Waking the Dead

I don’t make a habit of commenting on book reviews posted elsewhere. However, when another review significantly misses the point and misrepresents a book I’ve read, I feel compelled to respond. John Zxerce’s “Misleading the Living,” a review of Waking the Dead by John Eldredge, is a case in point. . (To read the review in its original context, click here.

While Zxerce’s review seems sincere and well-intentioned, it’s also an erroneous, inaccurate and error-strewn misrepresentation of the “premise,” theme, and content of Waking the Dead. Why? For starters, Zxerce builds his review on flawed foundation and a defective syllogism. (Also note that Zxerce repeatedly misspells “Eldredge” in his review. If the reviewer can’t even get the author’s name correct, what else did he miss?)

Zxerce begins by stating. “… before I critique his (Eldredge’s) conclusion, let me first convey his approach.” I contend that Zxerce’s conveyance of Eldredge’s “approach” is about as accurate as a world map from the Flat Earth Society.

Zxerce begins his summary by suggesting that the “starting and presumed premise” of Waking is “God wants us to be happy.” This sounds simple enough, except for one thing: that’s not what the book says. This assertion indicates a misreading, misapprehension, or a misconstruction of the text, maybe all of the above.

Waking doesn’t start, continue, focus, or conclude with “God wants us to be happy.” Instead, Waking the Dead is based on two key Scriptures, one from the Old Testament and one from the New: Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for its is the wellspring of life”, and John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV).

Hearts vs. Happiness: The Difference is Key

Even a cursory reading of Part One, Seeing Our Way Clearly (p. 1, 2), indicates that Waking is not about our “happiness,” as Zxerce maintains, but rather, the care and condition of our hearts, the core or “inner essence” of the One who made us. Let me show you how this unfolds within the pages of Waking:

The book is divided into main four parts: Seeing Our Way Clearly, The Ransomed Heart, The Four Streams, and The Way of the Heart. Chapters in Part One includes Arm Yourselves, The Eyes of the Heart, and The Heart of All Things. Part Two includes Ransomed and Restored and The Glory Hidden in Your Heart. Chapters in Part 3: Walking with God, Receiving God’s Intimate Counsel, Deep Restoration, Spiritual Warfare: Fighting for Your Heart, and Setting Hearts Free: Integrating the Four Streams. Chapters eleven and twelve of Part 4 are: Fellowships of the Heart and Like the Treasures of the Kingdom.

The main text of the book concludes on page 221. It is followed by a Daily Prayer for Freedom (pages 223-226), Acknowledgements (p. 227), an excerpt from The Journey of Desire (p. 228-243), and About the Author (p. 244).


Besides missing the foundational concepts and theme of the book, Zxerce’s review stumbles badly in support for its summary points. Although the reviewer claims to use “Eldredge’s words” and “direct quote(s) from the book” (see above), Zxerce doesn’t cite any and fails to provide any actual quotes or even page numbers to bolster his syllogism. This should be a clue.

For example, see point #3 in Misleading the Living: “Therefore, we are either blowing it or God is. (Eldridge’s words).” The reviewer claims these are Eldredge’s words. They aren’t. Nor are they an accurate representation of the concepts in question. The context Zxerce seems to be referring to is also misconstrued and misrepresented. (He doesn’t actually cite a specific page and doesn’t offer a verbatim quote, but is apparently referencing a page or two in the first chapter.)

Zxerce seems to refer to a paragraph on page 9 which appears in the context of vanishing hope, and feelings of “despair, betrayal, abandonment by God” (see p. 7) and the struggles with life’s inexplicable difficulties and tragedies. Contrary to what Zxerce claims, what Eldredge actually says is this (remember, context is key):

”Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as “part of life,” suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts? After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good. I know, I know – we’ve been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well…

Either (a) we’re blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn’t this where you land, with all the things that haven’t gone the way you’d hoped and wanted? Isn’t it some version of “I’m blowing it”? In that it’s your fault, you could have done better, you could have been braver or wise or more beautiful or something? Or “God is holding out on me,” in that you know he could come through, but he hasn’t come through – and what are you to make of that?

This is The Big Question, by the way, the one every philosophy and religion and denominational take on Christianity has been trying to nail down since the dawn of time. What is really going on here?” (emphasis in original)

Note the disconnect between what the actual text says and where it points and how Zxerce summarizes it in his “critique.”

