Wild at Heart

It seems that whenever someone or something becomes popular, it’s never long before the attacks begin. The Christian subculture is no exception. Perhaps the logic goes something like this: “I’m teaching the truth, and I’m not popular. Therefore, the truth cannot be popular. Hence, if something is popular, there must be something wrong with it.” Another possibility is that sometimes a new perspective challenges people to change what they are doing. If someone is convinced that they are doing things the right way, then they may feel the need to poke holes in the viewpoint that expresses a need for change.

I can’t defend everything John Eldredge says, and I’ll admit that some of what he says leaves me a little uneasy. I’ve also been challenged and refreshed by the two books of his that I’ve read (Wild at Heart and Waking the Dead). After reading a very critical review of Wild at Heart, I wrote the following response:

A response to a Gary E. Gilley’s review of Wild at Heart

Also referenced is Vincent Bacote’s review in Christianity Today

Gilley writes:

Eldredge believes, “Aggression is part of the masculine design…. [boys] invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun” (p. 10). As a matter of fact this desire to slaughter is part of what it means to be made in the image of God who Himself is a warrior (p. 10). [4] I doubt that most of you ever knew about God’s desire to slaughter people.

Gary Gilley butchers page 10 of Wild at Heart to make it say what he quotes above. Here is the unedited section that Gilley references:

Aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it.
If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to
remember that “the LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name” (Ex. 15:3).

Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die,
where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was
not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack
something—and so does a man, even if it’s only a little white ball on a
tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my
boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the
phone to talk about relationships.

Eldredge is contrasting the personality and behavior of boys with that of girls. He is not saying that God made men with a desire for bloodshed. He is saying that God made men with a desire to dominate the earth (Gen 1:28), and that desire evidences itself in some of the things that males typically do that females typically don’t do.


Of even more serious concern is Eldredge’s view that “man was born in the outback, from the untamed part of creation. Only afterward is he brought to Eden and ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore.” This would be laughable if it were not so serious. Genesis 2:4-9 teaches no such thing, and to base the nature of males on such a faulty premise is utterly ridiculous. Christianity Today comments, “He implies that God was trying to domesticate a wild Adam, as if Eden were designed primarily for women.” [5] If this were true, it would mean that God purposely frustrated the natural bent of Adam even before the Fall.

Gen 2:5-8 ESV
(5) When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,

I can see where Eldredge gets the idea of a “pre-Eden,” “outback” kind of atmosphere.

(6) and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground–
(7) then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(8) And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

It does appear that Adam was created elsewhere and then placed in the garden. Since the Bible isn’t always linear, it may be a bit ambitious of Eldredge to see that as a clear-cut conclusion, but it’s certainly not out of the question. Gilley talks as if Eldredge simply made up the whole “born in the outback” scenario, but I don’t see that. Admittedly, Eldredge is stretching a bit to use this as a basis for man’s underlying desires, but it is an interesting theory. The quote from Christianity Today is an implication that is simply not there in Wild at Heart. Vincent Bacote may have inferred it, but Eldredge did not imply it. (Gilley also conveniently leaves out the fact that Bacote is not entirely critical of Eldredge, and gives a favorable review to his other book Waking the Dead.)


“The theme of a strong man coming to rescue a beautiful woman is universal to
human nature. It is written in our hearts, one of the core desires of
every man and every woman” (p. 181). Of course there is no Scripture to
support such a statement, so where does Eldredge come up with these things?

There is no Scripture to support the statement that water is composed of two hydrogen atoms bonded with an oxygen atom either, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Eldredge comes to this conclusion based on his observation of life. If Gilley believes that this conclusion is unscriptural (not just ascriptural), then he should indicate why this is contrary to Scripture.


Eldredge has virtually no understanding of Scripture and zero belief in its
sufficiency. His source of truth is consistently outside the Bible.
Had he spent even a fraction of the time contemplating the Word as he did
watching movies and reading Bly, this would be a very different book.

This strikes me as a very foolish statement. Gilley shifts from attacking Eldredge’s book to attacking Eldredge himself. His claims that Eldredge has zero belief in the Bible’s sufficiency and evidently hasn’t spent much time studying it are totally unsubstantiated.


Anyone who has read much of anything I have ever written knows my disdain for
the integration of psychology with Christianity.

This statement is significant in that it reveals some of Gilley’s motivation for being critical of Eldredge’s book. He begins with the assumption that psychology is entirely bad, so therefore any book that can be linked to something related to psychology must be bad also.


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…

Not satisfied with trying to discredit Eldredge, Gilley also attempts to discredit Jan Meyers by associating her with unbiblical teaching. Unfortunately, he confuses Jan Meyers with Joyce Meyer. I find no evidence whatsoever that Jan Meyers holds to Word of Faith teaching or has a particularly large following. She has written two books, but she is primarily a counselor, not a speaker.

As I said at the outset, Eldredge isn’t perfect, and Wild at Heart isn’t perfect. However, I do not think it deserves the criticism it received from Gary Gilley. A look at the Southern View Chapel website reveals that Gary Gilley is critical of a great many things/people, including Rick Warren, Charles Finney, charismatics, Promise Keepers, Jim Cymbala, Henry Blackaby, and others. Whenever I see someone spend a great deal of time focusing on the flaws in someone else’s work, I always take what they have to say with a grain of salt.

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