Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

I believe self-reflection is a lost art. When it comes to the church, I think self-reflection is not just a lost art, it is a misunderstood art.

The ability to look back, to look in, to look up – these are skills that previous generations practiced to powerful effect, yet we sadly do not make much in the way of time for them.

If anything, there is an aversion to it. We like to convey the image that we have it all together, that we have no need to learn anything, that we have it all figured out. The only way you do that, frankly, is to deny reality because no one has it all together perfectly – we just aren’t self-reflective enough to know and admit it. 

That was one of the things that made The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith such a gripping and powerful read – the book is unreservedly self-reflective.

The heart of the book revolves around the conversion and early years of the Christian life of Dr Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a tenured English professor at Syracuse who, prior to her conversion, lived in a lesbian relationship and had no interest in the Christian faith. Her career was booming, she was happy with her partner, owned two homes and was actively engaged in activism on a number of fronts.

That being the case, many evangelicals, either consciously or unconsciously, would think she was a total write-off, someone for whom salvation was just far too out of reach…except it wasn’t.

A riveting read from start to finish, we’re introduced to a story that, if we weren’t being told by a reliable source, sounds entirely implausible. As Dr Butterfield herself describes it, it was a ‘trainwreck’ – her life went from planned and normal to unpredictable and unconventional in what could only have felt as ‘overnight’. Dr Butterfield steps into the role of master storyteller, taking us on her journey unafraid to tell us what she was thinking and feeling at crucial points while also weaving in key theological points and piercing commentary at crucial junctures.

Therein lies the strength of this book – Dr Butterfield isn’t afraid to get self-reflective as a reformed evangelical about some of the issues and attitudes that hamper us in being effective witnesses in Christ. That alone makes the book worth the cost of buying.

I wouldn’t endorse everything about the book – for example, the subtle advocacy for exclusive psalmody at points – but this was a highly edifying read and I would gladly commend it to Christians seeking an ‘insider perspective’ on how to proclaim the Gospel, not just to the homosexual community, but into the chaos of our present culture more broadly.

My advice: go read it, think through it and then repent.

I know I did.



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