Mar 4, 2013

Train Wreck Conversion

I am currently reading through Rosaria Butterfield's, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.  I will list key thoughts here, which I will update regularly until I am finished, and at which point I will present a brief review of the book.  I am 40% of the way through--reading during my leisure.  Thus far, for me the book is raw, real, refreshing and reminds me of why I am in minstry, both church and academic.  Unless something changes, I will likely view this as the most compelling autobiography I have read, or at least the best of the last 50 books I have read.


The Christian must transcend the twin values of our culture: to acquire and to achieve, in order to live fixedly on the one enduring pursuit--glorifying God.  Ironically, however, the feelings, the experiential change in values tends to follow obedience rather than precede it, i.e. it is not until actual obedience that that the Christian accomplishes this exchange.  Cf. 1 John 2:16


[Added 4/15/13]
 "Indeed, adoption is not only a powerful mission, but is also a central Christian doctrine. I think about this everyday. Russell D. Moore penned a book entitled Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. This is a book that I would buy by the case and send to every Christian pastor I know, if I could afford to do this. I especially love how he deals head-on with the accusation that adoptive parents are not “real” parents. Borrowing from J. Gresham Machen’s book, The Virgin Birth of Christ, Moore says this: “if Joseph is not “really” the father of Jesus, you and I are going to hell” (p. 67). He goes on to explain: Jesus’ identity as the Christ… is tied to his identity as the descendent of David, the legitimate heir to David’s throne. Jesus saves us as David’s son, the offspring of Abraham, the Christ. That human identity came to Jesus through adoption, Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ roots in Abraham and David through the line of Joseph (Moore, 67)."

     Butterfield, Rosaria (2012-09-06). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 2642-2647). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.

 Note: Another way of putting it, if it wasn't for adoption we would all be going to Hell.  Why? If Christ had a biological father, He would not be the Son of God.  If he had not had an adoptive father, He would not have been paternally in the line of the Messiah.

[Added 3/27/13]

"We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart.  Why is that?  Here is what I think.  I believe that there is no greater enemy to vital life-breathing faith than insisting on cultural sameness.  When fear rules your theology, God is nowhere to be found in your paradigm, no matter how many Bible verses you tack on to it."

[Added 3/18/13]
The Inadequacy of Postmodern Approaches to Spirituality:

Rosaria Butterfield writes that during her time of struggle, i.e. “conviction,” people tried various postmodern approaches to help her. She says,

“During this time of struggle, others tried to help. A Methodist pastor and the Dean of the Chapel at Syracuse University believed that I did not have to give up everything to honor God. Indeed, he told me, since God made me a lesbian, I gave God honor by living an honorable lesbian life. He told me that I could have Jesus and my lesbian lover. This was a very appealing prospect. But I had been reading and rereading scripture, and there are no such marks of postmodern ‘both/ and’ in the Bible.”

[Added 3/15/13]

On her wedding ceremony, Rosaria Butterfield states:

    "One component of Christian weddings in the Reformed Presbyterian church is something called the “biblical charge.” In it, the Pastor charges (i.e., commands or exhorts) the groom and bride to remember God’s authority in creating the institution of marriage. I quote here in full, with the author’s permission, the biblical charge written and delivered to us by Pastor Doug Comin at our wedding:

    'Dearly beloved, we are not gathered here today in order to observe a social convention devised by human wisdom for the mutual comfort and happiness of men and women. Nor do we assemble here to participate in a mere tradition which has come down to us from ages past and which we have deemed to be worth preserving among ourselves. We are gathered in this place in order to acknowledge, celebrate, and solemnize the divine institution of marriage, which is ordained by the Creator and Savior of the world, sealed and governed by His authority, and entered into by His people with humble obedience and heartfelt rejoicing for the wondrous provision of the Lord for their mutual happiness and completion. It is the popular misconception of marriage as a mere social convention or quaint tradition invented by the brain of man which has led to the denigrating of this holy relation, the multiplication of unspeakable immorality, the common unrest between husbands and wives, and the gradual disintegration of society and civilization. For if marriage exists merely by human authority then men and women may do with it or conduct themselves in it as they please. They may redefine it, or they may abandon it altogether. But if marriage is a divine institution, then it is governed by a higher authority. It becomes, then, a matter of obedience, and the conduct of husbands and wives within marriage is a conduct for which they must give their account to God.  The original institution of marriage is therefore basic to our understanding of marriage, our estimation of marriage, and our right behavior in marriage...."'

    Butterfield, Rosaria (2012-09-06). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 1880-1894). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.

    [Added 3/11/13]
“The purpose-driven movement makes conversion a simple matter of saying the magic words, a mantra that makes Jesus the Mr. Rogers of the conscience. In his popular book, The Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren represents conversion in these words: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you” (p. 59). There is a pit of false hope in placing our faith in our words rather than in God’s compassion to receive sinners to himself. Warren falsely (and dangerously) assures us of our salvation. He writes: “If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!” (p. 59). How do I judge my own sincerity? The saving grace of salvation is located in a holy and electing God, and a sacrificing, suffering, and obedient Savior. Stakes this high can never rest on my sincerity. When I read something like this, I do not recognize Jesus, the Holy Bible, my conversion or myself at all.”

