Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Review: Captivating

Captivating by John & Stasi Eldridge.

This is a copy of my review of this book in a book group I have been in, therefore it is probably a bit more outspoken than I would normally be on this blog, but it does still represent my views on this book.


I still really don't know what to say about this book, in some ways it has some really helpful things to say, in other ways I wanted to give up, thinking this book is offering me nothing, using language I don't feel comfortable with, appalling exegesis and some dodgy ideas.

I'll give it a try to sort out my thoughts:

1. What did you like?

One thing that was good was her initial question (p22) - instead of asking 'What should a woman do?' 'What is her role?' it is more helpful to ask 'What is a women? What is her design? Why did God place women in our midst?' This is helpful, and perhaps a question that women ask.

She was very honest, she admitted problems in her youth, including bad parental relationships, an abortion, and depression and self-esteem issues.

The appendix at the back which was a daily prayer (long one!) actually was better than most of the book.

2. What did you learn/ What challenged you?

I learnt how absolutely blessed I am to have/had a childhood and adulthood with loving parents and a loving husband, with absolutely no hint of abuse of any type from anyone. The more I hear and read, it seems that this is not as normal as I would have thought. When women suffer the way they do, it is no wonder that it affects every aspect of their lives, who they are as a woman and who they are before God. The Eldridges say that all women wonder who they are, what it is to be feminine, etc. I have to admit, I do not. I do not ask these questions of myself or my life - I do not frame existence around being a woman first. (having said that, I'm not sure what I do frame it around. Being a child of God perhaps - more likely I just don't think this deeply!)

3. What do you disagree with/dislike, etc?

So much.

I can't be bothered to go into detail on all the notes I wrote - if you have read it, you may know what I am talking about. A few selections:

- the overarching idea that every woman has three longings - to be romanced, to have an irreplaceable role in a great adventure and to have a beauty to unveil. I read this thinking 'are you kidding me?'. When you read the details, as they go through the book, at times I could see their point. At least they go on to claim that it is God (and not men) who enables women to fully fulfill these roles. At least the beauty was supposed to be an inner beauty lit up by God, however, it certainly bordered on if you truly know God, you will also become physically beautiful. However, it came across that God needs to romance you as a woman - I don't think God is a needy lover!

- in the end I had to have my bible open next to it to check the verses each time, which frustrates me when I read a book and can't at least give the author the benefit of the doubt on exegesis. It seemed every time 'she' was used in the bible they took it literally, whereas often it was referring to Jerusalem or Israel, or actual lovers speaking in Song of Songs (rather than God speaking to women). They claimed Mary was invited to be the mother of Jesus, that she had to agree - that is not the way it reads in Luke, and on and on.

- the idea (again ties up in exegesis) that woman are the crown of creation. p25 - Woman is the crescendo of God's work, Eve is the crown of creation. And also that Satan especially hates Eve, because 'more than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God'. And what is man, pray tell, in all of this?

- it was very present focussed. They was no sense that we are waiting for the hope of heaven, because that is when all the pain and mourning will end, and you will be the woman God has created you to be then, it was all now - you can have this now. Also, no sense of suffering in this life really.

- the statement "every woman knows she is not what she was meant to be" p58. I don't know that. And surely, post conversion, we all have some idea that we are who God made us to be, even if it is a continual transformation.

- they seem to rely on a lot of popular culture, movies, etc to make their points - surely you go to the bible for that?

I still can't figure out whether most of my issues (except the exegesis ones) are over a choice of language. I just did not relate at all to their descriptions - I wouldn't describe my great life desires as being romanced, being an adventurer and unveiling my beauty, however, when I read it all charitably, I can see what they are getting at. We do all want to think we have a purpose in this life, and want those to be met. At least they are pointing to God as the source of our meaning in life. I suspect, my reservations are much more than this though - it was a book that made me uncomfortable on many levels.

4. Who would you recommend this to?

No one. If I was going to recommend any book about women to women it would be Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes (review here) although God's Design for Women by Sharon James has also been recommended to me recently, so I will attempt that one this year too.

I still find it interesting that this book got such a positive review in Southern Cross a few months ago.

For a more thought out review than mine above, you could also see Nicole's.

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