John Eldredge's Wild at Heart: A Critique
A third of the way through the interesting little postmodern film, Run Lola Run, the filmmaker starts over, showing the same plot--same scenes, same shots--with only one small change. The small difference sets the story on a trajectory towards (you guessed it) an entirely different ending. To make the point more clearly, it happens a third time; Lola starts her adventure with another small change in timing which sets in place just a touch of difference which, yep, allows the plot to end dramatically altered once again.
In a bid for cleverness, I wanted to do two, maybe three, reviews of
the tremendously popular and exceedingly problematic recent John Eldredge book, Wild At Heart (Word, 2001). My thesis was going to
be: if just a couple things were different on the front end of this deeply flawed
and theologically peculiar work, well, it would have been a very different
But here's the thing: in Run Lola Run, the changes in the scenes seem random and inconsequential. Of course this sets Lola back a few steps, changing everything else. The changes needed in Wild at Heart, though, are not minor; for it to be an altogether reliable book for serious Christians, it would need major and serious reworking. For the the conclusions to be different, the foundational assumptions would have to be reworked.
Although it pains me to say this, as I really liked Eldredge's earlier books (The Journey of Desire and The Sacred Romance), enjoy him as a writer and sense that he's a good guy, Wild at Heart is so laden with wrong-headed biases that the book is unsound.
So, skip the Run Lola Run analogy of tinkering with a few small changes. This mess of a book has got fatal flaws. Which is a shame, because, unlike poor Lola, it has a lot going for it. (Of course, I could be way off here--no lesser evangelical luminary than Chuck Swindoll has given it a glowing endorsement.)
Here, then, are a few of the claims and assumptions that Eldredge insists are gospel. I would like to argue that he is quite wrong about quite a lot.
First, he insists that there is a "masculine heart and a feminine heart"Â (p. 8). Rather than accepting a common-sensical reading of Genesis 1 and our obvious experience--we are gendered, men and women together reflecting the image of God--Eldredge goes farther than I think the biblical text goes, insisting that our maleness and femaleness color our very souls. Now this is tricky since I don't even think his pop usage of "soul"Â has biblical warrant. A standard Reformed way of understanding what it means to be made in God's image is that God's image is not found in a particular aspect of our humanness (not our ability to reason, not our morality, not our use of language, not an everlasting inner ghost), but in our human task, our office, our calling. Men and women use all that they are in their given creatureliness to together rule the world, making history as vice regents, as stewards cultivating creation (Genesis 2:15), co-reigning with Christ over His creation.
I reject Eldredge's insistence that the imago dei is a "deep and everlasting place within,"Â and I object further, then, when he says that this equals gender. His opening claim, "gender simply must be at the level of the soul,"Â simply must be seen as speculation based on an assumption that--against what I think the Bible says--humans "have"Â a "soul."Â In the Bible, we are a soul, which is the same Hebrew word for heart, body, corpse, guts, the believing core of who we are. Which, I would agree, is surely gendered, although it is also shaped by our ethnicity, our class, our age, all that we are biologically and socially and spiritually. Eldredge, not unlike most evangelicals, discusses this supposedly inner place in terms which seem a mixture of Plato and Freud, and not the whole-person view of Psalm 8.
(An interesting aside: as one interested in how one's humanness is given shape, and particularly the formative role of that set of presuppostional biases that we nowadays call a worldview, I have taken to asking friends which seems more central to their essential being -- their race or their gender? Interestingly, there is little consensus. A black woman will say that her femaleness is so central to who she is that she could see herself as a white woman more easily than seeing herself as a black male. Then again, a string of others say the exact opposite; an Asian-American friend insists that her culture-crossing identity is who she really is, male or female. A famous black woman ethicist -- in the biz, termed a womanist -- would not separate the two initially, refusing to play my game, but she finally conceded that her blackness was what most defined her. One young friend spoke up in a discussion and insisted that he could be male or female, purple or green, as long as he lived in the city -- he saw his most fundamental component of his deepest self as urban. Eldredge, very middle class and very white guy that he obviously is, notably doesn't mention the role of race or class at all. Hmmmm. It could be said that he overstates the determinative role of gender and then links it to a questionable view of the so-called soul.)
Mr. Eldredge insists that his agenda in Wild at Heart is essential for one and all because he has discovered "three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul."Â (So, gee, they must be written into everybody else's, too.) It is a serious thing for an evangelical to use talk about losing one's soul over something, so one would hope that the saving plan, then, would be biblical. I deeply respect the passion and clarity of conscience of one who "knows what he needs to do"Â -- quit a job, take a stand, face the music. But I worry when guys start rallying everybody else, telling them what they ought to feel, desire and base their lives upon -- unless it is Matthew 6:33, Romans 12:1-2, II John 2:3, Galatians 5:1 and the like.
A big part of Eldredge's vision of manhood -- one of those
desires he has which he may lose his soul over -- includes the need
he has to have "a beauty to rescue."Â My basic concern with this
is that it just is not in the Bible. (Can you even imagine telling that
to Deborah, Esther, that Valiant Woman of Proverbs 31, or, for that matter,
Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Sayers, or human
rights advocate, Nina
Shea?) This manly matinee mandate becomes, obviously, not only a vision of masculinity, but a presumption of what women want. This claim -- that women want to be rescued and that guys are weasels for abdicating their heroic role -- is so laden with nonbiblical cultural assumptions, it smacks of an imperialism of the "traditional values"Â crowd. Who says that is what women want, and that it is what I need to do? Where does this leave single folks? What about strong women? Give me some Bible here, man!
My next concern about this rhetoric seems so obvious, but it needs saying,
especially in a culture that seems to be more sexualized and erotic every
day. To insist that a woman be a "beauty"Â is insulting and demeaning
to those who do not measure up to the culturally-constructed,
socially-accepted definitions. Eldredge is a handsome guy, and most
likely his wife is, as they used to say, "a looker." Who cares? (I know, I know, he will say he didn't mean that a man has to be hero to a hot babe beauty, but only to the true love of his life. So why didn't he just say that?) His stereotypical images ("golden-haired"Â!) are borrowed from -- dare I say it without sounding uncool? -- "the world"Â (that "carnival of counterfeits"Â as he wonderfully calls it later). This talk about "beauty"Â is an appeal to crass sensuality and worldliness and is dangerous and hurtful. Where is James Dobson when you need him?
The title of the book may show his penultimate thesis: Men are supposed to be wild. And free. Therefore, he mocks the Really Nice Guy; on page 6 he demeans men who work at desks or sell shoes. He says really dumb stuff like that men have to feel heavy items -- like rough ropes or a till of a rudder in their hands. (I'm not kidding, he actually says that.)
There are parts that are a bit more sophisticated -- I appreciate that, along with all the war movies and macho stuff, he quotes cool poets (Ezra Pound, for crying out loud!) and the notably unbeautiful Dorothy Sayers to remind us that Christ was not tame, often picked a fight, was fierce. I love the call to commitment, adventure and passion. But, as is his tendency (one might say his modus operandi), he overstates this into machismo (so much so that he occasionally feels that he must offer a clarification -- "now I don't mean we have to be militia men who kill animals with our bare hands"Â -- which only seems to dig him in deeper). Imagine a Christian book needing to clarify that to be a godly man we don't really have to read Soldier of Fortune. This nonsense would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous and popular.
If we men have got wild maleness in our souls, we need, then, to do wild stuff. Jesus was a Tough Guy, after all. Like William Wallace of Braveheart fame. "No question about it,"Â he says, right there on page 29 when he describes a passage about Jesus, "that sounds a lot more like William Wallace than it does Mother Theresa."Â
Now, other than the Marxist, Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a book exposing Mother Theresa's dealings with big wig corporate honchos and dictators, I have never, ever, ever heard anyone criticizing Mother Theresa. Is Eldredge nuts? Or, maybe he is just really, really wrong. Who is more Christ-like -- a Hollywood handsome, adulterous killer or a desperately joyful servant of the the poorest of the poor? You tell me.
Wild at Heart insists that every man needs "a great battle in which a man can live and die."Â I couldn't agree more. (Although, again, it is just so odd to talk about such universal human longings in terms of what only men need.) The Scriptures call us to the indescribably significant battle for God's creation, what C.S. Lewis called this "contested territory,"Â in a war that is being waged in a cosmic struggle between Satan and God Almighty. At stake is human history, the preservation of the God-ordained order of the cosmos, and, most supremely, the very reputation and glory of the Godhead. Indeed: "Choose this day whom you will serve!"Â For, as fatso brainiac Abraham Kuyper -- truly one of the most significant Christians in the past 500 years! -- boldly put it in his Victorian-era herculean efforts to create a Christian culture in 19th century Holland, "There is not one square inch of this creation that Christ does not look down upon and say, "ËœThat is mine!'"Â Purpose? Every man, woman and child is invited to find extraordinary significance by assuming their battle posts in the struggle for the coming of the Kingdom. The regularly prayed battle cry -- "On Earth as it is in Heaven!" -- leaves little time for slackers.
