Trivium Pursuit

Captivating by John and Stacie Eldredge: A Compilation of Reviews

Susan Verstraete

…Captivating is much more woman-centered than God-centered. The theology taught in the book is full of error. Most of the biblical passages addressed directly to women are not discussed in the book. Jesus is presented as a suitor instead of as a sovereign. My conclusion is that Captivating is a slightly sanctified—though somewhat misleading—romance novel about God, with little biblical substance.
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Re4mdmom on Amazon

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…. For them, it all boils down to whether or not a woman feels she is beautiful… and whether or not she is being properly “romanced.” ….
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.” …
3. They take so much of the Bible out of context that it’s hard to know where to start in pointing it out… 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 ….
5. There is an overemphasis on the effect that Satan/demons/spirits can have on the lives of Christians…. They attribute common marital and even medical problems to meddlesome spirits when there were completely natural explanations for what they were experiencing…
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C. L. Blakey on Amazon

…In the first chapter the Eldredges state that “every woman in her heart longs for three things: to be romanced, to play and irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty.” In the rest of the book they attribute why women don’t get these three things to the fact that their “Question” hasn’t been answered. They say that every woman is asking the question “Am I lovely?” Stasi seems to take her personal experience and personal desires and attribute them to every woman. She comes from a troubled past of depression, eating disorders, abuse and sexual promiscuity–this helps the reader understand some of where she is coming from, but for her to make her own experience out to be the problems with all women is not accurate by any stretch.

…Several times this book voices a problem with Proverbs 31. Speculating about “church women” and their model for femininity, they say,

“We’re all living in the shadow of that infamous icon, ‘The Proverbs 31 Woman,’ whose life is so busy I wonder, when does she have time for friendships, for taking walks, or reading good books? Somehow she has sanctified the shame most women live under, biblical proof that yet again we don’t measure up. Is that supposed to be godly–the sense that you are a failure as a woman?” (p.6)

The truth is that we are failures, all of us, men and women alike. That’s why we need Christ to save us and make us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), set apart to do His good works (Eph. 2:10). We don’t need to feel good about ourselves or our efforts to measure up, that is the whole reason we need Christ–we don’t measure up. As believers our time on this earth is a life-long pursuit for Christ likeness. If we think the Proverbs 31 woman makes us feel bad to compare ourselves to, how do we feel when we look at ourselves compared to Jesus, who is perfect? We shouldn’t be resentful toward God’s Word, but should humbly accept what God calls us to and strive wholeheartedly to that end.

…in the introduction of chapter seven Stasi tells of a walk she took one night in which she admired creation and complimented God saying, “It’s beautiful, Lord! The stars are amazing!” Apparently she “heard” a response, “I’m glad you like it, my Darling.” Stasi continues with her narrative, “I stopped dead in my tracks. I blushed. Did the God of the universe just call me ‘Darling’?” She tells how later she was reading Song of Songs and was amazed to have some sort of confirmation in chapter one verse fifteen, “How beautiful you are, my darling.”

…Confusing Biblical love with romance. Biblical love is defined as: patient, kind, not having envy, not proud, rude or selfish, doesn’t get upset easily, doesn’t think evil but rejoicing in truth, love bears all things, hopes and endures. Romance can be defined as: an emotional attraction, excitement, adventure and seeking to gain one’s favor with flattery.

…Assuming our desires are good. Throughout this book, the Eldredges seek to address women’s desires, may they be for acceptance, beauty, adventure or romance…they assume that all desires we have are God-given. They talk much about the core of a woman’s heart and the longings and desires that are there, but they never address the reality that our hearts are wicked and terribly deceived. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” At one point Proverbs 4:23 is quoted which says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The conclusion they make from this verse is that,

“Your feminine heart has been created with the greatest of all possible dignities–as a reflection of God’s own heart. You are a woman to your soul, to the very core of your being…When he created you as his woman –that journey begins with your heart. Another way of saying this is that the journey begins with desire.” (p.8)

I can have lots of desires that are self induced longings for things that God may not want there. Proverbs 3:5 gives a similar exhortation on this matter of the heart and desires: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…” We should never assume that we have anything good in us and especially not that our own desires for things are somehow right simply because they exist. That is why I’m exhorted to guard my heart with diligence; it isn’t right or good, but deceitful and wicked.

Another particularly troubling part claims that Christ has saved us so we can be ourselves.

“Now the Son of God has come to ransom you, and to heal your broken, wounded, bleeding heart, and to set you free from bondage. He came to restore the glorious creation that you are. And then set you free…to be yourself.” (p. 95)

I’m very concerned about this claim, because Biblically the whole reason we’ve been set free from sin and death specifically is so that we can not be ourselves, but instead be like Christ. That’s why in 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

There are so many other issues in this book that I could address–assaulting spirits, taking medication for depression, Christian psychology, and the chapter called “Arousing Adam.” But the fundamental problem with this book is that it is woman-centered rather than God-centered. The Eldredges try to exalt women to a position that is nowhere found in Scripture.

