Wild at Heart and Captivating

I’m reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge right now. Once I finish it I’ll be reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I will probably blog my thoughts about each as or after I read the books but I’m very interested to know what my readers have thought of these books. Did you enjoy them? Did you agree with what the Eldredges said? How have they impacted your life?

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5 responses to “Wild at Heart and Captivating

  1. I haven’t read Captivating, and it’s probably been nine years since I read Wild at Heart. I gave Waking the Dead another read while my best friend was reading it a few months ago, and it was much better for me the second time around. So I’ll offer what I remember about Wild at Heart, while readily acknowledging that my heart is in a different place.

    I love that John Eldridge has a passion for restoration and freedom, and I believe his message was timely in calling Christian men out of the safe, boring monotony that has weakened male leadership in the home and in the church.

    My primary criticism is that Eldridge initially uses physical examples to describe the innate “wildness” that every man is born to possess, as if physical “wildness” and spiritual “wildness” are the same thing. While I agree that finding a “nice guy” is far from the same as finding a guy that is spiritually mature, Eldridge states that aggression is part of the male condition, and that we should look at male children to support this claim.

    I’ve never had much love for action movies, guns, or building things — I probably never will. I understand why Eldridge uses the examples that he does to stir the hearts of the generalized male; in the later chapters he connects this “wildness” to man’s spiritual design to fight, protect, and rescue. But while my heart is genuinely fueled to recklessly pursue my future bride and lead His Church in this way, this has more to do with God’s design and charge to man than the world’s description of masculinity. I will always be more sensitive than the average male, but physical meekness and Godly courage need not be in opposition with one another. Men do not need to puff up their chests to serve as honorable, masculine leaders to those under their care. If they do, I’m in trouble.

    When I consider what God has taught me in terms of my relationship with Him as a man, I think I’m of the same school of thought as Eldridge, but I have found more restoration in knowing the heart of my Father, rather than through exploring a worldly parallel to any such “wildness.” I think sometimes Christians become so obsessed with discovering their true identity, they neglect the One who has named them. When Christian men and women seek a healing intimacy with their Father, the reflection becomes clearer by result; understanding our own hearts is an effect and not a cause of spiritual growth. I long for the same restoration as Eldridge does, but it must be found in our pursuit and intimacy with Him rather than the discovery of our role as men.

    • Anthony, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will be sure to say what I think of Wild at Heart once I read it.

      I very much agree with your last paragraph. People do tend to focus on themselves and finding their own identity (and I include myself) when instead we should have our focus on Jesus Christ while pursuing a closer relationship with him. In that relationship we are called to obedience of fighting the good fight . . . not passively wondering who we should be. I agree we don’t need to find some worldly parallel to follow; we were created in God’s image so we ought to strive to be like him and we need no other example. The only way to know what to be like then is to know who he is. I don’t agree that God has a wild heart and I will explain why in some detail, later.

      You wrote: “When Christian men and women seek a healing intimacy with their Father, the reflection becomes clearer by result; understanding our own hearts is an effect and not a cause of spiritual growth.” I know this to be true now but sadly it’s taken me years to realize.

    • I’ve read most of Captivating and I can’t say I’ve learned anything from it other than keeping a sharp mind about what I’m reading. I’ve enjoyed some of it and I think it’s good for the Eldredges to bring the fragility and beauty of a woman’s heart to attention as well as the healing it so often needs. What they say about trusting Jesus with our hearts and leaning on him for security is all very good and true but I have found major problems, theologically, with the book as well.

      Here are some of my thoughts on it so far:

      Right out of the gate in Captivating they disparage the idea of being a Proverbs 31 woman saying it’s unrealistic and not really what God intends for us to model. How biblical is that? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” – 2nd Timothy 3:16

      The entire book is about the great importance to us women that our hearts be romanced. The focus shouldn’t be on us and besides, where in the bible does it speak of the importance of romance? Nowhere. The Eldredges claim that unveiling our hearts, while in love, is our greatest act of faith, our greatest expression of hope, as well as our greatest expression of love. If it is really that important why doesn’t the bible speak about it? Here are a few points the bible does make on what the greatest show of faith and love are:

      “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” – 2 John 1:6

      “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

      “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.” – 1 John 5:3

      “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

      “The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said. He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’ ‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” – Matthew 15:25-28

      “So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” – Luke 7:6-10

      Another point that drives me nuts in the book is how much they build women up. They imply we are more special and more important than men—which we aren’t. They say “Women minister something to the heart of God that men do not” and “women hold a special place in the heart of God. A woman’s worship brings immense pleasure and a deep ministry.” Well guess what, men’s worship brings immense pleasure to God as well. This isn’t feminism they’re teaching it is women’s superiority over men. God does not have gender in mind when he loves us.

