I cannot overstate how much I appreciate and love Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. It’s the story of her conversion from lesbian feminist scholar to Christianity. It’s easily the best book I’ve read all year. Since her book came out, she has been asked to speak in a number of different venues. As you can imagine, her message is hated in certain contexts, not least of which is the average university campus.
Recently, she spoke on the campus of the University of South Florida, and her reception was less than warm. Before she even spoke, one student editorialized in the campus newspaper what seems to be an all-too-common point of view among the emerging generation:
It is hard to believe that a university with as much diversity as USF would allow such a backward speaker to engage students with a message that could have real harm on students’ well-being… If the university would not allow a racist preacher on stage and say black students are sinful, then it should not allow someone who will preach homosexuality is sinful.
The editorial is radical but unfortunately is becoming increasingly common. This student is calling for Christians to be banned from the exchange of ideas that is supposed to be a part of a university education. I wonder if he realizes that he has just ruled Christianity outside the bounds of rational discourse.
With this kind of PR before the event, you can only imagine how the actual presentation went. The protesters came to the event and made their presence known. The campus newspaper reports:
As Rosaria Butterfield began her lecture about her journey and “train wreck conversion” from a lesbian professor to a Christian, a pastor’s wife and mother of four, nine students in the front row of the audience stood up silently, took off their jackets, turned their backs to Butterfield and linked arms in front of a packed Oval Theater guarded by two University Police officers and two security officers.
Their white T-shirts revealed hand-written messages:
“Rosario Butterfield does not speak for us.”
“USF is 4 hate speech.”
The nine remained standing silently throughout the two-hour lecture, in which Butterfield shared her story and love for the Bible.
Butterfield appears to be very busy these days. Her website says that she is booked-up for speaking into 2015. She is uniquely suited to bring the message that she brings. It also makes her a target. The activists view her story as a threat–as the above report makes clear. Pray for this dear sister. She’s fighting the good fight.
(HT: Carl Trueman)
That is very poor treatment of a gracious woman. Yet I’m glad she is able to speak at places like USF. I, too, enjoyed her book. It deserves wide reading.
Christian Post recently had an interview with Dan Barker, the co-founder of Freedom From Religion Foundation and outspoken atheist. He was also an Evangelical pastor for many years before he gradually lost his faith. Many of the commenters on this interview have asserted this about Barker: “He didn’t convert from anything, because he never was a true born-again Christian or he would still be one today,” Okay. I’ll grant them that. But by that same token, shouldn’t we be able to argue that Rosaria Butterfield was never a true atheist or a true lesbian? Thus, she didn’t have a “trainwreck conversion” but instead a coming to terms with who she always really was?
Lauren, I assume that you do not what the Bible says about the nature of conversion if that is your conclusion. One is only born again (converted) due to the supernatural work of the Spirit to make a dead heart alive. The Spirit, likewise, does not fail in that work He begins and thus our faith is not something we keep but that is kept for us by God. Therefore, since God cannot fail at what He does or fail to finish what he begins to create, one cannot be a true born-again believer and walk away from it. You can’t compare that in anyway to being a true lesbian or atheist. Being a lesbian or atheist is no supernatural work but the very natural result of sin that God is able to overthrow in an instant by His work and Word.
The basic problem with that is that when he starts talking it becomes apparent that Barker doesn’t even understand what a Christian actually believes.
When you hear him in a debate that becomes quickly apparent.
In addition, we all start out hating God, no exceptions. When we are saved, we are saved period, never to be unsaved.
So Barker’s life proves that he was never saved at all, while Rosaria’s proves the opposite.
These responses seem an awful lot like the “no true Scotsman defense” in theological garb. I understand that quite a few Evangelical churches don’t require a great deal of education to become a pastor, so maybe that applies to Barker, but he was a pastor for many years. Yet we are to assume he never understood what a Christian actually believes?
Where does that leave Barker, if he were once again to retreat on his atheism and accept Christ as his savior. If you think I’m concocting a straw man, stranger things have happened. A person may be raised in the faith, become an agnostic or atheist during young adulthood (the academic years) and then return to Christ later in life. After all, where does this leave C.S. Lewis?
Lauren, to your question, I would say no, because being “in Christ” is not equivalent to being atheist or homosexual. The former is an identity given by God, a new relationship of a person to Himself; the latter is a self-constructed identity based on one’s feelings, activities, or way of suppressing the truth about God.
You pose an interesting question which Steve has given an answer to. I will add my two cents by making a distinction between conversion and regeneration. The two are not the same yet they are inextricably linked when conversion is genuine. Many people “convert” to Christianity without experiencing “regeneration.” Subsequently, they follow a line that parallels many genuine conversion experiences but lack certain fruits of genuine conversion that can only be the result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. To be regenerated means to experience a radical inward transformation of one’s heart and mind that leads them to exercise repentance and a lasting faith born of the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit who implants new spiritual life in the believer and never leaves them. Some people “convert” and appear to have a faith like other believers and claim to believe the same things but have no real deep inward transformation that has all the divine marks of such transformation. It is often difficult to tell the difference. Only time will tell if one’s conversion experience was born of true Holy Spirit wrought regeneration. If not, as the parable of the sower makes clear, such people will eventually fall away from the faith they previously had. It was not a genuine faith.
Given this teaching of scripture the converse proposition you make does not hold. If one is a truly regenerated Christian they could not abandon the new life implanted within them because as Steve said it is supernaturally created and sustained because an all-powerful God did the work in the first place and an all-faithful God promises to complete the good work He began in every believer. Certainly believers stumble into sin and sometimes imbibe the sins of their former life, but they can never return to that life in any substantial way if they are regenerated. If they do, then they demonstrate that they are not truly born again and their conversion experience was not genuine. Over and over again the Bible makes clear that the evidence of regeneration and subsequent genuine conversion results in a faith that perseveres till the end (death of Christ’s 2nd Coming) and produces spiritual fruit only the new life God implanted and empowers could produce.
I thought her book had some flaws in it. She pushed the hospitality angle way too hard, all but implying that any given Christian should feel guilty and sinful for not welcoming open homosexuals under their roof, even if they have young families. She also doesn’t see a problem with inviting transgender individuals to church without telling them they can’t flaunt their “new” gender around the kids and other church folk there.
I know she’s not a liberal, but I do find it ironic that the “kinder, gentler” angle she’s pushing appears to be completely failing on these people. One of her big deals is that conservatives have been going about this conversation the wrong way and that homosexuals will like us more if we change our tone. Well, she’s changed her tone—it’s not working. Even though it may not be a major doctrinal concession, it’s still a concession, and its failure simply highlights to me why ultimately, our “tone” is not going to make or break anything with people who are truly unregenerate. I doubt that’s the moral she’ll draw though. Meanwhile, I am glad she’s out there sharing her perspective. I just think she’s needlessly fussy and scolding about the religious right.
“I know she’s not a liberal, but I do find it ironic that the “kinder, gentler” angle she’s pushing appears to be completely failing on these people.”
It worked on her, didn’t it?
I suspect that if you took a bunch of folks like Butterfield, which is to say dyed-in-the-wool homosexuals who have since converted to Christianity, left the lifestyle and adopted many right-leaning positions, put them all in a room together and asked them to describe the part Christians played in their journey to faith, the “kinder, gentler” variety would be over-represented relative to the scolding, being-kind-is-a-concession, don’t-let-them-under-your-roof variety.
I agree. In speaking of their pursuing of a relationship with her, she makes a great point: ” Ken and Floy didn’t identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ.”
To which I say, Bingo. That takes real humility.
Yes, not to mention that we are called to hold to the Truth in love.
amen, Esther, I heartily agree.
