Tuesday, July 03, 2007

So Much More...Than What God Requires?

***UPDATE*** I now have a thorough review of the Botkin book up here.

As a Christian, I base my life on God’s Word, the Bible. I want to obey God, and I want to raise my children to obey Him.

I’ve wanted this ever since I first came to know Christ at age 12. I can’t say I’ve always been successful. Sometimes I’ve been willfully disobedient, and other times I’ve tried so hard to be obedient that I went overboard and tried to “obey” commands that weren’t even there. I pulled scripture willy-nilly from here and there thought I was being “led by God.” My heart was sincere, but sincerity won’t do you any good if you aren’t sincere about the right things. In fact, obeying extra-biblical rules or principles will put you in bondage and can even bring unforeseen disaster to your life.

That’s why I’ve been so saddened by the sudden popularity of books like the Botkin sisters’ So Much More and the corresponding documentary, Return of the Daughters (due to come out soon). I hope that I can present my thoughts as kindly, sweetly, and humbly as possible, for it’s not my goal to beat anyone over the head or to be mean-spirited toward anyone. I speak as one who lived and taught self-imposed extra-biblical principles for many years, principles that hindered me and others in ways I deeply regret.

Now to be fair I will admit that I have not yet read the book. I have read reviews by people who have read the book (both supporters and detractors) and I’ve viewed the movie trailer. I plan to read the book and possibly review it further at that point, but I think I understand enough about the gist of the message to comment a little.

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are beautiful, well-spoken, sincere young ladies. I’m sure they are wonderful girls who love the Lord and desire to serve Him. One commendation by their supporters is that “they back everything up with scripture.” Well, my friends, it is one thing to use scripture to support your views (the theological term is proof-text), and quite another to correctly interpret scripture by an objective method and thus gain your convictions from it. The basic premise of their materials (as I understand it) is that God’s will for daughters is that they should remain in the home until marriage, serving their fathers as help-mates to him, as they prepare to be help-mates to a future husband.

This idea is presented in the most appealing terms. The movie trailer is simply breathtaking. There’s just one problem. You won’t find any such command in God’s Word.

Now understand, I stayed home until I married. I spent most of that time just serving my family. I’m traditional and home-loving. There is nothing wrong with that. But it deeply troubles me when young girls like the Anna Sofia and Elizabeth try to tell other girls that God’s desire for them is to stay at home, simply serving their families (and their fathers in particular) until they marry (or forever, if they don’t marry), because God never said that.

I believe, like the Botkin sisters, that we should cast a godly vision for our daughters (and sons, too, for that matter). However, unlike the Botkins, I don’t believe that vision must be limited to being helpers at home. I believe that God’s vision for our unmarried daughters can be much greater than this. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 7:34 that the desire of an unmarried Christian woman is to serve the Lord--not to serve her father. When she marries, her concern becomes how to please a person, her husband, rather than God alone. This runs counter to the teaching purported by the Botkins. To them, serving one’s father (a person) as an unmarried girl is the only way one can serve the Lord.

I understand that they even go so far as to criticize the missionary work of Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor, single women who dedicated their entire lives to serving God and others in foreign countries. Instead, they hold up untried teenagers as “heroines of the faith” simply for deciding to stay home until marriage. Does anyone else see the irony here?

It’s like a sword in my heart when I see people recommend this book as second only to the Bible in its importance for young women (as several did in the Amazon reviews). My heart is so broken that this erroneous, extra-biblical teaching by two young girls would be seen as more important than any other spiritual book ever written. Where is our discernment?!

I have held back from writing anything about it because I thought that surely its influence could not be that widespread. Frankly, I was leery of even giving it more press than it’s already gotten. I've hesitated, too, because it will sound just plain weird to a lot of my readers--weird in a "How could anyone fall for this?" kind of way. But it seems that everywhere I turn (at least among certain segments of home schoolers) I see it recommended. I am blown away...amazed...grieved...that this hyper-patriarchal model is becoming increasingly viewed as biblical. I am not speaking without experience here. Not only have I myself fallen prey to teachings not expressly found in scripture, I have also seen this very teaching lived out with truly tragic consequences.

Please, before we jump on the bandwagon of a “visionary” teaching that looks so good, let’s lay aside our feelings and hold it up for a stiff comparison to God’s Word. Don't be deceived. I beg you, don’t subject yourself or your daughters to a yoke that He never laid on the shoulders of His children.


