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The Unlikely Convert continues her campaign to glorify God (via TGC)

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Rosaria Butterfield on the Puritans (and more) …..

Three Unbiblical Points

As I write and speak today, 14 years have elapsed since my queer activist days. I’m a new creature in Christ, and my testimony is still like iodine on starch. I’m sensitive to three unbiblical points of view Christian communities harbor when they address the issue of Christianity and homosexuality. Everywhere I go, I confront all three.

1. The Freudian position. This position states same-sex attraction is a morally neutral and fixed part of the personal makeup and identity of some, that some are “gay Christians” and others are not. It’s true that temptation isn’t sin (though what you do with it may be); but that doesn’t give us biblical license to create an identity out of a temptation pattern. To do so is a recipe for disaster. This position comes directly from Sigmund Freud, who effectually replaced the soul with sexual identity as the singular defining characteristic of humanity. God wants our whole identities, not partitioned ones.

2. The revisionist heresy. This position declares that the Bible’s witness against homosexuality, replete throughout the Old and New Testaments, results from misreadings, mistranslations, and misapplications, and that Scripture doesn’t prohibit monogamous homosexual sexual relations, thereby embracing antinomianism and affirming gay marriage.

3. The reparative therapy heresy. This position contends a primary goal of Christianity is to resolve homosexuality through heterosexuality, thus failing to see that repentance and victory over sin are God’s gifts and failing to remember that sons and daughters of the King can be full members of Christ’s body and still struggle with sexual temptation. This heresy is a modern version of the prosperity gospel. Name it. Claim it. Pray the gay away.

Indeed, if you only read modern (post 19th-century) texts, it would rightly seem these are three viable options, not heresies. But I beg to differ.9781573580953-kistler-read-puritans-today

Worldview matters. And if we don’t reach back before the 19th century, back to the Bible itself, the Westminster divines, and the Puritans, we will limp along, defeated. Yes, the Holy Spirit gives you a heart of flesh and the mind to understand and love the Lord and his Word. But without good reading practices even this redeemed heart grows flabby, weak, shaky, and ill. You cannot lose your salvation, but you can lose everything else.

Enter John Owen. Thomas Watson. Richard Baxter. Thomas Brooks. Jeremiah Burroughs. William Gurnall. The Puritans. They didn’t live in a world more pure than ours, but they helped create one that valued biblical literacy. Owen’s work on indwelling sin is the most liberating balm to someone who feels owned by sexual sin. You are what (and how) you read. J. C. Ryle said it takes the whole Bible to make a whole Christian. Why does sin lurk in the minds of believers as a law, demanding to be obeyed? How do we have victory if sin’s tentacles go so deep, if Satan knows our names and addresses? We stand on the ordinary means of grace: Scripture reading, prayer, worship, and the sacraments. We embrace the covenant of church membership for real accountability and community, knowing that left to our own devices we’ll either be led astray or become a danger to those we love most. We read our Bibles daily and in great chunks. We surround ourselves with a great cloud of witnesses who don’t fall prey to the same worldview snares we and our post-19th century cohorts do.

In short, we honor God with our reading diligence. We honor God with our reading sacrifice. If you watch two hours of TV and surf the internet for three, what would happen if you abandoned these habits for reading the Bible and the Puritans? For real. Could the best solution to the sin that enslaves us be just that simple and difficult all at the same time? We create Christian communities that are safe places to struggle because we know sin is also “lurking at [our] door.” God tells us that sin’s “desire is for you, but you shall have mastery over it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin isn’t a matter of knowing better, it isn’t (only) a series of bad choices—and if it were, we wouldn’t need a Savior, just need a new app on our iPhone.

We also take heart, remembering the identity of our soul and thus rejecting the Freudian ideal that sexual identity competes with the soul. And we encourage other image-bearers to reflect the Original in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, not in the vapid reductionism that claims image-of-God theology means he loves you just way you are, just the way your sin manifests itself. Long hours traveling the road paved by Bible reading, theological study, and a solid grasp on hermeneutical fallacies gets you to a place where as sons and daughters of the King, people tempted in all manner of sin, we echo Owen: “The law grace writes in our hearts must answer to the law written in God’s Word.” We also take heart, remembering that God faithfully walks this journey with us, that victory over sin comes in two forms: liberty from it and humility regarding its stronghold. But it comes, truly, just as he will.

from “You are What — and How — You Read”, by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, at The Gospel Coalition.

See my review of Dr. Butterfield’s book (The Secret Life of an Unlikely Convert ), The Heroic Faith of Hospitality.

