For months now, Glennon Doyle’s newest release, Untamed, has remained on the New York Times Best Seller list. I picked it up not because of this prestigious accomplishment, but because I pay attention to what Christians are reading and talking about.
While Glennon does not view this book as Christian (or identify herself necessarily to be a Christian anymore), the book is listed on Amazon under the Christian self-help category. Under the guise of a Christian label (which understandably is beckoning Christians to read it), Untamed, is currently #1 on the Amazon list, right ahead of Jennie Allen’s Get Out of Your Head.
Using the analogy of a caged cheetah, Glennon encourages readers to break away from what tames us in order to live free in our natural state. However, as Christians, we know that since the fall of man our natural state is in bondage to sin.
As a believer, I'm so grateful that I have not been left in this condition, but that Jesus has set me free from the enslaving power of sin and given me new life. This concept of freedom is quite different than Glennon’s, who is championing Eve as a model for “owning your wanting.”
So here lies my primary concern about the book: many Christians are reading and recommending Untamed without filtering it through a gospel grid. I say this with a lot of grace, though, because as a parent and someone interested in racial reconciliation, I do agree with a few of Glennon's points in the book.
But without thinking biblically about the worldview she promotes, Christians are adopting and promoting teaching that is overall diametrically opposed to that of Jesus.
With compassion and a heart for truth, I would like to highlight three pervasive anti-Christian ideologies embedded in Untamed that are leading believers away from greater dependence on Christ—and to instead elevate self as savior.
View #1: I Am Truth
Glennon: “God is not a being outside of me: God is the fire, the nudge, the warm liquid gold welling and pressing inside me." (p. 64)
God’s Word: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…" (John 14:6)
Don’t mistake Glennon’s “Knowing” (the name she gives her internal nudges) to be akin to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seeks to illuminate Truth. For Glennon, truth is subjective, always evolving as we reimagine better realities and something new becomes truer than what was before. For Glennon, this truth allows us to “throw out all the rules and write our own… (p. 73).”
Psalm 119:160 tells us though, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” God’s word is unchanging. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)” and we are told in John 1 that Jesus is the Word. His whole mission in coming—the Word made flesh—was to bear witness to the truth. To Pilate, who questioned Jesus’ rightful claim as King, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37).”
But, like Pilate 2000+ years ago when he snidely responded with, “What is truth?”, Glennon has rejected any notion of absolute truth. This is no surprise, however, considering our natural state wants only to listen to our own voice and be our own authority. This is after all the very core of sin—turning away from God, and looking to be god.
We can be certain, then, when our “knowing” does not align with the Word of God it is not the still small voice of Truth—but the deceit of a heart set on self.
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View #2: Me First Is Best
Glennon: “I’ll forsake all others before I’ll forsake myself. Me and myself." (p. 117)
God’s Word: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
For Jesus, who emptied himself completely, suffering unto death, everything he did was motivated by his love for the Father. On the contrary, Glennon declares, “No way I’ll forsake myself for anyone.” Therefore, anything interfering or opposed to her desires gets tossed out, and she “gives us permission” to do the same.
Our culture lauds her resolve to live for self as brave and free. In view of the Gospel we know and believe, this is actually glorified self-centered, self-driven, and self-directed living. Which, again, is our natural state as a sinner. But as new creations in Christ, with the Holy Spirit working within us, this “untamed” way is what genuine believers seek to put to death as we grow in Christlikeness.
For Glennon, freedom is living as her own authority and not owing anyone anything. What Christians believe is that true freedom is living within the bounds of God’s law. Just as a parent prohibits a child from running into the street for their protection. We wouldn’t say the child isn’t free because he can’t run into the street; rather, the parent’s restraint on the child’s freedom is for the child’s best.
God’s laws are no different. Within the bounds he has set forth, we are most free.
In Christ, we were set free from living as a slave to self and our own desires. We were set free to live for Christ; for an eternity with Christ. It's worth noticing that for Glennon, "My kingdom come” is her battle cry.
View #3: I Deserve to Live My Best Life Now
Glennon: “(Shalom) can be now, if we refuse to wait to die and ‘go to heaven’ and instead find heaven inside us and give birth to it here and now. If we work to make the vision of the unseen order swelling inside us visible…we will make reality more beautiful. On Earth as it is in heaven." (p. 65)
God’s Word: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (1 Peter 2:15-17)
This world is not our home. Instead, we are called to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary (2 Cor. 4:18).” Without this perspective, we will keep trying to grab hold of our best life now...demanding for it, even. But in the emptiness of waning contentment, nothing will ever be enough. We’ll always need something more, new, or numbing, so we turn to both good and wrong things to fill the hole in our soul.
This is Glennon’s admitted pattern—food, alcohol, drugs, motherhood, religion (though I would argue not Christ), a heterosexual marriage, and now a lesbian marriage. Considering Glennon has begun writing her new “memos,” or truth, to herself in sand (so she can revise them when something “truer” surfaces), I don’t expect the searching to end.
While she might call this evolving (and I am all for change according to God’s sanctifying grace), I am confused as to why Christians are adopting the ever-changing “truth” of someone on such shaky ground, when we have the certainty of Jesus as our everlasting hope.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Matt Botsford
Finding Truth in Scripture and Our One True Savior
My prayer is that Christians who are reading or recommending this book awaken to the emptiness Glennon is calling us to. I pray we will reject what the world calls “freeing” by turning, not inward to ourselves and our own “knowing,” but to the Savior of the world who thought little of the shame required to secure you for the glory of heaven.
I also pray that as Christians we would learn to filter “truth” through the lens of God’s word and hold fast to his word. Without spending time with Jesus as he reveals himself in his word, we will easily get knocked off the truth of the gospel.
This is what I see happening in abundance in our culture, even our Christian culture. A book like Untamed becomes popular and unsuspecting readers jump on the bandwagon, recommending it over God’s word to fellow believers—without stopping to evaluate how contradictory it is to Truth.
For Glennon and others who do not see Scripture as Truth, I realize what I have written is simply my faithful opinion. But for those who see Scripture as the inerrant, unchanging, living, and active word of God, my hope for us is it would be the filter we earnestly sift our beliefs through. And that we would examine our culture, media, conversations, and behaviors in light of the Truth “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14).”
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Kristen Hatton is the author of The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students, Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World and Get Your Story Straight. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Professional Counseling at Liberty University and runs The Redemptive Parenting online ministry and podcast. Kristen resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her pastor husband. Together they have three young adult and teenage children.