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Great Theme, But Could Be Better
on March 8, 2004
As I looked over the reviews of this book, I noted a real polarization: guys either loved or hated this book. Any book this polarizing, I thought, must at bare minimum be bold. And this is a bold book.
On the positive side, the basic premise, that men need to embrace masculinity instead of apologizing for it, is great. It is true that many (unfortunately Eldredge says, "the church," which is tough to prove since he has not been in every church) churches do embrace a feminized Jesus and seem to push an agenda that feminizes men. As a pastor of 25 years, I have noted this tendency in many (perhaps most?) congregations (but I can honestly say that this has not been the case in the two churches I have pastored). Though common, this problem is not always present.
Eldredge argues that men should feel free to be "wild at heart," and that a deep relationship with God and the security that comes from realizing one is truly a man is a key to a satisfying and meaningful life for a man.
He recognizes the "wound" that men have, the importance of having a battle to fight and a beauty to rescue, themes dealt with about ten or (or more) years ago (by the likes of Gordon Dalbey, Robert Hicks, etc.); but his work is a current volume, and this material needs to re-circulate for the upcoming generations.
On the negative side, however, this book is reactionary. It addresses all men as though they were of the same temperament, namely that of the author. Besides watching way too many movies, the author enjoys the great outdoors. But he has forgotten that God does not only bless the Esaus, but also the Jacobs. And some of us guys don't even like movies (sorry, but there is nothing masculine about having to be entertained visually). Many men have died for their country, saved lives, reared masculine sons and feminine daughters and been bold warriors for the kingdom on God and yet did not enjoy repelling or hunting. I fear we learn a lot about John Elderedge and about men LIKE him (and there are many,perhaps even a narrow majority, although I wonder) than men in general; those of us who love the great "indoors" are virtually ignored or relegated to a category (by default) as less than masculine (although I do love the outdoors, just not hunting or repelling; I am a hiker).
The author is unusually weak in Bible interpretation, but he is no heretic. He does, however, point out that Adam stood silently alongside Eve while she ate of the fruit (he gives credit to, "The Silence of Adam," by Larry Crabb); on that interpretation, he is right on. And that is a key and crucial thought. He is weak in the interpretation department elsewhere throughout the book. Unfortunately, many of his points come from popular movies, great illustrations for the men who probably need the book most (those who live life vicariously through movies and TV). But again, a segment of us (who would rather play cards or take our wives dancing rather than tube out) were left out.
The first half of the book disenchanted me; the second half was much better and worth the reading. His comments about spiritual warfare need contemplation.
For men who have temperaments like Elderedge (the restless, deep feeling, and aggressive kind) or who have been stifled and intimidated by a feminized version of Christianity, this book is bold and radical enough to wake you out of your stupor. But it is not an "on the mark," response, but a reactionary (and overly emotional) one. If that's what floats your boat, you'll love it. If you are a bit more laid back (like myself and many other guys), you will not enjoy this book as much. Of course, if you are a passive wimp, you NEED this book, whether you will like it or not!
Some other books I would recommend (as better) in this genre include Gordon Dalbey's, "Father and Son," Robert Hicks, "The Masculine Journey" (if you can find it; this is an excellent book), and Robert Lewis', "Raising A Modern Day Night" (on bringing up boys). To my way of thinking, these are less reactionary and right on the mark.
So is this a good book or a bad one? It is certainly not a bad book. And though it is not truly Scripturally based, it is not heretical (just extra-scriptural). If you share common frustrations and experiences with John Elderege, you may find really enjoy it. For many guys, this would be good medicine; for others of us, it is at least thought provoking.