For some well-reasoned discussion on the Botkin sisters and their teachings check out these two conversations:

"Visionary" Daughters

Online Interview With the Botkin Sisters

(This is about the interview, not the interview itself. It links to the interview, however.)

Warning: They are long!


Erica said...

Wow! I've never heard of these girls, but your advise in regards to checking what we read and believe against the Bible, finding in the Bible what we want (proof-texting) and Reading the Bible and then deciding what we believe hits home in so many areas right now. Thanks for the encouragement. Hurray for others who see things the way I do! I'm not crazy after all. ;)

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

You are very, very wise. Recently, we got tripped up in the "extra-biblical" requirements so often found in the homeschooling community.

It is good to remember that some of these ideas are just that---IDEAS. Beautiful things that work for SOME people, but it is not a commandment for ALL God's people.

There is a huge, huge difference between a personal conviction and a Biblical mandate.

My biggest problem with the Botkin sisters and the book/movie is that they are YOUNG GIRLS trying to teach their own "mentors" if you will. They have absolutely no authority to teach me as a wife and mother because simply, they have not "been there done that." If we are going to be Biblical, we need to look at things in a Titus 2 fashion, and they do not fit the rolemodel to be teaching elder women on the subject of marriage and daughterhood!

:) Blessings!

Hannah's Mom said...

Wonderful... Thank you Steph, well said.

Charity Grace said...

Thank you, girls. I was really hesitant to even post this...I spent the whole afternoon getting it just right...But it was heavy on my heart. I know several of us have been down the road of adding to God's Word, and it brings such pain I just could not be quiet.

Storybook Woods said...

Hello, thank you for sharing this. I have been in the HS movement for a long time and am always leery of anyone who feel their choices are the only ones. It always makes me uncomfortable because we need to seek the Lord and if we have it all figured out, then we do not need to seek the Lord. We have two daughters 11 and 16. I do not know what the Lord will call them to. But their father and I are trying everyday to set aside our preferences and seek the Lord as to what He wants. I have debated reading this book. As with a lot of things, I am sure I will agree with some but disagree with a lot. I hope anyone listening to the Botkin sisters pray very hard as to what their daughter will need, not what the Botkin sisters say. Clarice

Charity Grace said...

Thank you, Clarice. I agree, there are probably many things in the book I would love. I think the Botkin girls are adorable. It just troubles me when people take scripture and make it give a command that it never gives.

Billy and I are learning, too, to lay aside our preferences for our children and realize that what God calls them to might not be what we envision for them. When they tell us, "When I grow up I want to be this or that..." we try to just tell them, "If that is what God wants you to do, that is great." I think the most important thing is to raise our children with vibrant relationship with Jesus so that they desire His will and are led by Him in ways that line up with His Word.

Anonymous said...

If you will allow me to do so, I will speak as one who HAS read the book and share some of my thoughts. I lost sleep over this book; it challenged a lot of my beliefs as a mother of 2 young daughters. But after
praying,pondering,and pouring many hours into reading scripture on this matter, I think they have some valid arguements for their position. They were not legalistic in their presentation, even forseeing that many would think so regardless, but simply seeking to challenge our way of seeing things in today's culture. I think the heart of the matter is whether or not GOD has a perfect plan that is in the best interest of daughters. Yes, many, many will not walk in it, but IF it God's best, who are we to say otherwise? Yes, we have freedom to choose otherwise, and they do say that some fruit is produced in single women missionaries, etc...it simply shows God uses all things together for His good. They also made a point that Scripture alone gives us the women models we are to learn from, not modern day examples. Yes, they point to friends who have chosen to follow a different path, but their point was to show a different path that just may be one God is honored by.
You say that God "does not give a command to stay home and serve their families." True. Yet, they make a very convincing case that God works through FAMILIES. Scripture does say that a father is to protect and guide his daughter. It make sense she would need to be around for him to do so. She is under his headship until marriage.
I cannot do justice to their arguements in all this. None of us should jump to conclusions based on hearsay about a book until we have read it ourselves. After reading the book and also having dear friends who know the Botkins' family well, I know that it was not just some "teenagers" who wrote this book, but at least one godly father who strongly guided their pen. I may not agree with all of it, but I am open to considering if this is God's "best" for daughters and I challenge you all to do the same. God bless.

Charity Grace said...

Responding to this soon...

Charity Grace said...

Hello, Friend. Thank you for your thoughts. I normally delete anonymous comments, but since you presented your views so kindly, I’m going to make an exception this time.

