Avoid This John Eldredge Book…

In staff meeting this past week we talked about when you should name names and when you shouldn't. This is one of those times I'm choosing to name a name.

John Eldredge is a popular Christian author. His most popular book is probably "Wild at Heart." And I'm not interested in debating the worth of any or all of his books, but I do want to warn you about his latest book, Beautiful Outlaw. I read a couple of quotes from it and wanted to get the word out – that perhaps you've enjoyed other books of his, but you should avoid this one.

I will let him speak for himself:


I have had similar encounters with Jesus in healing prayer. Last year, as a wise old sage was praying with me through some of the painful memories of my life, I was immediately reminded of the time in middle school when my first girlfriend broke my heart. These wounds can linger for a lifetime if you let them—the first cut is the deepest, and all that. We asked Jesus to take me back to the memory. I saw us, the girl and me; it was that fateful summer day. We were in the living room, just as it happened. Then I saw Jesus enter the room. He was quite stern with her, and it surprised me. That mattered to you? I wondered. Very much, he said.

Then Jesus turned to me. I felt his love. I realized I could let the whole thing go. It was so healing. To understand that Jesus is angry about what happened to you is very, very important in understanding his personality but also in your relationship with him and for your healing. What I love about these encounters is that every time—every time—Jesus is so true to his real personality. Sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle, always generous, and often very playful.

My son was having a tough freshman year at college. So many students there are bound under the religious fog. It was a lonely fall, filled with misunderstanding. One afternoon, just after a classmate said something particularly hurtful to him, Blaine returned to his room and slumped onto his bed, about as low as a young man can get. He looked over to his desk, and “saw” Jesus sitting there, in his desk chair, a smile on his face. He was wearing a pirate hat. Then he disappeared. A whiff of the Emmaus road.


I was going to call this book Jesus of a Thousand Hearts, because of the way he continually breaks into my life. He “speaks” to me through hearts. I’ll find stones in the shape of hearts in rivers where I’m fishing. I’ve seen them almost step-by-step up a mountainside when on a grueling climb. Praying in the morning I’ll look out the window and passing by will be a heart-shaped cloud. Dinner rolls, seashells, stains on my jeans. I’ve won the lottery when it comes to hearts from Jesus. But I am ashamed to admit that last summer, I grew a little impatient with them. I was going through a trying time and seeking God for the answer to many questions. Often, he would simply give me a heart in reply. I’d be walking down the sidewalk, and there in the cement see a heart-shaped hole, made by a bubble when they poured the sidewalk.

I actually grew a little dismissive of them. I didn’t want hearts—I wanted answers.

So, Jesus stopped giving these treasures of our friendship.

Last fall, while walking through an alpine meadow bow hunting, I was asking him, How come you don’t give me hearts anymore? I asked it in a pouting kind of way. At that moment something gray caught my eye. I looked down midstride, and there in the grass, about as big as a dinner plate, was a dried piece of cow manure—in the perfect shape of a heart.

If I didn’t know Jesus adores me, if I didn’t know he is playful, and if our relationship didn’t allow me to receive a playful tease, I might have misinterpreted the icon. But I loved it. It was both, Oh, so now you want a heart? and, I adore you still. A cow-pie heart. That is so Jesus. Wish I’d taken a photo of it—we could have put it on the cover of this book.

That probably says enough. I haven't read the book, I was just shown these quotes and in case you have had a good experience with Eldredge in the past, I'm encouraging you to pass on him.


  1. If you asked me in 2004 what I thought about “Wild at Heart,” I couldn’t have given you a more favorable review. In fact, I was considering hiking out into the forest and living off squirrel meat and berries for a few months so I could “find myself.”

    Thankfully I grew up.

    My biggest issue with books from Eldredge is the focus on the anecdotal in describing God. Very little about who Jesus is/was comes from scripture, and instead we see a God that is fluid, buddy-buddy, and whimsical. Sure, there may be attributes like these in his character at times, but it seems to draw more from John’s personality or what he wants from Jesus than actually representing Jesus. (We have his Word for a reason).

    Example: In “Wild at Heart”, if I recall correctly, the basic understanding is that men are wild and women are beautiful, and that we are all desperately seeking to live up to these caricatures (but we often give in and men are tamed and women don’t appreciate themselves). This is an observation John has made from his life, and he desperately seeks something from scripture to support this. Man was created, THEN placed in the garden. While woman was created IN the garden. Thus, man came from the wild and woman from beauty.

    What a leap! This is supposed to explain why most boys like trucks and dinosaurs and most girls like dolls and tea parties? The problem is that it creates unfulfilled expectations and confusion about the true nature of gender. Not every husband needs to crave an outdoor adventure, filled with kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and hunting. Not every husband needs to see life as an adventure where they must fight to live up to stereotypes of manliness that aren’t necessarily found in the Bible. But they do have a biblical mandate to lead, to pursue God full-heartedly, and to take risks (read: leaps of faith) that will turn their family more towards Christ. Those are not the same thing… What those risks look like is different for all men, and aren’t necessarily filled with adrenaline and sweat! I think John’s got nuggets of truth in there somewhere, but they get so twisted by his anecdotal experience and his worldview that the real truth is lost.

    Haha, David tries to avoid talking up John’s other books, but I just can’t help myself…

  2. i read Wild at heart at least 10 years ago, thought it had some decent points about not being emasculated as a Christian man etc. while having several not good points about how to get there. however, his subsequent books seem to go further and further off the deep end. Tim Challies has a couple reviews of Eldredge books on his blog/ website which are well done.
    on a side note i was really hoping this one would be on the list for the next EQUIP class…

  3. I have to be honest, there is a part of me that wants these so-called encounters with and communication from God to be true. In my flesh I want these special revelations to be a natural way for God to communicate with me.

