(May 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 5)
Last month we began an evaluation of the extremely popular book Wild at Heart authored by John Eldredge. At that time we identified a number of concerns with Eldredge’s message. We will now conclude this evaluation with some even deeper concerns.
UNBIBLICAL VIEWS OF SATAN
How deeply Eldredge has indulged himself in the unbiblical spiritual warfare methodology so popular today is hard to tell, but there is no question that he 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). He is a victim.
Even more concerning is his pronouncement that Jesus failed in His attempt to rebuke demons. “When He encounters the guy who lives out in the Gerasenes tombs, tormented by a legion of spirits, the first rebuke by Jesus doesn’t work. He had to get more information to really take them on” (Luke 8:26-33) (p. 166). If you read the passage you will find that at no time was Jesus not in total control of the demons. His anemic view of Christ however, blends well with his weak view of God, as we see in the next section.
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. God is at the mercy of human choices, and, therefore, by creating people God has placed Himself at serious risk. This is exactly what Eldredge espouses (p. 203). “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). 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.
USE OF SCRIPTURE
While Eldredge does not turn to the Scriptures as often as he does to Hollywood and Robert Bly, he does use them, and almost always with disastrous results. Here is a sampling:
Genesis 2:4-9 (pp. 3-4). This idea that Adam was created in the outback and later brought to the garden is discussed in Part I.
Genesis 2:16-17 (p. 50). God does not warn Adam of Satan because “God believes in Adam. This is what he’s designed to do—to come through in a pinch.” As a matter of fact God “honored Adam” by not providing him with a plan of escape. “You are a man; you don’t need me to hold you by the hand through this. You have what it takes,” God is telling Adam. “What God did offer Adam was friendship” (pp. 213-214). This view of God springs directly from Eldredge’s open theism, which teaches that God did not know what Adam would do; God had made him capable, and believed in him. When Adam fell, God was shocked and had to resort to plan “B.”
Eldredge paints Abraham as a coward. “He’s always hiding behind his wife’s skirt when the going gets rough.” We are familiar with the failure of Abraham, but Eldredge does him a great disservice by painting him as a habitual coward. The book of Genesis is full of the heroic and faithful deeds of Abraham.
When Adam fell it was because he “chose Eve over God” (see pp. 113-115). Why Adam chose to sin is not revealed in the Word, so Eldridge’s view is pure conjecture. Unfortunately, Eldredge will use this as the scriptural basis for a number of his ideas, including one that man is seeking for God in women.
Matthew 11:12 reads, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Somehow Eldredge is able to turn this warning by Jesus into a good thing. He writes, “Hopefully by now you see the deep and holy goodness of masculine aggression and that will help you understand what Christ is saying” (p. 177).
Jeremiah 17:9. One of Eldredge’s most serious misquotes lies at the very center of his philosophical system. He believes that prior to the establishment of the New Covenant man’s “heart was deceitfully wicked,” but “not anymore.” Under the New Covenant we have a new heart—“your heart is good,” he assures us (p. 134). And because the regenerate man’s heart is good he is free to follow its dictates. From this understanding of the heart comes one of Wild at Heart’s key messages—men should know and live from their deep hearts. It is because they do not that they have so many problems.
In this encouragement to live out the desires of our heart Eldredge runs counter to the interpretation of Jeremiah 17:9 given by virtually all the great saints and Bible expositors. Jonathan Edwards wrote,
“It is a mysterious thing which has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious [namely] the saving grace of God and the new and divine nature, dwelling with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity in the heart of the same saint.”  And Charles Spurgeon, in commenting on this verse wrote, “There is within our nature that which would send the best saint to hell if sovereign grace did not prevent. There is a little hell within the heart of every child of God.”  But more importantly, “Scripture never glorifies the heart the way Eldredge does, and nowhere does the Bible advise or encourage Christians to trust or ‘live from’ even their regenerate hearts. On the contrary, the eternal wisdom of Proverbs 28:26 tells us that “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” 
HIS UNDERSTANDING OF WOMEN
In a book addressed to men, Eldredge reserves one of his most incredible views for the women. He writes, “My friend Jan [apparently Jan Meyers mentioned earlier in the book, a Word of Faith teacher with a large following among certain segments of the charismatic movement] says that a woman who is living out her true design will be ‘valiant, vulnerable, and scandalous.’ That’s a far cry from the ‘church ladies’ we hold up as models of Christian femininity, those busy and tired and rigid women who have reduced their hearts to a few mild desires and pretend everything is going just great” (p. 190). Before we march on let’s make two observations. First, throughout the book Eldredge is consistently critical of the church and Christians within the church. Not one kind word is ever said about either (pp. 7, 26, 54, 101, 149, 175). Probably the most interesting slap is in defense of his beloved movies: “While there are some very godly movies out there, there are also some very ungodly churches” (p. 149). So it should not surprise us that Eldredge is tough on “church ladies.” Second, it is vital to observe that, like almost everything else in Eldredge’s system, his view is built on something other than Scriptures. In this case he will develop a philosophy concerning godly women based on the words of “my friend Jan.”
In order to support “Jan’s” view of women Eldredge turns to Scripture, with sad results. His focus is on the four women found in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:3, 5-6). With each statement he stumbles.