Written by mrsdkmiller

February 17, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Heroic Faith of Hospitality

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Reposting as a reminder:

Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield will be speaking at the Biblical Counseling Institute (Pittsburgh) spring conference on Biblical Womanhood, April 26-27, 2013, at Christ Bible Church  in Cranberry Township, PA. Go here for more information and to register.

——————————————————————————————

Every once in a while a book comes along that forces you to rethink some important stuff.  Who can come to Christ; what you’ve done in the way of establishing principles and guarding and protecting your children against evil and falsehoods; how you practice the commands of Christ and how crucial some of the seemingly inconsequential commands are to the fabric and fiber of the life of the church – and more personally, in the lives of believers. You realize you’ve backed strongholds, given no thought at all to whether they are compatible with Scripture or merely reflect adherence to talking points, and a bullet train has come barreling down the tracks, leaving splintered presuppositions in its wake.

What this book has done to me is drive me to make a confession.wpid-41t4ptakMWL._BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-clickTopRight35-76_AA278_PIkin4BottomRight-6722_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, begins with the story of the author’s conversion while she was “living a very good life”. The back cover copy reads: “She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum.” A lesbian in a committed relationship, Rosaria was a reliable and solid fixture in the LGBT activist community. That she could be trusted to slay any unruly dragons erupting from the carefully contained conservative and Christian sphere was a given, simply understood by all who knew her. She was in the midst of compiling information for a book about the religious right when she encountered a man of God who defied labeling and stormed the gates of hell in a very… un-stormtrooper-like manner.

The problem with many conversion stories is that the narrative is so sensational that often the reader ends up wishing he had the same dramatic account as the author – or at least something that made for equally stirring reading! “Why can’t my born-again experience be like ___’s!?”  You can almost hear the “no fair” muttered under the breath.  It becomes all about the convert; Christ the converting Messiah is minimized. This conversion story, however, though full of sensational elements and drama, makes the reader wish she were more like the one who shared the Good News with the convert than the convert herself.

Enter the hero of the story, Ken Smith, pastor of Syracuse (NY) Reformed Presbyterian Church. He read Rosaria’s scathing editorial in the local paper decrying the presence of a Christian, pro-family group on campus and replied directly to her with some simple questions, a summary of which would be, “How do you know you are right?” This set the English professor back on her heels and commenced a dialogue which then led to a friendship between the specialist in Queer Theory and a rather ordinary-sounding older pastor and his wife. Over shared meals seasoned with discussions about poetry, music and knitting, Ken and Floy Smith demonstrated Christian hospitality, and in the process, caused much confusion for Rosaria. They never denied Christ, praying to and speaking about Him as if they knew Him personally, intimately. They introduced Him to Rosaria as if they believed she really could come to know Him, not seeing her as if her sins were such a stain that nothing could cover them.

She writes later, “I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. …  Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.”

The Unlikely Convert part of the story is articulated gracefully and eloquently – without salacious details. (I just handed the book to my 14-year old daughter, who has been begging to read it.)  Rosaria is an exquisite storyteller, employing direct and simple progression in her thinking about this transformation in her life.

“This word – conversion – is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God,” she writes in her Acknowledgements, subtitled,  “God, Why Pick Me?”. “I know of only one word to describe this time-released encounter: impact. Impact is, I believe, the space between the multiple car crash and the body count.”train wreck

While Ken and Floy were careful never to identify with Rosaria, the lesbian, “they listened to me and identified with Christ”.  What defined the essence of the hospitality she experienced with them  was that they were sensitive to Rosaria in her self-awareness. “My past was my shrine and any person or worldview that entered into my little world had to genuflect to this. I wondered about these Christians. Surely some of them had pasts… How did they let go of their pasts without losing their identity? Who would I be without my lesbian identity?” Never, she says, did she feel as though her identity was a stain in their lives.

No, this conversion story doesn’t make me want to be like Rosaria. What I want is to be like Ken Smith. No, strike that.  I want to imitate Christ the way he imitates Him.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert reveals sweet and bittersweet accounts of Rosaria’s walk with Christ through her “coming out” as a Christian to the LGBT and academic communities, her maneuvering through the sometimes explosive and complicated church-y landscape that endeavors to “fix” the single person, and her maturing into marriage and learning to spread her own wings of Christian hospitality to bring under their shelter multiple foster and adoptive children.  I cried at some point in every one of her chapters and all the way through some of them. Not for sentimentality’s sake but because Rosaria’s true Hero is the same as mine. The same who makes a train wreck out of our false identities so that we have nothing or no one left to identify with but the One who makes all things new. As she says, “Faith that endures is heroic, not sentimental.” Enduring faith, standing firm on the other side of the wreck, firmly in Christ.

