A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing?

Posted By on February 9, 2012

Dear Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin,

I’m 16 years old, I’m home schooled and (surprise) I love to read . I’ve always read ANYTHING I can my hands on from Jane Austen to Stephen King to John Steinbeck to Anthony Burgess and back again. My Mom and Dad, never prohibited me from reading anything, from the time I was about 11 years old, I pretty much took control of my reading censorship, and I’m not afraid to say I’ve had a awesome time with it.

My Mom and Dad are good God fear people who put a great love of Jesus in me, and I don’t want you to think they haven’t given me guidance, because truly they have. In fact, I think by giving me that intellectual freedom, they gave me “so much more” than if they had only allowed me the “proper” or “age appropriate” literature. I’ve been exposed to ideas and opinions few people encounter until collage. Some of them made me doubt my Christianity, for a short time I considered myself somewhat of an agnostic. But in the end that doubt made my faith stronger…

as it says in 1 Peter 1:7 So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, I think you may be doing a disservice to the young women reading your blog. By telling them to so carefully guard they’re hearts, you end up turning them from learning. If your Faith is true, it will survive any false opinion, idea, or doctrine. Instead, you should more vehemently encourage curiosity about the world and its ideas. I realize young minds can be pliable, but only through the observation and study of things, can we understand them. I.E. We cannot understand redemption unless we understand sin. We can’t understand what it is to be saved if we’ve never been in trouble.

God Bless the both of you.

Your sister in Christ

_______

 

Dear ______,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful email! Anna Sofia and I really appreciate hearing from girls with the self-discipline and gumption to take their educations by the horns, and much of what you said struck a personal chord with me. Like you, I’ve always been a bookworm, and also like you, I was blessed with parents who encouraged me to read widely. I also liked Animal Farm better than Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, so I think I know where you’re coming from.

When you saw our post about our new audio message, “Jane Austen and Vampires: Examining Girls’ Literary Appetites and Literary Eating Disorders,” you might have been concerned that we were warning girls away from books that would expose them to a broader world of ideas than found in standard “safe” girls’ literature. Maybe even to stay in the safe realm of books about bonnets and dollies and far away from the danger zone of the war of ideas. If your point is, “You’re not getting a full or useful education if you only read Amish princess novels or Victorian sermonettes,” Anna and I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, one of the key points to this message is that it’s time to re-think the merit of what most consider “proper” or “age-appropriate” literature for girls. Young women have a long history of insulating themselves from the reality of the spiritual warfare around them with fantasies of a world all in pink – a world made up entirely of chick lit. components (romance, girlfriend rivalries, love triangles, clothes/parties/feminine pastimes, etc.) instead of the things that actually make the world go ‘round (war, politics, economics, agriculture, theology, etc.) And from Green Gables to Mansfield Park to Forks, Washington, this is the world most girls’ literature takes place in.

This is not the real world. The Bible gives girls a thumbnail sketch of the world as God sees it, and it’s a pretty robust saga of tyranny, slavery, economics, warfare, jurisprudence, and crime, which includes very few bonnets. Besides being infallible on all other points, it’s the perfect model for the breadth of universe girls should immerse themselves in.

The premise of this talk is that girls need to read books that will equip them for this real world, rather than mentally loll in a safe, pretty, imaginary world of dainty hobbies and romantic fantasies. This is why I would be more likely to give my daughter One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch than Daddy Long Legs, and it would be because of the gritty realism of the content, not in spite of it.

The problem with Twilight, for instance, is certainly not that it shows girls too much of the big bad world. Its problem is that it plunges them more deeply into a world that doesn’t line up with the rules of reality. And in this way, it’s not that much different from Amish romance novels (except for the buttons). Both let us wallow in an extremely artificial world instead of dragging us into reality – a world of duty, consequences, and people at war with our faith.

