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Review: Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge


Although I had seen the book Captivating mentioned all over the internet, I was not planning to read it because it seemed all wrong.  “Your heart matters more than anything else in all creation.”  (back cover)  “You are sought after, pursued, romanced, the passionate desire of your Fiance, Jesus.”  (p 217)  “For the root of all holiness is Romance.” (p 113)  Honestly, this all seemed so unbiblical that it had me sputtering.

Then a dear young friend gave it to me to read and, disturbed that she really liked it, I did read it.

So, what is Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul all about?  Fundamentally, it’s an analysis of the three things a woman longs for:  to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty.  And, according to the authors, all women long for these three things; if they say they do not, they have buried the longings because of past hurts.

And past hurts do play a large role in anyone’s experience, as the authors take pains to point out, over and over.  Reading this book has made me more grateful than ever for my dear parents and the good home they gave me.  Not perfect, perhaps, but loving and godly.  Most people do not have this great gift, and it affects how they think and who they are; this book helped me to understand them better.

One can overcome past hurts by turning from self-redemptive strategies and turning to the Lord instead.  In fact, that is why he hems us in by the circumstances and fears of our lives:  so we will see how much we need him.  We need to repent and ask him to destroy all our enemies (anger, depression, shame, addiction, fear), even though we were the ones who originally gave them–and Satan—a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)

Convinced that since Paradise Satan has been especially eager to target women, the Eldredges remind us over and over that he ‘prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8), seeking our weak points and playing on our insecurities.  We must find our rest and security in Jesus in order to withstand Satan and also to be able to reach out and be vulnerable with others, mirroring God’s love.

Captivating is an empowering book that points women to Jesus and God’s great gift of love.  Its approach, however, is disturbing.  All the romantic love language of the Bible is applied to individual women, rather than to the nation of Israel or God’s church.  This is certainly taking God’s Word out of context, and adding extra meaning to it.  (Revelation 22: 18, 19)  God loves us deeply enough to give up his Son for us, but he is not romantically interested in us as individual women.  Sorry.

Another tactic that the Eldredges used several times goes like this:  You have issues.  If you think you do not, you have hidden them from yourself and are, in some way, in denial, because everyone has issues.  Now, as sinners we do all have issues, but they may not be the feminine identity issues that Captivating insists all women have.

From this book I learned how many deeply-held misconceptions about feminine identity and worth derive from Hollywood.  So much misunderstanding and emotional pain is a direct result of TV and movies!  Once again, I am deeply grateful to my parents for keeping Hollywood (and silly romance novels) far from my siblings and me.  One of my main take-aways from this book is an understanding of the incredible power of film, especially at a young age.  Truly, here is one of the ways Satan works to destroy God’s children.

Captivating encourages me to continue to love and protect my children, to reach out to family and friends, and to try to be a messenger of Jesus to the world around me. It reminds me that our spiritual enemy is real and dangerous.  It reminds me, in a completely unexpected way, that God loves me.  In short, it contains some wisdom.

While I think that the wisdom in Captivating outweighs the foolishness, I am not sure.  I cannot recommend this book, but would gladly discuss it with anyone who had read it.

An aside: I noticed that Captivating centers on each individual woman whereas One Thousand Gifts centers on God.  

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Encourage One Another Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Growing Home,.

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from my young friend.


  1. Carol says:

    I wouldn’t recommend it either. I did not care for it, and I did not relate with her generalizations about women. I do not believe she even shares Scripture for quit e a few pages into the book. So many better books to read out there.

  2. hopeinbrazil says:

    I read this book several years ago and remember thinking that much of it was “Americanized” theology that wouldn’t translate into the Latin American culture in which I’m living. That in itself made it seem less than biblical because Bible truths apply to all cultures.

  3. Tessa says:

    I read this book years ago when I was in the midst of my most depressed years. I remember feeling an increase in hope and being encouraged by this book. I might need to read it again, now that I’m in a different phase of my life, to see if it’s actually worth recommending to people. I appreciate the critique and I will look at this book with new eyes.

  4. Annie Kate says:

    Yes, Carol, there are better books to read out there.

    Hope, that is a fascinating observation, that the book is “Americanized” theology. Is it because of the movies mentioned? I grew up without movies, and find it represents a culture I did not grow up in.

    Tessa, this book can help those who are depressed or hurting in some way, and I am glad it helped you. It helped me understand better some of the pain around me.

    However, I think there is a danger if one stops at this book. It can be a valuable stepping stone for some, but it had better not be the final solution for anyone, because it is not Biblical.

  5. […] I posted my review on GoodReads I read the review at Tea Time with Annie Kate’s blog, which I have her permission to share.  I agree with her review, which is well […]

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