Continuing on…

Conspicuous by its absence in this summary, especially in points 4 and 5, are the vital “connecting points” Eldredge makes between suffering and adversity and God’s glory. Citing a quote from Saint Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive” (p. 10), Eldredge says:

You’re kidding me. Really? I mean, is that what you’ve been told? That the purpose of God – the very thing he’s staked his reputation on – is your coming fully alive? (Notice how Zxerce’s summary convolutes and misapprehends this crucial question.) “Huh? Well, that’s a different take on things. It made me wonder, What are God’s intentions toward me? What is it I’ve come to believe about that? Yes, we’ve been told any number of times that God does care, and there are some pretty glowing promises given to us in Scripture along those lines. But on the other hand, we have the days of our lives, and they have a way of casting a rather long shadow over our hearts when it comes to God’s intentions toward us in particular. I read the quote again, “The glory of God is many fully alive,” and something began to stir in me. Could it be?” (p. 10, emphasis in original.)

Confused and Un-coupled?

Again, notice how the “Misleading” review warps and distorts the actual text, as well as the underlying theme.

Among other blunders, Zxerce repeatedly confuses a heart “fully alive” with “happiness” – a coupling never made in Waking. If this is how Zxerce perceived the main theme of Waking, it’s no wonder he didn’t get the book. (BTW, if a heart “fully alive” ISN’T the glory of God, then what is a heart “fully dead”?)

In point of fact, Eldredge cites John 10:10, 6:48, 7:30, Proverbs 4:23, Ps. 16:11, John 1:4, 5:40, Acts 5:20, Ps. 27:13, etc. to support the main theme of Waking, which is: Jesus Christ came to give us life (p. 10, emphasis in original.). Eldredge elaborates, saying Jesus’ offer isn’t just

“an offer to us only in some distant future after we’ve slogged our way through our days here on earth. He talks about a life available to us in this age,… Our present life and the next. When we hear the words eternal life, most of us tend to interpret that as `a life that waits for us in eternity.’ But eternal means `unending,’ not ‘later.’ The Scriptures use the term to mean we can never lose it. It’s a life that can’t be taken from us. The offer is life, and that life starts now.” (p. 12, emphasis in original.)

Missing the Boat

In his sixth point Zxerce claims another “direct quote from the book”: “God’s happiness and my happiness are tied together.” Sounds are little weird, doesn’t it? Maybe so, but again, that’s NOT what Eldredge says. Eldredge’s actual words aren’t a declarative statement, but an interrogatory. This is key. In context, the passage referenced reads like this:

The glory of God is man fully alive? Now? Hope unbidden rose at the thought that God’s intentions toward me might be better than I’d thought. His happiness and my happiness are tied together? My coming fully alive is what he’s committed to? That’s the offer of Christianity? Wow! I mean, it would make no small difference if we knew – and I mean really knew – that down-deep-in-your-toes kind of knowing that our lives and God’s glory are bound together. Things would start looking up. It would feel promising, like making friends on the first day of school with the biggest kid in class.

The offer is life. Make no mistake about that. So then… where is that life? Why is it so rare?” (p. 12, emphasis in original.)

Again, context is king. Notice how Zxerce misses the boat on this, too.

In addition to this reviewer’s flawed and inaccurate rendering of key sections, Zxerce misses another major theme introduced on page 13: We are at War. Citing the first half of John 10:10, Eldredge explains:

“Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time?… God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn’t just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. In other words, yes, the offer is life, but you’re going to have to fight for it because there’s an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.” (p.13, emphasis in original.)

The “we are at war” theme is developed further throughout the remainder of the book. How Zxerce can claim to have read “the first chapter” and categorize the rest of Waking as “footnotes to this primary chapter” is mystifying. How he can dismiss the crucial foundational elements in pages 12 – 18 is not only stunning, but startling. The result is a fallacious, nefarious rendering of the text that misses the point about as wide as the Grand Canyon.