I’ve taken your admonition to heart and I’ll be reading the book. I should read it before making a final judgment. However, I spent quite a bit of time this week reading the Visionary Daughters web site, and I feel that if anything what I read there confirms my concerns.

You’re right; the heart of the matter is whether or not God has a perfect plan for daughters. There are certain things He has laid out clearly in His Word in regards to roles and responsibilities for both sexes. However, He never said in any place in scripture that an unmarried woman must live at home until marriage. As I stated in the post, I stayed home until marriage. My daughters are welcome to do the same. In fact, I would be delighted if they did. It may very well be the wisest option. But it is not a command from scripture.

True, God gave us biblical rather than modern examples. Bible women also didn’t have electricity, ride in cars, write books, make movies, or wear Regency or modern style clothing…But that does not mean that the way they lived is the “Biblical” way and we should live that way too by virtue of their example. I don’t know if you read my post regarding biblical interpretation (entitled Proof Text). This way of making doctrines is dangerous and faulty and can lead to all kinds of trouble. If God has something specific to say on a matter, then we should study the passage to find out exactly what that is. But he says nothing about an unmarried woman being required by God to live at home, serving her father in his calling. It’s not there. Furthermore, they do not merely give the stories of their friends as examples, they explicitly state in the trailer that these girls are “heroines of the faith”. I think that’s a grossly over-dramatic label. Try telling that to a woman in China or some other anti-Christian country who’s imprisoned or killed for her faith (whether or not she lives at home). It’s a bit of a stretch, to say the least.

I would not call the Botkin girls legalistic. I believe that’s a term that makes people quite defensive; furthermore, it’s often misused. By its narrowest definition, it means something we must do to earn our salvation. As far as I know, the Botkin girls are not saying that this is a salvational issue. However, I contend that anyone (not picking on the Botkins here—anyone) who says God requires or even desires something of us that God does not say He requires/desires, is adding to God’s Word and putting a yoke of bondage on our shoulders that He never intended. Is the decision for a daughter to stay home until marriage a wise one? Quite possibly, yes. It may be wise just as many other life choices are wise. But it’s not commanded. I will not tell my daughters that something is God’s perfect plan for them when He has not said that in His word. Rather, I want my daughters to be students of the Word with close relationships with Christ, growing to know His voice more clearly all the time, so that they can make wise choices in line with His Word and His will. Hopefully they will also seek the godly counsel of their parents—which is a scriptural admonition.

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are lovely young ladies. I really appreciate their poise and skill in communication. However, I remain unconvinced that they are presenting a teaching in line with God’s Word—whether their father guided their pens or not.

However, as I said, I will read the book and report later. As impressive as the Botkin girls’ presentation is, I’m sure they have lots of good things to say. I look forward to discussing not only what I disagree with, but what I like as well.

Allison said...

Wow, I am really surprised that someone would write such a critical piece about a book they havent even read! Doesnt really seem fair, does it? Or accurate.

Charity Grace said...

Hey Allison. I feel that I got a good feel for the book and its philosophies by reading reviews (*both* pro and con) and by reading extensively at the Visionary Daughters site. I'm also very familiar with many of the Botkin's views as I used to hold a lot of them myself.

If you read the comments to this thread, as well as other statements I've made on my blog, you will see that I agreed that I should read the book before making a *final* judgment, and I had it in hand within a couple days of making that commitment. I'm about halfway through. I find their philosophical arguments quite compelling on many fronts; however, my concerns as to their biblical interpretation are intensified even more by what I've read of the book. When I finish it I'll give a more complete review, highlighting its many pros as well as the cons.

Matt said...

Charity Grace,
Thank you for this excellent and attractive web-site.

I appreciate your stated desire to live a life according to God's Word. My family and I share this desire with you. We, too, seek to align all of our thoughts, beliefs and actions with God's Word.

So, after reading your entire initial post, I was surprised that you would publish such strong public opposition to the book with such weak supporting evidence.

First of all, you said yourself that you did not read the book. You tried to justify this by saying that you had seen the trailer and read pros and cons about the book. But, this is no justification. In fact, it even further weakens your position, because you show yourself as one following the crowd rather than digging into the issue on your own. In addition, even after you finish the book, the only conslusion from you that would have influence at this point would be if you reversed your view. Haven't you set yourself up to "proof-text" their book, in order to support your prior public statements? Not that you would be intentionally dishonest, but that your presupposition about the book will inevitably shape your ability to rightly hear what they are saying.

