Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield

(I appreciate Rosaria Butterfield's books very much. I believe God has placed her in a unique position to be able to help the church respond to the difficult cultural issues of our day. Included in this response is the ministry of hospitality to believers and unbelievers alike. What she has written regarding community and hospitality has had a profound impact on me. So as a followup to my previous post, I am cross-posting a review of Butterfield's latest book.)

Openness Unhindered, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Crown & Covenant Publications, July 2015, 206 pages.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield is one of the most thought-provoking and challenging books I have read. I was convicted of my lack of love for the lost and lack of faith in the power of the gospel, but it also encouraged me to believe that God is able to save to the uttermost. If you haven't read it, read it!

Because of Secret Thoughts, I was eager to read Butterfield's second book, Openness Unhindered. Identity and specifically sexual identity are hot topics and even more so following the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. How should Christians address the issue of sexual orientation and identity? How do we come alongside our brothers and sisters who struggle with sexual sin and have made the choice to live "in chastity with unwanted homosexual desires?" (pg. 144) These are a few of the issues tackled in Openness Unhindered.

This book begins with a brief summary of the author's journey to Christ from feminist, atheist, lesbian college professor to reformed pastor's wife and homeschooling mom. But before jumping into the cultural issue of sexual identity, Butterfield devotes an entire chapter to identity out of union with Christ. This foundation of the gospel must be laid first because who we are and everything this encompasses flows out of Who we belong to. She then tackles the issue of repentance, obedience, and fighting sin. Butterfield enlists the help of Puritan heavy hitters such as Thomas Watson and John Owen. In no way is sin taken lightly, but likewise the glorious power of the gospel to transform isn't minimized either. Her real-life example of mortifying sin when her writing time was interrupted by her children's lightsaber battle is priceless.

Regarding sexual orientation, Butterfield traces this back to Sigmund Freud who rooted identity in sexuality rather than being made in the image of God. This has profound implications because people are now identified in categories that reject Original Sin. She then discusses self-representation in relation to one's sexuality and challenges the use of language that is at odds with the Word of God and our identity in Christ. There is a chapter containing a dialogue of Butterfield's disagreement with another sister in Christ over these descriptors. Although still unresolved, we would learn much from how these sisters handle this conflict with mutual respect and love.

The book finishes with a powerful chapter on community that is convicting, encouraging, and very practical. Why community and hospitality?
[H]ow do we help a young person (or old person) struggling with homosexual desires? My answer is to come to the table together. Stand side by side. Share real life together in real time. We do the same thing we would do with any other sister or brother, any other image bearer, and any other soul. We open our hearts and our homes. We open the Word. We answer the phone at midnight, and we interrupt in a permanent, consistent, and organic way seasons of loneliness for our friend. We find out where the hard places are and bring comfort. And we keep an eagle eye on our own prejudices and assumptions, our privileges and our blind spots... In other words, we listen and we create real and regular friendship. (pp. 140-141)

I loved Openness Unhindered, and I can't recommend it too highly. I was convicted of my own blind spots. I was encouraged again that the Triune God has the power to save and change, even if the journey is fraught with struggles. I was challenged to take community seriously beyond the set meeting times of the church and begin to open up heart and home. I also believe Openness Unhindered will help prepare believers to address the pressing issues of sexual identity and same-sex attraction from the solid foundation of the gospel rather than a mindset of fear. Who knows what God may do in the days ahead? The Supreme Court decision may have just opened a new field that is ready for harvest, and this book will be an excellent resource to that end.

This book is available at Crown and Covenant Publications | Westminster Bookstore

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