Customer Reviews: Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul
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on October 9, 2005
I just spent the last 10 minutes reading or skimming through the 60-some reviews on here. Interesting to note that most people either love or hate the book. Personally I love it. When I read I find myself tearing up over various issues that fully resonate with my heart. I also promise you that I am not your typical 'gushy', chick-flick watching female. To be honest, i'm much more tomboyish and struggle to be feminine instead of 'tough'. But I believe God plants in woman many universal core desires and that is what 'Captivating' addresses. I give this book 4 stars and am going to explain why by addressing issues OTHER people had with the book's content.

A warning, this could be long. I love to write. I beg your indulgence.

First off..the title of the book, 'Captivating'. I saw one review that claimed this title is negative and implies men being captives of women. How misunderstood! In my evening Bible-reading, I came across this verse in Proverbs(5:18.19) 'May you rejoice in the wife of your youth...may you ever be CAPTIVATED by her love.' So yes, for the record, being captivating is very Biblical.

Secondly, comments about the 'over-use' of movie references and pop-culture. I've noted that much of our Christian culture has always been AFRAID of popular entertainment. I agree that there is a great necessity for discernment, but at the same time, we must address society WHERE IT IS. This book does not seek to REPLACE the Bible, but to encourage us to see God in everyday things. How many of us never go to the movies or listen to the radio or read classic literature? very few indeed. Is it really so terrible to draw truth from fiction? Fiction is not synonmous with lies, yet some still chose to believe this. God is the author of our creativity..our desire to spin tales for entertainment. We shouldn't shun that.

In order to avoid writing a book instead of a book review, I'm just going to address one final that holds more reason for concern. Eldredge's books do tend to lack 'meat'. Not to say they are faulty -- the books NEVER make claim to replace the Bible or other quality non-fiction. All i'm saying is that it's true that while a huge portion of his books will be easy to relate to, sometimes one walks away being unsure of answers. And this is my main concern and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5. However, if this book is studied WITH the Bible, I believe that it will be a blessing and a source of healing instead of emotional 'fluff'.

This book will likely resonate with certain personality types more than others. In my experience, it touches more of the expressive/creative types than those who are blatantly practical. That's ok. There is no one cure-all book, and 'Captivating' is NOT for everyone. However it does speak great truth about hurt and healing to those who will listen. And I encourage women and their husbands,boyfriends, brothers in Christ to read this book without prejudice and to see what God teaches.

God bless.
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on December 1, 2005
I decided to read this book because I'd been told by multiple people that I respected as Godly women to read this. And I was given the warning- you might hate it at first, but get through the first few chapters and see what you think. I was skeptical, and reading the first few chapters I wanted to chuck the book across the room. I'm far from a Bibical scholar, but I value Scripture a lot and I think we're called to be skeptical of people's interpreations.

I do not think that John and Staci Eldredge have everything right. But I think "Captivating" speaks to our need for God to meet us deeply, personally and intimately. I hear many people saying- I don't relate because I don't need someone to rescue me. Well then, why do you need Jesus? I think I believe a lie that "God loves sinners- His grace is sufficent for sinners- sinners need Jesus to save them...but now, I'm a Christian (a saved sinner) and yeah, I still need grace and He loves me, but I'm no longer in need of rescue." God wants more for us then this- read Romans 5- read 5:8 (while we were still sinners Christ died for us- AMAZING) keep reading- it doesn't end with salvation...Paul says "HOW MUCH MORE" multiple times in the next few verses talking about what God has FOR us after our conversion. It never stops being about God rescuing us, or our need.

