01 May 2013

Just Barely Started

by Frank Turk

After Dan's notes on the problem of saying that Grace isn't the only solution for people with a sin problem, pretty much everything I can write today will be a let-down.  But, I have a book I wanted to share with you which, if you haven't read it yet, apparently you really don't understand what the Top Men in evangelicalism have said to do.

Rosaria Butterfield has written a brief spiritual memoir, which was written "so I could remember and keep close the details of the inner landscape of my conversion to Christ. I wanted to remember, and pass on to my children, the rugged terrain and sweet joys."

Pretty much everyone has already reviewed it and recommended it, so whatever notes I would add here as an endorsement will be redundant at best -- so, just to be perfectly redundant, I do recommend it, and you should read it.

My only complaint about this book is this: you have to hash your way through Chapter 1 to get to the real, human, redeemed reflections of a woman who came a long way in a relatively-brief time, and then has come farther still by the grace of God.  Every single concern I had about the real substantive reflection this book would offer which occurred to me in Chapter 1 was ruined and overcome by the third page of Chapter 2.

If you can read this book about one woman's journey from being a gatekeeper in Post-Modernity to being the homeschooling wife of a Reformed pastor and not, in some way, have your personal commitment and view of the Christian faith improved, you need to have your vital signs checked.  You must be dead -- on the inside anyway, if not actually in some state of rigor mortis.

Let's turn, for example, to the beginning of the second chapter of this book, and Prof. Butterfield's exposition of what the Bible means when it speaks about the sin of Sodom.  Listen: you might read 10,000 pastors excoriate the problems with our society today, but you will never read a better exposition regarding what constitutes the core of sexual sin than Prof. Butterfield demonstrates in the first few pages of chapter 2 (and you'll forgive me for excluding page numbers -- I read this book on my Android Kindle app in two sittings).

Then she goes on to say this -- which will be red meat for the readers of this blog:
The purpose-driven movement makes conversion a simple matter of saying the magic words, a mantra that makes Jesus the Mr. Rogers of the conscience. In his popular book, The Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren represents conversion in these words: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you” (p. 59). There is a pit of false hope in placing our faith in our words rather than in God’s compassion to receive sinners to himself. Warren falsely (and dangerously) assures us of our salvation. He writes: “If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!” (p. 59). How do I judge my own sincerity? The saving grace of salvation is located in a holy and electing God, and a sacrificing, suffering, and obedient Savior. Stakes this high can never rest on my sincerity.

When I read something like this, I do not recognize Jesus, the Holy Bible, my conversion or myself at all. Recently, on vacation in South Carolina, my husband and I went to a “community church.” My conservative Reformed Presbyterian pastor and husband noted when we got back to the hotel room that we had just witnessed a service that contained a baptism without water, preaching without scripture, conversation about disappointment and pithy observations about financial responsibility without prayer, the distribution of flowers and trinkets without grace, and a dismissal without a blessing. Everyone was smiling, though, when it came time to walk out the door. This church’s conversion prayer was printed in the bulletin. It read like this: “Dear God, I’m so sorry for my mistakes. Thanks for salvation.”

These misrepresentations of the gospel are dangerous and misleading.
Butterfield, Rosaria (2012-09-06). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 686-699). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.
That's only the first serving of red meat, by the way -- you'll have to read the book to get the rest.  It would do harm to the text to say she spells out soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, bibliology and general theology with an insightful eye and a willing heart -- because that makes her story into a mere lesson in systematics.  Instead, she somehow journeys in faith through the local church and finds God's people in God's house with God's message for sinners in a peculiar and loving way -- and she makes much of this savior who is the author and finisher of our faith. I absolutely could not stop reading this book and admiring the real maturity and seriousness of the faith of Prof. Butterfield as it unfolded in the text.

But: there's a reason I am reviewing this book today, and it has to do with Dan's post yesterday.

Yesterday, DJP was considering the problem of Grace in Christian life.  That is: while we preach God's Grace, is it our job merely to take a beating from anyone who will give it to us in order that God's Grace may flourish?  Is it right, for example, for a father to underwrite his son's broad transgressions over many years without really drawing a single objection or setting up one boundary which cannot be crossed?

Obviously, here at this blog, we think not.

However: what shall we do?  If what we cannot do is simply be a dishrag for Christ's sake until the HyperCalvinist god elects to change somebody's mind, what shall we do?

It turns out that Mrs. Butterfield has the answer on almost every page of this book.  Listen to this:
Pastor Bruce was eagle-eye direct, painfully honest, and unapologetically bold. There was no question in my mind, as the tears started to run down my face: I had just barely started on the journey of my repentance. And here I had thought that I had repented in full ... Ha! This sermon hit me hard across the face: I was suffering from my own sin, from the pride that was still rising high in my heart, and from my false sense of entitlement and deserved goods.  
Butterfield, Rosaria (2012-09-06). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 1373-1377). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.
You know: somebody told her that the matter is not merely Grace, but fully Grace to sinners -- and for sinners who repent.  Sinners who, as she says elsewhere, obey before they understand.  Sinners who are offended by the kindness of others who tell them the truth and then see their own sin in their offendedness.

Somebody has to tell the person who is offending God and offending man, truthfully, and with love, that they are wrong.

As you read this book, and share it with others, may you become that kind of person.


Simon said...

Frank, thanks for the review. Like you I could not put my Kindle down. I have recommended this book to so many people. It both made my heart sing with joy at so great a God and also call out to Him for a greater sense of my sin.