Eldredge is right: there is a question which "haunts every man."Â Like I said, there is much in this book that is helpful. But, just when it was getting good -- passionate reflections on "what is a man for?"Â and exciting ruminations on Genesis 1 -- he falls back under the influence of those those who seem to have most shaped his thinking in this area -- for instance, a quasi-Freudian neo-pagan poet and writer, Robert Bly, who was all the rage in the 1980s. The question isn't the classic, "Who do you love?"Â (Augustine) or "Who will you serve?"Â (Jesus), but rather, "Have I got what it takes?"Â and "Am I powerful?"Â (Yep, he even gets into penis envy issues. Sheesh.)
Come on Eldredge, you can think bigger than that! These are the questions of Caesar and Napoleon, Bacon and Voltaire, Nietzsche and Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. To a lesser extent, Richard Nixon, I suppose, and Bill Gates, probably, not to mention Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Pat Robertson and the boys at Enron. Power? That's it? Even Bly would have gone deeper than that!
Eldredge tells us, drawing significantly on Bly's ground-breaking cult classic, the mid-'80s Iron John, that "masculinity is bestowed"Â (which actually sounds rather postmodernish social constructionist for a Dobson guy, but we'll let that ride). Then he lays it on thick: although he doesn't say it, it seems as if dads gotta be cowboys, rock climbers, boxers, sports fans, mechanics, elk hunters...I kept waiting for fart jokes. If a boy isn't given rituals of masculinity, he will end up, well, a Walter Mitty wimp. He tells an amusing story of slapping around with his son till the boy drew blood from John and how great that was for all involved.
I have a son who climbs rocks. I am scared of heights but love the beauty of good cliffs. His mother is a better belayer than I and enjoys that muscular role, so we have all taken joy in Micah's hobby. If we believed our family's gifts and interests had to follow the gendered script of Wild at Heart, we'd be off-the-scale hell bent.
My son is a fun and good-hearted young man, and when he was climbing recently, I took the advice that Eldredge insists upon. I told him, just like Eldredge said to his son, that he was "wild up there."Â Unlike the Eldredge boy, Micah ignored the compliment. Which may mean any number of things. My bet is that Eldredge--who believes "the uniform of boyhood is capes and swords, camouflage, bandanas and six-shooters..."Â--raised his son to value such definitions. Of course he wants his dad to call him wild! (He's already bloodied his dad's nose, remember?) Micah is becoming a safe and technically-savvy climber. He just bought a new Black Diamond helmet which he thinks is very cool. We didn't buy him toy guns, and I don't think he ever wore camouflage...
After that experience on the rocks, I resented Eldredge's heavy-handedness and my own effort to fit into his mold. Maybe I should have spit when I said it, scratched my knuckles on the granite so I had blood on "Ëœem. Maybe then my boy would have understood my manly compliment, and I would be on my way to bestowing on him the high-risk ways of the truly wild. Or maybe I should just rest in the temperament and giftings God has given my son and wife and daughters and me, and tell Eldredge, in guy talk he might appreciate, to take his worldly stereotypes and shove "Ëœem where the sun don't shine.
Two of Eldredge's key influences are incredibly poetic, wonderfully caring wild men in their own right--the aforementioned pagan poet, Robert Bly (author of the cult classic, Iron Man), and ragamuffin storyteller and evangelist, Brennan Manning. Neither one are tough guys, both have tender hearts, and it is an immense curiosity that Eldredge likes them so. (And, I must admit, it is this which not only makes the book curious, but makes it a cut above the more standard Christian manliness guides that publishers cranked out at the height of the Promise-Keepers glory days.) Bly is more problematic, influenced as he is by pantheism, Romanticist idolatries which elevate the "uncivilized passion"Â of tribal peoples (remember Gauguin going to Tahiti) and the psychosexual weirdness of Freud's student, the nearly occultic Carl Jung. Still, I know that in God's common grace, all sorts of folks have genuine insight, so I have no beef in principle for his using Bly (whose poetry I enjoy). It is Bly's cultural-gender assumptions that I contest.