What I love about this book is that it does beat the idea that God loves us. And you know what- I don't think we ever really learn this lesson and need to stop hearing it. This is not a Barney "God loves me" now let's all run and give eachother hugs- it is learning that God's love is totally life transforming. HE changes us- and not because we are this problem He has to deal with (which I think is how many people see sanctification)- but because He loves us more than we can imagine! "Captivating" forces us to our continual need...that's not a comfortable place...I think that is part of why I wanted to chuck the book across the room. I don't want to need anyone- I am a strong woman, right? Oh, wait, I am broken...we all are!! This book is not for low-self-esteem women- it is for any women who is willing to consider that she is broken (and maybe more than she wants to admit).

I think the Eldredges are bold, and sometimes with being bold, you miss sometimes, but I think the message behind this book- that we are ALL broken and in need of rescue, and that God loves us in our brokeness and that He cares about our redeemtion beyond our salvation because we are of immense value to Him- is a message worth being bold about. I think they lack in some theological arguments, but I think their core message is Bibical- very Bibical- but I'm not sure we always want to hear it.

I advocate reading this book. Read it as a skeptic, but be willing to actually consider their argument. Don't accept everything you read in ANY book...only the Bible is God's Word. Test things. Test their arguments against Scripture- see the flaws. But don't let your skeptism harden you to also hearing a message that might bring you some amazing freedom.

Sorry this is long- these are my thoughts.
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on May 2, 2005
"As a new Christian, the first book I picked up on godly femininity I threw across the room. I never picked it up again. In the twenty-five years since, I have only read a few I could whole-heartedly recommend. The rest drive me crazy. Their messages to women make me feel as though, 'You are not the woman you ought to be --- but if you do the following ten things, you can make the grade.' They are, by and large, soul-killing. But femininity cannot be prescribed in a formula."

So begins (or very nearly begins) CAPTIVATING, written by John and Stasi Eldredge. The "I" in question is Stasi, but it's her husband John you are more likely to be familiar with. He's the author of THE SACRED ROMANCE, WILD AT HEART, and a number of other books that promote an adventurous and cathartic brand of Christianity. Whereas WILD AT HEART tailored that message for men, CAPTIVATING looks to tailor the message for women and is likely to have similar bestselling results.

But even though femininity cannot be prescribed in a formula as the introduction says, CAPTIVATING's premise is that there is an essence that God has given to every woman. "We share something deep and true, down in our hearts," Stasi writes. And it's this universal feminine heart that CAPTIVATING hopes to expose, heal, develop, and celebrate.

That this feminine heart needs healing is not hard for the authors to evidence. "Every woman I've ever met feels it --- something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough and I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy. The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeing on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone," writes Stasi.

If that statement doesn't hold water with you, don't even bother picking up this book because it's an observation (and a foundational one for this book) that's only anecdotally supported. If you don't already believe it, this book isn't going to convince you it's true. But if this being both not enough and too much at the same time strikes a chord with you, as it does for me, you'll want to read on.

When you do so, you will learn that every woman's heart longs for three things: to be romanced, an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and beauty to unveil. It's worth noting that in WILD AT HEART John Eldredge writes that every man's heart longs for three things as well: a battle to fight, adventure, and a beauty to rescue. Isn't that nice of God to pre-load both male and female hearts with desires that fit nicely in parallel three-point outlines?

Snark aside, CAPTIVATING contains some truly moving stories of women, their anguish, and their beautiful blossomings into whole-heartedness. I especially appreciated a section about emotional promiscuity among young single men and women. And as in the books that John authored alone (or with best friend Brent Curtis), CAPTIVATING's imagery is steeped in nature, also something that I personally appreciate. I feel the closest to God under a West Texas night sky where the stars glitter like so many princess-cut diamonds (though admittedly, the site of Chicago's skyline under a full moon as viewed from Lake Shore Drive has been known to do a number on me too).

The breathlessly romantic tone of CAPTIVATING will alienate some. But of greater concern to me is that, while Scripture is sprinkled around liberally, the real source material here for making sweeping statements about the needs of women is literature, movies, music, and nostalgia. And while all of these are beautiful landscapes to explore and traverse, given that they often offer potent glimpses of Truth, they aren't necessarily meant to be our spiritual base camps.