I’ve always admired John Milton’s summary of “a complete and generous education,” as “that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war.” But why stop with men? Women also have vigorous roles to play, both in public and private, in peace and in war; any woman who wants to discharge her duties on the world stage is going to need an education with teeth. If we’re going to be useful in the great fight of faith, we have to understand the terms of the fight, and the weapons of our – and the enemy’s – warfare. We have to know about the ideas that have been warring against Christianity through all history. But more importantly, we have to know how to identify them and how to combat them, or we’re going to be worse than useless soldiers. We may end up on the other side.

This is because ideas aren’t neutral. Every idea is either true or false; every thought either lines up with God’s truth or defies it. And every time we come in contact with a book, as we point out in this message, we’re not just coming in contact with a story – we’re coming in contact with another mind, a mind with its own worldview and religion, a mind that’s either with Him or against Him (Luke 11:23). The question for us is: Which mind will be the dominant mind? Are we grounded enough in our knowledge of the Lord’s mind to see where the other falls short? Or will this new mind become the standard by which God’s mind will be weighed in the balance and found wanting?

I’d love to know more about your story. You say that some of the ideas you encountered in your reading made you doubt your Christianity. Do you mean that you were a believer, and then you stopped believing, and then started believing again? Or that through your reading you came to realize you were not a believer, and were cut to the heart and born again? What exactly did you doubt, and what convinced you to believe? When your books made you doubt God, did God come make Himself more real to you, or did the books make Him more real to you? What was it that proved to you “that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him”? (Heb. 11:6)

If false ideas force us to acknowledge our lack of a spiritual foundation and drive us to Scripture to find our footing – wonderful! But if we know we aren’t grounded enough in the Word to know how to process confusing new ideas, the answer is not to drink more deeply of those wells. If our faith is weak, Romans 10:17 tells us what Book to read to strengthen it: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

On the strengthening of our faith, you quoted 1 Peter 1:7 (one of my favorite verses) – but there’s a difference between embracing the trials and tests God sends to try our faith (James 1:2-4), and willfully flirting with ideas that we know will undermine it. Experimenting with dissenting beliefs until we realize that we don’t know what’s right anymore may sound intellectually fair and scholastically noble, but it’s not a virtue; at least, not in God’s eyes. The Bible actually does tell us to avoid chasing certain kinds of ideas. I didn’t say it; 1 Timothy 6:20,21 did. “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.”

Willful doubt is not one of the steps to higher faith or higher wisdom. “[T]he one who doubts,” according to James 1:6-8, “is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” We may need to doubt whether we “are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5), but if we doubt that God is real and His word is true, we’ll never find truth.

Getting familiar with His Word – the field guide to every heresy in the world – is square one. After all, our job is to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) The right attitude isn’t, “If you see a false idea, pretend it isn’t there and maybe it will go away” (or even “If you see a false idea, close the book!”). The attitude of someone fighting firmly on God’s side is to recognize a false idea, see it with God’s eyes, call it out, and prove it false. There is no alternative option; at least, not for someone who wants to claim, “I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113)

In other words, I believe every girl should know the Bible’s answer to agnosticism, to existentialism, to transcendentalism, feminism, chauvinism, socialism, fascism, racism, mysticism, Darwinism, Zoroastrianism, Rastafarianism, Swedenborgianism, and every other notion books have to offer.

The point is that our minds, as well as our hearts, as well as our bodies – have to bow the knee. Our minds must acknowledge that Christ is Lord of the world of ideas. Our minds, howsoever intelligent or rational, must accept that they are not the standard – the mind of Christ is.

“Man must think God’s thoughts after Him if he is to know anything,” wrote William Blake in The Foundations of Christian Scholarship. “How does one know whether he is thinking God’s thoughts? To the extent that God’s thoughts are revealed to us in Scripture, to this extent can we think His thoughts after Him.” The goal, as John Calvin put it, is to “give up our own understanding, and renounce the wisdom of the flesh, and thus we must present our minds to Christ empty that He may fill them.”