“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.'” (p. 25)

“There is something uniquely magnificent and powerful about a woman. We tried to reveal the immeasurable dignity, the holiness of your feminine heart by showing that it is God who longs for Romance… it is God who reveals beauty as essential to life. You are the image bearer of this God. That is why you long for those things too. There is a radiance hidden in your heart that the world desperately needs.” (p. 42)

“But most especially, he [Satan] hates Eve. Because she is captivating, uniquely glorious, and he cannot be. She is the incarnation of the Beauty of God. More than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God. She allures the world to God. (p. 84)

This book tries to make God out to be a “lover” and our “Romancer” rather than teaching us to love Him with all our heart…. I would encourage you … stay away from Captivating. The heresy the Eldredges are teaching in this book is not edifying for anyone to read…
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J. Painter on Amazon

… The main basis for this book is to lead you to believe that you are the Bride and Jesus wants to be your lover. She goes way past biblical when she says “Jack with Rose on the bow of the Titanic, his arms around her waist, their first kiss… Now, put yourself in the scene as the Beauty, and Jesus as the Lover.” Stasi is trying to tell us that we are supposed to fantasize about kissing and holding Jesus. I think she didn’t watch the movie because Rose was engaged when she had an affair and she had sex before marriage. But according to Stasi this is what we desire… to be a Beauty like Rose.
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K. Sprinkler on Amazon

False teaching always has 2 fundamental elements that make it a successful false teaching. 1) It contains a biblical truth that your heart can identify with; 2) It appeals to our sin nature…usually “self” is involved. This book is all about “self” as a woman….
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lovemyson! on Amazon

…The premise of chapter five is this: “most of the bad things that happen to you in life are because you’re beautiful. Satan is jealous of your beauty and does bad things to you because of his jealousy.” Of course, what woman doesn’t want to hear they are beautiful? But this idea is found NOWHERE in Scripture.

We learn in the Bible that God allows trials in the lives of Christians for His good purposes. One reason we suffer is in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” One reason God allows suffering is so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies! It has everything to do with the glory of God and nothing to do with our beauty or Satan.

Another reason we suffer is to give God glory in our suffering: ” – 1Peter 4:16 – Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” If you suffer, glorify God. Don’t look at yourself and think, “I must be REALLY beautiful, for Satan to want me to suffer like this.”

But chapter five of Captivating tells us we need to give glory to ourselves, for our beauty, when we suffer. Captivating says the reason women have suffered throughout history is because they are beautiful. (We know as Christians that one of the main reason there is suffering in the world is because of sin–not beauty.) Here are some quotes from the chapter: “I was terrified of men and terrified of my beauty. Beauty was dangerous.” “What is to account for the systemic, often brutal, nearly universal assault on femininity? Where does this come from?” “Who does Satan single out for his move against the human race? …Satan went after Eve…. Have you ever wondered why? It might have been that he, like any predator, chose what he believed to be the weaker of the two. There is some truth to that. He is utterly ruthless. But we believe there is more.”

(We KNOW why he went after Eve. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14 “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:3. Satan went after Eve because she was easier to deceive. We have the answer to the question: “Why did Satan go after Eve?” The answer is found in the New Testament. Eve was easier to deceive than Adam.)

Captivating goes on to say, “Satan fell because of his beauty. Now his heart for revenge is to assault beauty… But most especially, he hates Eve… She is the incarnation of the Beauty of God. More than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God.” WHAT??!!?? Where is that verse???

We know the declaration of God’s glory is made by the heavens which He stretched out: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Psalm 19:1 And then in Isaiah 40 God compares people with the heavens He made: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust… All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?… It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;…To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:15,17-18,22,25)

It looks like God Himself has answered this horrible comparison. God Himself has said, “to whom will you compare me?” Why do the Eldredges compare a woman, who is part of the human race–who is less than the dust on the scales–to God? And especially, how can anyone dare to say “she embodies the glory of God”?

To quote again from Captivating: “Put those two things together–that Eve incarnates the Beauty of God and she gives life to the world. Satan’s bitter heart cannot bear it. He assaults her with a special hatred.” “It changes things to realize that, no, it is because you are glorious that these things happened.” “You are hated because of your beauty and power.”

Yes, women often feel alone. The Eldredges are VERY GOOD at speaking to a woman’s heart and describing exactly how they feel. They certainly have this going for them. They describe a person’s pain and problems and suffering brilliantly. The problem is their solutions. The solution to the abuse women suffer is not found in recognizing your glory and beauty. But I think people are so “captivated” by finding someone who understands them, who writes exactly how they feel, that they accept any answer the Eldredges give.

Now, some of the authors’ answers are right on. And I think this is another place people get confused. Readers can become so emotionally entangled with what the authors are saying, they can’t separate the heresy when it comes. So, if you read this book, and if it ministers to you emotionally, PLEASE realize that not all the Eldredges’ say is true.

…One message this book communicates is: don’t worry, you’ve already attained, you’re already doing good. Let us show you how you are perfect, ideal, captivating; let’s dig up and discover who you really are so we can see how wonderful that person inside you really is.