But it may be Manning who gives Eldredge a conceptual key, an insight that--like much of this crazy-making book--is at once nearly true and very problematic. It is an important theme for Brennan, most developed in Abba's Child (and again, borrowed, it seems, as much from 20th century pop psychology as from Holy Scripture). Eldredge and Manning assume the reality of something called a "false self."Â
Now this isn't run-of-the-mill duplicity or being less than transparent, or even unwilling to be real in relationships. Over and over, Eldredge powerfully describes this phenomenon which, for him, nearly sounds like multiple personality disorder: he writes of men "who hide in the office, at the gym, behind the newspaper, and mostly behind our own personality [emphasis added]. Most of what you encounter when you meet a man is facade, an elaborate fig leaf, a brilliant disguise."Â He calls us posers, and in interesting, if rather superficial, stories, tells of his own foibles and lack of authenticity. Apparently, he is quite the impostor and suspects all men are as well.
Manning, and now Eldredge, invite us to be free from any such posing; if we are the beloved of God--if God gives us our real name--we can be authentic. We can live into our true selves, be all we were meant to be. No masks, no games. This must be a truly revolutionary message for many, and Eldredge makes it sound urgent and vital.
This is helpful as one piece of our journey toward Christian wholeness, what Dallas Willard has recently termed the "renovation of the heart."Â Eldredge gives some good guidance for how to explore those inner wounds and fears, suggesting ways to become more genuine. He warns, "as we walk away from the false self, we will feel vulnerable and exposed."Â But, he says, specifically to men, "we must reverse Adam's choice; we must choose God over Eve. We must take our ache to Him."Â
But again, he throws us a curve--and this is a huge concern, especially given that Wild at Heart is so popular among evangelical collegiates, and particularly guys in conservative Reformed traditions. Eldredge seems to think that the blood of Christ shed on the Cross was shed for the sins of the false self (which is no longer a metaphor, but an ontological reality alongside the soul, in there somewhere, I guess). In this book, sin is described not in terms like R.C. Sproul's "cosmic treason to the King of Kings,"Â but in lines like this: "Adam gave away the essence of his strength..."Â (Huh?)
He continues, "...your flesh is a weasel, a poser, a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you."Â Making Romans 7:20 a bit too central, he develops a theology of not "the devil made me do it,"Â but "my poser/girlie-man/false self made me do it."Â Interestingly for a conservative evangelical, he unapologetically states, "your heart is good."Â If there are any readers who are survivors of spiritual abuse from a toxic sort of fundamentalism which overstates our sinful nature, this may be a blessed thing to hear. But, given the psychologically-drenched, pop-culture fueled, theologically-shallow immaturity of most weak-kneed evangelicalism, it seems odd to remind guys that they aren't really so bad. Doesn't the publishing house have a theologian on retainer to check for this sort of shoddiness? (Well, on second thought, maybe they don't. This is the same publishing house that brought us Gwen Shamblin and Benny Hinn, fudging on silly little notions like the Trinity.)
Mr. Eldredge says, "The real you is on the side of God against the false self."Â This odd psychobabble, apparently presuming a neo-Jungian, Blyian view of the self, leads Eldredge to confuse what classic theology calls our "two natures."Â He insists that our hearts are pure. ("We are never told to kill the true man within us, never get rid of these deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty."Â) I am left breathless and confused: I have no idea what to make of all this.
The Bible teaches that men and women are made very good in God's image (including our passions and desires and gender) and also that we are, in all our creaturely ways, distorted and rebellious. In Christ, we are reconciled to God, self, others and Earth--restored! In Christ, the second Adam, we men and women of His are restored to our Holy Calling of ruling the creation, making history, forming culture, fighting evil, spreading the gospel of the Kingdom, being fully men and women working meaningfully in our various, splendid human tasks and callings and vocations. But how do these classic theological insights--good creation, radical fall, transforming grace, renewed vocation--inform Eldredge's claim that our "false self"Â is a poser fake (not the more powerful "idol-making factory"Â of John Calvin) and that Jesus' death saves our good hearts from the tyranny of the wimp inside? It is my sense that his efforts to restate the role of redemption using his odd categories has made this creative attempt exceptionally problematic. I am surprised that I have not heard anyone criticize the book at this point.