There is indeed a verse (Prov. 4:23) that tells us to guard our hearts “with all vigilance.” Does that mean shielding our hearts from knowledge? Proverbs 15:14, 18:15, 22:17, and 23:12 all say to do the exact opposite. We just don’t have the option of leaving our hearts open to loving the things God hates. In other words: If you felt like you needed my permission to read Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book, you have it. If you want God’s permission to love it, you don’t.

But then, we should also ask, to what end do we read books like this? This is where I got it wrong in my reading habits as a girl. If we read to amuse ourselves, to get away from it all, or to make ourselves feel smart, then we should ask ourselves how well we’re doing at “taking every thought captive” and “redeeming the time.” When I was in my mid-teens, I became convicted that I needed to be much more deliberate about what I put into my mind and why. Our goal, I realized, should be to look for the books that are the most profitable, the books will equip us to be a more faithful soldiers of Christ. And the goal is also to grow in our appreciation for the perfection of God, God’s reality, and God’s law – and how far superior that is to any invention of man.

You say, “We cannot understand redemption unless we understand sin. We can’t understand what it is to be saved if we’ve never been in trouble.” True – the fact is, we’re born already knowing sin and in trouble. It’s not something that should require much further study. And every girl saved by grace understands that she is sinful enough to be justly condemned for ever, without needing to study sin or experience new varieties of trouble to know that she needs a Savior. She sees enough blackness in her own heart to know that what she needs to pursue is the light. The other fact is, we clearly still don’t understand redemption if what we mostly want to understand is sin. We clearly still don’t understand what it is to be saved if we prefer trouble. “And this is the judgment, declares John 3:19: “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

I’d like to send you a copy of the “Jane Austen and Vampires” message. I think you’ll find that the heart of it is to “vehemently encourage curiosity about the world and its ideas” – and more importantly, to encourage girls to see that world and those ideas with God’s eyes. I’d love to hear what you think – please write and let me know. And again, I very much appreciated your email and your concern. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to clarify a message very close to my heart.

May God bless you richly as well…

Your sister in Christ,

Elizabeth

Be Sociable, Share!

About The Author

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are the authors of "So Much More" and "It's (Not That) Complicated," producers of the documentary "Return of the Daughters" and the Reclaiming Beauty Study Course, and administrators of www.BotkinSisters.com. More importantly, they're the daughters of Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin, and live and work with their family in central Tennessee. They'd love to hear from you at ae AT botkinsisters DOT com.

Comments

18 Responses to “A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing?”

  1. kcar38 says:

    What a gracious and thoughtful reply. Thank you so much for addressing this young lady with grace and truth.
    When I was in my teens, I read almost every book Stephen King ever wrote as well as other authors whom I would never recommend to anyone . I would never allow my children to read any of those books and it is my prayer that they never desire to read it. Those books are filthy and unholy.
    I hope this young lady will see the errors of her thinking; that if she is truly in Christ she will be convicted and turn away from sin.
    Regarding SK specifically, I believe that no natural man can write what he writes without assistance from *##!.
    My two cents and thank you again.

  2. Shelby says:

    “I’ve always admired John Milton’s summary of “a complete and generous education,” as “that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war.” But why stop with men? Women also have vigorous roles to play, both in public and private, in peace and in war; any woman who wants to discharge her duties on the world stage is going to need an education with teeth. If we’re going to be useful in the great fight of faith, we have to understand the terms of the fight, and the weapons of our – and the enemy’s – warfare. We have to know about the ideas that have been warring against Christianity through all history. But more importantly, we have to know how to identify them and how to combat them, or we’re going to be worse than useless soldiers. We may end up on the other side.”

    Can I just say how much I appreciate this entire post, but this point in particular? You have hit the nail on the head and identified one of the primary issues engulfing young women in the modern Chuch–so many don’t know how to fight the battles that are attempting to inhibit the furtherance of the Kingdom and the edification of the body, and it is so sad.
    Thank you for this!

