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.”
Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles.
Change begins with our language, because what we say and what we write reveals our unchallenged assumptions about women. Beyond that, however, we must change our missions commitment to include evangelizing and training the world’s women.
Feminism is supposed to be good news for women; but does that mean it is automatically bad news for men? Many people assume that it is. What is given to women must necessarily be taken away from men. This is the old “slice of the pie” or “limited good” theory.
In a society where men still hold most of the social power and where the average husband possesses more physical power than the average wife, we desperately need models of manhood that stress responsibility rather than exploitation, service rather than abuse of power.
While agreeing that God is not male, some tradition-minded Christians have taught that God is masculine. The difference here is that God may represent a kind of masculine spiritual principle without being “male” in the literal sense. The purpose of this article is to refute this idea
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.