There are a couple of videos online too.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I'm looking forward to reading it. I first heard about it after you tweeted something about the Mortification of Spin podcast. My daughter (in kindergarten) has a schoolmate who is the second of three kids in a "family" with "two dads." One dad is on the PTA. I could really stand to grow from reading Butterfield's testimony.

Frank Turk said...

Simon -- that's a great point. I intended to link to Rosaria Butterfield's author web site, but I forgot.

Please check it out.

Robert said...

Thanks, Frank. I'll have to get a copy and read through it. Just reading the Q&A at the website has me thinking I will grow a lot from reading and thinking over what she has written.

donsands said...

"There is a pit of false hope in placing our faith in our words rather than in God’s compassion to receive sinners to himself. Warren falsely (and dangerously) assures us of our salvation."-Butterfield, Rosaria

Well said.

The Gospel is so shallow and eeven empty in much of the Church today. My local radio station is the same. It really gets under my fingernails. And when I try to challenge, or discuss these things, I am labeled a religious fanatic, who doesn't have compassion.
Jesus simply loves everyone, and He pleads with sinners to please don't fight and push my hands away.

"Somebody has to tell the person who is offending God and offending man, truthfully, and with love, that they are wrong."-Cent

Thanks for the review brother. I shall be getting a couple copies of this sister's book fur shur.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

You know that pit in your stomach when you realize that you've forgotten something vitally important? I did that when I read this part of your post:

"I had just barely started on the journey of my repentance. And here I had thought that I had repented in full ... Ha! This sermon hit me hard across the face: I was suffering from my own sin, from the pride that was still rising high in my heart, and from my false sense of entitlement and deserved goods."

If this is on every page, I've gotta read this book. I've gotta remember that I have not arrived, that I'm still repenting daily, that I'm still striving against my pride.

Got my gut check for the day... keep it up Cent.

Kerry James Allen said...

"Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dripping well is not intermittent." CHS

Nice review Frank.

Ken said...

This is better than yesterdays post!
Thanks for sharing...

yankeegospelgirl said...

Well, I'll admit that this is better than any other review I've read, since Frank at least admits that Chapter 1 has some problems. Still, I'm just not sensing the kind of pushback that I think Rosaria needs. I get the feeling that too many evangelicals are so pathetically grateful to find a gay person who leaves the lifestyle that they let that person get away with saying some incorrect or questionable things.

I have not read the entire memoir, but I've read the first chapter in addition to hearing several interviews and watching the bulk of Rosaria's speech at Patrick Henry. I came away pretty disappointed. Frank, you said that all the concerns raised by the 1st chapter were erased by the 2nd, but still... the first chapter is there, and I think we ought to engage with it instead of brushing it away as insignificant. The things she says in that chapter reveal mentalities and habits of thought that she still carries with her from her past, which are very problematic. Can we allow for the fact that she's still growing? Perhaps, but it's one thing to say "Okay, she's still got a ways to go," and another thing to say "Whatever, no biggie, now let's all nod importantly at every word that proceedeth from her mouth and invite her to come speak at all our colleges."

For example, she's still utterly clueless when it comes to the state of the academy and the agenda of the left when it comes to scholarship. She remains under the illusion that her colleagues in queer theory were deep, complex, respectable thinkers, and she still feels proud of the "classroom epiphanies" (in queer theory I can only imagine) and the work she did as a professor in that field. I have to ask, is this what she's going to teach her children---that this utter degradation of true scholarship is worthy of respect in its own way, even if one still "disagrees" with it? Speaking as a scholar, I was deeply offended by her implication that post-modernism has "won the war of academic integrity" over Christianity in the universities. That's a blatant falsehood. Academic integrity is non-existent in the field where she was working. The fact that she doesn't recognize that is a problem, and it betrays an intellectual snobbery that's deeply unfortunate.

Moreover, in her speech at Patrick Henry, I sensed a certain relish in her description of how she and her friends "invaded" the white-picket-fence homeschooling family atmosphere of the church where she was eventually saved. She still seems to take some satisfaction from having been so disruptive, and she wants to make Christians who come from that background feel guilty for not deliberately going out and exposing their children to more of what she brought with her. As an example, she talks about how her transgender male friend dressed as a woman but sang in the choir with a deep bass voice, as if that was somehow funny.

Speaking of her transgender friend, I noticed that in an interview with Challies, she correctly referred to him as "a male who dressed in drag," but in her book, she refers to the man as "she." It seems that she's massaging her pronouns to suit her audience. It may seem like a small detail, but I think it's significant. Which is it really, he or she? It doesn't depend on who's listening, it's an objective fact.

I could say more, but I'll leave it there for now.

Frank Turk said...

YGG: Read the rest of the book.

That's all I have to say about your concern: read the rest of the book. I dare say most Christians never ever engage their faith as deeply and seriously as Mrs. Butterfield has done in real life, and in this book.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Okay, perhaps I will. I'm glad she converted, don't get me wrong. It's a wonder she's come this far. I have to ask though---in order to alleviate my concerns, she'd have to basically contradict everything she said in Chapter 1. Am I to understand that this is exactly what she does in the rest of the book? If so, great!

yankeegospelgirl said...

Another question I had: In that same interview with Challies, Rosaria states that the LGBT community has "won the hospitality war" over Christians. Do you agree with that? Because if all she means is that the LGBT community takes care of their own, Christians do that too. I get that hospitality is her big schtick, but in my opinion that was a pretty shallow, weak throwaway line.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Michael Horton agrees with her on the matter of hospitality. Now what?