  3. Jessie says:

    Maybe it is just me, but when I read something it sticks with me. I can not just pick up a book read it and have no thought of it afterwards. I in my curiosity read about Andrea Yates in a the biography someone wrote of her. The things I read stuck with me. So there our things I CAN NOT read and I think they would stick with my daughters as well. I did however gain understanding on false teaching and how if a husband is not doing his job by leading and guiding his wife can cause horrible things to happen. Not saying what she did was right but understanding. Also unfortunately I read the book that Jaycee Dugar wrote about her life. But the specifics stuck with me I have now just gotten over the things in that book, so our Precious Lord has shown me that whither book or imagines the word is true your eye is a lamp to your soul, and also I think of Ephesians 5:11-12. Some things are just not profitable to read, no matter what knowledge you think you may gain from it. So now I am very careful what I read. Not saying we can’t read things that teach us about socialism and other things like that. Or history, which has great tragedy. But reading about evil and evil people I can’t find profitable the imagines just stick with you for a while after. I hope this made sense! Have a wonderful day!

  4. I am over the age of 60, and was brought up in a large family by people who were also from large families. My parents taught all of my brothers and sisters and I that to boast that we would “read anything we could get our hands on” was NOT always an admirable trait.

    Some literature is not worth touching, and can be a bad influence on young, pliable minds which could be swayed away from the teachings of their parents, which is one of the reasons many people will not send their children to public schools

    . If homeschools are to be different, children have to be guided into the kind of literature which will reinforce good values and build strong character in them, not devaluate the morals and beliefs that the parents work so hard to train them in.

    It may sound really daft to some people, but even Samuel Clemens and Shakespeare wrote about things that are not suitable for young minds. Some literature can be corrupting.

    Another thing worth considering is that while some young people are gobbling up “anything they can get their hands on” in the form of reading material, they are woefully ignorant of the great events of the Bible. If they know more about the current fantasy literature than they do the accounts of Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon, the kings of Israel, Jonah, Amos, Obadiah, and the details of the crucifixion, they are missing out on reading material that shows the right rewards and consequences of things.

    Many students, even homeschool, are brilliant in some subjects but do not know about the acts of the apostles or the difference between the Old and New Testaments. The Bible has good instruction on how the mind is to be filled. It has warnings about listening to the counsel of the ungodly, and certainly, some literature can be judged to be scoffing of the Bible, causing some young people to abandon their faith.

    As an experienced parent and grandparent, I have to tell you that no parent wants the spiritual investment they wrought in their children to be undermined by reading material. That is why even Shakespeare or Mark Twain and even some feminist Victorian authors will not be appropriate material in the proper development of young minds. It all has to line up with whatever is true, good, lovely and virtuous. It does not mean that our children cannot read of adventure or other things besides the Bible, but that this reading material cannot corrupt the teachings that so carefully are instilled in them by their parents.

    When you raise your own children you are filled with an enormous awareness of the fact that you have been entrusted with a precious soul and are responsible not to misguide them. No parent wants their child’s upbringing undone, and so that is why so many of them, especially homeschool parents, are careful of the literature they choose for their cihldren. You will also be hit one day with an awareness of how fast time flies and how little time there is to instill in your children the lessons they will need in order to raise their own children. Many homeschool moms today will NOT allow their children to read the literature they read as young people, because they know the danger of it and how it can demoralize young people. We are here to guide and protect our children, and we would not be responsible parents if we allowed them to read everything they can get their hands on. While it is admirable that homeschoolers love to read and have a hunger for learning, it is important to be discerning and picky about what they read, to make sure it is good use of time and has value for the future. I know the young lady who wrote to you might have a completely different view on reading material once she begins raising her own children.

