Eldredge proposes that we need "permission to be what we are--men made in God's image” and develops his point through twelve chapters of “discovering the secret of a man’s soul.”
Chapter 1, “Wild At Heart” extends an invitation with incomplete and out of context scripture references for men to live as God intended: “with ferocity.” The readers should be aware of the obscure and questionable sources of the author’s quotes and pagans who in their own writing use “God” and “Mother Nature” interchangeably (the reasons become obvious in Chapter 4). His many examples and stories used throughout the book regarding the undomesticated nature of men’s hearts are speculative and contradictory; consider one example here in the first chapter: if Adam was "was created outside the Garden of Eden, in the wilderness . . . born in the outback, in the untamed part of creation" then this explains why (according to Eldredge) that, "boys have never been at home at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore." The implication is that women do not have this inclination because Eve was created indoors, right?
Chapter 2, “The Wild One Whose Image We Bear” suggests Jesus as a mixture of Mother Theresa and William Wallace, though Eldredge says that Jesus is whoever you need Him to be. This is idolatry, making for oneself a god of one’s own understanding. How does the author conclude that God is a “pick fight” God when the greatest battle He fights is for His own glory?
Chapter 3, “The Question That Haunts Every Man” is “am I really a man?” Here Eldredge confuses emotion and desire with “function.” A lion does not hunt because he loves to hunt nor does a man long for fight except by the sin nature and this is where Eldredge begins to make a measure of theological sense, but his conclusions are still questionable.
Chapter 4, “The Wound” attempts to answer the question previous given by suggesting that one must prove his masculinity or be “crippled by the answer they’ve been given.” The author concludes that masculinity is an essence that must be given by a man or by a community of men and this occurs through the process of what amounts to abuse: insults, berating and testing. This reader is confused by the suggestion that calling a boy “ @#!*% ” is helpful to instill manhood yet the author insists on quoting homosexuals to inspire manhood. Additionally, the author prefers to quote sources who in their own writing use “God” and “Mother nature” interchangeably. What message is really being communicated?
Chapter 5, “The Battle for a Man’s Heart” speaks strongly for validation of manhood, and that validation must come from woman. He builds this case following introductory pages describing the void left by missing fathers.
Chapter 6, “The Father’s Voice” calls for a knowledge of manhood that rises from initiation, an experience that is deeper than one’s relationship with God and the truths of biblical doctrine, replacing faith and trust with pagan ritual. Now that one’s masculinity has been validated by woman, walk away from her and find God. “What else is it we are seeking from the Woman with the Golden Hair? What is that ache we are trying to assuage with her? Mercy, comfort, ecstasy--in a word, God. I’m serious. What we are looking for is God.” Choose God over Eve.
Chapter 7, “Healing the Wound” opens with inspiring quotes from Glenn Fry and Don Henley (who sung of Satanist Alistair’ Crowley’s mansion in “Hotel California”), Wendell Berry (a supporter of homosexual marriage, among other things) and Brennan Manning (a proponent of a gospel without repentance). Healing is Christ setting the heart free (recall: not Jesus as He is, but the one you make for yourself--see Ch. 2) without repentance.
Chapter 8, “A Battle to Fight: The Enemy” is an encouragement to join God in a battle He is already fighting, to have vision and cunning against the false self (“the flesh”), against the world system built by collective sin (“the world”) and the devil by strength.
Chapter 9, “A Battle to Fight: The Strategy” teaches to out-maneuver the enemy by acknowledging there is an enemy, praying and cunning with truth to cover weakness. Don’t be intimidated or compromise. The weapons of our warfare are catalogued but not explained in one page out of twenty-one.
Chapter 10, “A Beauty to Rescue” returns to the woman encouraging her healing by offering masculine strength. His explanation of taking advantage of the woman goes contrary to the understanding of the previous chapters highlighted by the misapplication of scripture demonstrating “biblical femininity” as having a wild-side, too.
Chapter 11, “An Adventure to Live” suggests "asking the right question." Should the reader find it, he is to be congratulated. Perhaps this is the adventure presented by the author before heading off "into the unknown" with God.
Chapter 12 is the final chapter. That's about it.
The author’s proposition is difficult because mankind is created in God's image and needs not permission but direction on how to be God’s representative on this earth and that direction is no secret. Eldredge intends that that we need "permission to live from the heart and not from the list of 'should' and 'ought to' that has left so many of us tired and bored." In other words, men need something more than what God has already given us by living Spirit-filled lives in obedience to His unchanging Word. Eldredge clearly communicates a deep misunderstanding of biblical anthropology and infers that God’s Word is insufficient. Eldridge makes God out to be a risk-taking God based on a misunderstanding of His sovereignty.
A few comments on boredom, which the author cites as a necessity for wildness: A Christian man who is the head of his wife, loving her as Christ loved the church is not bored. A Christian man who is raising his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is certainly not bored. A Christian man who does his work for his boss as unto the Lord is far from bored. A Christian man who dares to walk up to any other person who is dead in their sins and points them to the cross is anything but bored. If manhood is about adventure, then get outside and proclaim the gospel through Spirit-empowered witnessing and preaching--test your manhood with that one. If a Christian man is bored, it's not because he is a "nice guy." If a Christian man is working for the Kingdom, toiling and persevering in the faith through spiritual warfare, not tolerating evil men and putting to test those who call themselves apostles and endure for the name of Jesus, holding fast and remembering his first love then he is obedient not bored.
I have so many questions:
1) Why does mankind need permission to live from the heart, which God describes as being, “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Why would a man need permission to live wickedly when He already made man in His image? When does a biblical man live from what God says in wicked and deceitful? Remember: man got this way because he disobeyed God.
2) How is it possible for man to live ethically, apart from “the list of ‘should’ and ‘ought to’”? When is obedience boring?
3) Why would I want to win the old heart back?
4) How is there freedom apart from living obediently as God's representative on this earth?
5) Is there such thing as an untamed spiritual life when the fruit of the Spirit is self control (Galatians 5:23)?
6) How is gender determined at the level of the soul, when God created with specific physical distinctions that define gender?
7) If film is a way to measure the heart, then how did men measure their hearts before film?
8) Why can man not receive validation of his manhood from God? Is there perhaps a different role for women that is overlooked?
Perhaps the best conclusion would be to echo the advice of a fellow faculty member: read books that make you mad. This one does just that--because this madness drives one to think.