Paul said the opposite: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil. 3:12). And Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

(Notice: the word wretched was used, not fascinating, not enchanting, not captivating, but WRETCHED! I feel like the book might say to me: “Don’t say that about yourself. No, you’re not wretched. Don’t put yourself down like that.” But if Paul was wretched, and he was a supreme example of someone who followed Christ, we are certainly wretched.)

…I understand that some women who have read this book feel like they understand God more. But if what you’re understanding isn’t biblically based, it’s not worth understanding. Overall, I cannot even in the slightest bit recommend it.
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R. Dennison on Amazon

In a nut shell — don’t waste your time or money on this book. I thought the first chapter was a joke. … Poor, incorrect unbiblical theology. The author seems to imply that all women have had some deep, dark secret (sexual abuse, etc) that they need to sob over. In one part of the book it told me that I needed to heal from my abusive past and just let the ‘flood gates’ open and cry it out. Also, making it out that God NEEDS women. That somehow He (God) was incomplete without women. That’s right — the author reflects that God needed Eve. It also becomes disturbing how the author reflects that Jesus should be our ‘lover’. I don’t know about you — but if I said ‘lover’ in any context whatsoever it would imply ‘someone with whom you have sexual relations with’. Creepy, inaccurate take on demon possession and even going so far as to imply that sickness is a type of demon-possession.
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Tim Challies

…As with Eldredge’s previous books, this one relies heavily on stories and, in particular, movies to express teaching. I counted the movies and arrived at a list of thirty-eight ….

I was surprised to see that the book paid scant attention to those passages of the Bible that particularly address women. I do not recall any attempt to interact with Paul’s epistles; Proverbs 31 received only one mention, and it was only in the context of sneering at the church’s fixation with that traditional role model. In fact, the only passages that received any significant attention were Genesis 2 and 3. The authors rewrote Genesis 2:18, which most translations render similar to “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” They turned to a commentary and translation written by Robert Alter and suggested a better translation of the verse is “I will make a sustainer beside him” (page 27).

Eldredge’s emphasis on extra-biblical revelation has carried over from his other books. In this one, for example, he writes about a time when the Holy Spirit told him to buy an Emmylou Harris CD for his wife (page 120). He also indicates that the Spirit will tell us when we need a bubble bath, a movie or a run (page 145), if only we listen to Him. …

…Ironically, while God is presented as a wild Romancer, He is also presented in an emasculated form. We are told that God has been wooing you. We are told that “you are meant to fill a place in the heart of God no one and nothing else can fill. He longs for you” (page 120). This almost seems to indicate that God needs us to make His joy and satisfaction complete. There are often several references to our need to minister to the heart of Jesus through our worship. All of this portrays an inaccurate understanding of God.

There is a strange emphasis on spiritual warfare. Stasi writes about dizzy spells which she felt were caused by Satan. There are multiple references to binding Satan and casting him and his minions away. …

4 Responses to “Captivating by John and Stacie Eldredge: A Compilation of Reviews”

  1. Jodi Malone Says:

    Just goes to show that ANY idiot calling themselves Christian can publish a book without any apologetics or Bibical background.

  2. Amy Says:

    This is an incredible book and the whole point of it was missed. I really am not going to say more because there are obvious blinders on by the people who do not like it. I didn’t like 100% of it- but Jesus is the center of the book. That was clear and that is the most important thing. The basis is God / Jesus must fill us. He did make women beautiful. We are made in the image of God. He loves us like crazy. But we can’t go to others for our filling- we must go to THE RESCUER.

  3. Alpha Says:

    i believe it was overly ambitious to write the book as a book about God and women in general. As pointed out by many reviews, the scriptural passages are overly-flexed to suit the ‘idea’ of the author. It could have been a powerful book if written as one woman’s personal experience of God and her spiritual journey.

  4. Jessica Says:

    This response is mainly towards Re4mdmom’s comment.

    The Eldredge’s view on women is not negative like you are saying it is. Every woman has issues in which her life is broken. I never realized how broken I was until I saw how my attitude now was a reflection of my brokenness.

    Referring to Jesus as a ‘Lover’ is not at all inappropriate. The church is like the bride and how else would you think of the bridegroom but as a lover. I don’t think you understand the depth of Jesus’ love for us. He is our lover. You people who think lover means sexual relations need to get a reality check. The definition of love is NOT sex. It’s ironic that you think they have a low view on Christ.

    As for the issue of the spiritual realm, please watch the ‘Furious Love’ documentary. I live in Africa and I can tell you now that demons can affect health. I’ve seen it first hand. You underestimate the devil’s power in life. He has power. Of course he doesn’t have power like God does, but he has power all the same. God has ultimate authority but the devil does work.

    I think some of you need to open your eyes to the reality of our God who is pouring His love on us. Also, please watch that documentary because I think it will open your eyes to a whole new world that you’ve obviously never considered. Or travel to a third world country where witch-craft is used daily.

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