  5. I found a chapter in a book published in the 1800’s called “Gaining Favor With God and Man,” by Thayer, which is read aloud in some homeschool families. Here are some parts of it:

    What One Book May Do For a Youth

    A book that starts a young person off in life career, good or bad, is a power. Nothing is more coveted or dreaded. The inspiration of a single book, or a few, has made preachers, poets, philosophers, authors and statesmen. On the other hand, the demoralizaation of a book has sometimes made infidels, profligates and criminals.

    Benjamen Franklin read an infidel book, by Shaftesbury, at fifteen years of age, and it demoralized his religious opinions for years. But for the excellent books he read before, his infidelity would have blasted his life. As it was, his influence became baneful over two associates, whom he made as thorough skeptics as himself. One of them became a drunkard, and died in disgrace; the other lived without moral principle, holding the Christian religion in contempt. In ripe manhood, the good lessons of his boyhood, in a Christian home, asserted themselves, and Franklin confessed his grave mistake and became a defender of Christianity.

    In his early manhood, Abraham Lincoln had several boon companions who were infidels, and they influenced him to read Paine’s “Age of Reason” and Volney’s “Ruins.” The reading of these two books caused him to doubt the truth of the Bible, so that, for a time, he was one with his companions in their hostility to religion. He even wrote an essay upon the unreliability of the Bible, which he read to his associates….

    In his youth, the late President Garfield worked for a “blacksalter,” a few miles from his home. His employer owned “Marryat’s Novels,” …which Garfield read with avidity. He read them over and over. They opened a new and untried world before him….His mother saw that the books had sowed the seeds of evil in his heart…Two or three years before his death, he declared in public that the influence of those few books were never wholly eliminated from his mind.

    On the other hand, a single good book has often conspired with good counsels and good principles to make life a success. It has started the reader off upon a career of honor and usefulness…

    …Blount says, “The gifted men of today who are prominent in all positions of life, have read far less number of books than their sons and daughters. Look back over the history of the past. Did Shakespeare…Spenser, Chaucer, Homer, Plutarch, read a hundred novels every year?

    “Take the signers of the Declaration of Independence in our own country. What were they, in a literary way? Men were were fed mentally upon the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Josephus; men descended from a hardy Christian race, whose one book for study and recreation contained the Divine Revalation and the Psalms of David;and could there be a set of men collected the wide world over, of finer dignity, of nobler sense, or truer heart?”

    I would like to add to this piece that I have copied from Thayer’s essay, that reading is wonderful but in many ways, reading can become passive, like getting lost in a movie and not having to think. Writing, on the other hand, activates the mind and puts it to good use. While there is nothing wrong with reading, we as parents have to be aware that escaping into a book or story has its place, but it is even better to teach our children to write, and to use books for other purposes than entertainment.

  6. Mrs Andrea R says:

    I agree very much with what Mrs Sherman wrote, above. I’ve written recently on my blog about Feminism in the church, and how women are particularly vulnerable to mysticism, which often times comes from literature and feel-good self help writings of today.

    We must be a filter for our children’s eyes. We must filter what they read, what they hear, what they see and what they are generally exposed to in life. So much of the church is marginalized in what we believe, what we allow in…we fail to even look different from the world.

    Children completely immersed in the occult through “harmless books”, have been exposed to another realm we are endowed as their parents to protect them from. Books that have faulty theology, for the sake of today’s watered down Christianity; New Age influence, mysticism, Eastern religions, etc., all contribute to a weak doctrinal stance for young women, and leave them open to questioning the solid Rock of God.

    I also agree with Mrs Sherman’s assessment that sometimes we must be a parent to realize the gravity of our responsibility and role. In high school, I may have argued the same things…now, after being a wife and mother to several children in practice for a long time, I know the most important thing I can do for my children, is raise them in the very “bubble” society criticizes Christians for. I trust sin and worldliness come easy, and they never have to be taught that out of complacency with it.

  7. abba12 says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/28/india-sex-change-girls_n_885783.html

    I didn’t know how else to contact the people here, I couldn’t find an email. Anyway, I’ve seen you ladies post plenty about the gender selection abortions in India but I had never heard about whats in this article, it disturbed me terribly, and I thought I’d pass the link along in case you ladies would like to post it.

