’s love is unconditional. “What in the world would happen,” McManus asks, “if people actually began discovering the actual message of Jesus Christ—that love is unconditional…that Jesus was offering His love freely and without condition?” (part 1, entry 10). What does McManus mean by this? Is faith not the human condition for receiving saving grace? McManus never speaks of the cross as necessary for our atonement or redemption or for propitiation which satisfies the righteous wrath of God. Instead, the cross “is God’s declaration of love for you” (conclusion). So the cross is gutted of its full meaning and replaced with the gospel of unconditional love.

Soul Cravings has its high moments. McManus’ ability as a motivational speaker and writer are evidenced in the many inspirational stories and pep rally feel. But McManus substitutes philosophical and psychological ideas for biblical ones. In the end he succeeds in identifying the true longing of our heart (cravings) but fails to point us in the right direction. He does focus us on God, but it is the God found within our souls. He talks about Christ and the cross but reduces their meaning to nothing more than unconditional love. He does not explain man’s great problem as being sin, and his solution found only in Christ. And he does not talk to us about repentance or faith. He has opened the door in Soul Cravings to explore the true God but he has not taken his reader beyond the threshold.