The popular authors of Wild at Heart and Captivating are back with another offering, this one a look at the institution of marriage titled Love and War. The Eldridges seek to provide illumination along the pathway to marital bliss. They readily admit that marriage is difficult, and that having a successful marriage takes a combination of time and hard work. They freely acknowledge that difficulties arise in any relationship – especially a marriage relationship. They also admit that there is a way to achieve God-honored success in marriage. But it is this reviewer’s opinion that the pathway they present is flawed and dangerous.
The introduction relates a wedding that John officiates. In it he claims “If you would see things clearly, you must see with the eyes of the heart. That is the secret of every fairy tale, because it is the secret to the Gospel, because it is the secret to life” (pp. 2–3, emphasis mine). Now, that is a fairly substantial claim – that the secret to the Gospel is seeing with the heart. To Eldridge, the Gospel and fairy tales are interchangeable, merely stories of larger truths. This is an attack on God’s Holy Word! In an earlier time, this would be called blasphemy! But perhaps Eldridge was merely making a hyperbolic point? Chapter 1 deals with loneliness in marriage and offers for consideration the advice: “Let Desire Return: You have to begin with desire. Start with what is written on your heart” (p. 19). “Your first Great Battle is not to lose heart.” What Eldridge fails to address, however, is the problem created when the heart desires something God does not. For Eldridge, the answer is to look to your heart; but biblically, the answer is to look to God’s character.
In Chapter 2, Eldridge does address God’s character: “Love is the single most defining quality of his character and his life” (p. 26). The Hebrew word for that, my friend, is BALONEY! Love is not the most defining quality of God’s character, holiness is. The Bible goes to great lengths to demonstrate that God’s holiness is His defining attribute; indeed, without His holiness, His love would be exemplary, but meaningless!
Elsewhere in Chapter 2, Eldridge returns to a familiar theme, one that readers of his other works will recognize. “The heart of a man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue … The heart of a woman longs for someone to fight for her, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to offer beauty” (p. 30). What a self-centered view of life! Yes, the heart longs for those things, because it is desperately wicked and always seeking for something, anything, to take the rightful place that God deserves. Eldridge is looking for the solution in the wrong location – it is found in God, not the heart! In fact, he states on page 37 “name one thing in the entire created world more precious than a human heart. It can’t be done.” Yes, it can! Try for size – the human SOUL!
Finally, after 69 pages, Eldridge finally admits that maybe reforming the heart is the wrong starting point. He states “the greatest gift you can give your marriage is for you to develop a real relationship with Jesus Christ,” and “The secret to happiness is this: God is the love you are longing for” (p. 70). Anyone still working on the ideas given in the first 68 pages will grow frustrated and give up before reaching what is truly the heart of the matter.
The Eldridges do write openly and honestly about their own marriage relationship, offering insights to others and sharing learned lessons along the way. However, as with their previous offerings, the weight of the advice relies heavily on experience and lightly on any theological basis. This is not a book I could recommend to others. – Charles Eldred, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
With astonishing vulnerability that engages readers from the first page, John and Stasi Eldredge openly discuss their own marriage and the breakthroughs they have won from the challenges they’ve faced. Each talks to the reader about what he and she have learned, providing a balance between male and female perspectives that has been absent from previous books on this topic.
John and Stasi begin Love & War with an obvious confession: Marriage is fabulously hard. But beneath and behind the inevitable tensions a man and woman “locked in the same submarine” are going to have, the real battle is against the work of the Enemy, who plots and schemes to tear love apart. The Eldredges show how couples can win “by fighting for each other, instead of against each other.” As they say, “We live in a great love story, set in the midst of war.”