Book Plunge: Openness Unhindered. Further Thoughts Of An Unlikely Convert On Sexual Identity And Union With Christ

What do I think of Rosaria Butterfield’s book published by Crown & Covenant Publications? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all know the story. A person lives their life struggling with sin and then, they come to Christ. They pour out their heart in repentance to Him and God forgives them and frees them from the shame of the past. No more are they hindered by the chains that kept them bound. They walk in newness of life free from the past temptations entirely.

Or…..maybe not.

In fact, a lot of people would wish that was the case. Sometimes some will be thinking that God betrayed them or lied to them. If we have become new creatures in Christ, why is it that the past is still an issue? Why do we not experience deliverance from all the struggles of the past? How can I be a new creature in Christ and still struggle mightily with a sin?

Rosaria Butterfield knows about this quite well. She had been a professor living in a lesbian relationship when a pastor gently responded to an article she wrote about the Promise Keepers. This pastor was a pushback to her, but also was not in her face. She, in fact, notes that the first time she visited him and his wife, they did not give her the Gospel or invite her to church. In fact, she appreciated that greatly.

She began studying the Bible on her own and in fact studying it as a postmodern. Romans 1 was quite a difficult passage for her, but one she could not escape. What if instead of gay pride, she was just really having pride? What if what she took pride in was in fact really a form of rebellion? The questions came at her fast and furious.

One day, she just reached her breaking point. She wound up admitting that God was God and becoming a Christian. From then on, she knew things had to change. Much of her book is about dealing with this. Indeed she did change. She is now the wife of a reformed pastor in North Carolina, but she has a heart for those who are struggling with many issues.

One of Butterfield’s key themes is identity. Our identity when we come to Christ and even before is not to be based on our sexual orientation, as the term is used. Our identity is greater than the people we are attracted to or share a bed with. One of her main points she wants to have raised is we should not use terms like “gay Christian” even when we speak of Christians who agree that homosexual activity is wrong and want to live a celibate life. Why take an adjective that describes a condition that the Bible refers to as sin and making it part of your identity just like Christian is in your identity? Taking it as an identity is in some way clinging to it and holding on to it, as if it’s something central to who you are.

She does realize that some Christians disagree with this and in fact, she has an example of that in the book. She talks about her friend Rebecca who still struggles with same-sex attraction. Butterfield makes an important point that for some people, sanctification does not necessarily mean being delivered from the sinful temptations. Heterosexuality is not the goal of sanctification, but holiness is and you can just as much be a sinner as a heterosexual as you can a homosexual. For some people, the sign of their sanctification could be living with these sinful desires and NOT giving in.

To the rest of us, she says part of the danger we have could be what she calls the gag reflex to homosexuality. We can describe homosexual acts as if to get the response of “ewww. Yucky.” What we end up doing can be saying “I’m so thankful I don’t do that!” or for those Christians who are struggling with same-sex attraction, putting thoughts in their heads. We can end up having a sort of superiority complex to the homosexuals who do this “shameful behavior.” Now I do believe the Bible describes it as shameful, but that is not because of something being gross. Our problems with a behavior should be with the moral status of the behavior and not the personal taste status of the behavior.

For an analogy, imagine a pastor at a church describing the evil of an affair. Rather than state that a sexual affair is an evil thing, he goes into great detail of a man meeting a woman at a hotel room and describing what goes on behind closed doors. Is he really helping anyone? No. We all know what goes on behind closed doors. If anything, most men in the audience are now suddenly having to deal with a temptation as they are having a fantasy play out in their minds.

Butterfield also stresses that for a Christian, life should be a life of repentance. We should be watching ourselves to see where we are falling short. Butterfield does write with the heart of a counselor. At times, sometimes the reformed aspect can shine through a bit brighter so if, like me, you don’t hold to a Calvinistic position, that can be difficult, but either way, those of us who don’t still do agree with repentance and we do still see God as sovereign even if we don’t understand how that works out.

She also stresses the importance of community. Community should be a way we come together and pray for one another and if anyone does struggle with unwanted attractions, they can find comfort in having people who will hear them. They might not be able to do anything beyond that, besides pray of course, but they can be listeners.

Butterfield’s book is a good one. If there was one area I would change, it’s that there is talk about dealing with unwanted sexual attractions and such, but at the same time, I always want to see that there is a positive message about sexuality. A true sexuality is something God gives us to enjoy and celebrate. It would have been good to have heard Butterfield’s thoughts on that.

Still, this is a book that will leave you thinking and hopefully get you more in tune with thinking about holiness. Repentance is a word much more on my mind since reading this. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more community as described by Butterfield and will definitely be watching to check for the gag reflex approach to homosexuality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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