Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian FaithThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is about a lesbian tenured English Professor at a large research university (Syracuse University) who came to know Christ in her mid thirties. This is her story of that conversion. A fantastic book that will inspire and challenge you in your Christian faith. She is now the wife of a Reformed Presbyterian pastor. After her conversion to Christianity in 1999, she developed a ministry to college students. She has taught and ministered at Geneva College and is a full-time mother and pastor’s wife, part-time author, and occasional speaker. Here is her website. Here is a link to the church her husband, Kent, pastors. I trust you will enjoy the quotes below:

I’ve discovered that the Lord doesn’t change my feelings until I obey Him. ~Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Obedience comes before understanding. I wanted to understand. But did I actually will to do His will? God promised to reveal this understanding to me if I “willed to do His will.” The Bible doesn’t just say do his will, but “will to do His will.” Wanting to understand is a theoretical statement; willing to do His will takes action. ~Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I learned that we must obey in faith before we feel better or different. At this time, though, obeying in faith, to me, felt like throwing myself off a cliff. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

How did the Lord heal me? The way that He always heals: the Word of God got to bigger inside me than I. My natural inclination was to resist, so like a reflex, I did this. God’s people surrounded me. Not to manipulate. Not to badger. But to love and to listen and to watch and to pray. And eventually instead of resisting I surrendered. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

If people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way they do. Christian reader, is this what people say about you when they hear you talk and pray? Do your prayers rise no higher than your prejudice? ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Although grateful, I did not perceive conversion to be “a blessing.” It was a train wreck. After we profess faith in Christ the next morning, the alarm still rings and we cannot lose our salvation, if we are not growing in spiritual maturity we can lose everything else. What I faced at work following my conversion was the rubbish of my sin, forgiven by God, but still there to be cleared away. This required a newer and even more intense understanding and application of Scripture.
When I became a Christian, I had to change everything – my life, my friends, my writing, my teaching, my advising, my clothes, my speech, my thoughts. I was tenured to a field that I could no longer work in. I was the faculty advisor to all of the gay and lesbian and feminist groups on campus. I was writing a book that I no longer believed in. And, I was scheduled in a few months to give the incoming address to all Syracuse University’s graduate students. What in the world would I say to them? The lecture that I had written and planned to deliver – on Queer Theory – I threw in the trash. Thousands of new students would hear my first, fledgling attempts to speak about Christian hermeneutics at a postmodern university. I was flooded with doubt about my new life in Christ. Was I willing to suffer like Christ? Was I willing to be considered stupid by those who didn’t know Jesus? ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Importantly, God does not say that this sin of Sodom is the worst of all sins. Instead, God uses the sin of Sodom to reveal the greater sin committed by His own people: “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Ez. 16:48-50).

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 mind. When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Sin is not a mistake. A mistake is taking the wrong exit on the highway. A sin is treason against a Holy God. A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding. Remember what God said to Cain about his sin? It’s true for us too. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, God warns Cain like this: “sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Gen. 4:7). ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

After conversion, every day and every part of the routine of my life was a faith test. I had formerly been a very popular teacher in gay and lesbian studies. I was already scheduled to teach for the fall semester 1999 Introduction to Women’s Studies (a class that routinely enrolled over 200 students) and Feminist Pedagogy (a graduate seminar for graduate students who taught under me). I would have to follow through and teach these classes, but would have to find a way to teach them as a Christian. I still needed to make course descriptions for the classes in Christian hermeneutics that I would teach for the spring semester 2000. I had liberty to teach new courses – as long as the classes drew students. I had formerly used my classroom to advocate for gay and lesbian rights and ideas. I now used my classroom to abandon the discipline in which I was hired to create instead courses in a field of study – Christian hermeneutics – unheard of in my liberal postmodern department. Who would take such courses? What if no one signed up? ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

On August 17, 1999, I returned to my office after delivering a lecture to all incoming graduate students. The topic was to be of my choosing. When the graduate school invited me, I was a lesbian postmodernist. When I delivered the lecture six months later, I was a fledgling follower of Jesus Christ. The lecture was entitled: “The Solomon Problem.” I felt awkward and uncomfortable as I took the podium and adjusted the clip-on microphone to the neckline of my dress. I was in process of growing out my butch haircut, so every day was a bad hair day. And the lecture was going to be a bomb. In it, I would become a traitor and a turncoat. To the lesbian community, I would become the example of what not to be. I could no have gotten through that lecture had R not been there. In the six months since my conversion, he had become my watchdog, big brother, champion, simultaneous translator, and best friend. He came to my lectures, to my classes, to my Thursday night dinners. He talked to my students and my colleagues. He embraced my drag queen friends. He translated my concerns to the session of our church with a deftness and sensitivity that I still marvel at. As I fingered my pages on the podium, R gave me a firm thumbs up from his spot, the nosebleed section of the balcony, and left of stage. He was the only person who understood this spiritual and professional schizophrenia that had quickly become my new normal after conversion. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see Him …. Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so that it cannot see them. ~F.B. Meyer

But, I wondered, could I write an honest testimony? Could I, in the Apostle Paul’s words and tradition, write and deliver a testimony that reveals repentance as fruit of the Christian life? In English studies we have a mantra: A culture is comprised of its stories. “We are the stories we tell,” I’ve said to my students year after year. I was critical of the stories I heard from my churchy friends and my evangelical culture. But could I be more than just critical of the stories that encompassed me? Could I start a new conversation? What would happen if I just told the truth? Was anybody else out there ambivalent about conversion? Did anyone else see it as bittersweet? Did anyone else get lost in fear when counting the costs of discipleship? Did anyone else feel like giving up? Did anyone else tire of taking up the Cross daily? Did anyone else grieve for death to one life that anticipates the experience of being “born again”? Did anyone else want to take just one day off from the command that we die to ourselves? ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Hermeneutics is the study of how we make meaning out of text. Another word that often interchanges with hermeneutics is worldview. Hermeneutics focuses on the details; worldview takes the point of view of the frame. These two terms need to be understood in relationship. A stained-glass window relies on the right relationship between the details that make up each frame and the big picture that emerges when you lift your eyes off the minute detail. It is exceedingly dangerous to build a Christian life on just one or the other. You must hold both in tension and balance. Taken together, hermeneutics and worldview make up a critical perspective. Is there such a thing as a Christian critical perspective on worship? I wondered. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

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.” He goes on to explain: “Jesus identity as the Christ … is tied to his identity as the descendant 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.” ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

It would make a much bigger impression on our children’s future, I suggest, to be calling off most of their persistent sports idolatry to enjoy family dinner at home and to practice the “love of strangers” with such guests. Today’s children know little or nothing of such an approach to community. And our churches wonder how to reach the lost. Reach them for what? ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is the irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own sin and awaiting gospel grace. ~ Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I highly recommend this book to everyone!

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You can order this book here!

Here is an interview with her.

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