Having said that, CAPTIVATING surely will be a balm for the souls of many women. And if you and/or the man in your life is a fan of John Eldredge's previous books, don't miss it.

--- Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel
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on March 29, 2007
I picked up this book in the hopes that I would find something original, something challenging, something other than the evangelical drivel that passes for "Christian Living" books these days. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.

What I Liked:
1. There really were some challenging ideas in this book. So often, "biblical womanhood" is portrayed as being all about homemaking, mothering, and hospitality. It's all about being "against feminism." While I don't see anything wrong with a balanced view of a woman's role, I do think that it's easy to take these ideas to the extreme. Stasi Eldredge's book definitely does not fit the mold, at least not in the circles I tend to frequent. Mrs. Eldredge's ideas are concerned more with the heart. To her, "godly womanhood" means getting back to our roots as women, to embrace our femininity and use it for God's glory. Unfortunately, Mrs. Eldredge's ideas about femininity are wrought with their own problems. (See below). Additionally, Mrs. Eldredge's idea that womanhood and femininity doesn't always look the same between women is very refreshing and something of which I need to be reminded every day.

2. The authors are clear about the God-ordained distinction between the sexes. In other words, men and women are not the same.

3. The chapters, while lengthy, were quick and easy to read. Yes, that is a plus when you're running after two children under the age of three.

4. This book was easy to read in pieces.

What I Did NOT Like:
1. The Eldredges have a very low view of women. In their minds, all women are broken, messed up creatures who have spent their lives hurting and looking for someone to build them up and fill in all the holes they experienced growing up. There is no room for strength, confidence, industry, dignity or any other "Proverbs 31" quality in their economy. In fact, they mock and ridicule the "Proverbs 31" woman as though hers is an unattainable, impractical, useless standard to which we should strive. For them, it all boils to whether or not a woman feels she is beautiful (and while they spend an entire chapter developing this idea, I never understood what they meant- beauty on the outside? Inner beauty? What beauty are they talking about? Oh, the beauty that is completely corrupted by sin, but made alive and beautiful again by the saving work of Christ? That beauty?), and whether or not she is being properly "romanced." In fact, I'm actually nervous about writing a bad review of this book in fear that Stasi will read it and spiral into a depression again. What if I hit a nerve, dig a deeper wound, remind her of her difficult childhood? Why not generalize this fear to all women because according to the authors, women are weak, wounded, and helpless.

2. Theologically, this book is a mess. For example: "Eve was given to the world as the incarnation of a beautiful, captivating God" (pg. 44). Hello! That is heresy! Jesus Christ, ALONE, is the incarnation of God. I think they must have no clue as to what they are actually saying in that statement. It would be more appropriate to say that Eve was made in the image of a beautiful, captivating God. Image and incarnation are not the same thing. They make this error several times throughout the book. They suggest that Eve was the "Crown of Creation." In reality, mankind (women AND men) is the apex, the pinnacle, the crown of creation. They often refer to Jesus as the "bridegroom" of the Christian woman and that the woman is His bride. Actually, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and that includes men as well as women. They refer to Jesus in these sappy, overemotional, and overtly sexual terms when they talk about Him as a "Lover." Well, were I a man, I would either laugh at this or be very turned off. Jesus isn't my boyfriend. He's my God. He's my Savior. He's my Lord. He is the Bridegroom of the Church Universal, but not of individuals. I could go on, but its late and I'm tired...

3. Frequent and blatant misuse of Scripture. They take so much of the Bible out of context that its hard to know where to start in pointing it out. Their use of the Song of Solomon is a frequent offense in this regard. The book was written as a description of marital love between husband and wife, not between Christ and the Church and certainly NOT between Christ and a woman. Hosea is another example. This book was written as prophecy regarding the eventual return of Israel from exile, not as a description of the return of a woman to her "first love". They often mock the correct interpretation of several passages in Scripture, tossing them aside for their own feminized, overly-sentimental view as well.

