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.
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.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.
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.
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.