“Our deepest and most pressing need is to learn to walk with God. To hear his voice,” says John Eldredge (p. xi). Further he assumes that “an intimate, conversational walk with God is available, and if you don’t find that kind of relationship with God, your spiritual life will be stunted” (p. 7).
In order to aid us in this type of intimate walk with God, Eldredge offers an autobiographical series of stories which take place during a recent calendar year. In reading Walking with God two very positive traits stand out in the author’s life: sincerity and vulnerability. Eldredge’s passionate desire to walk with God and be what God wants him to be is evident throughout. While one can never truly know the heart of another, all signs point to the author’s desire to be a godly man. At the same time his vulnerability is ubiquitous. He opens his heart to reveal hurt, joys, disappointments, comforts and struggles—the same kind we face. Eldredge does not preach from an ivory tower; he has not arrived. He stumbles, bleeds, gets discouraged and fails, yet he perseveres in his passion to walk with God.
This is the good news. The rest of the book is deeply concerning. Eldredge’s working thesis is that to walk with God is to hear God speak. His whole life is wrapped around God’s personal messages and instructions. How these messages are delivered he never actually says, although the implication is that he hears inner voices (the voice of God) actually speaking words about even the minutest of details, although usually in code, not complete sentences. His attempt at biblical support for this position is extremely weak and boils down to “if God spoke this way in Scripture, why wouldn’t He do so today?”
But Eldredge is wrong on many levels. Yes, God spoke often in Scripture to numerous people. In light of time and history, however, He spoke very infrequently and to only a handful of people, and even most of them heard from God only once or twice in a lifetime. Eldredge would have us believe that God is speaking to all His children constantly. Also, in Scripture when God spoke it was concerning major issues often related to His redemptive plan. Of the dozens of examples of God communicating to Eldredge Walking with God supplies, virtually all of them have to do with the mundane and normal things of life, the things for which God gives us minds and freedoms to choose. In one example (one in which He did not ask God enough questions), he asks God whether he should ride his horse. God says “yes.” But Eldredge forgets to ask God “where” and as a result he was injured in a fall (pp. 80-83). The lesson: God must speak to us concerning even the smallest detail—and to fail to seek such instruction could result in serious consequences.
Perhaps the most bizarre message from the Lord followed the death of the family dog. Not only does Eldredge hear Scout bark in heaven but Jesus also complains, “He won’t give me the ball” (p. 125). Apparently “good” dogs go to heaven and play fetch with Jesus.
Eldredge’s insistence on hearing from God, while having the appearance of spirituality, is a spiritually crippling methodology guaranteed to ensure immaturity. Rather than the careful study of Scripture coupled with analytical thinking and wise counsel (all prescribed in Scripture), Eldredge opts for this unbiblical and childish approach. Consider—what parent wants his adult children to call home for instruction on the routine things of life? Isn’t the goal of good parenting to raise children who can function independently, make daily choices, and live wisely and biblically? So our God, not desiring that we live independent of His intimacy and power, has given us resources, beginning with Scripture, to enable us to live mature and godly lives according to His will. Nowhere in Scripture are we taught to run around analyzing our every feeling and thought to discern if we have heard a word from the Lord. We are taught to live according to biblical principles as we make wise choices and always submit our plans to the will of the Lord (James 4:11-16).
Another area of major concern is Eldredge’s understanding of spiritual warfare (pp. 54-57, 112-113, 124, 147-153, 170-176, 193, 217). Rather than deriving a spiritual warfare theology from Scripture he looks to experience and the leaders in the unbiblical spiritual warfare movement. He personally commands demons and declares authority over them. He calls them by name. He prays the blood of Christ and casts out demons from inanimate objects and even commands angels. None of these techniques is biblically taught and his attempts to support his position from examples fall flat because of his mishandling of the text.
Without trying to be mean-spirited and in a spirit of love for both Eldredge and those who would follow him, I believe Eldredge spends far too much time examining his imagination, feelings and subjective thoughts and far too little examining Scripture. The result is a convoluted form of Christian living that is a poor substitute for the real thing. Walking with God is the musing of a sincere man, I assume, but it is not true to the teaching of Scripture.