Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)
For men to move from an identity-fixed to an identity-flexible gender-role model, from macho to mature, from a career-centered to holistic self-definition, from “safe” to sharing friendships, from “give 'em hell” to nurturance and caring, is not easy. The realization that God calls us into relationship with one another, however, should challenge Christian men to try.
I have long deliberated the possible efficacy of another Wild at Heart critique.1 Although many excellent critiques arose in the years after the book’s initial release in 2001, it still sells unusually well, progressively working its way into churches, homes, and minds. The English language version has sold over 4.5 million copies, annual sales exceed 100,000, and it currently holds the #1 Best Seller spot in Christian Men’s Issues on Amazon. To date, the book has been translated into thirty languages. Beyond this, the ideologies of Wild at Heart find expression in subsequent books written by John and Stasi Eldredge, most notably Captivating, as well as numerous contemporary Christian works on sex and gender that display direct influence from the Eldredges’ teachings or promote similar ideas. Hardly a year passes without some popular Christian book on gender or parenting acknowledging the Eldredges and their teachings or listing Wild at Heart as recommended reading. Stephen Mansfield, for example, calls the book “masterful,” listing it first in “The Ten Essential Books for Manly Men,” because it provides men with “the tools for understanding and living out the essential passions of manhood.” For Eldredge himself, such steady reception confirms its timeless truth. It is somehow paradoxically “truer” than before, because “it rings eternal, and universal. God was in it then; he is in it still.”
If Promise Keepers is a part of God’s strategy to unite his Body across racial and denominational differences and to bring his revival to our nation, then some challenging questions are: How can we as biblical feminists join with God through our view of Promise Keepers, our intercession on their behalf, and what we speak and/or write about it?
Perhaps we ought to express amazement not only at the size and success of Promise Keepers, but also that the idea of someone keeping his promises should be considered so revolutionary as to start a movement! Perhaps we should pause to ponder what kind of church we have become, now that many Christian men seem to require their own books, videos, magazines, Bible study guides, conferences, seminars, support groups, even their own praise and worship music in order to find the motivation to lead lives of godliness and moral virtue.
Many evangelicals do not know how to read the very texts they claim establish their distinctive identity. Far from viewing the biblical texts too reverently typical evangelical approaches fail to respect the textenough.
"Although the people living in the Greco-Roman world might not have been able to imagine a world in which slavery does not exist, Paul’s churches leave the hierarchy of slavery behind as part of the world that is passing away, along with ethnic division and gender hierarchy. Paul removes the power differential from Philemon and Onesimus’s relationship (in their church), and he replaces that differential with koinōnia by asking Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he were Paul."