Frank Turk said...

Just out of curiosity, YGG: what do you do that qualifies you as a "scholar"?

yankeegospelgirl said...

Now what? As far as Michael Horton is concerned, I'm not a huge Horton fan anyway, so... shrug. I'd have to read his comments on this particular topic in more detail to see if I don't agree with him there either or if he makes a fair point. Either way, I'm afraid it won't work just to wave big names under my nose and expect me to say "Oh, well if SO-AND-SO thinks x, golly gosh!" I'm pretty immune to that sort of thing. I've even called out John Piper on some things, and he's probably my favorite pastor, like ever.

Perhaps I should more modestly have termed myself a "budding" scholar. Nevertheless, I've spent my life steeped in an academic background. Both my parents are PhDs., and I've received extensive, rigorous training in a variety of fields such as history, literature, philosophy and mathematics. I'm currently pursuing a double major in philosophy and math. In highschool, I helped philosophy graduate students polish writing samples which have enabled them to be accepted into prestigious universities. As a beginning college student, I offered assistance in preparing for the GRE. I've been writing long academic papers since the age of ten. I've read widely and deeply enough to have a very good grasp of what true scholarship and academic integrity looks like in pretty much any field. And I've seen enough of what passes for scholarship in the academy today to know that it ain't, and Rosaria is still kidding herself if she thinks it is.

Happy now? ;-)

Frank Turk said...

Wow - impressive. So which university is honored to have you classing the place up?

Frank Turk said...

See: I'm asking these questions because Prof. Butterfield was, at the time of her conversion, a tenured associate professor of English. For those who don't know any better, that is not the equivalent of accidentally getting adjunct work at the local community college: Syracuse is a hub of excellence. The chairman of the Department, Gregg Lambert, is known internationally as one of the foremost voices in Critical Theory.

They may actually be utterly reprobate and without any good relationship to the God who created all things. That doesn't make them thoughtless, mindless people.

Marla said...

I've read this book through twice this year (got it for Christmas), and really loved it. She doesn't shrink from the Gospel.

I had some minor differences of opinion with her about worship, but overall -- a very good book. I've recommended it to various people already.

yankeegospelgirl said...

It's a good school, but I'm not at liberty to say which because I'm trying to preserve my anonymity. Same reason why I wouldn't offer to contribute a guest piece here (even though it was tempting).

Yes, I'm quite aware of the parlous state of English "scholarship" today. The prestigious universities are some of the worst. One of my parents' PhDs is in English, and even then the rot was setting in. I wouldn't recommend that anyone get an English degree today. The discipline is dead, and it grieves me deeply to say that because great literature, properly taught, is a beautiful thing.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Also, I'm sure Butterfield is natively bright, as are her colleagues. That's part of the problem. They, and others like them, imbibed something geared especially towards them---a philosophy of scholarship designed to draw in the natively gifted and make them feel "cooler" and more sophisticated than backwards traditionalists.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Looking back at your comments Frank, perhaps I should clarify what I've been trying to say. You seemed to think that I was coming in as some kind of elitist. Far from it. I'm the ultimate anti-elitist. YOU are the one saying "Syracuse, ooooh, aaaah!" I'M the one saying "In Narnia, we call Syracuse going bad." The very fact that they have a "queer studies" department tells you all you need to know. I said my own school was good, and it is in some areas, but I'll be the first to say that in English, history, etc., it's a wreck just like any other school, big-name or not.

I really couldn't care less about prestige, I just want to know if the scholarship is any good. I took distance courses from Patrick Henry in both history and literature, and I'd put them over any secular university out there as far as academic integrity is concerned. And I'm not just talking about Christian perspective, I'm just talking about (gasp) actually reading great literature without putting a political spin on it! I'm talking about engaging professionally with original sources on their own terms.

Frank Turk said...


I was 19 once, too.

Get back on topic, please. Your attempts to white-wash your comments and point of view have run their course.

Eric said...

A study in contrasts:

YGG: "I get the feeling that too many evangelicals are so pathetically grateful to find a gay person who leaves the lifestyle..."

Luke 15:7: "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."

Luke 15:10: "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Those pathetic angels, grateful and rejoicing over the saving of a lost soul.

yankeegospelgirl said...

"I was 19 once too."

Yes, so was I. ;-)

I'll bow out at this point because there doesn't seem much point in continuing. I don't think you've really addressed my points, but if you don't want to that's your choice. I'm not sure what you mean by "whitewash" -- that seems to imply I've got something embarrassing to hide. I'm putting it all out there (except my identity of course). I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

FWIW, I got a look at some later portions of Rosaria's book, and I was pleased to see that she threw away part of a queer studies presentation in the trash and seems to have a healthy perspective on the sinfulness of the field. Nevertheless, I remain puzzled by a lot of the things she insists that she still believes in Chapter 1. Perhaps she herself is somewhat conflicted. One can hope she'll grow out of old habits in time.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...



Persistence is your strong suit...

Frank Turk said...

I see: so if you -do- read more of the book, and it -does- actually deal with your complaints, what then? I mean: from a position of academic integrity and everything?

Frank Turk said...



yankeegospelgirl said...

The impression I'm getting so far is that she rejects her old studies on moral grounds but still wants to respect her colleagues. I'm trying to say that even from an atheistic perspective, what they do/did was not good scholarship. There are some bloody good atheist scholars out there, whose morals may be ghastly, but they don't let that affect their scholarship.

