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Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus [Hardcover]

John Eldredge
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 12 2011
Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things.

In BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, John Eldredge removes the religious varnish to help readers discover stunning new insights into the humanity of Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law, keeping bad company, heavy drinking. Of being the devil himself. He was so compelling and dangerous they had to kill him. But others loved him passionately. He had a sense of humor. His generosity was scandalous. His anger made enemies tremble. He'd say the most outrageous things. He was definitely not the Jesus of the stained glass.

In the author's winsome, narrative approach, he breaks Jesus out of the typical stereotypes, just as he set masculinity free in his book, Wild at Heart. By uncovering the real Jesus, readers are welcomed into the rich emotional life of Christ. All of the remarkable qualities of Jesus burst like fireworks with color and brilliance because of his humanity.

Eldredge goes on to show readers how they can experience this Jesus in their lives every day. This book will quicken readers' worship, and deepen their intimacy with Jesus.

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Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus + Jesus Calling
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"Eldredge's trademark passion and personal transparency offer another inspiring challenge that could revolutionize lives as did his Wild at Heart."Christian Retailing, Editor's Pick

"Bestselling author Eldredge (Wild at Heart), founder of Ransomed Heart Ministries, uses his playful style to uncover the truth about who Jesus really was. With an eyebrow-raising warning about the "poison of religion," he urges readers to turn from religious power displays and legalism and instead spend time falling in love with the man, Jesus. Eldredge repeats tales from the Gospels to reveal a leader who was both humorous and confrontational, generous and moody. Eldredge clearly loves his subject, almost chuckling in delight at Jesus' antics. Readers get an intriguing glimpse of Jesus waiting his turn in line, "snorting" in anger, and artfully outsmarting his enemies. On the other hand, many of the themes are recycled (e.g., Jesus is your friend, suffering happens for a reason), and the book lacks opportunities for application and reflection (e.g., study questions). Still, readers will find a three-dimensional Jesus and may find themselves re-reading scripture with an eye on characters' feelings."—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

John is part of the leadership of Ransomed Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God, recover their own heart in his love, and learn to live in his Kingdom. John grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. John earned his undergraduate degree in Theater at Cal Poly, and directed a theater company in Los Angeles for several years before moving to Colorado with Focus on the Family, where he taught at the Focus on the Family Insitute. John earned his master's degree in Counseling from Colorado Christian University, under the direction of Larry Crabb and Dan Allender. He worked as a counselor in private practice before launching Ransomed Heart in 2000. John and his wife Stasi live in Colorado Springs with their three sons.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Dawn
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pitting the poison of dead religion (and its accomplice''words on a page') against the delight of experiencing the 'real Jesus', John Eldredge invites the reader to re-discover and fall in love with Jesus. To do so, he elaborates on the human personality traits of Jesus we may have missed'his playfulness, intensity, generosity, honesty, cunning, humility and 'trueness' '. He then gives examples of what loving this very human Jesus will look like and practical suggestions on getting started. Running from anything that 'smacks of religion' is essential, as is being open to experiential 'encounters' with Jesus. The book concludes with an epilogue on the inevitability of suffering in the Christian life and the need to keep clinging to Jesus through it.

There are some things I loved about this book, some that raised warning flags, and at least one area that must be addressed as good-intentioned but in serious error.

I love Eldredge's inclusion of actual portions of Scripture to illustrate the various personality traits of Jesus that he has chosen to emphasize. Eldredge's commentary gives a fresh and convicting realness to these stories of Jesus' ministry and for the most part avoids the pitfall of assuming motives and undisclosed outcomes. I appreciate his evaluation of Jesus as 'cunning' in the way he woos, confronts, delivers, heals, shoots straight and uses intrigue to rescue human hearts and gain their allegiance, rather than resorting to the shortcut of an overwhelming power play to win followers.(103) His final chapter on 'Letting His Life Fill Yours' gets down to the 'how' of obeying, which is requisite to loving Jesus.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fresher look into the man, Jesus Dec 28 2012
By B.H.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Am on my second read. The original 'rebel', the original 'outlaw' who rocked not only his generation, but generations that continue to come and go.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 31 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent challenge to love Jesus deeply!! Loved it.
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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The full life Jesus comes to give us all. Sept. 24 2011
By mtmeek - Published on
A friend recently handed me John Eldredge's book, Beautiful Outlaw. I had no idea they were actually tossing me a life preserver. The more I read the more I understood how religion drowns us from the life that is ours in Jesus. He came that we might "have life, and have it to the full."

In Beautiful Outlaw, John takes us to the Bible and zooms in on the everyday interactions and conversations that Jesus had with people not unlike you and I. Here he helps us consider the Jesus that many miss as the pages are flipped in the "religious fog". Our eyes are opened to see the life-giving personality of Jesus.

Next, John brings the focus into our own lives. He helps us to find Christ in our hearts. Jesus is not a two-dimensional figure in a book, he is with us and in us every step and breath along the way. He is not far off in Heaven, he is near and here now! John notes, "We should expect to encounter Jesus anytime, anywhere, everywhere."

The final impact on me in reading John's book is threefold; I want to fall in love with Jesus, I want to share every moment of every day with him, and I want his life to spill out of me onto everyone around. As you read John's book you will find The Beautiful Outlaw pulling you from the religious undertow and breathing his very life into your soul.
180 of 192 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Outlaw: A Review Oct. 13 2011
By James R. Williams - Published on
John Eldredge's latest title, "Beautiful Outlaw" is his first since switching publishers. After a longtime association with Thomas Nelson, he's now writing for Faithwords, home of the great Billy Coffey. The subject of "Beautiful Outlaw" is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Eldredge feels that many (most?) Christians have a distorted, incomplete, or one-dimensional view of Jesus, and he feels so strongly about this that he wants to set the record straight for all believers.

My take on this book is mostly positive. It's well-written, engaging, and anything but boring. The reader will be enlightened and encouraged to love Jesus more, because once you know Him, you can't do otherwise.

Eldredge takes many familiar stories about Jesus and expounds on them in an informative and inspiring way. I am praying my way through this book, asking God to reveal Himself to me, and, while I think there's more to be revealed, this book has done wonders so far in the two weeks since I received it.

Longtime Eldredge readers will find may ideas familiar. At various times while reading "Beautiful Outlaw", I was reminded of "Wild at Heart, "Epic", and "Waking the Dead", to say the least. But this book stands on its own. It's not a rehash of the same old ideas.

Now, the concerns: I have read many books over the past several years which have one thing in common, despite coming from authors with very different perspectives. It's amazing that writers as diverse as Mark Driscoll, Donald Miller, John Eldredge, Matthew Paul Turner and Frances Chan, among others find common ground, but in this case, they do. Here it is: they all have messages which contain, although conveyed in different ways, the idea that (my paraphrase) "most of Christianity is getting some major things wrong, and I'm here to set it straight. If Christians will see things as I present them here, then the Church will finally be what it should be."

In a way, I cannot argue with Eldredge (or the other authors mentioned above) on this point. I've been a believer for 35 years, and have seen more distortions, false beliefs, harmful mindsets, groupthink, and general untruthfulness than I can list for you here. I think back to what I was taught, and what I have taught others, and I can only shake my head and pray that God will undo the damage already caused. There are some ideas out there, shared among Christians, which badly need to be addressed.

That said, there's a right way and a wrong way to do so. I think Frances Chan has it most right: he simply says, without bashing others who disagree "let's open our bibles, and see what God says about this topic with as little bias as we can." He remains respectful of those with whom he disagrees even as he says specifically why they get it wrong. His heart is for the Church to be as good as it can be.

Eldredge, too, has a heart to see Christians see Jesus correctly, but in doing so, he insults most Christians who have differing perspectives. Sometimes, incorrect perspectives do harm, and they should be pointed out. But there are times in this book when he goes a little too far. For example, the first chapter has a section titled "The Poison of Religion", then refers to some beliefs, such as Jesus being primarily a peacekeeper, as "nonsense". Well, it is and it isn't. If someone thinks Jesus is only a peacekeeper, then Eldredge is right to call him out. But much of the tone here is dismissive of any who see this differently.