Secondly, and most concerning, you only mention one Scripture reference in your entire initial post. In addition, you use the verse without any discussion of surrounding context, and you make the statement "the desire of an unmarried Christian woman is to serve the Lord--not to serve her father." Now, this is a perfect example not only of proof-texting but also of "adding to the Scriptures." You take a Scripture out of its context and then add to it with your words "not to serve her father." Ironically, in the way in which you use your only Scriptural reference, you give us an example of both proof-texting (snatching a verse from its context) and adding to Scripture, the very things you accuse the Botkin girls of.

So, don't you think your sisters in Christ, who at the very least appear to have devoted many hours of their life to this topic, deserve a much more thorough investigation of their book, and of the Scriptures, before you post a public statement opposing their ideas?

Now, my point is very simple. We should all be much more humble with how we handle God's Holy Word and with how we categorize the work of other Christians. We should be slower to judge and quicker to grant the benefit of the doubt to our siblings in Christ.

Thank you again for this excellent web-site and your desire for God's Word to reign.

Respectfully in Christ,

ps- By the way, I do encourage everyone to closely study all of I Corinthians 7 to get a sense of the surrounding context, to better understand the verse in question.

Charity Grace said...

Not ignoring comments, very busy week...Hope to get back to this before too long!

Charis said...

Anonymous said:
QUOTE I know that it was not just some "teenagers" who wrote this book, but at least one godly father who strongly guided their pen. ENDQUOTE

ME: That is two young girls and a grown man (a father).

Lindsey wrote:
If we are going to be Biblical, we need to look at things in a Titus 2 fashion, and they do not fit the rolemodel to be teaching elder women on the subject of marriage and daughterhood

I agree and I think we need to sit up and take notice!

When it comes to marriage, Titus 2:3-5 calls upon the older women to teach the younger… not the daddy, nor the young women . I am convinced that God has His reasons for His instructions. Hadn't we best take His Word for it? (lest we be guilty of usurping HIS authority- YIKES!)

JillY said...

I have to say that some of the info in this book was valuable to me, but issues like women missionaries, I felt was WAY off base. Excluding more modern missionary women, what about Mary Magdalene? Tabitha? Phoebe? I do believe there is Biblical precedence for women missionaries. I have struggled in the past with works and have come to know the grace of God and that is found in the Bible....

Barbara said...

In reading the Titus 2 call to older women, the call is to very specific teaching item and behavior: to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things-that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be blasphemed.

It is one thing to chose to live in the home under the father and not be outside in the world. It is another to indicate that this is the "biblical norm" or "requirement". I do not see a requirement in scripture that this is the only choice for a Christian young lady. The real issue is does she continue to honor her mother and her father at this age. Honoring parents should last the lifetime, whether in the home or out of it. I have seen families suffer damage by the teaching that it is a biblical requirement that the daughter is to stay at home and serve her father until a young man marries her.

I believe that if Titus 2 older women teach what is found in the scriptures, God will honor that teaching. Young ladies have asked me if I have seen the movie yet or read the book. I have not yet, but that is part of my plan for this summer.

Anonymous said...

Taking things that other people say and spreading those things without actually checking the facts first is called gossip. It disturbs me that while you encourage us not to take what the Botkins say as truth (even though they are teaching biblical truths) you want us to listen to your review when all you have done is read a few amazon reviews and have not taken the time to actually read the book yourself. And just to clarify, just because a person is young does not mean that they do not have truths to share with older ladies, however, the Botkins specifically state that they are speaking to their peers, not to mothers or fathers. Just because they are young does not mean they don't know a whole lot more than some adults when it comes to living out God's word. Thanks!

Barbara said...

I have had opportunity and time to read the book. My thoughts:

I would not recommend it.

It has daughters learning from their fathers how to prepare to be wives for a future husband and learning how to be submissive to a husband by submitting to fathers.

I do not see a Biblical mandate for this teaching. I do see a role for older women as outlined in Titus 2...

Bethanne said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I just recently watched the documentary. I'm a young lady who has just finished high school. Oh how I am struggling on what to do now. Right now I am staying home but attending a good Bible collage for a year is a possibility. Perhaps even some mission work. I want to serve the Lord wherever I am.

jesusis42 said...

