Eldredge begins his book saying that the modern church is confused about what being a man (and for that matter, a woman) really is. He asserts that the church has bought into society’s solution for the problem of male violence—that a man should be nice, hard-working, considerate, but certainly not dangerous. Yet, his contention is that God made Man to be wild. Men are supposed to be somewhat untamed, capable of bold, unexpected actions because God made Man to fight. So it is natural that little boys love adventure and are drawn to fighting because this is their nature. So it is also natural that when they grow up to men and give up their adventure to live in the corporate world, providing for their family in a risk-free and hopefully affluent fashion that they become bored.

The root of the problem goes back to Eden. God made Man with His wild side: to come through when difficult situations needed to be faced. When Eve was deceived and sinned, Adam was not deceived. Instead, he chose to follow his soulmate rather than God; he didn’t come through when the going got rough. Ever since then Man doubts that he will come through, a feeling often reinforced by society. Thus he avoids risk. This manifests itself in different ways: choosing only tasks that you know you can handle, marrying women that will not challenge you, not following your dream because the penalty is likely to be severe and you don’t know if you will succeed. So Man tends to avoid risk, in jobs, in love, in relationships.

Yet all the time Man asks, “Am I a Man? Do I have what it takes?” The world tells him no. Often his father tells him no, which is more painful because the answer to that question can only be given by a man, and the father is the definitive man. We try many ways to answer that question ourselves: excelling at work, turning to women to validate them, achieving “success”. These are doomed to fail because ultimately only God can answer that question, because only God has the definitive answer. Ultimately Man must ask God for the answer.

The battle men long for does exist, and once God gives a man His affirmative answer to the question, he can join the battle. There really is the mythic dragon and a beauty to rescue. The beauty is Woman and she is a portrait of the other side of God, beauty and order. Just as Man asks “Am I a Man?”, so Woman asks “Will you pursue me? Will you delight in me? Will you fight for me?” And just as the world tells men that they are a failure, so the world tells women that they will not be pursued or delighted in. This is where the fight comes in, because it is not the world that is wounding us, it is the dragon, Satan. We are made in God’s image and together in marriage we can live out the gospel, the two things that Satan hates. And just as in Eden, if he can get to Eve, he can wreck the whole plan.

The heart of a Man is the untamed wilderness, the yearning for adventure and for a battle to fight. The battle is for Woman and the adventure is the story of our lives, that God has given us, together as Man and Woman, the opportunity to write. To live as Men we must risk everything for that battle.

Since this is the first Men’s book that I have read, I cannot say whether Eldredge achieves his goal of “not another men’s book.” The points he raises have, in some ways been already addressed, as he notes, the solution is often accountability. Eldredge’s solution is much more drastic and much more satisfying—I certainly have a desire for adventure, and if I were confident of having a good chance of winning, for a battle to fight. It is more satisfying to be told “do what your heart says”, even though that involves taking risks.

However, Eldredge does not offer much to validate his assertions. He makes his statements, which sound like they might be true, then quotes a few passages and makes some observations about people. He does not discuss the merits and failures of other points of view and does not provide more than circumstantial evidence to support his views. In fact, although he seems to present his view as a hither-to untold truth, the quotes from past writers suggest that he may just be repeating an old truth that our age has forgotten, in which case he may have little to offer. (We do not know, because he does not discuss his assertions in relation to past thinking)

Ultimately, Wild at Heart is more of a motivational book than a treatise. I think Eldredge does have insight into our heart and is well worth reading if these ideas are new to you, as they were to me. However, Eldredge gives no means for answering why I should trust his assertions more than those of other respectable Christians and the thoughtful reader will need to turn to other sources to verify his assertions.
Review: 7.5
Fun to read, gripping and convicting. Good ideas. However, if I am to base my life on something, I need to have more than exciting anecdotes.