Monday, March 02, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence, Part 3

Today I want to bring up Eldredge's apparent contempt for Christianity and the church "as it currently exists."  Here's the [longer] quote from page 7:

"And then, alas, there is the church.  Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men.  When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy.  The problem with men, we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children.  But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming... a nice guy." (ellipse his) "That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Real Nice Guys.  We don't smoke, drink, swear; that's what makes us men."

On page 8 Eldredge quotes Robert Bly, the author of Iron John, "Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man--they are called priests..."

On page 13: "Compare your experience watching the latest James Bond or Indiana Jones thriller with, say, going to Bible study."

First of all, I am not going to defend the church as though it is perfect without fault.  We all know of churches that fail to be faithful to scripture and are, for the most part, not helping anyone.  There are two main points I'd like to make based on Eldredge's thoughts: 1) Regardless of what the church teaches, it is man's ultimately responsible for what a man learns, and 2) Eldredge attacks character qualities that scripture teaches.

Churches, by and large, have a great effect on individuals.  More often than not, find out what church someone grew up in (or goes to) and you can tell them what they believe.  People get saved in churches all the time.  But.  Who will be judged on Judgment Day?  Will it be the church?  No.  Each individual person will be judged.  If a boy walks down the isle at age 6, spends the rest of his life in the pew on Sundays, and at the end of his life can't spell gospel, you're likely to be looking at someone who was never saved.  That is no the church's fault.  Or, if that same boy grows up having gone to church and thinks that not smoking, drinking, and swearing  are what makes a man, then they very like haven't read the Bible.  That's not the church's fault.  Each person is responsible for their own spiritual growth.  I must be careful in saying this, because I don't remember (and that's kind of the point), but I don't remember a single time in the whole book that Eldredge challenges men to study the Bible.  He may have.  He may have done it multiple times.  But I don't remember.  Why do I not remember?  Because bleeding from every page is the call to get out into the wild, be dangerous, do things your mom wouldn't approve of, watch blood-filled movies.  The blame ought not to be focused on the church (though again, it desperately needs improvement), rather the blame should be on men who only blow the dust off their Bibles on Sundays... and many times not even then.  Oh if men (and women) would only read their Bibles they would see what a high calling God has for them.  And yet, this book and its successors have become the Bible by which many Christians are living (yes, I know some of them).  Much more needs to be said, but I must continue on.

I am shocked by the character qualities that Eldredge chooses to look down upon.  Keeping promises?  Being a spiritual leader?  Talking to your wife?  Raising your children?  Those are bad things? "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Eph. 5:25).  There are many ways that Christ loves the church.  But certainly among those are: keeping His promises, being our Spiritual Leader, talking to us (through His word, being the Word Himself), the Father is our example on how to raise children.  If there is anyone who thinks that any of these things are bad things (or unscriptural), please comment on that.

Now, regarding the last quote.  This is one of the most telling sentences in the whole book, which explains where Eldredge is coming from.  I have not done the numbers, but earlier I flipped through the whole book scanning every page (I was actually looking for this last quote which is on p.13, but I had to go through the whole thing and start over to find it).  The number of references to movies and length of time talking about them far outweighs how much he uses scripture like a pickup truck outweighs a motorcycle.  It is clear that Eldredge loves what Hollywood puts out ("while there are some good movies, there are many horrible churches").  Each and every reference to a movie is meant to esteem you (if you're a man) and show you how you ought to be like William Wallace (Braveheart appears to be his favorite).  I don't have time for it here, but many times he says something to the effect of "Jesus is like Wallace" or "Jesus is like so-and-so."  Not a single time does he put Jesus on a higher plane than a fictional, unsaved, blood-spattered, adulteress, sinful man.  If nothing else this should be where the Church rises in rage against the book.  Our perfect Savior who was slain to die for our sins holds a lower pedestal than ficticous characters in this book.  Sure he talks about Jesus somewhat frequently, but he only talks about the instances where Jesus can be seen (or construed using a non-literal translation) to be "wild with rage" or some other such thing.  Not once does he make reference to "Jesus wept" or "Summon the little children to come unto Me" or "He had compassion on them" or "The lamb that was slain" or the multitude of other references to Jesus as something other than wild.

Whoa... I'm off topic.  This is getting long, so I'll be short.  If a man finds more delight in watching a thriller movie than studying the Bible, that does not tell you how God made him, that tells you how sinful he is.  I know that I do not enjoy Bible study enough.  I do not delight in God as I should.  But that does not mean there is something wrong with the Bible.  That means there is something wrong with me. 

Oh reader, I know I am not an experienced writer nor an expert in the Bible.  But I plead with you... my heart is not that you agree with every word that I say.  My desire is that you consider what Eldredge is really saying.  The next post will likely be on Saturday because I'm going to cover a larger concept.  Eldredge teaches in the book that most of your hearts desires are good and need to be set free.  He believes that once you become a Christian you get a new heart (which is true, but he takes it to a whole new level), and you become a new creation (which is also true), but that you still have your "false self" (which is not true).  I hope you will continue to read, not for my sake, but so that you will be challenged to consider what he (and a great many Christians) believe.  Even if you disagree, please continue on this journey with me.