Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Book Review
This is my attempt at writing a book review. A detailed explanation of what the sections below are intended to accomplish can be found here.
Title: Secrets of an Unlikely Convert
Author: Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Year Published: 2012
Tags: homosexuality, regeneration, pastor's wife
Priority: 5 - every Christian should read this book!
Rosaria is a Christian deeply committed to the Scriptures. She loves her Lord Jesus, is committed to conservative Presbyterian theology, and has left all to follow Christ. And, that makes sense, given that she's a pastor's wife and works full-time as a homemaker and mother. But things weren't always that way.
Less than two decades ago, she was a tenured professor at a local university, teaching Lesbian and Gay studies, leader of the LGBT campus community, a committed Lesbian living with her partner, and a convinced atheist.
But God changed her. This is the story of how.
This is a category 5 - all Christians in America should read this book. It addresses topics that must be confronted by the church of Christ in today's culture, in particular sexual sin (especially homosexuality), repentance, the love of Christians for those unlike them, and the call of Christ to discipleship.
As you would expect, this book reads like it's written by an English professor - exceedingly well. It has a candid style, a humble disposition, and is easily grasped by the average adult reader.
This is an honest book that deals with a critical issue of our day: shall we require repentance of sin, even homosexual sin, in order to accept someone as a Christian? Butterfield unashamedly says, “Yes!”
Throughout the book, Butterfield assaults comfortable ‘Christianity.’ She, like Jesus Christ, has no respect for an easy 'faith,’ and challenges her readers to think hard about what it means to be a disciple, a devoted follower, of Jesus Christ.
She also raises many valid concerns with the American Church. I heartily agree with most of them, and found the challenges to be startling, honest, and very helpful. She is brutally honest about her own sin; should not her readers be the same?
While I do not personally agree with much of the Presbyterian theology that comes through, many God-loving people do, and are convinced from Scripture. Thus, I respect it, even if I do not join her and other Presbyterians. I pray that you would be discerning and test what you read by the Scriptures.
Chapter Titles & Quotes
1. Conversion and the Gospel of Peace
God sent me to a Reformed and Presbyterian conservative church to repent, heal, learn and thrive. The pastor there did not farm me out to a para-church ministry "specializing" in "gay people." He and the session knew that the church is competent to counsel (to quote the title of one of Jay Adams' useful books). I needed (and need) faithful shepherding, not the glitz and glamor that has captured the soul of modern evangelical culture. I had to lean and lean hard on the full weight of scripture, on the fullness of the word of God, and I'm grateful that when I heard the Lord's call on my life, and I wanted to hedge my bets, keep my girlfriend and add a little God to my life, I had a pastor and friends in the Lord who asked nothing less of me than that I die to myself. Biblical orthodoxy can offer real compassion, because in our struggle against sin, we cannot undermine God's power to change lives.
2. Repentance and the Sin of Sodom
Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. It did not involve rearranging the surface prejudices and fickle loyalties of my life. Conversion didn't "fit" my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality. It was arduous and intense. I experienced with great depth the power and authority of God in my life. In it I learned - and am still learning - how to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mine. When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future.
3. The Good Guys: Sanctification and Public Worship
The talk [that Butterfield delivered at Geneva College in the fall of 2000] generated a lot of questions. Some questions revealed what these students had not learned about God's grace. One student asked: "how do you know you are healed if you are not having sex with a man?" In return, I asked him, "Why is my health as a Christian determined by having sex at all?" I went on to explain what has always seemed obvious to me, but often comes to a great shock to Christians. I explained that too often good Christians see sexual sin as merely sexual excess. To a good Christian, sex is God's recreation for you as long as you play in God's playground (marriage). No way, José. Not on God's terms.
What good Christians don't realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won't be "healed" by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think that too many Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They're wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that.
4. The Home Front: Marriage, Ministry, and Adoption
I never was a seasoned pastor's wife. We were church-planters, and that is scrappy work. But I believe, from my limited experience, that there is a little-known secret about the inner spiritual lives of pastor's wives: the experience of really knowing the man behind the pulpit, counting the costs of his work, palpably knowing how deeply Satan wants the gospel to simply die from lack of interest, seeing the Holy Spirit triumph in his preaching even when just the hour before all looked grim, is a great shot in the arm to enduring faith. I wish that others knew this: Pastor's wives get the cream of the ministry, even as we sacrifice certain aspects of our personal, private, and family lives to have this. I have found my life as Kent's wife to be full, rich, amusing, edifying, and exciting. I have tasted a small bit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would not trade this life for anything.
5. Homeschooling and Middle Age
Over the years, Kent has maintained his full-time job as a government contractor and served as pulpit supply for reformed churches seeking a pastor. He served for seven months as full-time pulpit supply at another congregation. This small church even considered calling Kent as its pastor. We enjoyed learning and teaching with this small body. We celebrated the joys and liberties of psalm singing and delighted in offering Bible studies, prayer meetings, and fellowship meals in our home. Then, something happened. It often does. My testimony is like iodine on starch.
Someone I valued as a friend, a founding church member with influence, asked me what I would do if a homosexual entered our worship service. I quickly shared with her my testimony, apologizing that I hadn't done so earlier. I gave her a chapter of the book that you are holding in your hand and I asked her to read it and to let me know what she thought of all this. A week later, she came to talk.
She took a deep breath.
All the color drained from her face.
She looked like she had just witnessed a crime scene.
Manifesting disgust and horror, she told me that she wished I hadn't shared this with her. She quickly added, "Oh I'm fine with this information, but X (another weighty founding church member) could never handle it. Do you have to tell people about this?" This. Rosaria's unmentionable past. Rahab the Harlot. Mary Magdalene. We love these women between the pages of the Bible, but we don’t' want to sit at the Lord's Table with them - with people like me - drinking from a common cup. That's the real ringer: the common cup - that is, our common origin in depravity. We are only righteous in Christ and in him alone. But that's a hard pill to swallow, especially if you give yourself kudos for good choices.
Let There Be Books
This book is part of the Let There Be Books idea that I started. Let me know if you're interested.