Note: There are layers of issues here.  The most compelling, to me, are Butterfield's indictment of Warren as well as her suggestion that such a gospel (the Warren gospel) is too small/impotent to save someone like herself.

    [Added 3/11/13]
“As a feminist scholar, this concept— worldview— was the most important concept in my intellectual arsenal. Worldview is central to feminist studies and to any field of study that analyzes oppressed or marginalized peoples. It helps us to understand how interpretations come from the frames of intelligibility that we use to look at the events that matter. Critical perspective asserts that we make meaning out of our lives not by personal experience but by the frames through which we filter that experience.  On my Women’s Studies 101 syllabus, I wrote this about critical perspective:

NB (nota bene, or, “note well”): Students are expected to write all papers and examination essay questions from a feminist worldview or critical perspective. In Spanish class you speak and think in Spanish. In Women’s Studies you speak and think in feminist paradigms. Examination essay questions written from critical perspectives outside of feminism will receive an automatic grade of F. Papers written from critical perspectives outside of feminism will be allowed one revision. Any student who is unable to write and think from a feminist critical perspective or worldview with a clear conscious should drop the class now.”

Note: It is hard to imagine a more striking example of the presuppositional nature of conflicting belief systems.

    “Feminism has a better reputation than Christianity at all major U.S. universities and this fact really bothers (and confuses) many Christians.  Feminism has truly captured the soul of secular U.S. universities and the church has either been too weak or too ignorant to know and to know better. But how has the church responded to this truth?  Too often the church sets itself up as victim of this paradigm shift in America, but I think this is dishonest. [See note]  Here’s what I think happened: since all major U.S. universities had Christian roots, too many Christians thought that they could rest in Christian tradition, not Christian relevance.  Too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue.  There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.  Like it or not, in the court of public opinion, feminists and not Bible-believing Christians have won the war of intellectual integrity.  And Christians are in part to blame for this."

[Added 03/09/13]:
Additional contributing factors sometimes include: arrogance on the part of Christians, the anti-intellectualism of some believers who feel that faith and reason are not compatible, or that reason is unnecessary, cf. Tertullian's credo quia absurdum, or perhaps even out of laziness.  Christian faith absolutely meets every legitimate demand of reason.  As noted by many Christian thinkers, Christianity is based on faith, but it is not a blind faith.  In fact, it alone provides the justification for knowledge--observe how Butterfield claims that as a postmodernist, she did not believe in truth.  Further, it is not until a person comes to faith that, in the words of VanTil, his "intellect is truly free."

It is the responsibility of Christian education/educators/institutions to: 1.) out think the world for Christ; 2.) operate from a thoroughly Christian WV in the respective disciplines showing how true science issues from a presuppositional commitment to Christ; 3.) advance science by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and by thoroughly bringing the realm of knowledge and science into submission to Him.  Oftentimes our educational institutions are more interested in following the model of secular universities (business as well as academic), than in accomplishing the above goals. We ought to model excellence for the sake of Christ.  When we don't, we dishonor Him.  Consider advertisements such as: "___________ Christian College [or Seminary] is the most affordable, convenient, personal, etc. option for your education."  These may be legitimate concerns, but these institutions should have advancing the Kingdom as their highest goal, which means they should be trend-setting in their fields, and most importantly, should emphasize the spiritual and intellectual development of their students.  When they fail in this latter pursuit, they become irrelevant.

 [Added 03/09/13]
“The talk 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, Jose. Not on God’s terms.  What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sin 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 young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem that 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.  Only Jesus himself can do that. [See Note]  The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this."

Note: Butterfield is right, sin must be mortified.  In contrast to this last line, though, sin cannot be redeemed, i.e. Christ does not redeem sin.  Rather, He redeems sinners from their sin and the Father's grace covers sin, both past sin as well as any future sin that issues from the corrupting influence of the unredeemed flesh. In principle the Christian is fully redeemed.  In practice, though, due to this corrupting influence, he still sins and acts contrary to his new principle of righteousness.  There will come a day, though, when the believer is free from this influence--when he is in his glorified body. 


I have recently listened to the interview with Rosaria Butterfield at Patrick Henry College.  Here is an excerpt and a link to the interview:

“When the Lord calls someone to obedience out of a life sin, that’s going to hurt a lot of people.  It just is.  A lot of people will be hurt by the obedience of one public sinner.  A lot of people were hurt by my obedience.  And, in our flesh we want to try to stop the hurt, instead of—than trust that God will use that hurt in the redemption and calling out of His people.  But, I’m grateful that when I had that stirring that I was not in a church that minimized that.  You know, I never heard anybody say, ‘God has a perfect plan for your life’…No one said that to me.  They said, ‘Rosaria, count the cost, this is going to be brutal, this going to be bloody.’” –Rosaria Butterfield, Interview at Patrick Henry College

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