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
, 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
), 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

First, he insists that there is a “masculine heart and a feminine
heart” (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” 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

I reject Eldredge’s insistence that the imago dei is a “deep
and everlasting place within,” 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,” simply must be seen as speculation
based on an assumption that–against what I think the Bible says–humans
“have” a “soul.” 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

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.” (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” — 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.” 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” 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” 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”!)
are borrowed from — dare I say it without sounding uncool? —
“the world” (that “carnival of counterfeits” as he
wonderfully calls it later). This talk about “beauty” 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” — 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
. 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,” 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.”

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.” 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,” 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!” 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!'” 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.”
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?” 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?” (Augustine) or “Who will
you serve?” (Jesus), but rather, “Have I got what it takes?”
and “Am I powerful?” (Yep, he even gets into penis envy issues.

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” (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.”
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…”–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” 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

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.”
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.” 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.” 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.”

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,” but in lines like this: “Adam
gave away the essence of his strength…” (Huh?)

He continues, “…your flesh is a weasel, a poser,
a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you.” Making Romans 7:20
a bit too central, he develops a theology of not “the devil made
me do it,” but “my poser/girlie-man/false self made me do it.”
Interestingly for a conservative evangelical, he unapologetically states,
“your heart is good.” 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.” This odd psychobabble, apparently
presuming a neo-Jungian, Blyian view of the self, leads Eldredge to confuse
what classic theology calls our “two natures.” 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.”)
I am left breathless and confused: I have no idea what to make of all

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” is a poser fake
(not the more powerful “idol-making factory” 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
. 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” (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.” 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.
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

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” look like? Call us.