4. They have a very low view of Christ. Essentially, they suggest that He cannot act in our lives unless we let him, unless we "open the door of our hearts" where he stands knocking (yet ANOTHER reference they take completely out of context). Theirs is a neutered, powerless Christ. There is nothing said in this book about the beauty He gives us because He is IN US, living HIS LIFE through us. The reason I need to look to Christ to find this beauty for which I am allegedly seeking affirmation is because the beauty I possess comes from Him.

5. There is an overemphasis on the effect that Satan/demons/spirits can have on the lives of Christians. I believe this issue stems from their use of the Neil T. Anderson's book The Bondage Breaker, a book that has been widely rebutted due to its unbiblical views of Satan and his relationship to believers. They attribute common marital and even medical problems to meddlesome spirits when there were completely natural explanations for what they were experiencing. I'm afraid that people will fail to get to the root of their problems and just "blame Satan" instead of really working through very complex issues (or seeing a doctor for medical issues!).

6. Enough with the movie metaphors already! I don't want to hear about how I'm like "Cora" in "Last of the Mohicans" or "Rose" in "Titanic." Tell me about Rachel, Rebekah, Mary, Deborah, Ruth, Phoebe, Dorcas, Mary Magdelene, the nameless women throughout the Bible who acted in faith when God called them out of their normal lives into greatness. Tell me about those women FIRST and leave the movie metaphors out of it! Instead of looking to God to learn about us, they point us to our culture and ourselves in order to learn about God. That's completely backwards!

This book is nothing more than really bad pop psychology trying to be passed off as "biblical" truth. It is sappy, overly sentimental, erroneous, and, in most parts unbiblical. I had a hard time following any of the points put forward by the authors. The meat in this book would've made for an interesting article in "Christianity Today" or "Focus on the Family" magazine. They didn't need a whole book to detail this drivel. Please don't bother with it. There are much better books out there about biblical womanhood than this one.
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on June 15, 2007
Due to too many generalizations about what a woman is and should be, rather than a solid scientific approach to unveiling a woman's heart, soul, or mind. While I found the writing a bit lyrical at times, I was disturbed about how easily contemporary stereotypes are supported. "Beauty is inviting" seems to both provide an excuse for bad behaviors thrust upon women, while suggesting that a truly beautiful woman wouldn't thwart advances. Considering the current rates of rape in this country, this line of thinking seems a bit irresponsible. Further, the assertion that women of power are somehow less beautiful is disturbing, untrue, and simply unfounded. Ultimately, this is where I gave up on the book.

I was looking for a considered and supported book, but in return found a book full of personal convictions, weakly supported by Bible passages (which seemed twisted to bolster the authors' points), and generalizations about who and what a woman is and should be. I was very disappointed.
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on June 21, 2007
First off, I really wanted to like this book. My mother raved about how wonderful it was and gave me a copy of my own, telling me how it brought her to tears and moved her. I dove into it, thinking I would find beautiful truths to nurture my soul.

However, I came away pretty disappointed.

First off, the good things - the book captured me in explaining ways in which women are image-bearers of God. I did gain some insight from this. However, the negative in this book shadows the positive.

Many other reviewers have spelled out the sloppy theology in this book, so I won't elaborate too much on that here. However, the biggest complaint I had with this book is the way in which it treats women who don't base their lives on a man's approval. Stasi and John talk a lot about women who want to be seen as beautiful, women who want to be romanced; and while those desires are all fine, they simply don't define every single woman. This book forms a one-size-fits-all mold for femininity, and then calls that mold "Biblical femininity," leaving single, unglamorous, less-than-romantic women like myself to wonder, "Do I just not measure up?"

Thankfully, John and Stasi don't make the mold - Christ does. He recognizes that each women is a unique individual with unique desires. I think this book would have been much better had it simply been a tale of Stati's journey to discover the kind of woman God wanted HER to be, rather than trying to fit her specific experiences to all women.