It is in this section of the book that Eldredge backs off his macho schtick a bit and, with powerful use of illustrations from films and rock songs, shares his deep and heartfelt hurt for the hurts of men. He does seem to have a lot of hurting friends and sees professionally a number of deeply wounded guys. At times, Wild at Heart (when he isn't talking cowboy/hunting/war stuff) seems a bit like the remarkably bold new understanding of psychotherapy spelled out in James Olthius' fascinating The Beautiful Risk: A New Psychology of Loving and Being Loved. With postmodern sensibilities, Olthius rejects modernist notions of counseling run by an expert with all the answers for a shared spiritual journey exploring spaces of love and trust... Much in Eldredge is very compelling, surprisingly tender and well-written. The theological confusion and worldly gender assumptions, though, still demand of the reader extraordinary caution and discernment.
We've seen that Eldredge's understanding of God's redemptive work is often described in less-than-biblical categories and approaches to the self (all in light of the biblically-questionable, traditional gender stereotypes). This causes him to do what so many typical evangelical readings of the Scripture do: he misses the clear and broad restoration of creation that Christ as Kingdom-bringer enacts. Rather than offering a biblical insight that is new, edgy or bold, Eldredge safely personalizes the Kingdom's impact, rendering salvation to inner healing, shoring up admittedly shaky knees, touching admittedly deep wounds, but missing (or failing to fully proclaim) the creation-wide, radical nature of the coming Kingdom. Faith is personalized and privatized.
Significantly, Eldredge sees that Isaiah 61 (quoted in Jesus' own inaugural address in Luke 4) is a central passage about Christ and his mission. It is a political text, announcing real debt forgiveness to the poor, release for those in jail. It is doubtless a reference to the social policies of the year of Jubilee (Deuteronomy 15, Leviticus 25) and is pregnant with hope for the economically disadvantaged, the politically disenfranchised, the unjustly oppressed, the land and animals. Eldredge's caring prose on Christ's mission (p. 129) finally is just more quasi-evangelical yapping about the Self. It is supremely psychological, hardly even talking about inner dispositions or character, let alone the Jubilee. We grieve our wounds--"Daddy didn't give me toy guns, boo hoo"--and the multi-faceted, creation-restoring, political and societal reign of God that the text tells us is breaking into human history is missed completely!
Isaiah 61--of all texts!--is ripped out of its revolutionary Jubilee context and (mis)used to say that Jesus died for your false self! God is a big "Ëœol buddy, touching our inward masculine hurts. Aaauuggghhh.
Here's what I think. As much as I like the out-of-doors and the glories of the American West, I think Eldredge has spent too much time fooling around pursuing his hobbies, searching for his manly soul. Fly fishing has given the man a bit too much time to think, and it seems that he thinks mostly about his own sorry self (and the sorry state of his bourgeois buddies).
If he wants adventure and has free time, why not take his boys and his SUV not antelope hunting, but down to the ongoing protest of nuclear testing which is ruining the lovely Nevada desert. He might have to sing silly "Kum Ba Yah" songs with pacifist nuns, but he might also get smacked around by overly zealous military police, which he may even like. Maybe that would be a rite of masculine passage worth writing about.
Eldredge: cut the safe Gladiator-Braveheart talk of bravado and
serious: hang out with the Christian peace brigades now sitting on roof-tops of Palestinian homes on the West Bank as brutal Israeli bulldozers destroy the homes of the maybe-not-so-beautiful who really do need rescued. We know you're not afraid of tough stuff and you're up for a rescue, so why not use some of that passion for something Big? Cut back on some of your playing at adventure (man, I hated that foolishly glib story of risking a dangerous white-water run with your sons, as if fool-hardy outdoor adventure is cool). Go volunteer at an inner-city battered women's shelter, using your insight about men's tendency to violence, and encounter some really scary stuff. Take your boxing boys along so they can see her broken cheek bone, just to keep your testosterone talk in check; every man reading your book knows a woman who has been hurt badly by a "dangerous man"Â (which, in a culture of rape, is itself an offensive phrase). I pray you clearly teach your boys and your students what you surely don't mean.
Or: stand arm in arm staring down neo-Nazis in the name of Christ as they surround a local synagogue. (Surely you know of such places under threat near you.) Let me tell you, you haven't felt adventure "Ëœtil you've grasped hands with an old Jew with an Auschwitz number tattooed on his arm.