I think good scholarship is intrinsically valuable. That's really all I'm trying to say.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Hey, you're the one who keeps asking questions, don't blame me for answering them. ;-) I'm happy to move on if you are, but it seems like you can't let it go.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...


I think there's a big difference between a question that is requiring an answer and one that's intended to make you think about what you're saying. Is "rhetorical" the right word? Methinks that Frank's is the latter.

I mean, comeon, you didn't read the book and have complaints, he did and recommends the whole thing with a caveat. That's like you watching the first 10 minutes of Star Wars and saying with "The Critic" "It Stinks!"

Unknown said...

I feel like I joined your thoughts in midstream. Couldn't find the title of the book without clicking on links or using a magnifying glass on the tiny picture of the book cover.

From a reader

yankeegospelgirl said...

Backing up now, I ought to address Eric's comment (for once, a non-Frank comment), alluding to verses about great rejoicing over a sinner's conversion. Eric, I love those verses too. Every day, I think about the plight of lost people. Sometimes I cry into my pillow at night just thinking about the lostness of the world. So believe me, I'm not denying that there's great joy in the repentance of a sinner.

What I was referring to was something different though. I was trying to refer to a subtle, almost subconscious desire I see among some evangelicals (Pyros not so much, so you guys can stop looking offended now), and that's a desire to be liked by the left. A desire for somebody from a classified "victim" or "target" group to think that Christians are nice/cool/etc. And the more Ivy League creds the person has, the better. With homosexuality, I think the church has a guilt complex it doesn't need. I've said this before, but even conservatives are under the impression that "the church has gotten it wrong" when it comes to homosexuals. Setting aside fringe groups like Westboro Baptist, I'm skeptical of that claim. I would ask for some specific examples of what exactly counts as "the church getting it wrong" when it comes to the homosexual community. But I hear it a lot. So there's this feeling like, "PHEW, in spite of the terrible, nasty job we've done as a church, she met someone nice and thought they were cool. And she's an Ivy League professor! Wooooow."

That's what I meant, and I think it's the attitude that stifles push-back. Like "WE'RE the ones who've screwed this up, so she can really teach us something about how better to 'relate' to this community, so everyone shut up and listen."

That's completely different from a simple "Hey, she became a follower of Jesus! Wonderful!" reaction.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Webster, it's true that I didn't read the book (though now I've read some portions from the later parts as well), but I've listened to a lot of what she has to say, including about an hour-long presentation of hers on Youtube. I don't know what to say except that she's a very clear communicator, and she's pretty definite about where she stands and what she thinks. Sometimes I agree with her, but sometimes I don't.

Lydia McGrew said...

Frank Turk says: "Syracuse is a hub of excellence. The chairman of the Department, Gregg Lambert, is known internationally as one of the foremost voices in Critical Theory."

Mr. Turk:

I do not have an anonymous on-line identity. You can look up my curriculum vitae if you so desire. Most of my publications are in analytic philosophy. My PhD is in English Literature from Vanderbilt University.

You honestly think that being one of the "foremost voices in critical theory" means being a good scholar? I cannot help thinking that you do not know what critical theory is.

Perhaps you are unaware of the nature of feminist literary theory and queer theory. It involves, essentially, trashing the great works of the past by using them as a template upon which to write one's own would-be-clever theories and obsessions with identity politics. Do you not know that this sort of thing--e.g., the very titles of literary critical theory papers presented at MLA conferences--are the butt of jokes among those more analytically minded and/or those who believe that literature has a real and stable meaning? Have you never heard humorous references to the Duke English department? Yet Duke is, yes, an ivy league school. So why the high-falutin' reference to Syracuse as a "hub of excellence" on the grounds that the chairman of a department is a big-wig in "critical theory"? It almost sounds as if you really have little idea what you are talking about, here.

I was an early member of the National Association of Scholars. You may or may not have heard of them. They were an interesting assortment consisting of atheists, Christians, Jews, and sundry agnostics who shared in common a horror at what postmodernism and various -isms and critical theories were doing to the field of higher education.

I am not saying that the resistance to postmodernism and feminist "scholarship" in the field of English has been widespread of late years. Sadly, it hasn't. But I was there for the takeover. I watched it happen. I still correspond with my now-retired dissertation director who still mourns the demise of his department. Yes, demise. Yes, Vanderbilt. Another "hug of excellence," you might say.

Why sneer at young people who love the good, the true, and the beautiful enough and who happen to have enough information to know that "feminist scholarship" isn't the acme of scholarly integrity? Unless, of course, the problem is that you _lack_ that requisite piece of information.

Lydia McGrew said...

tracAh, typos afflict us all. Make that "hub of excellence."

Frank Turk said...

Lydia: That Must Be It.

Lydia McGrew said...

I can only say that if your specialty in Wallace Stevens and your MA in English means that you _do_ know what Critical Theory is, and specifically what Queer Theory is, that makes matters worse. In that case, your esteem for that faux field is founded on acquaintance and not merely on degree-respecting ignorance or blind awe of well-known institutions.

Anyone who knows what Queer Theory is and respects it is...badly misguided. To put it mildly.

I would say, moreover, that you should not assume that those who disagree with you do so entirely or even chiefly on the grounds that such "theorists" are reprobate and lack a good relationship with God. It is possible, in fact, _more_ than possible, to have a justified contempt for such nonsense as Queer Theory based on academic and intellectual considerations and based on a genuine love of the discipline--none of which are religious considerations per se.

