I read this book when I was 16 years old. We read it as part of a girls' Bible study for my youth group and met in a meeting room at our local ice cream shop. While in some ways I have fond memories from this study, I also have some negative memories, including seeing where some of the girls that were in the study with me ended up as far as their purity journey and how some laughter happened at my expense when I was too innocent to know what some of the words meant. I do believe this book was a significant part of my personal journey because of what I learned about sexual purity, I see some weaknesses in their arguments that may have negatively impacted my views on sexual purity. So I want to take another opportunity to evaluate a popular book of the purity movement to weigh its pros and cons, so we know how to better serve the next generation when it comes to teaching them sexual purity ~ Bethel
In the book, Every Young Woman’s Battle, Shannon Ethridge (and Stephen Arterburn) helps young women learn how to guard their hearts, minds, and bodies while living in a world that is saturated with unbiblical expressions of sexuality. It starts out by helping young women understand that the battle for sexual purity begins in our hearts and minds by affirming God’s design and explaining what it means to build lives of “sexual integrity” while also avoiding the pitfalls of the way the culture openly defines sexuality. It equips young women with tools that will help them guard their hearts, minds, and bodies, as well as navigate their way to adulthood and possibly future marriage all while drawing closer to God. This book doesn’t shy away from the hard-to-discuss issues, even going so far as to define most sexual terms in the footnotes and having an appendix for young women who may be struggling with same-sex attraction. The most recent editions of this book also include a workbook that can be used for group or individual study. In some ways, I appreciate how straightforward this book was in defining or explaining concepts I didn’t understand or wanted to ask out loud at that age. I also appreciated how it acknowledged that sexual purity and lust are not exclusively guy problems, so they wrote materials to address those struggles from a female point of view. Overall, this was one the best books overall that I read during the purity movement and I think there is still a lot of useful information in it.
However, there are a few problems I see in their methods or reasoning. First, the idea that the reason we should avoid dressing immodestly or inappropriate flirting is to keep our brothers from stumbling is more hurtful than helpful. While avoiding immodest dress or sexual flirting is helpful for our brothers in Christ, it should not be our primary motivation. Our motivation is to obey and honor Christ in our words and actions. Modesty is simply an attitude of humility in the way that you present yourself that defers attention away from yourself and your body and instead brings attention to God or to serve others. We need to make sure that young women understand that they are only responsible for their actions unless they intentionally draw someone else into sin by their actions. We also need to remember that immodesty isn’t just a girl's problem, much in the same way as lust isn’t just a guy's problem. Guys and girls both have the same responsibilities: to avoid creating temptation while also avoiding falling into temptation.
Second, this book gets pretty heavy into rule-setting, which sets up the legalistic mentality of “how far is too far” becoming the standard, all the while making those who have struggled with sexual sin feel like they are a lost cause because of the high emphasis on virginity. While a husband and wife being virgins and sexually pure on their wedding night is the most optimal way for God’s design to be enjoyed, we need to make sure that young women (and young men) understand that losing your virginity before marriage is not an unforgivable sin, nor is any other form of sexual immorality. God can redeem anything in His time for His glory, including our sexual sins, if we live in genuine repentance from those sins. We need to make sure that young people understand the significance of repentance and accepting God’s grace so they are truly able to move on when they mess up.
Lastly, while I know their intentions were genuine, I am somewhat critical of the appendix for young women struggling with attraction toward the same sex. This is because I had a friend who read the information while struggling but was not helped by it. While I do believe the biblical premise is solid, you have to make sure they are committed to Christ for that logic to work. Without the saving grace of Christ to motivate them, God’s design or intentions for our sexuality will not matter to them. After they have committed to Christ, they need to have a godly sorrow that leads to repentance rather than a worldly sorrow that makes them confess their struggle out of guilt. That repentance then will lead to a spirit of self-discipline that will lead to a mental transformation that can redirect those desires. While the “confess your sins and get a mentor” method could be a part of this equation (as it could be for almost any other sin), I think that an overreliance on this method for overcoming sins can tend to diminish the crucial elements of genuine repentance, God’s redemptive grace at work, and the spirit of self-discipline that God has given each one of us to aid in the transformation.
While these elements of the book are not helpful, I still think this book was one of the most useful books of the purity movement and could be a great starting point for conversations about sexual purity. I would recommend it for those 15 or older.
Pre-Teen Rating. This book does a great job of tackling the difficult aspects of sexuality. However, the terminology in the book is very blunt. While the authors took the stance that most girls probably already know most of those terms from school or the media, it could still destroy innocence for a pre-teen who doesn’t already know them. It could also go right over some pre-teens' heads. I would recommend that a girl be at least 15 or in high school before she reads it. Any parents or youth leaders should consider reviewing it themselves before using it, especially the terms defined in the footnotes.
Personal Rating. While I see this book from a more critical point of view from the first time I read it, this book did help me set my heart and mind on the right path toward purity. While there may be some more contemporary resources out there, I still think it was one of the best resources produced by the purity movement
Lion's Eyes Reviews is a blog dedicated to reviews of Christian books, most of which are non-fiction, but may also occasionally review movies and musicals. It will also feature the work Bethel does to help launch and promote the works of Christian authors.
The name is derived from one of Bethel's favorite books, Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko. Through these reviews, Bethel hope to give Christians the tools they need to look at the world "through the eyes of a lion" so they can find the courage to "run toward the roar".
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Bethel Grove is a Christian young woman who loves to read and write, eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzards, and disciple teen girls as a youth leader. What started as a hobby of writing book reviews and doing deep biblical studies eventually led her down the path of self-publishing and helping other Christian authors launch their books. She hopes to someday be a vocational youth minister and well-known author.
Author Bethel Grove
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