Doctrine and Spirit

I had a wonderful debate in the past with a Christian over the author John Eldredge. I deny this author as completely sound, discounting his theology as open theism (which he denies in his books, yet he fits the definition exactly), I have friends who agree there are a few problems, but the author is well know for helping people think differently about Christ.  What do you think?

I am not sure how long we discussed this issue, but it was certainly a while. I kept coming back to doctrine and she kept coming back to experience. It should be noted that we BOTH agreed that both doctrine and experience are required to live the Christian life (i.e., we worship in truth and in Spirit). We agree that it is God that will cause the final meshing of these two, but we all seemed to come to a different end: I was raised with experience but no faith at all, and other person was raised with pure doctrine and no experience. Where to turn? I will list only my argument since I may have mis-interpreted my friends. First, I believe that it is Doctrine first as the primary means to interpret experience. I do not think that we need a series of books that have no, or worse yet, shady doctrine in order to combat the obvious cultural problem of an over-emphasis on experience (existentialism for example). On the other hand, I agree that pure doctrine is meaningless unless it is applied. It is my belief, however, that we need to study sound doctrine first and foremost! It is only AFTER we understand doctrine we can make sense of experience. I could give examples (and will if someone asks), but this is getting long.

Now, how all this fits into the author, I have not read his books myself, but I have read from works of some very discerning theologians about the issue. The best article came from the book "Fools Gold", John MacArthur is the general Editor and the particular essay is called "Roaming Wild: Investigating the Message of Wild at heart" by Daniel Gillespie. In brief, Eldredge is on target with identifying a problem: men that do not act like men in the church. The main problem is that in trying to correct the problem, he gravitated to the opposite extreme and presented not just a wrong view of how a man should act, but even at times, a sinful view for how a man should act. To do so, Eldredge often pulls out selected actions of Jesus (very few of them), but seems instead to rely on scenes from popular movies like Braveheart to point out how a man should act. The material goes so far that Gillespie says:

We believe that a thorough assessment of Wild at Heart reveals that Eldredge's solution, although innovative, falls short of true masculinity. In fact, many of Eldredge's arguments are directly opposed to the biblical teaching on the subject.

Gillespie points out four major problems:

  1. An Insufficient View of Scripture in the form of either absent or misinterpreted texts; often Eldredge provides more proof texts from Hollywood movies than the Bible.
  2. An inadequate Picture of God. Gillespie says that it is not possible to mention all about who God is in such a narrow targeted book, however, Eldredge fails to balance the view by making leaving out balancing points. This is most evident in giving only the attributes of God relating to Eldredge's proposed man. He then paints a false view of God as a God who takes risks in what he does.
  3. An Incomplete Portrait of Christ by once again only ascribing to Jesus traits of the masculine man that Eldredge wants to paint.
  4. An Inaccurate Portrait of Man in two ways. The first is that man's responsibility for sin is overlooked preferring instead to bank on modern psychology in finding a reason (blame) for the sin in your past. The second is twisting the purpose for man. Eldredge believes that the purpose of a man is to follow his passions and desires, yet he fails to acknowledge that even our desires and passions are effected by the fall.

Regarding these points, Gillespie says:

Eldredge should certainly be applauded for seeking to present Christ as a model for manhood. Nonetheless, he falls short when he limits the characteristics of Christ to those that fit his thesis.

My conclusion is that Wild at Heart in particular, and many of other John Eldredge works that I have flipped through, would not be a good place to go to learn about God with respect to true doctrine. Is there something good there? Yes, we do indeed need men to step up in churches and culture. I think that John's work here has illuminated that. I just feel that his approach is off base. What are your thoughts?