Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book review: John and Stasi Eldredge- Captivating

Captivating (Revised and expanded edition)
John and Stasi Eldredge

Captivating was hugely popular amoungst Christian teenage girls when I was in highschool. It was passed around a lot in my bible study group at the time. Seeing there was a revised and updated version I decided to go back and take a better look at it. I can see why it resonated so much with us back then. They address some of the struggles women do face. There is also lots of quoting from movies and a lot about being romanced.

The book had some good advice about things like dealing with past pain and finding your value in God. Unfortunately I think this book has some serious theologoical flaws. I agree that women and femininity have often been undervalued in the church and society. I agree that many women have been abused or neglected in all sorts of ways. Having said that, I don't think this book does a good job of dealing with the problem in a theologically sound manner. Many times I spotted misuse of scripture eg. Applying verses that in context talk about God's people in the old testament or to the whole church to individual women. Odd applications of Song of Solomon verses also made appearances.

The book also gives a skewed impression of the place of women and the place of God. Women are told to say "The whole vast world was incomplete without me. Creation reached its finishing touch in me" (pg.26). We are told that eve (and by implication women) was the crown of creation. While there is a sense that the world was not complete without women in the same way as it would be incomplete without men, this and multiple other places in the book give the incorrect impression that women occupy an exalted, almost divine position. God also comes across in the book as much less than he really is. Sometimes you get the impression from the book that God is a love sick suitor desperate for the attention of the glorious women. We are told that God is incomplete without us personally. (pg. 122). These ideas might make women feel special for a while, but teaching flawed ideas about God and themselves does their long term spiritual growth and emotional healing no favors.

I don't recommend this book. It has some occasional bits of good advice but is wrapped up in a problematic view of God, women and how to interpret the bible.

(referenced page numbers are from the new hardcover edition. They may not match older editions)

 Review copy provided by