  8. That is truly horrific, Abba12. Changing girls into boys denies that God has created them to be women and that they have inherent dignity and worth. Sex-selective abortion has already done so much to decimate the population of women in China and India; this is just taking it another awful step in the wrong direction.

  9. Thank you Abba12 for that link and giving us this news, which you might not generally hear in society.

  10. Mrs Andrea R says:

    I didn’t know how (or if) my comment could be edited. My last sentence didn’t make much sense!

    What I meant to say is that humans are aware of their sin. We know in our heart when we are sinning. Being sinful, worldly and living no differently than the unsaved is easier..it’s made easier still when we become less sensitized to our sin and our tendency to sin through allowing brushes with worldliness…immersing ourselves in things that are not holy. Books, movies, TV and music can all have beautiful and non-sinful components. Yet, we need discernment, and that doesn’t come naturally in youth, but by experience and the turning away from sin.

    Being complacent with sin, and excusing it because we can “be part of it” in certain literature, yet believe we come away untouched is simply untrue.

  11. Andrea Grace says:

    Solidify your worldview before exposing yourself to all the other ideas this world has to offer?
    It sounds like you are recommending coming to a conclusion before gathering information. That process is backwards and can only guarantee ignorance, and I firmly believe that God does not appreciate blind faith.
    I am one of those people who reads everything. I read blogs by atheists and agnostics. I read books by evolutionary scientists. I read newspaper and magazine articles by liberal democrats. And I do it with an open mind. If we cannot accept that the people we have a refelxive need to disagree with are going to be right sometimes, it can only mean that we are under the impression that we know everything. And that is called a divinity complex.
    Limiting your reading to things that strengthen your viewpoint instead of broadening your horizons is not an intelligent move. Especially for the young ladies all this is aimed at. We young people like to think we know everything, but the fact is that we really know very little, and learning to understand viewpoints that oppose yours (rather than simply dismissing them) is an invaluable skill on the road to becoming well-informed. And well-informed is going to trump ignorant ten times out of ten.
    Exposing ourselves to different ideas will not make us “dirty,” as so many seem to believe. Ignorance is much more dangerous than exposure to “sin.”
    It is never, ever, ever a good thing to be afraid to change your mind.

  12. Hi, Andrea!

    What the writers are proposing is not ignorance; rather, it is important to have the tools to analyze, understand, and confront opposing viewpoints. All of us come from a particular perspective–we all wear biased “glasses,” if you will. There’s no way to avoid that, as no one is born as a blank slate. We are molded by our own sin nature and by those who surround us as we grow up (plus the things we watch, read, and listen to). We don’t give ten-year-olds Nietzche and ask them to analyze it, break it down into component parts, and come up with a comprehensive statement about its merits or faults. Instead, we start small, take baby steps, and learn to analyze things logically, thoughtfully, and, most importantly, biblically (e.g. “How does Marx measure up to Acts and the letters of Paul?”). Learning to think and debate doesn’t mean just randomly imbibing everything that comes across our path or reading without discrimination or discretion. Focused, directed study of worldviews comes after we’ve learned to tie our shoes and discern between meat and garbage, so to speak. 😉 That’s all that’s being said here. If you read widely on LAF, you’ll realize our writers tackle many unpleasant or controversial issues without hesitation. Hope you’ll stick around!

    Warmly,
    Jennie Chancey

  13. Jenn84 says:

    Good grief, Kcar. I don’t like all of SK’s work, but your words are pretty all-assuming. Some of his work is brilliant and you’d be surprised how morality can enter into the tales, like “The Green Mile” and even the presence of God in “The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon”. King’s daughter now has a job in serving others as a Christian.

    Having said this, we must indeed be careful with what we absorb. My greatest hatred is when books have their heroes disrespecting others, namely victims of crimes, with no condemnation from the authors whatsoever. I despise it and it upsets me terribly.

