Monday, December 19, 2005

Elaine Pratt on Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

I referred last week to a former professor of mine, Jon Pratt. Over the weekend I learned of a book review that's just been published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that was written by his wife, Elaine. She breaks down the latest installment of chick lit/pop psychology/pseudo-theology published by Thomas Nelson.

By the way, you would do well to keep tabs on her church's newsletter, Vox Ecclesia, in which the review was originally published.


franklin said...

While I don't agree w/ everything in the book, I tire of the "theology police". If you want to find something wrong with can. That doesn't mean we are undiscerning, but I wonder when we ever say like Paul, "even if people are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition and vain conciet...I still rejoice that Christ is preached" (yea, I paraphrased it). I also wonder when we ever say, "if they aren't against Jesus, they are for us" (another paraphrase).

Yeah, we can dog everyone who writes something that has some problems...but for me, it just gets tiring...and yeah, I get tired of myself cuz I'm as guilty as anyone.

joy mccarnan | said...

Yes, it's tiring in a sense, but there are appropriate venues, timing, and ways in which to critically review published works. For one thing, we are commanded to discern and refute false teaching. The book, however well-intentioned, clearly contains teaching that ranges from froofy/shallow to misguiding to out-and-out false. As I reexamine my own philosophy of analyzing and criticizing material in the public domain (particular that produced by my brothers and sisters in Christ), I would have to say a review like Elaine has written has given me at least one positive reason for someone like myself (an unpublished no-name) to prepare for and write fair, discerning reviews.

Crescendo/zenith-of-creation talk is Lucifer talk. Certainly would not win the prize for Christocentric Emphasis Book of the Year.

I would also wonder when it would ever be appropriate to say "if they aren't against Jesus, they are for us." The demons also believe and tremble (another paraphrase).

I have no problem positing the Eldredges as fellow-believers. But they've published a public book, and I see merit rather than fault in Elaine's review--written with both technical excellence and a gracious tone.

Tiresomeness goes both ways.

franklin said...

Joy, no doubt there are appropriate venues and ways to critically review published works. Too often, though, it seems those reviews turn into unloving, unchristlike criticism.

No doubt we are to discern and refute "false teaching", but in too many "reviews" I read, the "false teaching" being critiqued is not anything close to a fundamental doctrine...but focused on a nuance...and is ultimately of little consequence. The reviewer, however, finds ways to make it of MAJOR consequence. This has been a problem in evangelicalism and fundamentalism for decades...and I'm sure still exists.

I think your statment that "Crescendo/zenith-of-creation talk is Lucifer talk. Certainly would not win the prize for Christocentric Emphasis Book of the Year" is exactly the type of statements I'm referring to (of course, I could've also used your "demons" statement, but one example was enough).

I have to wonder if you've even read the book you seem to be willing to villify (what was the context of the "zenith" statement?).

Now, I raise the question to myself: "am I doing to you what I am accusing you of doing to Eldredge?"
Perhaps I am.

I do agree with you though that a well written, well thought out critique of a book is a good thing. I just think we need to be careful of not crossing the line from critique to unloving criticism. I hope I have not crossed that line...and no, I don't think your critique of my comment crossed the line either.

Tiresomeness truly does go both ways.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Thanks for the reference.

Ben said...

Sometimes I wonder, given the confused state of the Church today, whether one might be accused of un-Christlikeness for calling hypocritical false teachers "whitewashed mausoleums" or "a den of vipers."

Now, I don't think the Eldredge's error rises to the level of the Pharisees, but neither do I think Pratt's critique rises to the level of Jesus' rebuke. Given the abundance of NT teaching on warning the brethren (and implicitly sistren) of false teaching, I think Pratt is well within her rights, and her church is well within it's responsibilities for publishing her.

fr'nklin said...

I guess in my thinking when you say a book is "borderline blasphemy" and then compare the book to intellectual doghair and dirt...well, to me, that's getting pretty close to "rising to the level of Jesus' rebuke".

It's one thing to critique a book, but quite another thing to begin throwing around words like "blasphemy".

It appears that at least in ONE area we are very much like Jesus: we are good at calling people names (yes, that was a little tongue-in-cheek). Since we all seem to be pretty good at that...perhaps the time has come for us to concentrate on other areas.

joy mccarnan | said...

I have to wonder if you've even read the book you seem to be willing to villify (what was the context of the "zenith" statement?).

I have to wonder if you've even read the book review you seem to be willing to villify.

The zenith/crescendo allusions are direct quotes from Elaine's direct quotes of the Eldredges' book, i.e., the book in question.

joy mccarnan | said...

excerpt from Elaine Pratt's review, with quotes direct from Eldredges' book:

Secondly, women are given inaccurate status both in relationship to God’s creative and redemptive work as well as in relationship to Satan’s plan. Women are upheld not only as a crown of creation, but also as the “crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God.” The author instructs the reader to say, “The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation has reached its zenith in me (25).” The book also states that, “Women have been essential to every great movement of God (204).”

(bold emphases, mine)

fr'nklin said...

lol...nice...a good zinger...and a fair question.

YES I read the book AND the review. I don't think I've villified the review so much as called into question the nature of some of her loaded comments.

I'm no huge Eldredge fan but I thought the "review" got well off track towards the end...

What often bothers me is that if you tell me whose "camp" someone is in...I can pretty much write the review for you.

I still recommend reading a book before you make derogatory statements about it...regardless of who wrote the review.

Ben said...

You know, I don't think I have to bite into a hunk of cheese (let alone eat the whole hunk) to know that it's Limburger. If someone that I know to know cheese tells me it's Limburger, then I get a couple whiffs, and it smells like Limburger, well, at that point I feel safe telling other people that it's Limburger. But then I like to live on the edge.