After a lifetime of trying to live out Isaiah 61 and Luke 4, I know, quite frankly, that I don't need to search for wild adventures; they have a way of showing up unrequested. Since we got that death threat from the Klu Klux Klan at our family business, the state of my macho-meter really isn't that much of a concern. And having the privilege of knowing bold Christians who have made great sacrifices--in the mission field of unreached Muslim cultures, in the academy, losing reputations resisting secularization in higher learning, in political service, in social action for racial justice, brave men and women who protest pornography, those engaged in harsh and draining urban ministry--all who have stood up and paid the price, I recall why I do not resonate with the sort of self-absorbtion that passes for spiritual formation these days. Your whining about being tamed reminded me of all this, making me wish I could be more like these true wild folks who are free enough to take risks in important ways for history-making initiatives. And actually, I realize my deepest frustration with much of Wild at Heart. It is not that it is too dangerous (as some have worried). Actually, it is too boring.
And while I'm on a roll here, I really want to say that I am married to a woman who is a bold partner in numerous Kingdom causes and cares and adventures, and you know what? She's in so deep she knows she needs a bigger savior than me. (Me? Rescue her? You've got to be kidding--I'm scared of heights, remember?) In Christian theology, it is God in Jesus who does the rescuing, thank you very much.
Which, oddly, is Wild At Heart's strongest point: if we follow the the real deal, Christ Jesus as revealed in the Bible, not just a pale Sunday school fellow with a watered-down message of niceness, He will rock our world. Eldredge calls it--clueless to the bourgeois faddishness of it--"climbing Everest."Â He ends the book inviting us to follow a passionate challenge we should indeed embrace.
Three other aspects of this book cry out for comment, but I simply couldn't fit my remarks into the flow of the above narrative. And so, here are two other random comments on what I think are important parts of the book.
I think Eldredge is on to something in his desire for a geography of wilderness. It is unfortunate that he seems to make this an innate need of only males and too often posits the wild wilderness (a la John Muir) over and against culture and home. Those who follow this column know that half a year ago I wrote an extended piece about the spirituality of nature, developing a sense of place and making a case for, as one splendidly important memoir puts it, Reading the Mountains of Home. Click here for that article and the annotated bibliography on books about the geography of space, ecotherapy and books such as the extraordinarily important work of Wendell Berry. I would love to know what Eldredge (who quotes Berry once or twice) thinks of all of that...
Secondly, I am pleased to report that one of the better sections in Wild at Heart is a pair of chapters on the role of Satan and spiritual warfare (chapters 8 and 9). I have immense ambivalence with how Eldredge uses worldly images of war and violence, but his comments on the real work of spiritual warfare is very, very insightful. For those not schooled in a tradition which takes such biblical teaching very seriously, this balanced chapter may make you wiser and more aware of the forces of the Enemy.
Thirdly, it is a shame that Eldredge makes no reference (pro or con) to the vast amount of really interesting and helpful literature on biblical feminism. To fail to deal with the exegetical material presented in Gilbert Bilezikian's Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family (Baker, $14.99), or Gretchen Gaebelein Hull's Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel (Baker, $14.99), or the powerful Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality by Rebecca M. Groothuis (Baker, $16.99), is a glaring omission.
Very, very useful for anyone sorting out questions not only of biblical exegesis, but the role of nurture, cultural bias and a thoughtfully developed Christian perspective on gender formation, see the exceptionally important Gender and Grace: Love, Work and Parenting in a Changing World by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen (IVP, $15.99) and the quite practical, Equal to the Task: Men and Women in Partnership by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP, $11.99). Although easy to read, the academically-sophisticated Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited by Elaine Storkey (Baker, $13.99) is simply a must-read! Most academic is the one-of-a-kind massive tome After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation compiled by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen (Eerdmans, $26.95). Anyone seriously interested in this topic would do well to have this on hand for reference.
Although I find it exegetically unconvincing, the otherwise admirable John Piper has a brief, popular-level book calling for traditional gender roles; it is the sort of book that Eldredge ought to have at least cited for his own position and heeded some of its thoughtful advice. It is called What's the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible (Crossway, $7.99). He co-edited (with Wayne Grudem) a bigger, more complex work of similar perspective entitled Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Crossway, $25.00). While we have significant concerns about it, a fair study of the topic would have to include it.
And there is, of course, the huge question: if Eldredge is wrong and the above-listed authors are correct about the biblical mandate to mutuality and what might be called an "evangelical feminism," then what does "men's ministry"Â look like? Call us.