The Way We Were and Who We Are

For Lord’s Day, December 8, 2013

Dear Saints,

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an english professor’s journey into christian faith, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield compares her Christian conversion experience to “an alien abduction or a train wreck.”  As she shares about her very public “coming out” as a Christian while a tenured university English professor specializing in “Queer Theory” (as she explains, a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies) who also lived an open lesbian lifestyle while a leader in LGBT advocacy, it seems it could only be such. For, as with all of us sinners, coming to Christ is ultimately about giving up our own entire identity and its sinful commitments; this is always abruptly painful when genuine and lasting.

As the Westminster Larger Catechism guided us last Lord’s Day evening through what is forbidden in the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:16), we were reminded that sodomy, along with all other unnatural lusts, is severely outlawed by God (Romans 1:24-28, 31).

This message tonight is not so much to focus on the sinful disposition and action of homosexuality. That was covered in the sermon last week.  Here, I think it is helpful to recognize in witnessing the Gospel to people who identify themselves as homosexuals that a major part of the conversation should be dealing with a deep commitment to an identity, not only of one’s person, but one’s sense of belonging to a group.  We see its manifestation in identity (or group) politics.

Dr. Butterfield writes, “being a lesbian was a case of mistaken identity … Whatever God’s providence for me, it was his to lay out and mine to obey. No longer did I have to invent myself.”

On the topic of identity and homosexuality, Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason ministries had a fascinating article, “Nature or Nurture”, sharing empirical evidence that demonstrates people who identify with or practice homosexuality are not a product of their biology, but often rather their environment — and in particular, determined by with whom they identify.  Click here to read that article.

More importantly, Shlemon points out that in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul says that some of the Corinthian Christians “were” homosexuals, but now they are not.  That is, they were not born that way, and they gave up the past lifestyle just as did others who were “adulterers” and “fornicators” along with the identities that came with such lifestyles.  How wonderful for all of us to have an entirely new life identity and thus lifestyle in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

It is important to recognize that any sexual sinner only finds a new identity in Christ.

Dr. Butterfield writes, “Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be ‘healed’ by redeeming the context or the genders.  Sexual sin must simply be killed … healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less … Christians act as though marriage redeems sin.  Marriage itself does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that.”  She adds that “… people whose lives are riddled with unrestrained sin act like rebellious children.  Sin, when unrestrained, infantilizes a person.”

Tomorrow evening’s message (part 2 of WLC 139 on Ex. 20:14) will be based on Colossians 3:5-8, where Paul tells us to keep killing ourselves. That is, to keep killing the old, sinfully lusting self that used to run our lives. We don’t nurture the selfish child within us. We kill him or her so that we can live a healthy life that grows out of adolescence and into Christian maturity.  This is called sanctification, and it is the will of God for true Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Beloved, we all need to be reminded that with all sexual temptations, you must, “Kill Your Filthy Old Self.”  This is the message tomorrow evening, and this is what the Puritans and the Westminster Divines called “mortification of sin”.

May we be committed to such a life because of our new life identity in Christ. And may all our affections and actions be thus sanctified with our new life in heaven with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Butterfield’s story (who has been touring the country sharing her testimony on university campuses and at churches), she has been interviewed on several national programs.  Here are two:

As well, here is a video lecture, “My Train Wreck Conversion”, given at the RPTS Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh (part of my alma mater).

Beloved, may Dr. Butterfield’s “train wreck” conversion describe your and my daily sanctification experience!  It will be a better life for all of us!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: I would echo this review by Dr. and Rev. Carl Trueman in the forward of Dr. Butterfield’s book:  “I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote.  It deserves the widest possible readership.”