I would also add that if you wish to defend that sort of academic baloney, even to people much younger than yourself, it would be just as well if you did not attempt to awe them with references to Butterfield's having been (gasp!) a _tenured professor_ at _Syracuse_ and to her chairman as one of the _foremost voices in Critical Theory_. There are those who will be, rightly, unimpressed. Nor should you ask people to grant you that Syracuse is a "hub of excellence." Indeed, their housing Queer Studies is an argument to the contrary.

Tom Chantry said...

Or maybe Frank knows the commenters at his blog, and recognizes that one of them regularly demonstrates a casual, youthful contempt for anyone with whom she disagrees, no matter how small the disagreement. And maybe he wants her to realize that calling recognized scholars "idiots" wins no arguments. Maybe.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Sorry Tom, but if you really knew me, you'd know I actually don't have contempt for everyone with whom I disagree. Did I not mention that I don't agree with John Piper on every point, but he's my favorite pastor ever? Also, I don't think I've actually used the word "idiot" to describe Gregg what's-is-name, or any of these scholars. But I sure as heck don't respect them.

Lydia McGrew said...

Tom Chantry, if the scholarship in question is really trash, then saying it's trash is speaking the truth. Merely smacking around a youthful commentator for the heck of it (to "teach a lesson" or something of that sort) while coyly concealing that one knows full well that what she is saying is true is indefensible.

Moreover, if the lesson in question is supposed to be "bow down and show respect to big-name universities and tenured professors and 'foremost names' in my academic discipline," then that's a stupid lesson. We need less of that sort of knee-jerk deference to the trappings of academic scholarship, not more. That is _not_ what we should be teaching our young people. It is that sort of mindless deference that keeps Christian parents pouring their hard-earned money and keeps their children mortgaging their futures so that they can go, naively, to "learn about literature" from the likes of Prof. Butterfield (as she was) and her colleagues--those "foremost names" in the pseudo-field of Queer Theory. Let's not encourage that sort of foolishness in the name of teaching young people proper respect. Whatever proper respect is, that ain't it.

Tom Chantry said...


"Really know you?" No, I'm sure I don't.

If anything has come out of this week's metas, it is that sometimes our online personae can be brash to a degree not consistent with our actual, real-life personae. But we are still real people, having a real discussion, and, YGG, you tend to show a lot of contempt at this site.


For my part, I know little about these theories, but I suspect you are entirely right about them. Apologetic method matters, though. On that point, I suspect you stepped into a discussion which you only partly understood. You know literary theory perhaps better than any of us, but that's not the only subject in question here.

yankeegospelgirl said...

For crying out loud Tom---this site was built by a bunch of mavericks. Every day there's a new post full of blunt, sarcastic comments that say what everyone else is too timid or concerned about "tone" to say. Some might even call them "contemptuous." "Merciless" is a word that comes to mind often for me. 99% of the time I'm simply echoing what's in the main post.

Lydia McGrew said...

"Apologetic method matters, though."

And therefore, what...? Therefore F.T. was right to chide a reader for showing contempt for a field that deserves contempt to be shown for it? And he was right to do so *by means of* spouting a bunch of the credentials of the people involved *as though* that were an argument for respecting their scholarship?

No, that really doesn't follow.

"You know literary theory perhaps better than any of us, but that's not the only subject in question here."

If the other question is supposed to be "how to be nice to people like Ms. Butterfield so that they will get saved," I can only say this: Being nice to people needn't mean acting like their scholarship is respectable when it isn't. Perhaps if one were trying to evangelize a "queer theory" scholar, and perhaps if, like YGG (for example) one has an inkling that "queer theory" is a lot of drivel, one would have to find some _other_ point of contact. A mutual love of dogs or what-have-you. Compromising one's intellectual integrity by oohing and aahing over her academic creds needn't be the only option. It had better not be.

Frank Turk said...

Tom: those who can, do. Those who can't, don't.

Let the boys bring flowers in last Month's newspapers.

Frank Turk said...

Lydia: have you read the book?

Lydia McGrew said...

Nope, and uninterested, and that isn't the topic I'm discussing. I'm discussing the fact that YGG "dissed" Queer Theory and disagreed with Ms. Butterfield's statement that the feminists had won or something to that effect in the area of demonstrating academic integrity. My perception is that you took exception to this and challenged it by citing a bunch of credentials, including the claim that Syracuse is a "hub of excellence" and all the rest.

I am addressing strictly that narrow sub-discussion--namely, whether feminist literary theory, Critical Theory, Queer theory are academically respectable or not, whether it was somehow "uppity" for YGG (lacking high-level academic credentials, a point you implicitly made much of) to imply that these fields are _not_ respectable, whether Butterfield is or isn't right to say that such fields represent intellectual and scholarly integrity, and whether you were right or wrong in making *some sort* of implicit argument from Butterfield's position at Syracuse, her having tenure, and her chairman's prominence in the field of Critical Theory.

Come to think of it, you didn't bother to state a thesis there for which that little litany of mere credentials was supposed to be an argument, so one was left to fill in the blanks and conjecture as to what you were trying to support in that fashion.

*Speaking as a scholar* (I trust you will let such a phrase pass muster in my case), I think that that sort of thing sounds like a bunch of childish, credential-worshiping snobbery, and *people like you and me* who have higher degrees in the humanities should be careful not to cultivate or encourage it. Our discipline has much to answer for. The layman is gradually becoming aware of the trahison des clercs and of the scam that has too often been pulled on him. It does our discipline, the humanities generally, and the future of higher education no good whatsoever to go smacking down uppity youngsters who don't do sufficient homage to "tenured professors" and "hubs of excellence" and "chairmen who are foremost voices" in pseudo-sub-disciplines lacking in all academic merit. Let's not play that little game.

donsands said...