      I think the fundamental problem in the book is that the Eldredges’ mentality (both John and Stasi wrote it) is person centered, not God centered. They try to make God’s character like theirs instead of the other way around. They tell us God needs our love. They make many large claims like this without evidence to back it up. The truth is that God is perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” –Psalm 18:30

      All throughout the book so far the Eldredges have been quoting scripture and very often misquoting it. They misuse scripture to their own benefit and anyone who does this and will not correct it (after it’s brought to their attention in critical critiques) in my opinion, is seriously in the wrong and misguiding to those they speak to. Do you agree and did you notice this pattern in Wild at Heart?

      • Like I said, it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but that’s probably a fair assessment. As a whole, I’ve stopped reading most identity-based Christian literature, because the temptation to exalt our importance is too great, and it is done at the cost of diminishing God’s sovereignty. I’ll usually only read this stuff if a loved one is going through it as well to provide feedback (and correction when needed).

        My friend Michael recently approached me with a more sound lesson of a similar nature: he said that by design being made in the image of God means that each of us are a unique representation of His person. This doesn’t mean that any of us are particularly more significant or that God’s plan depends on our usefulness, but that the Glory we are meant to demonstrate is shown uniquely through each creation.

        First, it implies that we cannot begin to “find ourselves” or know our gifts without first knowing the Father that has made us — our characteristics bear His image, rather than the other way around. Secondly, our demonstration of His Glory is just that: we know the Spirit lives within us when we do what He commands. We do not have to go out of our way to tell people what “part” we are in the Body; believers learn to rely in our gifts because they are ministered by them in action. In this way, He is glorified through His acts rather than man and woman being praised for which “part” they happen to be.

        Likewise, this is how I know the Proverbs 31 woman in action: she lives her life according to the love and truth of her Father, thus bearing the uniquely feminine characteristics of our Lord. She is good because she bears His image in righteousness, and not because of her unique expression. Men have certainly been designed to be drawn to that femininity, but only because it reminds us of the comfort and rest we find in our Father. Without knowing Him, a man cannot be “captivated” by the Proverbs 31 woman. A woman being “captivating” simply by being a woman is speaking more to fleshly identity than to our reflection of Him.

        • Anthony, I like the way your friend put the idea of finding our identity: Our identity is in Christ so it is in knowing him that we will know ourselves.

          I think it’s wise to stay away from a lot of identity-based Christian literature. Both Wild at Heart and Captivating have been huge bestsellers; since their publications over a million copies have sold of each. I am always wary of such instant bestsellers. Our culture today largely gravitates towards books not that lead to God and show humans as helpless sinners in need of a Savior but rather feel-good books which let us know “You’re okay, God understands you because he’s a lot like you, and it’s okay to sin” but this completely unbiblical message is masked in just enough scripture to disguise it to the untrained eye—and that’s what most Christians are today: untrained in the truth.

          I hate that books like this have been published; they’re such an easy trap for young people to fall into. Young people today take things at face value and believe lies simply because they hear raving reviews about a book when instead they should be thinking hard, digging deeply and comparing closely to scripture to see if what they are reading is supported by truth.

          I think, with your last sentence you hit the nail on the head for the core misguiding message of the book. Women’s beauty is not their identity and it’s not their most important gift, which is what the Elredges are teaching. The bible does list spiritual gifts but beauty is not among them and women certainly have much to offer aside from beauty.

          From reading a couple more chapters this evening (I only have one left now) here is what I have been thinking about—

          I am surprised that the authors felt their book was ready for publishing as it is, aside from all the unbiblical principles there are countless contradictions in the points they try to make. Even if they want to teach some unbiblical ideas, wouldn’t they try a little harder to be logical about them?

          They use Exodus 15:3 which says, “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name” to back-up their claim that we are to become warrior princesses and join the Lord’s battle with our “fierceness that is holy”.

          There is a lot to be said about this and the verse they use. First of all, this idea that we should be warrior princesses very much contradicts much of what they’ve covered in the book about us being the quiet maidens who should remain at rest and in this way are beautiful. They said earlier in the book that a woman who is not at rest is saying to the world: “All is not well. Things are not going to turn out all right.” So they were saying that for a woman to be out doing things, busy, and most especially fighting in a battle would not be beautiful.

          Secondly, there’s nothing holy in any fierceness a woman possess. God does not call our fierceness holy so they shouldn’t claim he does. Like most of their claims, they have no evidence to back it up (contradictory or otherwise)—there is none to be had even if they wanted it.

          Lastly, Exodus 15:3 is the same verse they use in Wild at Heart to say men are distinguished from women in that, made in the image of God, they are created as men of war. Why do they choose to use the same verse for women then?

          What I believe is that there is a war raging over each soul and whether it will spend an eternity in the glory of heaven or the agony of hell. In a larger picture this battle is for ultimate power between God and Satan but the conqueror has been named and God, who will be victorious, has called his children to be his warriors. Men and women are called to fight while relying on God for their strength.

          “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

          — Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV

          So, while I do think women are called to be strong as the bible says: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong . . . strength and dignity are her clothing” –Prov. 31:17b & 25a, I don’t believe we were given a holy fierceness. Regular fierceness though? If it’s meant as “intenseness”, then yes but the word “fierce” is most commonly used to mean “savage”, “violent” and “cruel”. I would not describe these as traits men or women should have.

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