Because of my diverse church experience, I have come to the conclusion that most denominations, while flawed, carry with them an expression of God that He has ordained for them to have. Pentecostals worship God in ways that make non-charismatics uncomfortable, but most likely we will all worship God in heaven in ways we currently think is undignified. Presbyterians may come across as "the Frozen Chosen", but their adherence to, an insistence on, correct doctrine is valuable and necessary. The Social Justice types are often deemed by conservatives as too light on sin, but their caring for the marginalized who struggle with sins, poverty, and addictions are reflective of a merciful God. The fundamentalists who are derided for their unwavering commitment to preaching about God's wrath, and judgment, are proclaiming a message that Jesus Himself proclaimed in several occasions.

The bottom line is that just as a bouquet looks best when it's represented by different flowers of varying colors, so also is the Church beautiful because of its diversity. God gives different believers passions for different things which are important to Him. Some--in fact, many--Christians take their "thing" and try too hard to make it everyone else's "thing". By doing this, and by disrespecting those who see Jesus from different perspectives, we set ourselves up to be used by Satan (the word "devil" means "one who divides") to harm the cause of unity among Christians.

Bottom line: "Beautiful Outlaw" contains some very helpful teaching, and I recommend it. I only wish Eldredge would have toned down, or left out completely, his attacks on those who have presented different perspectives on Jesus to us over the years.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What we've been missing Sept. 25 2011
By Storyteller - Published on
For several generations now, Christianity has been missing something. We've had "church". We've had "religion". We've had whatever traditions we've engaged in on Sunday morning... from hymns & stained glass windows to contemporary worship in mega-churches. We've had our DUTY. We've had our 3-POINT SERMONS with their LIFE APPLICATION. For the most part we've all gotten very good at beating ourselves up for falling so far short of what we believe church is asking of us.

What we've had very little of is the Truth about our creator, our redeemer, our friend, the incarnation of God in man, Jesus Christ.

I've personally been involved in the message of John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart ([...]) for more than a decade and it has changed my life. Each of the books John has written are full of important Truth, but "BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW" is quite easily the most important message yet.

Without the Truth of who Jesus is, not much else matters. We can sing all the songs, listen to all the sermons, go through all the motions and still miss the whole point... intimacy with the Living God. In "BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW" you will meet Jesus in a way most of us never even conceived of. The New Testament stories of Jesus are familiar to most of us. Familiar to the point of being lifeless and cloaked in religious drapery. "BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW" removes the veil of these stories, inviting us to experience the Jesus people were willing to rip the roofs off houses to get near.

If you want to see the life of Jesus and the Truth of His Gospel in a new light. I highly recommend this book
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my Heart <3 Nov. 21 2011
By Deb in NC - Published on
I was a little sceptical when I began reading this book (recommended by a friend). I have been going through some of the darkest times of my life and honestly I wasn't looking forward to reading another self help book. However, after reading the first chapter, I knew there was something different about this book. As I read the words on the page and wiped tears from my eyes, I could feel a change taking place. My heart was changing. I began to see and experience Jesus as I never have before. He is more real to me now than when I first gave my life to him.

This book is truly a gift from God to those needing to meet the real "Beautiful Outlaw"
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book With Serious Flaws Nov. 26 2011
By Ben De Bono - Published on
John Eldredge has been an incredible influence on both me personally and on my ministry. Wild at Heart and Waking the Dead are two of the most powerful books I've ever read. I use both regularly in my teaching and have encouraged many other people to read them. While his others books aren't quite on the level of those two, I consider most of what he's done (while a bit repetitive at times) to be excellent and highly recommended.

In some ways Beautiful Outlaw continues that trend. There are parts of the book that are vintage Eldredge. Unfortunately, there are also some glaring theological issues throughout. I understand that Eldredge is neither a theologian or a scholar. I don't expect him to be. But he is someone who has devoted his life to ministry and teaching the Word. Theologian or not, that makes him accountable to a higher standard. Much of the error in this book is simply not acceptable for someone in his position.