- Bathsheba – “That Bathsheba goes unnamed tells you of God’s disappointment with her” (p. 190). We don’t know why God does not name her here; Eldredge has just made this up.
- Rahab – “Rahab is in the ‘Hall of Fame of Faith’ in Hebrews 11 for committing treason” (p. 190). No, Hebrews 11:31 specifically states that she is there because of faith. Surely, Eldredge does not have some insight unknown to the Holy Spirit.
- Tamar – “Tamar is a righteous woman” (p. 188). He deduces this from Judah’s statement that Tamar was more righteous than him in her behavior (Genesis 38:25-26). The Bible never tells us that she was a saved woman—this we don’t know.
- Ruth – Eldredge saves his most repulsive statement for the lovely Ruth. Ruth, in Eldredge’s analysis, is a seductress—and that, contrary to what you might assume, is a good thing. Let’s unpack the manifold errors concerning Ruth.
1) “The book of Ruth is devoted to one question.” Some of you might think that question would have something to do with the kinsman-redeemer issue, but you would be wrong. No, the question is this: “How does a good woman help her man play the man” (p. 191). I bet you would have never guessed that! After all, no one else, to my knowledge, in the history of conservative biblical exegesis has ever come up with it before.
2) Well, how does a good woman help her man to play the man? “The answer: She seduces him. She uses all she has as a woman to arouse him to be a man” (p. 191). How she supposedly goes about seducing the witless Boaz will astound you.
3) The plot: Boaz has been kind to Ruth, but what Ruth really needs is a ring. In order to get one she will have to seduce him. So at the end of the day’s work Boaz parties so hard that he becomes drunk and passes out. Ruth on the other hand takes a “bubble bath and puts on a knockout dress, then she waits for the right moment” (p. 191). [I am not making this up—Eldredge actually writes all of this.] “What happens next is simply scandalous; the verse continues, ‘Ruth approaches quietly, uncovers his feet and lays down’… This is seduction pure and simple—and God holds it up for all women to follow.” Eldredge follows this up with his point, “I’m telling you that the church has really crippled women when it tells them that their beauty is vain [which, by the way it does on the basis of Proverbs 31:30] and they are at their feminine best when they are ‘serving others’” (p. 192). As Eldredge sees it “Boaz needs a little help to get going and Ruth has some options” (p. 192). The options are these: she can badger him, whine, emasculate him, or she can arouse, inspire, energize, and seduce him (p. 192).
What Eldredge recommends is pure manipulation. The woman wants something from a man; her best means of getting it is to use her sexual appeal. Within marriage this is manipulation; outside of marriage (as would have been in the case of Ruth) it is impure at best, and most likely immoral. Yet this is Eldredge’s understanding as to how Scripture teaches that women are to behave.
One would have to wonder why Eldredge does not consult passages from Scripture that clearly inform us of the kind of behavior in women that honors God. You will search in vain for Eldredge’s manipulative seducing vixen in Proverbs 31; Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3. In 1 Peter 3 wives are told to win their disobedient husband to the Word by their conduct. What kind of conduct? Seduction and sex appeal? No, by their “chaste and respectful behavior” (v. 2). As a matter of fact they are specifically told not to concentrate on outward dress (v. 3) but upon their heart, which should exhibit a gentle and quiet spirit (v. 4). The example is then given of Sarah, who submitted to her husband rather than seducing and manipulating him (vv. 5, 6).
HIS SOURCE OF REVELATION
The question would have to arise at this point, “Where does this man get this stuff?” Obviously not from the Bible, so where? We have already seen that he relies on fairy tales, secular literature, pop-psychology and movies. But there is an even more concerning source—direct revelation from God. The Lord talks to him (pp. 134-37, 171, 197, 195, 200-203, 215). Sometimes He talks to him through books or movies (a neo-orthodox understanding of revelation, pp. 200-201). But sometimes it is apparently direct and audible.
One day while reflecting on one of his favorite movies, Gladiator, and longing to be a man like Maximus (the hero), Eldredge asked God to tell him how he measured up. “This is what I heard [from God]: ‘You are Henry V after Agincourt…the man in the arena, whose face is covered with blood and sweat and dust, who strove valiantly…a great warrior…yes, even Maximus’ and then, ‘You are my friend’” (p. 135). This type of event is not unusual in Eldredge’s life. “Oh, what wonderful stories I could tell here of how many times God has spoken to me and to other men” (p. 136) and “God calls you His friend. He wants to talk to you—personally, frequently” (p. 215).
I do not know whose voice Eldredge is hearing. It may be his own imagination; it may come from too much buttered popcorn at the movies; it may be demonic. But I do know it is not the voice of God. I base this statement not only on my belief that revelation for this age has ceased, but also upon the ministry Eldredge has established. As we have shown Ransomed Heart Ministries and Wild at Heart represent a complete distortion of Scripture and Christian living. The Lord never contradicts Himself. He does not reveal information to anyone (even in biblical times) that contradicts His truth as found in the Word. We must never let a man who does not know the Word, and, therefore, does not know how to live life, tell us how to live ours.
 Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1997) p. 16.
 Charles Spurgeon, 2200 Quotations From the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988) p. 253.
 An unpublished paper by Daryl Wingerd, “A Critical Review of the Book, Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge.”