"...Butterfield's exposition of what the Bible means when it speaks about the sin of Sodom."

Very important for the Church in our day methinks. Christians are being forced into the closet by the homosexual community, and we need to be able to know the truth, especially as the growth of same sex marriage picks up steam, and we see many churches marrying two men, and two women.

I just read a great teaching from Wayne Grudem: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/04/the_bible_and_homosexuality#.UXSMZ6G2lGw.facebook

In fact, I may have found this reference here.

Hope this comment is within the bounds of what we are discussing. I suppose i need to read the book first, or at least the 2nd chapter, which I have decided to do.

Thanks again for the encouraging post, and sharing a way we can be edified in the truth and in our faith.

Frank Turk said...

Lydia: what sort of integrity, do you think, does it take to wail about something and all its vices when one has not read it?

As a scholarly writer, your opinion will be informative.

Frank Turk said...

In 50 words or less, if you please.

Kerry James Allen said...

Frank, in an attempt to save the valuable time of the Team Pyro members and the regular loyal readers, please re-title this post ASAP. That is all.

Ken said...

"please re-title this post" To this: Maybe Grace is the solution for people with a sin problem! :)

Lydia McGrew said...

F.T., that particular book isn't, AFAIK, a sample of Queer Theory. Let's hope not, anyway. I could go into a discussion of why laymen don't need to read Queer Theory to know enough about it to deplore it, but we'll leave that for another day. I myself am not here deploring Butterfield's book as a whole nor even to any great extent. I'm deploring Queer Theory and feminist theory and defending someone else who, in the course of discussing a chapter of Butterfield's book (which chapter I gather she had read) dismissed Queer Theory and feminist literary theory and disagreed with a particular statement Butterfield had made about them. Of course it's possible, with intellectual integrity, to disagree with that statement of Butterfield's without reading an entire book. One can disagree with a clear statement an author makes in Chapter 1 of a book without reading the entire book! That shd. go without saying.

Lydia McGrew said...

If Butterfield didn't really say or didn't really mean that feminist scholarship is an example of scholarly integrity, it shd. be easy enough for you to point out the misunderstanding, FT. As a scholar and all. One usually does this by giving the quotation at issue from the book and then saying, "So-and-so has misunderstood this statement. Here, in detail, is why. Here is what the author really meant, which is entirely unobjectionable. This is how we can tell what the author really meant instead." But then, you don't need my help to explain how that is usually done, do you?

LanternBright said...


I'm not Frank, but I'll gladly take up your challenge. YGG objected specifically to the "epiphanies of the classroom" and the "risky and complex thinkers" that Butterfield said she missed from her days at Syracuse. The exact quote she was (incredibly poorly) referencing is as follows:

"The part of my job that I loved best was undergraduate teaching. I still shiver at the dynamism and the epiphanies of the classroom. I miss this. I also miss my colleagues. I miss being in the company of risky and complex thinkers, people who are invested in our culture and who challenge me to think to the edges of my comfort zones."

From that, you simply cannot make the case that "epiphanies of the classroom" means "epiphanies specifically germane to the field of Queer Theory," which is clearly what YGG takes it to mean. She can only have done so by utterly ignoring the entire context of the first chapter, in which Butterfield makes it clear--REPEATEDLY--that she has since rejected the fundamental tenets of Queer Theory. If you've ever taught at all, you know that an instructor in ANY class experiences epiphanies at best only tangentially related to the course material. Even though I personally HATED teaching my own university's freshman composition curriculum much of the time, I found that I was nonetheless challenged and stimulated intellectually in ways that frequently had nothing to do directly with my own field of concentration.

YGG also rejects out of hand (as you seem to do) the notion that anyone studying Queer Theory is thereby prima facie excluded from being what Butterfield calls "risky and complex thinkers." This is utter hogwash, of course, and academic snobbery of the worst kind. I don't have to agree with Derrida's postmodernism anymore than I do with Thomas Aquinas's aesthetics to appreciate the complexity of either man's thought, nor to enjoy the opportunities I had to cross swords with either, so to speak.

Thanks for completely derailing the thread, though--it's always a joy to interact with people who insistently refuse to interact with the main point of a post at all.

Oh, and, Frank? Nice review.

LanternBright said...

By the by, YGG, it's manifestly false that Butterfield suggests (as you state) that "post-modernism has "won the war of academic integrity" over Christianity in the universities."

What Butterfield ACTUALLY says (in that first chapter which YOU claim to have read, incidentally), is this:

"The closest I ever got to Christians during these times were students who refused to read material in university classrooms on the grounds that 'knowing Jesus' meant never needing to know anything else; people who sent me hate mail; or people who carried signs at gay pride marches that read 'God Hates Fags.'"

It's in *THIS* context that Butterfield says that "Christians always seemed like bad thinkers to me." See, she's actually using the PAST tense in those sorts of statements, and while I think your casual dismissal of the rest of her book is deplorable enough, even your own purported reading of the very first chapter can't have been all that incisive if you failed to grasp what she was doing by her simple use of tenses.

