Skip to main content

The Grace of God for Sinners

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Gender discussions, same-sex relationships, and sexuality permeate the culture in which we live. Often, as Christians, we steer clear of the debates on these issues for fear of getting our hands dirty (read our views changing). In steps the powerful story of Rosaria Butterfield, a former English professor whose life was filled with rage against the right wing, who campaigned for women's and lesbian rights. Rosaria was steeped in a lesbian relationship, being committed to her partner and their political activism. She writes, "In spite of having a worldview that valued flexibility, unanswerable Big Life Questions started to nag at me while I was doing initial research and writing for me second book, a study of the rise of the Religious Right in America,..." (6). Rosaria goes onto say that she published a letter in the local newspaper that bashed the Promise Keepers for their gender politics. After receiving so many nasty letters, she received a letter "was the kindest letter of opposition that I had ever received" (9). Pastor Ken Smith of Syracuse RPC wrote her to encourage her to examine her presuppositions regarding the big issues, including gender. After talking to Ken on the phone, Rosaria agreed to meet with him and his wife to start a dialogue. This book is Rosaria' story of being changed by the grace of God, from a position of hostility and enmity toward God, to one of praise and thankfulness to God. Moving for a lesbian relationship to a marriage relationship with a man was a radical change for her.

Why is this book such a powerful message of the gospel?

For one, Pastor Ken Smith was a prime example of what loving our neighbors, even those who are radically in opposition to us, can do for the growth of the good news to flourish. Rosaria writes, "Ken and Floy invited the stranger in - not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to learn and to dialogue" (11). They didn't bang Rosaria over the head with biblical judgment, but patiently showed compassion to this woman who was on a journey. From the beginning Ken and Floy didn't believe that homosexuality was a thing to be commended, but they led with the love of Christ in showing Rosaria compassion. Rosaria had never met Christian believers who lived their faith without vile contempt for the secular world of others. In other words, this book is a great example of the type of love we are invited to show to the stranger, the outcast, and yes, the lesbian.

Secondly, Rosaria's departure from her former way of life led her to a Reformed and Presbyterian church not usually known for dealing with people from a homosexual lifestyle. Yet, as Rosaria tells it, this church was the place for her "to repent, heal, learn, and thrive" (24). The church didn't send her away to a parachurch ministry but walked with her by God's grace through all of her struggles. Yet, Rosaris used her story to help call others to follow Christ, to bear witness to him in all the muck and mud of sin and its ugliness. The road of repentance and sanctification was not initially peaceful for Rosaria. She encountered students who called her a liar and were verbally abusive to her. Yet, as time went on, she began to grow in her relationships with church members and others. If we learn anything from this book, it is that the love of the stranger, compassion for the outcast brings to the foreground the message of the gospel in a greater way than denouncing the sinner.

The further chapters in the book elucidate subjects as broad as exclusive Psalmody in worship, adoption, and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Although I did not agree on the issues of Psalmody in worship, I appreciate Rosaria's desire to be faithful in giving a clear understanding of her belief about these issues (88-94). You will gain much in reading this book about God's overwhelming grace, the way the church should love sinners, and the way Rosaria lives out her faith today. I hope this book is an encouragement to those struggling with homosexuality, identity, and the Christian faith.

Thanks to Crown and Covenant Publications for the copy of this book in exchange for review.


Popular posts from this blog

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Growing up with the NIV, the NKJV was not a bible I was familiar with.  This new NKJV Study Bible takes all of the features of the Thomas Nelson Study Bible and makes them better.  Right out of the box I noticed that the Bible was considerably lighter than most study bibles I have read.  Further, the text font was much larger than most study editions, although I’m not quite sure of the size. The aquamarine color was a great touch and the Bible was finely put together, enduring the wear of many coming years of use.
Why is this Bible worth the purchase?  First, the study notes were great for extra handling of particular confusing and messy areas of Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.  Yet, the study notes aren’t an obstruction to the reading of the biblical text.  Clearly, the editors have taken great care in making the text stand out and the notes illuminate certain themes and areas of Scripture.  Second, the NKJV takes into account all t…