I couldn't agree more that these young ladies are spreading a teaching that has more to do with personal conviction than Biblical doctrine. God is building his kingdom with individuals not families. I would hate to think that my two girls had to spend their lives catering to me. That is why i married their mom. (lol)

I would be interested to hear their take on the judge Deborah. Not exactly an example of "biblical patriarchy"

Sandi said...

Thank you for so aptly, yet kindly, speaking the truth. As a pastor's wife, I have been very disheartened by the false teaching of these two well-intentioned young ladies.
Paul clearly states that single women are to use their singleness in service for Christ.

I personally know a family who has bought into the teachings of Vision Forum. It breaks my heart. We are to follow Christ and His teachings, not that of a particular man or group.

Eliza said...

"I personally know a family who has bought into the teachings of Vision Forum. It breaks my heart. We are to follow Christ and His teachings, not that of a particular man or group."

AMEN - I know several also - and it soooo hard to communicate with them now that they see themselves as set apart/better than the rest of us in the body of christ. These extra biblical ideas that are taken as truth - are destroying relationships.

buyer beware.. there are messages in these types of books that are greater than just the supposable virtue they are trying to sell. True holiness comes only from the blood of the lamb.

Thanks for looking closer at this book and the movement it has created. We need to look closely at what we put in our head and on our hearts.


Esther said...

I am a homeschooling mom with four girls between the ages of 17 and 25.
None are married, courting, betrothed, or engaged. They are all happy that they are under the daddy's covering. I won't say that they are all always content to be at home, however, they are thankful that their daddy understands his responsibility to meet their needs until they do leave us to cleave to their own husbands.
As for the Botkins' book, my oldest daughter and I have both read it, and another daughter is now reading it. They agree that it is an encouragement for all young ladies. As with anything that we read, we must and do evaluate it according to the Bible. Anyone who reads any book other than the Bible and takes it as the Gospel is in trouble. This book was not meant to replace the Bible or be used as doctrine. It was meant to encourage families.
I personally recommend that you read it yourself before making such bold statements criticizing it. I agree with others that doing so is gossip and I was saddened to read such things on a website that appears otherwise innocent.

Charity Grace said...

Esther, if you'll note at the top of the post I link to the lengthy review I wrote after reading the book. I agree--we must evaluate it according to the Bible.

Anonymous said...

May I ask where I would have fit in this situation and many others like myself? I got saved at 17, my family were not christians, my father was in prison most of my life and my parents were divorced. My mother made all of the kids move out (I was 24 at the time). I served the Lord in many ways caring for the poor in inner city ministries. God used me to bring hope and healing to the brokenhearted. Those were some of the greatest times of my life. It seems like a lot of christians (especially home-schooling ones) turn inward and are self (family) focused. The family, to me, seems to almost become an idol. There are so many broken families out there, that don't all fit in to this perfect scenerio (which I do not believe is perfect and God ordered)that is portrayed.

Anonymous said...

an addition to my prior post, the only reason I posted anonymously is because I didn't know how to not do that, don't have a google account and wasn't sure what open id meant or name irl meant. Thanks,

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl said...

I'm with you. I've listened to some messages on this topic by the Vision Forum people, and I was saddened by the lack of scriptural support offered for their view. Tradition and "they way things used to be" are not strong enough arguments for me.

Nowhere in the Bible do I see that daughters are suppose to be a helpmeet to their dads. That's mainly the wife's job.

Anonymous Atheist said...

they even go so far as to criticize the missionary work of Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor? They dare compare themselves to her?

I'm not Christian, but I have read her biography (several versions of it) and she was a force to be reconed with.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you need to have read the Botkin sisters' book to process and comment on the philosphy behind "So Much More" and "Return of the Daughters". To comment specifically on the book and film would require you to read the book and watch the film. And you've read the book and posted a follow-up to this post.

I think your point about the bondage that extra-biblical principles can bring is a good one.

evision said...


Rethinking Vision Forum said...

Can I repost this on my site, Rethinking Vision Forum? My email is rethinkingvisionforum@yahoo.com.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

"I agree with others that doing so is gossip"

Seriously, gossip? I've foregone viewing the movie "The Witch" because people who HAVE seen it (and some who haven't, in fact) have stated that it includes the murder of a child, an entire family's death, and the main character converting to demonic witchcraft at the very end. Is this gossip? Should I spend valuable time exposing myself to it in order to decide for myself?

Jennifer said...

Charity, your articles regarding this book are awesome, gracious and very wisely written. I could NOT agree more with your full review!!