I guess this is a bit of a long-winded way of saying that Chantry's assessment of your arrogance and contempt is dead on: you made a hasty judgment of Butterfield's book without bothering to read it at any substantive length or serious, critical depth: she came a little too close to the "liberal establishment" for your taste, and you simply didn't think anything she said was worthy of your esteemed attention.

Lydia McGrew said...

L.B., would you care to find the quotation in which the term "integrity" was used and in which it was stated that feminists have "won" in the area of scholarly integrity? Or does that quotation not exist?

Yes, I do dismiss Derrida altogether. And yes, I have read him. And no, his thought is not complex. He's a complete fraud.

As to who derailed the thread, perhaps you should speak to FT about that, for it was he who implied (though he can never quite bring himself to come out and state anything clearly) that

a) no young person has a right to criticize Butterfield if such a person lacks high-level academic credentials


b) that Butterfield's position at Syracuse, and her chairman's, command respect.

I would say that that quotation you have just given definitely bears out the conclusion, "Butterfield still thinks Queer Theory has academic respectability and that her colleagues' intellectual work had value." If she has rejected QT on strictly moral grounds, that does not contradict this conclusion. And in any event, it is possible for Butterfield to have complex and to some extent contradictory and conflicted feelings about her former field. In fact, that would be psychologically likely.

LanternBright said...


Butterfield's quote is as follows:

"Like it or not, in the court of public opinion, feminists and not Bible-believing Christians have won the war of intellectual integrity."

As even you should be able to see, this can in no way be construed as saying, "feminists have intellectual integrity and Christians do not." It's another example of how YGG failed to read Butterfield with any real attentiveness whatsoever.

I also love how you disagree with Derrida and therefore dismiss him as a complete fraud without any complexity whatsoever. Apparently, one only needs to be in agreement with YOU in order to have any real complexity or density at all. Nice. It's also interesting that you now make yourself out to be a psychological expert as well. We all appreciate your keen--nay, TELEPATHIC!--insight into what Buttefield (whom you admittedly haven't even READ) thinks about her former intellectual environment.

yankeegospelgirl said...

LB, FWIW, I'm curious to hear that you think I was "blatantly false" in claiming that Butterfield believes feminism has won the war for academic integrity, when... well, here's the quote:

"Although I live my life now for Christ and Christ alone, I do not find myself in like-minded company when my fellow Christians bemoan the state of the university today. Feminism has a better reputation than Christianity at all major U.S. universities and this fact really bothers (and confuses) many Christians. Feminism has truly captured the soul of secular U.S. universities and the church has either been too weak or too ignorant to know and to know better. But how has the church responded to this truth? Too often the church sets itself up as a victim of this paradigm shift, but I think this is dishonest. Here's what I think happened: since all major universities had Christian roots, too many Christians thought that they could rest in Christian tradition, not Christian relevance. Too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue. There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted. Like it or not, in the court of public opinion, feminists and not Bible-believing Christians have won the war of academic integrity. And Christians are in part to blame for this."

Now, I will grant that she throws in the phrase "in the court of public opinion." But come on, this is ALL about how Christians have screwed up and have no right to whine and moan about the universities. Like "Oh please, you guys are ones to talk." When actually, they're, um... right.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Ah, posted before you did. Anyway, yeah, okay, she does throw in that phrase, but I think you'd have to be a dolt not to get the over-arching point of that long paragraph.

BTW, one can disagree with somebody and still respect them as a scholar. I've read people like that, for sure. But it's possible to disagree with someone AND not respect them because of the poor quality of their reasoning/philosophy.

LanternBright said...


If you really can't see the difference between, "the world thinks Christianity has no academic integrity and here's why..." and "Christianity doesn't have the academic integrity that feminism has," then you could really use a refresher course in basic comprehension.

Tom Chantry said...

Just catching u p on the thread. Let's see:

1. This is a BOOK review. A BOOK review.

2. A commenter who read chapter one skipped the rest because she thinks the author is infected with worldly thinking.

3. Frank suggested that might be construed as anti-intellectual or something.

4. A second commenter, who read none of the book, has thus concluded that Frank is a bully (of course) and ALSO infected by worldly thinking.

5. It turns out that Commenter 1 didn't actually read that one chapter all that well.

6. Commenter 2 is doubling down to tell us who is and who isn't a complex thinker.

I think I understand everything except something Frank wants me to do wi th some flowers and a newspaper. I'm just a history major, though; we don't get metaphor.

LanternBright said...


He wants you to see a man with a blue guitar.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I think my exact wording was that she believes post-modernism/feminism, etc., has won the war in the universities. She does respect Ken, the pastor who evangelized her, and other people in her church from a scholarly perspective. However, she makes it clear that at a university level, Christians have failed, and it's their fault, and she does not agree that feminism is a blight on the university.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Tom, I couldn't read the rest because I was reading a Kindle sample that stopped at Chapter 1 and a smidgen of something later. Beyond that, I've listened to just about every lecture/presentation of Rosaria's I could find on Youtube, where she basically summarizes the entire book. So... I think I've done just about all I could given my resources.

Tom Chantry said...

@LB, I'm a confessional Reformed Baptist pastor; we're not allowed to play guitar.

Lydia McGrew said...

Tom Chantry, good grief! Where did I ever say anything about "worldly thinking"? You have to be kidding! Yeah, I think FT has behaved rather jerkishly here and has made empty snobbish appeals to bare credentials. But that has zip to do with "worldly thinking" in some religious sense. A complete secularist who would never use the phrase "worldly thinking" could make the criticism I did. Weird that you would even bring up such a phrase. I can't fathom it. Perhaps you think that _anyone_ who objects to something FT says is doing so on some sort of narrowly fundamentalist grounds? Baffling.