  14. Andrea Grace says:

    I had assumed that this article was referring to young adults– not children–, as these are the Botkin sisters’ main audience and it was a sixteen-year-old’s letter which opened it.

  15. Andrea Grace says:

    Also, I actually do read fairly widely on this site!

  16. The Botkin sisters are writing mainly to young teens and pointing out the importance of laying down a foundation of excellent reading at a young age (which definitely includes the early teen years when children are just learning to question and criticize). There were many books my parents kept from me as a young teen that I was ready for by the time I was 16-18. But in the meantime, they were preparing me to critique and evaluate the worldviews of writers from various backgrounds. That’s the point here. If we blindly feed our brains on anything we pick up without having the tools to critically dissect, evaluate, and accept or reject the worldviews beneath, we just aren’t ready to dive into some books or genres.

  17. Andrea Grace says:

    There is a difference between giving a child the tools to evaluate strange beliefs and giving her the tools to reject them before even considering them. Indoctrination is teaching a child (or an adult!) that what you believe is the absolute, final word, and it will always be wrong to change your mind. This article does not encourage open-mindedness. It encourages arrogance– the belief that I (or Mommy and Daddy) are always right, no matter what.

  18. Andrea Grace, thanks for bringing this up. This is an important point to clarify. Our point, as it seems you’ve identified, was not about what we can and can’t read, but rather, how “open-minded” we should be about what we do read. We’re not actually suggesting there are certain books or genres that girls shouldn’t read. There’s a huge amount of literary scope that we believe should be up to each girl and her parents to decide to explore, including in the realm of “dissenting” ideas. What we’re saying is rather that a girl must go into every book she reads with her mind firmly anchored on the belief that God’s word is the only absolute truth in the world, and every other idea of man stands subject to it.

    In fact, this article doesn’t actually encourage anything like “the belief that I (or Mommy and Daddy) are always right, no matter what.” Quite the contrary: It encourages the belief that every mind, including ours, including our parents’, including Nietzsche’s, including Steven King’s, is subject to being proven false beside the perfection of God’s Truth. We’re not to assume that we’re always right about everything: We must presuppose, though, if we profess Christ, that God always is. Every one of us needs to be willing to drop our ideas and opinions when we see that the Bible has something else to say, something I’ve had to do many times, and will doubtless keep having to. (By that token, if you’ve found Scriptures that prove me wrong on this point in particular, I’d welcome your setting me straight!) Opinions that contradict God’s Words, however, should be viewed as He would view them. As we said before, God does not count it a virtue for us to place heretics’ words and His on par, or use our fallible human minds to judge which seems better. There is a kind of “open-mindedness” that is actually “double-minded”ness, and will cause us to be “unstable in all [our] ways” (it involves doubting; see James 1:6-8) Though we should be “open-minded” enough to weigh all of our own opinions in the balance, we must also be single-minded enough to hold firmly to the only thing we know to be infallible.

    The point is obviously not that we shouldn’t study and search out new ideas, since Proverbs 18:15 declares that “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” The point is that, as we voraciously study, we must “search the Scriptures daily, [to see] whether these things are so” (as did the noble Bereans, Acts 17:11). The point is that, as we examine the ideas of Rousseau, Foucault, or Wollstonecraft, we must remember that “The fear of the LORD [not the amassing of facts] is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov. 9:10) “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” (Prov. 2:6,7) After all, “He who teaches man knowledge– the LORD–knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.” (Psalms 94:10,11) The more we understand His mind, and weigh all other minds, books, and papers accordingly, the more we will come to find true knowledge… and I would say that is “an intelligent move.”

    As you know, every person does have an absolute plumbline by which they measure everything, be it their own reason, their experiences, or their spiritual guru of choice. Let’s be deliberate about what ours will be… and let’s make sure it’s the Bible.

    Blessings,
    Elizabeth