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While Butterfield’s conversion is a triumph for Christ and testimony to the faithfulness of His servants, it is thankfully not a triumphalist puff piece on Christians in general.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is an unusual name and this is the remarkable account of her conversion. Because so much of evangelicalism is characterised by this refusal to think, Butterfield believes it has lost the war of intellectual integrity on American university campuses – a war which the feminists have won. By the grace of God Butterfield came into contact with a pastor and his wife who did not try to deny the culture and identity that she inhabited, but graciously interacted with her, taking her values and opinions seriously. This transformation was by no means easy, and Butterfield is withering about ‘the sinner’s prayer’ being the means of salvation, singling out Rick Warren for a savaging for claiming it is. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her background, Butterfield is insightful about sex, and offers some profound exegesis on the sin of Sodom.
This is a remarkable story, and it is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the pastor Butterfield met, and the church she was re-born into, is the highly conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church. There is no doubting the genuine fruit of Butterfield’s conversion though, as demonstrated by her and her husband’s adoption of four African-American children.
1) Does this review highlight the dangers of Evangelicals more than is highlights a fair view of Christianity worldwide? Bio: Matthew leads Gateway Church on the sunny English riviera (otherwise known as Poole and Bournemouth). Butterfield was the pastor of a small reformed church from what some might call an obscure denomination.
The conversion that deconstructed her life and worldview taught her a thing or two about how Christians fail homosexuals and postmoderns. Evidently the profound conversions evangelicals claim to seek have little to do with worship style and everything to do with a willingness to step outside the safety of the church building to engage the real world. It seemed to me that the only people who could genuinely be satisfied with this level of reading and thinking were people who didn’t really read or think very much – about life or culture or anything.

This makes for uncomfortable reading and Butterfield challenges other typical evangelical assumptions with her depiction of life within the gay community, a community “given to hospitality,” who were happy to sit around a table and discuss ideas.
This, combined with in-depth Bible reading, was the means of Butterfield finding a new identity in Christ. Rather than an easy believe-ism, Butterfield experienced “two incommensurable worldviews [clashing] together: the reality of my lived experience and the truth of the word of God… At this time…obeying in faith, to me, felt like throwing myself off a cliff. This is a church noted for its academic rigour, and it was the intellectual thoughtfulness of its members that gave space for Butterfield to work out her own thoughts. Rather than hide behind the white picket fence of respectable Christian America, Butterfield decides to expend herself for the needs of others.
It does question the evangelical approach to salvation, and whether in a desire for ‘results’ we try to make this too easy.
For UK readers, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is available on Kindle, but hard copies are hard to come by.
With his wife Grace, Matthew enjoys going for long runs and bike rides along the coast and deep into the Dorset countryside. It documents how Christ confronted and captured someone who never considered herself a “seeker” until Christ first came calling. A friendly letter asking simple questions about the process by which she arrived at her conclusions prompted a conversation.
One such failure is an unbelief in Christ’s power to transform people and the Bible’s power to captivate people. As a lesbian English professor specialising in Queer Theory and Women’s Studies, becoming a Christian was no mere lifestyle adjustment, but a radical overhaul of everything she had known and found security and identity in. Faith that endures is heroic, not sentimental.” To throw herself off this cliff not only affected Butterfield personally but all those who had trusted her as a leading member of the gay community in the university where she worked. Sexuality is more a symptom of our life’s condition than a cause, more a consequence than an origin.” Butterfield renounced her lesbianism – a costly thing to do emotionally and financially, meaning as it did separating from her partner – but did not simply plunge back into heterosexuality.

She likewise warns against an overzealous quest to supplicate and “identify” that denies Christ by boldly saying that people may embrace both Christ and their sin. Her radical background, and radical conversion, gives Butterfield’s writing a sharpness of insight, and there are many quotable lines in the book. For those readers not familiar with this kind of ecclesiology the story might become hard to follow here, and for me it is a weakness (or, rather, a limitation) of the book as Butterfield describes her transition to pastor’s wife, home-schooling mum, and psalm-singer. The nature of the Christian community with which Butterfield came into contact also raises questions – how good are our churches at listening to the concerns of unbelievers, and helping them to genuinely work those things through?
We also have sold copies to the Free Church Bookshop in Edinburgh as well as the Edinburgh Bookshop so they may have some available.
Matthew thought he was going to be an agricultural research scientist but somehow ended up as a pastor.
Then she found herself obsessed with reading the Bible, and the changes in her life became obvious. The first half of the book would be brilliant to give out to intelligent unbelievers; the second half is interesting, but I should imagine would be utterly perplexing to those with no understanding of Presbyterian ecclesiology and polity. And whatever ecclesiological differences we may have with the RPC, are our churches the kind of communities which are strong enough to replace the kind of community from which Butterfield emerged? The chink in her armor turned out to be the presuppositional and spiritual questions postmodern thought refused to ask because they were considered silly.

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