Rarely is a book read more than once. Seldom does a book get read a couple times. Never does a book get read a double digit number of times. I first picked up John Eldredges book, Wild at Heart, many years ago. I was a senior in High School and the book was just a year old at that time. A friend of mine had given it to me too look through. I remember reading the opening words:
We need permission. Permission to be what we are–men made in God’s image
I was a fairly new Christian at the time trying to figure out what he meant by that. This book was the first “Christian” book I had ever read.
Now 12 years later…I finished the book for the 10th time by my count. Each and every time something different sticks out to me. Every time I underline or highlight different phrases and quotes. I add different opinions by other authors in the margins.
This book is getting to be a cornerstone of Christian mens books. It is often quoted, sold, reprinted, and studied. It gained a cult following for a while with journals, retreats, and studies. Now that the book is 13 years old, it is amazing to me how often it (and Eldredge’s Ransomed Heart Ministries) have impacted current Christian men’s ministry leaders.
The book itself is a great read for a number of reasons. Eldredge’s way of weaving illustrations in and out of his teaching is phenomenal. He uses stories to flesh out his points and is clear in the transitions into and out of them. His critique of manhood (without the language that got Driscoll into trouble recently) is accurate and spot on. He is here to help men get their heart back.
Where this book falls short, I believe, is in His teaching on the image of God and his use of scripture. Eldredge understands the image of God to be distributed evenly between man and women. It is only when both come together that the complete image of God is shown. It is not that I necessarily disagree with that, but at what point as a single man or woman do we posses the image of God. Must we be married to reflect him? At other times in the book, scripture is quoted, but I believe that Eldredge falls into the same trap that Rick Warren struggles with: consistency in translation and in context. There are times in the book when Eldredge uses three different translations within the same page so as to get the words to match his point. At other times he quotes verses at random without any exegesis or explanation. It is a dangerous path to walk, especially for a book that quotes many artists, philosophers, and men of history, whose walk with Christ would not be at the top of their resumes or event present at all.
The strength of this book is John’s 3 qualities that every man needs. Even though I felt the Biblical backing was at times lacking on these, I do feel they are essential to manhood. They are: a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. These three things are, and I am in agreement, central to being a Christian Man because they are central to the ministry of Jesus. Even thought the book was spotty on the centrality of these issues in the life of Christ, a cursory reading of the Gospels will reveal it.
This book will always have a special place in my heart. I believe that the chapter, “A Beauty to Rescue” is perhaps the best chapter about women I have ever read. It is clear about their hopes and fears, their stories and relationships. It is worth the price of the book alone. I will be forever in debt to John Eldredge and this book.