Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert”

The following piece was written by Rev. D.Douglas Gebbie

She did not dream that she was at Manderley again, nor did she invite me to call her Ishmael; yet, by the time that I had read the first paragraph of Mrs. Butterfield’s book, I was hooked.

RCBI knew that this was an important book, addressing current issues in human narrative rather than cold apologetic; and I knew that I should read it.  However, the thought of one hundred and forty pages of honest autobiography can lie heavy on the stomach, especially when I was not sure if I were part of the intended audience.  Then, there was the title with its allusions to Hogg and De Quincey.  What would this justified sinner’s memoires be?  Might her description of her former ways prove more alluring than that of the truth as it is in Jesus?  I need not have feared.  There is no caricatured Calvinism, no sensationalising of sin.  That first paragraph’s tokens of warmth and wit were not false.  And, while I’d say that this is a women’s book, it is not exclusively so.  Mrs. Butterfield’s one liners (‘Asking a former heathen like me if I missed the hymns in formal worship is like asking a cannibal if he misses tofu.’) give a man a chance to breathe.

At the outset of her story, Rosaria Champaigne Butterfield is a tenured professor of English, a radical feminist, and a Marxist, who is living in a Lesbian relationship.  By the end, she is a Christian, the wife of a RPCNA minister, and the mother of four adopted and homeschooled young people.  What brought about this change?  Two miracles.  The first miracle is effectual calling.  The second is that in most cases, most of the time, the Christian people involved behaved like Christians.

Before going any further, while this is a narrative of miraculous events, it is not a sensational story.  Do not get me wrong.  This is a very important book, extremely well written, by an enchanting author.  It is not a tale with salacious details of sin, extraordinary revelation from God, and beatific Christian living.  It is the story of a woman deep in the world and given to the flesh who meets Christian people, is accepted as a person, reads the Bible, hears the gospel, and becomes a believer who can identify with Paul’s wretchedness and his hope.  Even if the convert is unlikely, the conversion not unusual.  The miracle, of course, is that by convincing her of her sin and misery, enlightening her mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing her will, the Holy Spirit persuaded and enabled her to embrace Christ as He was freely offered to her in the gospel.  Yet, that is the same miracle, the same work of the Holy Spirit, which converts heterosexual, complementarian, constitutional monarchists.  And that is why this book is so important.  Feminism, Marxism, and Lesbianism are not unforgivable sins.  Feminists, Marxists, and Lesbians are not forever bound in fetters of genetic determinism.  Nor are they reclaimed through therapy.  They are converted by the preaching of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit just the same as you and I, and Muslims, are.

Mrs. Butterfield comes with fresh eyes into the culture in which I have lived for a long time, and I appreciate many of her insights.  I appreciate them not in the sense that I nod in polite dismissiveness.  I appreciate them as only one whose opinions are confirmed by an objective observer with a Ph.D. can.

Douglas Gebbie was educated at Glasgow College of Technology and the Free Church of Scotland College, Edinburgh. He has served conservative Presbyterian congregations in Scotland, the United States of America, and Canada. He currently is Pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Chesley, Ontario.

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