    But I know that what I want is not always what I need. God has given me everything I need to live a life that is both pleasing to Him and full of wonder in how He speaks to me now. I need to rest in that and thank Him that His word to me is quite a bit clearer than the ones Eldredge believes he is receiving.

  4. Thank you for the alert on this book, I appreciate your effort to stirr us in the right direction when choosing Christian books to read.

    In my opinion this author is somewhat confused and disrespectful toward the person of Jesus, our Savior.

  5. I think his next book should be “Wild at Brain”! All I can say if the WORD was good enough for Jesus Christ to have faith in, under the most stressful of conditions during his temptation, it IS good enough for us!…we just have to believe it! I am worried for this younger generation for placing too much emphasis on an emotional relationship at the expense of believing faith.

  6. Came across this looking for something else. I realize my remarks are a bit late based on the dates. However… I’ve read most of Eldredge’s writings, and listened to a lot of his podcast online (free on the Ransomed Heart website). You guys actually agree with him on your specific critiques. He emphasizes a side of Christ often missed in the Church, and it can be seen from a casual observer as strange or incomplete. But if you study his stuff, it is very biblical. He does draw from many anecdotes, but they always speak to his themes of repentance and restoration in the heart, which only comes through Christ.

  7. I guess I am sort of missing the point. If my child said to me these things about God I would encourage them and I do things like that for my own kids. Personally, i think we grow content being far from God when as we grow older; forgetting what it felt like when we first had our eyes opened, how we’d pray – should I go here Father, should I talk to that person… I’ll stop here. not my blog.

  8. In think it is incredibly unwise and extremely unbiblical to frame slander as a healthy heads-up. The Holy Spirit is the convictor and will reveal unhealthy or unwise things to those that need it or seek it. God’s word commands us to not stir up decention among the brothers. Yet, for some reason we feel justified to do just that in this case? Price says the world will know we are Christians by our love one another. If you take issue with some of his writing, fine. Started it debate or respectful discussion… But it is absolutely wrong to try to draw a crowd around a fellow believer in Christ with hopes that he would be financially damaged. That is the effect of this post.

    • Scott, Thanks for your input. I have a question for you. If a pastor feels content from a Christian author, pastor, blogger, etc… isn’t best for his people – how should he talk about that? What are your recommendations?

  9. I would first ask where the feelings of content come from. Why thevtrigger? Second, they are not the pastor’s people. They are God’s. Quite frankly, this is the kind of scenario that is the root of legalism in the church today. Too many pastors, Christian school superintendents and principles, etc… have taken their roles to the extreme; they have stepped into the Holy Spirit’s role of counselor and convictor. It is God‘s job to reveal these kinds of issues. Pastors are flawed and they bring personal preferences, opinions and wounds from the past just like every other human. Wild at Heart is a great example. Calvary Chapel banded this book years ago. But, at the same time, I know dozens of man’s lives that have been changed for the better. Mine included. But this book isn’t for everybody. So let the Holy Spirit do his work. For a pastor to take on such intense arrogance as to assume that it is bad for every person is blind and sabotaging. God never intended pastors to obscure the Holy Spirt. My 2-cents.

    The only time I can think of in Scripture where Jesus gives us permission to publicly label sin is when someone is not wanting to repent from a specific activity. Surely we’re not assuming John Eldredge is in need of an intervention with witnesses…

    • Scott –

      We will have several things we see differently here. They are God’s people, and a pastor is called to be an undershepherd to those people. You are twisting what I’m saying. We also likely see it differently that it is only the Spirit who is to counsel or warn. We have several differences for sure. I am sure his books have been very helpful to many people – obviously. I still have concerns. Thanks for your input. I’m not calling for a banning of books. I am calling for discernment.

  10. I’m not sure why you feel the need to steer people away from this book. Personally, I loved this book, so much in fact that I read it cover-to-cover twice consecutively. This book will challenge the way many people view Jesus, but in a very positive and empowering way. Jesus was not meek and mild. He was bold, strong, and confident…yet loving, caring, and compassionate. Eldredge does a good job of using scripture and his experiences (through his counseling and his Ransomed Heart ministry) to shine a light on who Jesus is.

    So why steer people away? Why not encourage people to read it, and form their own opinions? Whether they find the book helpful/inspiring or not, reading the book could help someone grow in their faith. And what is wrong with that? What are you afraid of?

    • Brian – Thanks for your thoughts. To answer your question – I wrote that blog while pastoring a church, and I feel the quotes speak for themselves. I think there are better books that provide a more biblical and accurate picture of who Jesus is. If I could choose, I would rather have people I’m pastoring read other books that teach them about who Jesus is.

  11. “That probably says enough. I haven’t read the book, I was just shown these quotes and in case you have had a good experience with Eldredge in the past, I’m encouraging you to pass on him.”


    So you’re stating “as a Pastor at the time you wrote this”, ” I’m encouraging you to pass on him”? But you haven’t even read the book? So you probably don’t think the Creator of the Universe and of us (mankind), has a sense of humor? Check yourself, Pastor. That’s not the God I serve, nor would I want to. He was human. He was God. And He uses His creation to show us His love for us. Sometimes even through a “cow pie”. Why? Because He can.

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