LB and YGG, thanks for the quotations. Based on those quotations, I'd say that Butterfield is being kind of shallow. As YGG says, if the estimation of feminist theory as valueless is _true_, then why go on at length about how feminists are _thought_ to be better intellectually without ever pausing to say that this public perception is incorrect? Example: I'm heavily involved in apologetics work, and I know many apologists who deplore the fact that atheists are thought better of as intellectuals by the public than Christians, and that Christians aren't prepared enough to show the public to be wrong. _But_ it is always clear that these apologists are making the point that atheism _is_ intellectually rebuttable, that atheist arguments _are_ incorrect or even poor, and that Christians just need to get informed about how to make that case. To put it mildly, it's less than clear that that's what Butterfield is saying.

LB, I told you expressly what my ground was for my earlier comment about Butterfield and her field: It was the quotation you gave, not telepathy. Query: Are you saying that she _does_ reject Queer Theory as utterly academically risible? You, after all, are the guy who mentioned Derrida in the same sentence with Thomas Aquinas (!) and who is all fuzzy-furred and indignant about the fact that I didn't write you a treatise about that "complex thinker," Derrida. So do you think that Butterfield disagrees with _you_ on the academic respectability and "complexity" of this kind of stuff? In that case I suppose you should think Butterfield to be overly dismissive! But you don't seem to be saying that either. Make up your mind. Is your criticism that one _shouldn't_ reject this stuff as intellectually valueless or that Butterfield _does_ think this stuff is intellectually valueless and that she is being misinterpreted?

As to Derrida, you're chiding me for threadjacking and simultaneously chiding me for not saying _more_ about why I think him and his ilk to be academically fraudulent? That hardly seems consistent.

Frank Turk said...

Saith Lydia McGew:

| F.T., that particular book isn't, AFAIK, a sample
| of Queer Theory. Let's hope not, anyway.

You know: this is why I asked you to keep it under 50 words – you can’t stop hitting yourself when you exposit. In the style of Dumas, here are 5 reasons why this is the worst place to start your answer:

Obvious: but all the complaints in this thread are, allegedly about this book. Not reading the book means what in that context?

Meterological: Trying to blow over the the problem doesn’t resolve the problem of not reading the book.

Fashionable: If you draped your bangs over this excuse, you’d need bigger bangs – like, the size of Kansas. Not reading the book means you have no idea whether or not its about anything.

Personal: Between you and me, it seems like a scholar like yourself would read a book before she would deride a book, hope or no hope.

Presuppositional: You can’t really know how to defend the basis of YGG’s complaints unless you know where they come from, can you? I mean: in the same way you can’t extablish good-better-best without an objective measure, you can’t establish “in” or “out” without an objective source – like the book neither of you have read.

And so on – we could do Humorous, Naughty, French, Dirty and so on, but you get the point: criticizing what the author says in a book requires that, well, you read the book first. Having not done that, the question is whether offering criticism without reading is a sign of integrity or the other thing.

| I could go into a discussion of why laymen don't
| need to read Queer Theory to know enough
| about it to deplore it, but we'll leave that for
| another day.

Which is an enjoyable statement, but: we are talking about this book, and whether it actually endorses Queer Theory, and whether the people Prof. Butterfield knew when she was an English Professor at Syracuse were smart, educated, and had any integrity.

My bet: They probably read books before they hashed them with their post-modern critical utensils. That deals with the integrity part. I think the smart, educated part can be dealt with by the book itself as it demonstrates that they knew exactly what Prof. Butterfield was doing by coming out as Christian.

But: you have to read the book to go there. Only one of us can do that.


Frank Turk said...


| I myself am not here deploring
| Butterfield's book as a whole nor even to any
| great extent.

Hogwash. You’re here defending YGG’s hashing of the book on the basis of her statements about the lack of [something] in the book based on the idea that Prof. Butterfield says the people she worked with there were actually smart and good scholars.

Which, again: that’s why you should have stuck to 50 words or less. Trying to answer more than I asked has gotten you deeper and deeper into your own kettle of stinky fish.

| I'm deploring Queer Theory and
| feminist theory and defending someone else
| who, in the course of discussing a chapter of
| Butterfield's book (which chapter I gather she
| had read) dismissed Queer Theory and
| feminist literary theory and disagreed with a
| particular statement Butterfield had made
| about them.

Now: look at that. 54 words (according to WORD), and you still haven’t answered the question: what can we say about the integrity of someone who hasn’t read a book, but wants to hash a book for a statement which, in any honest person’s mind, could at least in theory be answered by the book in, say, the very next chapter?

It’s a simple question – and has nothing to do with whether you agree with Queer Theory or abhor it. It has to do with the person you say you’re defending. She hasn’t read the book she’s opining about – what did they call that at Vanderbuilt, back in the day?

| Of course it's possible, with
| intellectual integrity, to disagree with that
| statement of Butterfield's without reading an
| entire book. One can disagree with a clear
| statement an author makes in Chapter 1 of a
| book without reading the entire book! That
| should go without saying.

Aha! So then it’s OK for me to say that, based on your integration here on this blog, that your Ph.D. is twaddle because let’s face it: it renders one opinion which says that people can have perfectly-good integrity without reading the books they want to review or criticize, yes?

OK: Done. Thanks for the education.

Comments are closed.