Reading, Theology

Garden Wild


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I found a great e-book to download for free this week to do with manhood and masculinity, particularly as it relates to men working. It’s written by a guy called Richard Phillips and is called Masculine Mandate.

There are some really interesting thoughts in the book but none more so than the area surrounding Phillips’ disagreement with John Eldredge’s big thought in Wild at Heart about the core of mans’ heart.

In Phillips’ first chapter he writes:

We encounter major errors in Wild at Heart right at the beginning, where Eldredge discusses Genesis 2:8: “Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden’s garden. But Adam, if you’ll remember, was created outside the garden, in the wilderness.”3 Eldredge reasons here that if God “put the man” into the garden, he must have been made outside the garden. While the Bible does not actually say this, it’s plausible. But even assuming i

t’s true, what are we to make of it? Eldredge makes an unnecessary and most unhelpful leap of logic, concluding that the “core of a man’s heart is undomesticated,”4 and because we are “wild at heart,” our souls must belong in the wilderness and not in the cultivated garden.

Phillips continues,

The point of Wild at Heart is that a man finds his identity outside the garden in wilderness quests. In contrast, the point of Genesis 2:8 is that God has put the man into the garden, into the world of covenantal relationships and duties, in order to gain and act out his God-given identity there. If God intends men to be wild at heart, how strange that he placed man in the garden, where his life would be shaped not by self-centered identity quests but by covenantal bonds and blessings

The is me kissing my wife wildly within the garden
The is me kissing my wife wildly within the garden

So, Eldredge argues that man was made outside the garden and is therefore undomesticated (wild) at a heart level, whereas Phillips argues that it is precisely because God puts Adam in the garden that we see the true nature of a man to be domesticated, in a positive, life-giving, growing context as a Shepherd-lord. Phillips gives us a Shepherd-lord; Eldredge  gives us a Warrior-lord.

I found the the difference in interpretation of the Genesis passage intriguing but just want to say a couple of things before I sign off and let you think/discuss:

  • Firstly, thousands of guys around the world have been massively helped by Wild at Heart. Surely this is a massive plus for the global church because of its big problem with feminised spirituality? I read the book several years ago and was blessed big time but that didn’t mean I became an egotistical and selfish man pursuing my own self-centered conquests to be a ‘mans man’. Instead, it motivated and inspired me to be all that God wants me to be as a man (wild at heart within covenantal relationship/responsibility) without conforming to any stereotype of what an ‘alpha’ male should be. I certainly don’t think it confused me as to my Godly identity – I find that principally in Romans 8 verse 15.  And let’s be honest, the church needs more ‘men’ to stand up and be men but that doesn’t mean you need to shoot pheasants or lop down large trees with an axe.
  • Secondly, I thought the condescending tone from Phillips took something away from his points around his viewpoint – he could have made his point without jibing Eldredge for releasing a field manual – so what?!

My question – why can’t men be wild at heart within the garden? Why is it either/or rather than both/and?

5 Comments

  • As a gently domesticated male who lives inside the garden (with a wife) I can have wild times too. Sometimes with the boys, but the wife likes wild too as not all girls are pink!

  • As often happens in history – pendulum swings! John Eldredge was writing to counter a culture that exists in the Church. In the process of this the case is overstated and so, in response someone comes along later to redress the balance …

    IMHO what we need is wholeness – for each, male and female, to be fully what God has created us to be – which I think is more to do with spiritual temperaments that male/female stereotypes … Thus, the Church has been profoundly shaped, throughout it’s history by men who have been very peaceful, thoughtful and perhaps even ‘weak’ in the eyes of the world … If that is how God made them, and they use their gifting to His glory then that is a blessing to the Church!

    • Yes, this is a great way of thinking about it. I like to think though that these particular ‘pendulum swingers’ might be a bit more co-operative (literally) because it might help the church more if they were. George Whitefield was apparently weedy (excuse the pun) but his voice was wild. So too was Paul of course. I still wonder though whether Adam was made outside the garden, as Eldredge points out, and whether that has any implication for our understanding the masculine identity today regardless of trends in church history.

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