I’m hesitating to write out my full response because it seems that you’ve missed a lot of what she said in the book and it’s hard to know what to address without seeming like I’m trying to speak for Rosaria. What she encourages the church to do in interacting with and maybe even ministering to people in this kind of sinful path is not a change for her, but rather something she has witnessed as a needed change in the church based on her own observations in coming from that background and thus having sensitivity to people’s reactions to others who may still be in that life. I’m not surprised but repeatedly thankful at seeing how she is dealing so graciously and without flinching from issues with questioners who are sometimes hostile. Seeing hostility in the press or even attendees at a speaking engagement does not mean a particular tone does not ‘work’; it does mean she’s dealing head on with an issue that is core in contemporary culture. Ministering to individuals is something very different from speaking in public. And I’m not even sure you could call what she writes about a ‘method’ that would ‘work’ or ‘not work’, but rather an attitude of love toward one’s neighbors, based in confidence in God that casts out fear, no matter the particular manifestation of sin in these neighbors lives, with specific reminders that those in the homosexual community(ies) should be included in our mental category of ‘neighbor’. It’s not about ‘them’ liking ‘us’ more, but of realizing that without the work of Christ, we are all the same, and that in Christ, we are called to love, not necessarily conditional on the reactions of those in front of us. And this is a place where the church as a visible body has fallen short on many occasions and needs this reminder, I do believe. There /is/ the issue of pride in the LGBT community (as in all of humanity really), but there are also so many stories in that community about hurt coming from the church in one form or another, that this message is one I personally hope all Christians (myself included) will listen to and go before God to question and pray.
I’m not quite sure where you got the sense that, “She also doesn’t see a problem with inviting transgender individuals to church without telling them they can’t flaunt their “new” gender around the kids and other church folk there.” That seems to completely miss a lot of what she says about accepting but not affirming people who continue in sin. Check out this article toward the end for a direct response to the question of welcoming LGBT people into the church without talking directly about sin and repentance: http://www.usforacle.com/sexuality-christianity-lecture-creates-dialogue-protest-1.2839854#.UlQGF1O3uZO
she speaks/writes far better than I ever could about this issue – maybe a reread is in order? I know I’m planning on rereading to see what I missed.
At the very least, let’s pray not only for Dr. Butterfield, but also for those students who turned their backs on her. They are all what she once was.
Thank God for conversions, for his Holy Spirit and for Jesus in this world of darkness! I too thought her book was wonderful and will pray that the Spirit of God continues to give her courage to speak Light in our world!
I find it ironic (to the extreme) that our culture shouts from the rooftops to have peaceful discourse with each other, unless of course we find your viewpoints offensive. If that’s the case, they don’t want you in their discourse as a different perspective.
Denny, coming from Scalia’s comments that Christians will become enemies of the human race (paraphrase), it’s not surprising that we see Christians outside the bounds of rational discourse. All true that in a realitivistic society that preaches tolerance to all, unless we don’t like you and therefore can’t be allowed into our club.
I still find it laughable that people even use the term atheist anymore, by both Christians and “claimed atheists”. One can’t ever be an atheist or “true atheist” as you cannot offer proof for a negative existential truth claim. What they are (if they will be intellectually honest with themselves), is agnostic.
Ian, are you agnostic about Zeus, or Shiva or Odin? Are you agnostic about unicorns or leprechauns, or pixies? I doubt it. You would claim that there is no evidence for the existence of these gods and until there is, the most rational position to take is that they do not exist. So it goes with the atheist. There is no empirical evidence for the Judeo-Christian god so the most rational position to take is that he does not exist either.
“It’s the story of her conversion from lesbian feminist scholar to Christianity.”
That’s proper theology too. When one becomes a Christian, he ceases to be a homosexual. So often you hear of “gay Christians” or “feminist Christians” or the like. I’m glad she understands that true conversion involves, well, conversion.
It’s a little ironic that on the same day that Denny posted this, he deleted my comment in which I clearly state some details of my deconversion from comlementarianism. I appreciate that he allows my many comments, but when I try to describe my journey out of complementarianism, that is deleted. One major factor for me was interviewing famous, applauded comp theologians, and noting how their comments did not always jive with the facts. I realized there was no such thing as male authority. Authority resides only in truth and justice.
Suzanne, maybe Denny deleted your comment because you frequently post and rarely offer anything new. Beyond that, I have noticed that you often refer to “I”, “me”, “myself” in your comments and seem very self absorbed and self referential. It doesn’t seem very healthy to me. I might be wrong, but I’m just sharing my honest impression based on your many posts on this blog.
A testimony is like that. I can’t speak for others, and I can’t name the people involved in my enlightenment. Anyway, conversion works both ways. That’s all.
