The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked
The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, claims that it will invite us to see what God is doing behind the scenes of our lives to woo us to Himself. A glimpse of His wild beauty arouses our desire and puts us on a journey to capture or be captured by love. It calls us to recognize our hearts deepest longing and invites us on a journey toward fulfillment. If that is not clear, it is a book about Christian living and becoming more like Christ.
After being published in 1997, the book gained great acclaim in the Christian world and has spawned several sequels following the same theme (though the sequels are written only by Eldredge as Curtis died since the publication of this first book). The book is written in the flowery, verbose prose so loved by mystics. Stories fill almost as many pages as teachings, and popular movies and books are analyzed in great detail. I will provide first a synopsis of the teachings of the book and then an analysis of it.
The basis of the book is that God calls every human to join in a Sacred Romance with Him. Every human has the longing to form such a relationship with God. Our hearts tell us that we need such a relationship, but we constantly suppress the need and desire, opting instead to do life on our own. The authors hope to help you discover your souls deepest longing and invite you to embrace it as the most important part of your life (page 10). It is their aim to help us guide our hearts. Every experience we have, every longing for romance or love, every fragment of chivalry and beauty is really us seeking this Sacred Romance.
The authors spend a lot of the book discussing what they call the Message of the Arrows (chapter 3). This term describes the experiences of our pasts that have pulled us from God and have kept us from seeing, understanding or believing that God wants to romance us. By looking back at the stories of our lives we should be able to see how every story is really about God teaching us to join in His romance.
In order to understand the world we need to see history as a play a play where God is not only the author but also the main character. The play goes like this:
The authors then introduce the role of Satan in this great drama. Satan, being unable to defeat God, decided to wound Him by stealing the love of His beloved ones through seduction. Satans strategy is to disconnect us from our hearts. When we are disconnected from our hearts, the heart becomes deceitful and desperately wicked.
The role of each human, then, is to embark on a journey. It is a journey where we can learn to see that God is looking for a Sacred Romance with each of us, or a journey where we can reject Him. We can learn that God does not want our obedience, sacrifice, adherence or busyness, but wants us, our hearts and very beings. The process of this journey rests on our ability to see life from the basis of the question of what does God have to do with the experiences of my life?
This book is full of error, especially when viewed from a Reformed viewpoint. It is indicative of the sorry state of the Christian world that such a book can gain so great a following. The authors misuse the Bible, equate experience with Scripture, and make God into something He is not. They are mystics, relying on their own thoughts more prominently than Scripture. They rely heavily on other mystics, mainly Catholic, such as C.S. Lewis, St John of the Cross, G.K. Chesterton and Phillip Yancey.
The authors have two grave misunderstandings that pollute the entire book. First, they have no understanding of human depravity. Where the Bible says that the heart is deceitful and full of wickedness, the authors believe it to be essentially good as long as we understand the importance of a Sacred Romance. Where the Bible teaches that no one seeks after God, the authors teach that all of us seek after God. They quote G.K. Chesterton who said, every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God. In their view, all we do, whether good or bad, is really a search for God. We all seek after Him, whether we know it or not. Inside of each of us is the desire to know and experience goodness. The second great misunderstanding is in Gods omniscience His ability to see everything, whether past, present or future. They teach a form of open theism which says that God can only see certain things in the future, but is unable to see what decisions or choices humans will make. Hence God was surprised when humans rejected Him and did not know that Adam and Eve would sin. Of course this contradicts the Bible which says that God knew who would love Him before the world was even created.
There are literally hundreds of errors in this book but I will focus only on some of the major ones.
One major annoyance I found with the book was that the authors quoted many sources without citations. This is usually a sign that an author has quoted inaccurately or far out of context. Even many Bible passages are quoted without citations.
In the end analysis, the authors have created an inaccurate metaphor for Gods relationship towards us, have attempted to prove it with the Bible and being unable to do so have had to rely on poor paraphrases and mysticism (which can be defined as trying to know God outside of the Bible). Their teaching bears only a vague resemblance to the Christianity of the Bible and should be avoided at all costs!