So now my confession.

For years I have avoided shopping at the Super WalMart, not because the place is so huge that shopping there counts for 2 workouts in a week or because it’s irritating that they only open 5 of their 45 checkout lanes, despite how long the lines are.

The reason I pulled off my little boycott of WalMart, and particularly when my children were young and in tow, is because of the presence of a cashier who, over several months, was undergoing gender change treatments. My kids were young, but they could tell when a man was underneath that dress, and I didn’t want them to … well….be tainted, stained. To have their young eyes polluted by the sight.

This very “heroic” stand against immorality came back to haunt me as I read Rosaria’s book. She said, “I had been the beneficiary of real Christian evangelism. Ken Smith had spent time with me – and not just spare time. He spent pricey time – real time. He didn’t hide behind bumper stickers or slogans. He never let pride masquerade for principle.”

Every single person I meet deserves real time. Every single soul created in the image of God deserves a demonstration of real Christian evangelism, of heroic faith, not sentimental moralism. Hospitality that turns strangers into Christian friends: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby, some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

“Real Christian friends are like that,” Rosaria writes. “We fail one another and in repentance and restoration, we are made stronger and more humble. It is nice to have friends like that. Comforting. Restorative.”

Written by mrsdkmiller

April 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

How much of the unlikely and unexpected can your church stand?

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“Where does a church like this exist?”

This was the question my good friend put to me that morning over coffee. She’d asked to meet with me because she had many thoughts swirling in her mind post-Rosaria (You know — that period in people’s lives after they’ve read Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. See my review here.).

Among those many thoughts and ponderings, this one stood out. Wow. What a great question. Really think about that. Where do churches like the Syracuse RP exist? Is my church like this? (I like to think it is.) Do we cross over out of comfort zones and into messy areas of life tainted by icky sins?

 

tumblr_ma97h3rM6i1rvxsq6o1_1347481737_cover

What brings a church like this into existence, if they didn’t start out that way?

James Faris, over at Gentle Reformation, wrestles messily (his term) with this question and others as they pertain to the RPCNA and men who have gone outside comfort zones and had their efforts blessed in surprising and unlikely ways. It’s a worthy inquiry for all of our churches:

 

It strikes me that Dr. Roy Blackwood and Pastor Ken Smith have this in common:

[T}hey believe that God will powerfully change people.

They believe that Jesus will build his church as he has promised (Matthew 16:18)…

[T]hey expect it to happen daily.

They believe that the word of God is powerful, and they regularly use it winsomely with those who are not ideologically similar (Hebrews 4:12). 

(Read more here:  Cultivating a Holy Brotherhood.)

 

And ponder the question yourself. Could someone speak in wonder about your congregation, “Do churches like this really exist”?

Written by mrsdkmiller

April 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Heroic Faith of Hospitality

with 8 comments

Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield will be speaking at the Biblical Counseling Institute (Pittsburgh) spring conference on Biblical Womanhood, April 26-27, 2013, at Christ Bible Church  in Cranberry Township, PA. Go here for more information and to register.

——————————————————————————————

Every once in a while a book comes along that forces you to rethink some important stuff.  Who can come to Christ; what you’ve done in the way of establishing principles and guarding and protecting your children against evil and falsehoods; how you practice the commands of Christ and how crucial some of the seemingly inconsequential commands are to the fabric and fiber of the life of the church – and more personally, in the lives of believers. You realize you’ve backed strongholds, given no thought at all to whether they are compatible with Scripture or merely reflect adherence to talking points, and a bullet train has come barreling down the tracks, leaving splintered presuppositions in its wake.

What this book has done to me is drive me to make a confession.wpid-41t4ptakMWL._BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-clickTopRight35-76_AA278_PIkin4BottomRight-6722_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, begins with the story of the author’s conversion while she was “living a very good life”. The back cover copy reads: “She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum.” A lesbian in a committed relationship, Rosaria was a reliable and solid fixture in the LGBT activist community. That she could be trusted to slay any unruly dragons erupting from the carefully contained conservative and Christian sphere was a given, simply understood by all who knew her. She was in the midst of compiling information for a book about the religious right when she encountered a man of God who defied labeling and stormed the gates of hell in a very… un-stormtrooper-like manner.