A House of Cards

The rest of Zxerce’s review follows from point #7: “Therefore, ‘God’s committed to my happiness’. (Another quote)” Zxerce’s preceding points are linked to this point (notice the use of the connector, “therefore,” in points 3 and 7), and so is the remainder of his summary. One minor detail: Eldredge never says or implies ‘God’s committed to my happiness’. What he does say is: “God intends life for you” (p. 13), “The offer is life, and that life starts now” (p. 12), “His (God’s) happiness and my happiness are tied together? My coming fully alive is what he’s committed to?” (p. 12), and oh yes, here it is again: “The glory of God is man fully alive” (p.10).

How many times does Eldredge have to say it? It’s not like he’s hiding the main theme, trying to sneak it in under cover of darkness. For anyone who can be bothered to look, “The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive” is clearly plastered smack across both the book’s front cover and title page. Saint Irenaeus’ quote also appears as a stand-alone on the page preceding the Contents. It’s not like the theme is a state secret!

Contrary to what Zxerce claims, Eldredge doesn’t make a vacuum statement that God is ”committed to my happiness,” but rather to “my coming fully alive” – which results in happiness, joy, delight, etc. Although subtle, this distinction is crucial. The difference between the two is stark and causes Zxerce’s entire syllogism and summary to collapse like a house of cards.

A Few More ?s:

Zxerce also misses the salient parts about “original glory, which comes before sin and is deeper to our nature. We were crowned with glory and honor” and “… The reason you doubt there could be a glory to your life is because that glory has been the object of a long and brutal war” (p. 14). Did he also overlook, “Unable to overthrow the Mighty One, he (Satan) turned his sights on those who bore his image.” (p. 14)?

Apparently Zxerce also managed to skip over pages 14 and 15 where Eldredge explains that our hearts are the targets of the Enemy. Did Zxerce also miss observations like, “war is a central theme of God’s activity” (p. 14), “the birth of Christ was an act of war, an invasion” (p. 16), and “war is not just one among themes in the Bible. It is the backdrop for the whole Story, the context for everything else. God is at war. … And what is he fighting for? Our freedom and restoration. The glory of God is man fully alive.” (p. 16)

You can see how Zxerce misquotes, misconstrues and misrepresents the actual text as well as the primary themes of Waking the Dead. No where is this more obvious than in his eighth point. He writes, “In fact, ‘my happiness is the purpose of Christianity’. (An abbreviated quote)”

A “mangled quote” would be more apt. Point #8 is perhaps the most invidious and pernicious assertion within this summary/critique. It is also sheer nonsense, flirting with banal. It’s a cheap shot because that’s not what the book says, implies, or illustrates. See pages 10 -12 of Waking for the verbatim quote and full context.

Falling Flat

Zxerce’s charge that Waking “misrepresents scripture (sic) – including Jesus’ person and work” and “stands in stark contrast to the New Testament,” falls as flat as a Kansas cornfield for the reasons – and verbatim examples – noted above.

Likewise, two of the silliest allegations made in this review are that “Eldredge’s book ultimately focuses on the realization of human glory” and can be accurately summed up per Zxerce’s “final conclusion”: “I need to live for my happiness.”

Having missed pretty much everything else in Waking, it’s no surprise that Zxerces also misses its focus, which is on reflecting divine glory through whole and holy hearts and “three eternal truths:

Things are not what they seem

This is a world at war.

Each of us has a crucial role to play.

(Does this sound like “I need to live for my happiness” to you?)

A Clarion Call

Zxerce may not be “pulling your leg” with his review, but he is “pulling” inaccurate renderings, distortions, misperceptions, unfounded conclusions and bogus “quotes” from a fine work. His “summary” misrepresents the theme, foundation, and content of the book and should not be taken seriously by any discerning reader.

Indeed, Waking the Dead is a profound, insightful, and eloquent tome that asks tough questions and offers solid Scriptural answers within a context of Biblical truth and a thoroughly Christian worldview. Far from “misleading the living,” this extraordinary, engaging and exceptional book is a clarion call to live a whole and holy life to the glory of God. Five+ stars.

Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive

By John Eldredge

Thomas Nelson, 2003

ISBN: 0-7852-6553-8

Click here to view John Eldredge’s  “summary” of Waking, in his own words.


One Response

  1. I completely agree with your viewpoint of this book. I completely enjoyed reading it because od’d all of the familiar and modern myths, but the scriptural based reasons that support the Four Streams. This book took me straight into my scriptures to read what God has for us and our hearts. What a shame for someone to some completely miss the point.

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