Monday, June 05, 2006

Wild at Heart: Some initial thoughts

It's been so long since I've posted in the blogosphere that I almost feel like I need to reintroduce myself. We continue to have internet access issues and we've decided to get a connection. I just haven't had the opportunity to see who has the best deal out there. For those in the VA Beach neighborhood, we're thinking about going with Cox's value plan. Any thoughts?

Anyway, on to more important matters...while I haven't finished the book yet, I'm almost halfway through John Eldridge's book Wild at Heart (WAH from here on). I thought I'd give a preliminary review (as per the first 100 pages).

The premise is actually quite simple to sum up: There is a question that haunts everyman - Do I really have what it takes (or Am I man enough)? The insecurity that many (he may say "all") feel that causes them to pose such a question and be fearful of the negative is a result of a "wound" (psychological - lack of affirmation) inflicted, most likely by the father. Within the heart of everyman are three desires: 1) A battle to fight 2) A beauty to rescue 3) An adventure to live. Up to this point, one might be inclined to agree to these general premises, but wonder what this has to do with theology. At least, that's where I came out. Eldridge maintains that these three desires, as well as the general state of affairs (other than the wound) are the result of the fact that man is created in the image of God. Just as God is a warrior (and thus, wild at heart, so to speak), man reflects that warrior image and craves the three things listed above. Though this is a bit simplistic, this is the gist of what he's covered to this point in the book.

While I admit, it's not terribly wise to judge a book prior to finishing it (nor to judge a book by it's cover, which as Thomas pointed out, may lead many to abandon this one), there is enough that has been said to this point to make some preliminary observations.

The Pros
Overall, I think WAH connects with many of the basic desires within the heart of most men. What man doesn't desire a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, and an adventure to live (Baylor excluded)? Furthermore, his portrayal of the characteristics of masculinity are refreshing in this day and age. WAH calls for men to be men and to raise their boys to be men. The quotes at the beginning of each section are also worth the price of the book alone. My personal favorite is the quote from Teddy Roosevelt right after the introduction regarding the credit going to "the man in the arena." While the book needs to be read with discernment, I have found many of it's pages to be challenging and liberating.

The Cons
Despite these pros, I would commend this book only to those with a good theological footing. While Eldridge's prose is captivating and ought to be emulated in style, some of his theological conclusions lack sufficient justification and imho amount to non sequitars (how'd I do Logan?). I offer one example from pg 8: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Now, we know that God doesn't have a body, so the uniqueness can't be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us." Those of you who read my post a few months back regarding the image of God, understand that I find this conclusion less than satisfactory (for lack of accounting for all the data). While I don't expect everyone to agree with me here, to say "such and such simply must be such and such" without considering ANY other options is a bit too assumptive imho. Likewise, to jump from the image of God to gender being at the level of the soul, is a bit of a jump (not to mention ignoring some significant anatomical data [Uncle Victor excluded-see the road trip comments if you're confused here]).

In addition to this, I would add my concern regarding the theological position advocated in WAH. Eldridge comes across as an arminian, which does not ipso facto render it useless (despite what AT might think). It is instead, the statements regarding foreknowledge that I find disconcerting. Eldridge states "...for those who are aware of the discussion, I am not advocating open theism" (32). However, he is not so clear on what distinguishes his positon from open theism. If you didn't sense it coming from the overview above, the reason he maintains that we love taking risks is because we are made in the image of the Risk Taker. "God's relationship with us and with our world is just that: a relationship. As with every relationship, there's a certain amount of unpredictability, and the ever-present likelihood that you'll get hurt. The ultimate risk anyone ever takes is to love...but God does give it, again and again and again, until he is literally bleeding from it all. God's willingness to risk is just astounding..."(32). This statement is representative of the theology unpacked in chapter 2.

Conc
All of this is why I say it is worth the read for the theologically discerning. Unfortunately, from what I've seen, it's more often targeted at young men (jr. high and high school) without the theological ability to discern between good prose and good theology. It's an easy read and the portrait painted of masculinity is refreshing in so many ways. In fact, had the book been written sans the theology or by secular psychologist, I probably would enjoy it more. Much of what is said about masculinity rings true, I'm just not convinced that the theological connections that are intended to support it are on par. If things change as I finish the book, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I think I've "called out" enough individuals for today (Baylor, Logan, AT, Vic, and sort of Eldridge).

6 comments:

adam said...

Refreshing and liberating? Mihelis, c'mon. Perhaps your sitz en labin is what is causing you to find value in raising up a young offspring into being a "man".

I too agree with the thoughts really, though, where you find a soliderity with Eldridge on helping young guys to become men. I mean look around! There are so many "girly men" and society is more and more encouraging it, as 'ok' be a metrosexual. BAYLOR

Luther's Stein said...

Thomas,

Look, I don't even want to hear about being a man from you. I don't know what version of the "Masculinity Manual" you are reading, but the chapter on "Masculinity and TV" doesn't encourage watching the Gilmore Girls.

NWMihelis said...

Thomas,

Do you actually like the Gilmore Girs, or are you secretly harboring a crush on Rory? You're lucky Logan hasn't commented on here yet; he'd have a field day with your spelling of "sitz en labin." Particularly in view of the fact that you've crossbred Greek and Latin (en) :-)

adam said...

Hey don't speak about gilmore girls as though you don't watch it Mihelis. I mean must I revisit the "my little pony" pictures/song? I am sure that you do worse.

Baylor:
I know you do worse! I mean you know what I have said to you before about your secret "Prince" and "Elton John" cd collection in your office. So, chill!!

Luther's Stein said...

Hey, Purple Rain and Rocket Man are perfectly masculine!

adam said...

Ok, enough said.