Suzanne, the odd thing is that when most people share testimonies they point to Christ and what he did and I don’t see that pattern in what you shared here or elsewhere. In fact, I don’t remember you ever sharing your actually testimony. In fact, you used the word deconversion from complementarianism, which is a non-sequitur in the first place since this post a) is about conversion to Christ, not de-conversion from a particular theology b) didn’t describe Butterfield’s views on complementarianism. But that is the trend that I’ve noticed with your posts- I can’t even count the number of occasions in which you have gone off topic from a blog entry, invariably to attempt to engage Denny and others in an argument about complementarianism. This strikes me as very insecure and immature behavior. Again, I could be wrong in my assessment here, but I would personally advise that Denny just go ahead and delete all of your posts until you can demonstrate a willingness to post on topic.
Since you ask – I have listened to and enjoyed Rosaria’s testimony, in spite of the fact that she uses “I” and “me” in every sentence. It sounds natural.
Second, the main reason I came here and come back is because of the grief and pain of the translators of the NIV. Those I know personally. I then researched and interviewed and emailed those who testified that it was an untrustworthy translation. Denny is involved in this and this is one place where I can appeal to those involved.
But if I say names, Denny will delete this. The sadness that I experienced realizing that this affair of the antiNIVers did not lead to Christ, broke my heart. I lived with oppression as a woman because I thought there was truth behind it, but I had to learn otherwise.
The Bible remains beautiful to me but only in the original languages. Translations are all sadness and dissension. I am lucky to have trained early as a teenager in the biblical languages and they have become my refuge.
Here’s what I know, Suzanne – when someone turns a conversation about gardening or baseball into a rant about how awful George W. Bush or Obama is, you’re probably dealing with someone who has lost broader perspective and is obsessed. The same thing occurs in theology. Give it some thought. You should consider saying your piece, but writing on blog entries that are actually relevant to your comments. You will only make yourself more upset and will ultimately harden people against your views if you keep trying to force a point and engage in non sequitur comments or rants. My 2 cents, for what it’s worth.
That’s fine. For my two cents, there was something wrong that happened and Denny knows what it is.
Sodomy, first and for mostly, is a judgement from the Eternal Almighty against society for irreverence and injustice. When addressing the subject of homosexuality it should be viewed via the national sin and personal sin of the viewer. Repentance is both a national and personal requirement. So instead of asking sodomites to repent it would be wiser to address the national debt of sin.
Although sodomy is a sin, it is also a judgement against sin.
Do not overlook the fact that in the providence of God the protesters get to hear her testimony! Cf. Romans 1:16
Exactly! I was thinking the same thing, how wonderful that they stood there silently and not angrily yelling so that she could not be heard, and in the process they too could hear. 🙂
I would ask you this- is eyewitness testimony in a court of law that convicts someone of a crime empirical evidence?
Sure, rational logic it is. Call me an agnostic when it comes towards unicorns and leprechauns. The problem is, while many of us see evidence of God or proof if you will, the “strong” atheist would rather try and dictate/stratify what types/kinds of evidences he or she would need to observe to justify the same belief, rather than acknowledging “I have yet to see enough evidence so far, but not ruling out evidence in the future”. While holding a negative existential truth claim, one cannot say that they know for certain their position, but rather the rational response is, ‘I have not seen enough evidence YET’, which makes them agnostic.
Actually, I don’t disagree with the approach taken by Ken and Floy as she describes it (though the stuff about how they were “green” just like her is quite silly). However, she ignores specific aspects of their situation that made the approach work, for example, that they were an elderly couple free of children to consider protecting. She goes out of her way to ram home that children don’t need to be protected, and in fact they’ll be better off if you introduce them to the concept of homosexuality ASAP so they can “minister” to open homosexuals/transgender individuals/whatever in your home. That’s way above and beyond what Ken and Floy did, and if I may say so, her attitude about it is very legalistic.
It’s one thing for an adult to have a personal, face-to-face conversation with a woman who’s curious. It’s an entirely different thing to bring a man in drag to church and let him sing the bass, loudly, so that the five-year-old across the aisle can’t take her horrified eyes off of him. Children deserve an atmosphere of normalcy until they are grown themselves. We as adults owe it to them. But because Butterfield depends wholly on revelation and can’t understand the instinctive, natural-light repulsion to these particular sins (as she’s frankly admitted herself), she lacks that sense of care when it comes to allowing them into a child’s world. Merely withholding the graphic sexual details is not enough.