Let me start with the good. I found much of the book to be a very refreshing read. Eldredge brilliantly presents the human side of Jesus and shows how his personality shines through the Gospels in ways that we often miss. He also stresses the personal side of faith, something that's too easily forgotten when studying theology. As such, the book was a very important reminder to me to not let go of that side of my faith. I say reminder because for anyone who's read Eldredge before that's what it will be. There's not a ton of new ideas from him here. While it's helpful to see them presented in this context, it would be nice to see him stretch himself a bit more as a teacher and writer. That aside, the material is powerful and important.

Unfortunately, that's not the whole story. My biggest complaint with the book is Eldredge's use of the word "religion" According to him religion is what's wrong with modern Christianity. He never defines his term and it quickly becomes apparent that religion is a straw man he's constructed to project onto anything he doesn't like about how other people do church.

This on it's own is obnoxious, especially to those of us who find religion (despite all the ways it has been corrupted) to be a beautiful and powerful part of our faith, one that brings us closer to God. But what really takes the book down is the way Eldredge projects his vague understanding of religion back onto Scripture. He assumes that Jesus was confronting the exact problems that he, as a 21st century Christian, is. At best this is an eye-rolling, hermeneutical error. At worst it's a serious theological error in need of rebuking and correction.

The heremneutical problems don't stop there. Eldredge is determined to draw out the personality of Jesus in Scripture. At times this is done brilliantly. Other times, it's bizarre and problematic. He quotes Matthew 15:22-28 where Jesus metaphorically refers to a Canaanite woman as a dog. It's a confusing and troubling passage and one that deserves serious thought if we're to understand it. Eldredge's answer is to tell us to not bother looking for any deep spiritual truth here. Jesus is just being playful. Ok, maybe. But where's the textual evidence to back up that claim? It's a nice thought but it's completely unsupported by Scripture.

I don't think Eldredge realizes how serious an error he's committing with claims like that. On the surface it seems like a small thing, but what he's doing is projecting his view of Jesus onto the text rather than allowing God to speak to him through the text. Without intending to, Eldredge has undermined the authority of Scripture in a very serious way. It's clear throughout the book that he is in desperate need of a hermeneutics class or two.

The other major issue with the book is the way that Eldredge allows no room for reverence of God or a recognition of his transcendence. He's determined to present Jesus in a highly personal, highly relatable light. He does a great job and what he presents is important. But the fact that he does away with any sort of reverence for God is very troubling. There is a place to come before God as Father, speak to him personally and experience the rich personality Eldredge describes. There is also a place to come before him in awe, recognizing his greatness and holiness. Both are taught by Scripture. Both are necessary for a complete faith. Both draw us closer to God and help us become who he wants us to be.

The other side effect of Eldredge's highly personal presentation is that he winds up with a frighteningly low ecclesiology. At one point he briefly affirms that going to church is important, both those words ring hollow compared to the rest of the book. He spends a lot of time attacking the church and winds up a faith that is very much "just me and Jesus." I find this incredibly problematic and unbiblical. I believe that Scripture quite clearly teaches that we find that personal relationship with God only within God's covenant family. The church is not a nice add on as Eldredge presents it. It is essential.

There are a couple other minor problems with the book. First, it's not very Trinitarian. Eldredge frequently confuses the different persons and roles of the Trinity, which is a bit shocking considering this has been a strength of his in previous work. Second, his instance on The Message as a legitimate (and at times superior) Bible translation is pretty disturbing. I'm fine with people reading The Message but it's simply inaccurate to consider it a translation. It's not. It's a loose paraphrase that is really Eugene Peterson's interpretation of Scripture rather than Scripture itself. If that's understood by the people reading it, I have no problem. Eldredge clearly fails to understand this and winds up presenting it in a way that will lead other people astray.

At the end of the day, I'm glad I read the book. I admire Eldredge and will always owe him a huge debt of gratitude. It makes me sad to see the direction his work is headed in. I know God is continuing to use him powerfully, but he could be used for so much more if he would only get himself some proper theological training and correct some of these issues. This could have been a great book. Instead it's merely a good one with enough theological holes to make it difficult to recommend.
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