The problem with many conversion stories is that the narrative is so sensational that often the reader ends up wishing he had the same dramatic account as the author – or at least something that made for equally stirring reading! “Why can’t my born-again experience be like ___’s!?”  You can almost hear the “no fair” muttered under the breath.  It becomes all about the convert; Christ the converting Messiah is minimized. This conversion story, however, though full of sensational elements and drama, makes the reader wish she were more like the one who shared the Good News with the convert than the convert herself.

Enter the hero of the story, Ken Smith, pastor of Syracuse (NY) Reformed Presbyterian Church. He read Rosaria’s scathing editorial in the local paper decrying the presence of a Christian, pro-family group on campus and replied directly to her with some simple questions, a summary of which would be, “How do you know you are right?” This set the English professor back on her heels and commenced a dialogue which then led to a friendship between the specialist in Queer Theory and a rather ordinary-sounding older pastor and his wife. Over shared meals seasoned with discussions about poetry, music and knitting, Ken and Floy Smith demonstrated Christian hospitality, and in the process, caused much confusion for Rosaria. They never denied Christ, praying to and speaking about Him as if they knew Him personally, intimately. They introduced Him to Rosaria as if they believed she really could come to know Him, not seeing her as if her sins were such a stain that nothing could cover them.

She writes later, “I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. …  Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.”

The Unlikely Convert part of the story is articulated gracefully and eloquently – without salacious details. (I just handed the book to my 14-year old daughter, who has been begging to read it.)  Rosaria is an exquisite storyteller, employing direct and simple progression in her thinking about this transformation in her life.

“This word – conversion – is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God,” she writes in her Acknowledgements, subtitled,  “God, Why Pick Me?”. “I know of only one word to describe this time-released encounter: impact. Impact is, I believe, the space between the multiple car crash and the body count.”train wreck

While Ken and Floy were careful never to identify with Rosaria, the lesbian, “they listened to me and identified with Christ”.  What defined the essence of the hospitality she experienced with them  was that they were sensitive to Rosaria in her self-awareness. “My past was my shrine and any person or worldview that entered into my little world had to genuflect to this. I wondered about these Christians. Surely some of them had pasts… How did they let go of their pasts without losing their identity? Who would I be without my lesbian identity?” Never, she says, did she feel as though her identity was a stain in their lives.

No, this conversion story doesn’t make me want to be like Rosaria. What I want is to be like Ken Smith. No, strike that.  I want to imitate Christ the way he imitates Him.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert reveals sweet and bittersweet accounts of Rosaria’s walk with Christ through her “coming out” as a Christian to the LGBT and academic communities, her maneuvering through the sometimes explosive and complicated church-y landscape that endeavors to “fix” the single person, and her maturing into marriage and learning to spread her own wings of Christian hospitality to bring under their shelter multiple foster and adoptive children.  I cried at some point in every one of her chapters and all the way through some of them. Not for sentimentality’s sake but because Rosaria’s true Hero is the same as mine. The same who makes a train wreck out of our false identities so that we have nothing or no one left to identify with but the One who makes all things new. As she says, “Faith that endures is heroic, not sentimental.” Enduring faith, standing firm on the other side of the wreck, firmly in Christ.

So now my confession.

For years I have avoided shopping at the Super WalMart, not because the place is so huge that shopping there counts for 2 workouts in a week or because it’s irritating that they only open 5 of their 45 checkout lanes, despite how long the lines are.

The reason I pulled off my little boycott of WalMart, and particularly when my children were young and in tow, is because of the presence of a cashier who, over several months, was undergoing gender change treatments. My kids were young, but they could tell when a man was underneath that dress, and I didn’t want them to … well….be tainted, stained. To have their young eyes polluted by the sight.

This very “heroic” stand against immorality came back to haunt me as I read Rosaria’s book. She said, “I had been the beneficiary of real Christian evangelism. Ken Smith had spent time with me – and not just spare time. He spent pricey time – real time. He didn’t hide behind bumper stickers or slogans. He never let pride masquerade for principle.”

Every single person I meet deserves real time. Every single soul created in the image of God deserves a demonstration of real Christian evangelism, of heroic faith, not sentimental moralism. Hospitality that turns strangers into Christian friends: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby, some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

“Real Christian friends are like that,” Rosaria writes. “We fail one another and in repentance and restoration, we are made stronger and more humble. It is nice to have friends like that. Comforting. Restorative.”

Written by mrsdkmiller

March 21, 2013 at 8:48 am

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