Now, when I was a kid I liked Co-Jack cheese, a marbled mix of Colby and Monterey Jack. Maybe Captivating is "Lim-Jack"—a mix of Limburger and Monterey Jack. I think that's actually what Pratt is saying, so in my mind she's being more than fair.

joy mccarnan | said...


I still recommend reading a book before you make derogatory statements about it...regardless of who wrote the review.

I agree with your recommendation. I have always been an advocate of NOT bashing a book I've never read, and I try to apply it to my dealings with people, as well. None of us are presuppositionless, though.

I know Elaine Pratt--have met, talked with her, sat under her teaching, and heard her testimony. I haven't read Captivating, and truthfully had never heard of it (another positive of book reviews). I have read Eldredge books before, particularly John's Wild at Heart, and know enough about him to be un-surprised at the mixture of truth and skewed truth which Elaine attempts to segregate.

So, am I bashing a book I haven't read? My derogations specifically related to the book were aimed at and based on those portions of the book that Elaine quoted, and any derogations of false/misleading teaching in general I'm pretty comfortable making--our responses to false/misleading teaching ought to be consistent no matter with whom/whose "camp" we're dealing. I wasn't bashing the unread portions of Eldredges' book, and I wasn't excluding the possibility that Elaine might have brought her own presuppositions to the table.

This is why I originally said the tiresomeness goes both ways: Your insistence on the predictablity of "reviews" from certain "camps" reflects both your presuppositions and a mix of truth and skewed truth (skewed by presuppostions). It's true that an independent/Fundamentalist reviewer certainly can (one might say "ought to") be expected to warn fellow-believers against a book's teaching in points where it may undermine the message and authority of Scripture.

On the other hand, I admitted my inclinations (having read other Eldredge stuff) to be un-surprised (perhaps even presumptuously predictive about the book) with the excerpts Elaine quoted, nor surprised by her final assessment.

I'm not saying I'm being/able to be any more objective than you are. But a fallible person's review is a fallible person's review. It doesn't have to be lumped with all the independent/FundaMENTAList reviewers nor be automatically labeled as cookie-cutter "theology police." That too can smack of uninformed presupposition and premature derogation.

Another value of reviews is that, even if you take them with a grain of salt, they can help you prioritize. There are plenty of books on the waiting list for reading. I would like to read this one eventually--but it takes a back seat to others now, for me, as a result of reading Elaine's review. I am responsible for my attitudes, but also for my stewardship of God-given time and energies. A book that contains heretical statements or (in Ben's terms) "whiffs" of something's just not going to be that high on my priority list. I don't find it far-fetched to thank Elaine for contributing information that helps me in determining the allocation of my limited resources.

I'm a writer, teacher, and editor. As a writer, I like to keep aware of what's being written out there. As a teacher, I'm interested in the manner and content of the teaching. As an editor, I'm uber-picky. I do get tired of critical analyses and bickering and the spirit of always finding the negative side(s) of everything. But I have to guard against it in myself, as well. I don't want to be an editor of people, or a hacker-up of Body members. I don't want to bash a person I've never met, particularly a believer. It's not my agenda.

When I do read the book itself, it will be read with a grain of salt, too. And probably in conjunction with preparation and a hope to write something that fills a need in a way that is more faithful to Scripture.

franklin said...

Finishing up my Christmas shopping today...sigh...wish I'd of joined all those boycotts I read about earlier in the month!!!!!!! ;)

"UNCLE"'m hearing you guys!

Joy, much agreed on your comments. I love book reviews (Books and Culture is a fav of mine), and I certainly understand reading a review from someone you respect to help prioritize the long reading list...I do the same thing. Of course, I don't know Elaine, and I did approach her review "knowing" the conclusion she would reach as soon as I read the first few lines (or even before I read them). That, however, doesn't mean her entire review was bad. I think she made some good points...some points I would certailny agree with. I've read the book and I do see areas where I think it's weak or "fluffy".

I READILY ADMIT to being full of presuppositions (shut up BEN...I know what you're thinking!)...most of them least in my opinion;). Having reread your comments, I perhaps "overcooked my grits" in saying you were "bashing" the book. I think where we disagree is perhaps on the definition of "false teaching".

I might disagree w/ Edlredge on some issues - perhaps on some doctirnal issues - but, for me, the title "false teaching" requires errors that strike at the heart of the faith...not just differences of interpretation...and I'm not convinced the either Eldredge has gone quite that far. It appeared to me that Elaine did take it a bit far, but I think you have articulated (quite well) an interpretation of her review that makes me wonder if you're not right...which would make me "wrong".

Of course, I didn't know Elaine was a "fundamentalist", but since Ben referred to her...I guess I knew there was a good chance (that wasn't a shot at you Ben;). I do find it interesting, however, that my presupossitions about what a fundamentalists review of an Eldredge book would look like turned the be right on target. Proving, at least in this case, my presupposition was right (certainly not uninformed)...even if my interpretation of the review was least in part.

I would offer one suggestion. Don't be too quick to run from things that people tell you smell "foul". I'm certainly glad Martin Luther didn't, and my experience has taught me that often the people who are telling you how bad something "stinks" have rarely actually tasted the cheese. Which does bring me to a presuppostion about fundamentalist and evangelicals: they generally don't read primary sources...but read what someone has written about a primary source and draw a conclusion from that. I think that is poor. Don't do that...and I'm not suggesting you have, but it's a temptation for all of us.

Thanks for your interaction here...I've been helped by it, and I sincerely hope you do write something in the future. I think you would do quite well.

joy mccarnan | said...


This is merely a quasi-related question:

Does anyone else out there wonder why the DVD of Luther does not contain language translations? I would think that having it available in French and Italian would be swell, not to mention Italian.

As it is, there are only subtitles available, and those only in Spanish and English.