For a more theologically sound, less rigid look at God's design of/plan for women, I highly recommend Jonalyn Fincher's "Ruby Slippers," also published by Zondervan. I trust and agree with many of Zondervan's publications - but sadly, this one really missed the mark.
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on August 11, 2006
My problem with this book is the same as my problem with the book "Every Woman's Battle." EVERY woman wants this, or ALL women want that. No. We don't.

Reading books like these have always made me feel freakish. This book, like EWB, made me think there must be something wrong with me, for it was proclaiming what ALL women want, and all I could think was "But...I don't. What?"

Well, according to the reviews on this site, I'm not the only one who feels differently than this book tells me I should. If I got one thing out of this book, it was coming to this site and discovering I'm not the only one who didn't feel the way the book said I did.
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on April 2, 2005
I love this book!! First of all, it's not based on the Proverbs 31 woman. The books that say "Follow rules A, B, and C to be a good Christian woman" drive me nuts!! They make me feel so completely inadequate. This book was so different than any other book I had read. The Eldredges describe a woman's deep desire to feel beautiful, cherished, and fought-for (how we want a knight in shining armor coming to our rescue), and how that relates to our relationship with God. The book describes how women reflect the part of God that wants to be desired and cherished as well.
This book really spoke to my heart, and encouraged me in my walk with God. I would recommend to any woman, and to any man who wants to understand the heart of a woman.
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on March 30, 2007
To be honest, I agree with most of what the rewiewer below had to say. The authors are subpar, but that's to be expected with the Eldredges. The reviewer is also correct in calling them out on their sketchy interpretations of Scripture. In fact, they use *so few* Scripture references, you better have Bible in hand while you're reading this book so you can do your own research for their controversial statements.

However, I wouldn't go SO FAR as to bash the *concept* of the book. While I agree that not EVERY woman is broken and helpless, there are a SIGNIFICANT number of women who have experienced tremendous hurts. The authors touch on some widely accepted, scientifically proven psychological issues that can develop in women at young ages.

All in all, this book needs to be read with a discerning mind. THIS IS NOT SCRIPTURE so not every sentence is truth....keep that in mind! My suggestion would be to start with this book to gain some insight but if you're dealing with some of the serious issues discussed in this book, professional help is a must!
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on November 18, 2005
This book has a fatal flaw: it depends on fluff and emotionalism, not Scripture, to draw conclusions. You may notice that the lion's share of passages from this book are not from an actual translation of the Bible... they are from a book by a man named Robert Alter wrote ABOUT the book of Genesis.

I am wary of any book that tells me who I am in Christ, but doesn't think the words of Christ are good enough to communicate that.

Secondly, and this is probably the consequence of the dearth of Biblical references, Captivating is not theologically sound. John and Stasi Eldredge spend several pages detailing how God created the earth in increasing measures of beauty and complexity and importance. The culmination, according to this book, is not with PEOPLE but with EVE. Page 25 says:

"She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve... Given the way creation unfolds, how it builds to ever higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation? Not an afterthought. Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree. She is God's final touch, his piece de resistance... Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, 'The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.'"

Not something I would teach the girls in my high school small group.

Apart from the lack of sound scripture, the shaky theology, and the fact that these authors quote themselves in every chapter (from Wild at Heart), the other major fault of this book is that I think all 224 pages could be condensed into 20 or fewer. There was so much sugar-coated FLUFF in this book, that I couldn't take it seriously. The authors used entirely too many words, pages, paragraphs, and chapters to say, "You are a creature of inherent beauty, created in the image of God, and He Loves You!" That is not difficult to say.

I started reading this book because my boyfriend cared enough to buy it in an effort to understand women better -- and because he loved The Sacred Romance. He didn't read Captivating, and now I can save him the time.
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