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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Mar19WedMarch 19, 2014
C. S. Lewis once said, "A young atheist can't be too careful about what he reads." Rosaria Champagne Butterfield might add, "or with whom she dines." Her book, THE SECRET THOUGHTS of an UNLIKELY CONVERT: an English professor's journey to Christian faith was published in 2012.
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Butterfield variously describes her journey from lesbian, atheist, English professor and Feminist studies specialist to committed Christ follower and homeschooling mom as "unlikely," "a train-wreck," and "like throwing myself off a cliff." She was researching a book about the Religious Right when she accepted an invitation to dinner in a pastor's home. The pastor, Ken Smith, intrigued Rosaria. Ken was, "a good listener, a balanced interpreter, a lover of good poetry, a reader of culture and politics, and a husband who clearly adored, relied upon, and valued highly his wife's counsel." In short, the Smiths didn't fit her stereotype of an Evangelical and Butterfield didn't know what to do with that. God used that relationship, her study of Scripture, and fellowship with the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church that Pastor Ken led to bring Butterfield, kicking and screaming, into the Kingdom. As she says at the end of chapter two, "This was my conversion in a nutshell, I lost everything but the dog."
Butterfield's courage makes the book compelling. She is a brilliant writer and a rigorous thinker, but as everyone knows, a culture war is raging in America and the fight is at its fiercest over gay rights versus religious freedom. Rosaria's willingness to tell her story puts her between two fires in that fight and both sides find reasons to attack. It's clear that she did not go looking for that role and would have avoided it if she could, but her integrity and her faith wouldn't allow it. She has courageously chosen instead to be a bridge between the two communities and bridges, as she learned at great cost, "get walked on." That commitment makes the book worth buying and reading by everyone on both sides of the argument.
Rosaria's book is about much more than her initial conversion however, and that's where she almost lost this reader. Her themes cover postmodernism to providence; the feminist hermeneutic to the biblical worldview; existential lostness to the theology of adoption. Whether lesbian or hetero, Feminist activist or Reformed Presbyterian apologist, Butterfield is an intense personality and fiercely loyal to the communities she serves. No doubt her passion for a system of thought and determination to live in integrity to that system is part and parcel of her courage. But like many Reformed theologians of my acquaintance, she "over torques the bolt" on things like the Regulatory Principle of worship and finds it necessary to insult the work of some other evangelical thinkers and leaders who do not share her theology. This diminishes an otherwise excellent book.
Butterfield's conversion memoir is not for the faint of heart or feeble of mind, as she told the Chaplain of Geneva College where she first shared her story, "My testimony is R-rated." That's not because it contains graphic scenes, but because she pulls no punches. With that in mind I urge you to buy and read it with the understanding that I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Carly Trueman’s comment in the book’s endorsements:
"I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership."