Rosaria Butterfield—a lesbian English professor who hated Christianity and later became a Reformed pastor’s wife and told of the story in her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith—is fresh off of her return from Wheaton College, where 100 students protested her invitation to speak as implying that her testimony should be seen as normative. (You can read President Phil Ryken’s response here. You can also read an interview with Dr. Butterfield about her interactions with the students.)

Today, writing for the Gospel Coalition, she highlights three views that Christians should avoid on homosexuality:

As I write and speak today, 14 years have elapsed since my queer activist days. I’m a new creature in Christ, and my testimony is still like iodine on starch. I’m sensitive to three unbiblical points of view Christian communities harbor when they address the issue of Christianity and homosexuality. Everywhere I go, I confront all three.

1. The Freudian position. This position states same-sex attraction is a morally neutral and fixed part of the personal makeup and identity of some, that some are “gay Christians” and others are not. It’s true that temptation isn’t sin (though what you do with it may be); but that doesn’t give us biblical license to create an identity out of a temptation pattern. To do so is a recipe for disaster. This position comes directly from Sigmund Freud, who effectually replaced the soul with sexual identity as the singular defining characteristic of humanity. God wants our whole identities, not partitioned ones.

2. The revisionist heresy. This position declares that the Bible’s witness against homosexuality, replete throughout the Old and New Testaments, results from misreadings, mistranslations, and misapplications, and that Scripture doesn’t prohibit monogamous homosexual sexual relations, thereby embracing antinomianism and affirming gay marriage.

3. The reparative therapy heresy. This position contends a primary goal of Christianity is to resolve homosexuality through heterosexuality, thus failing to see that repentance and victory over sin are God’s gifts and failing to remember that sons and daughters of the King can be full members of Christ’s body and still struggle with sexual temptation. This heresy is a modern version of the prosperity gospel. Name it. Claim it. Pray the gay away.

Indeed, if you only read modern (post 19th-century) texts, it would rightly seem these are three viable options, not heresies. But I beg to differ.

Worldview matters. And if we don’t reach back before the 19th century, back to the Bible itself, the Westminster divines, and the Puritans, we will limp along, defeated. Yes, the Holy Spirit gives you a heart of flesh and the mind to understand and love the Lord and his Word. But without good reading practices even this redeemed heart grows flabby, weak, shaky, and ill. You cannot lose your salvation, but you can lose everything else.

Enter John Owen. Thomas Watson. Richard Baxter. Thomas Brooks. Jeremiah Burroughs. William Gurnall. The Puritans. They didn’t live in a world more pure than ours, but they helped create one that valued biblical literacy. Owen’s work on indwelling sin is the most liberating balm to someone who feels owned by sexual sin. You are what (and how) you read. J. C. Ryle said it takes the whole Bible to make a whole Christian. Why does sin lurk in the minds of believers as a law, demanding to be obeyed? How do we have victory if sin’s tentacles go so deep, if Satan knows our names and addresses? We stand on the ordinary means of grace: Scripture reading, prayer, worship, and the sacraments. We embrace the covenant of church membership for real accountability and community, knowing that left to our own devices we’ll either be led astray or become a danger to those we love most. We read our Bibles daily and in great chunks. We surround ourselves with a great cloud of witnesses who don’t fall prey to the same worldview snares we and our post-19th century cohorts do.

You can read the whole thing here. (Dr. Butterfield will be giving two workshops at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference (June 27 to 29 in Orlando).

For more on her story, you can watch this interview she did with Marvin Olasky:

You can read a sample from her book here.

And here is her testimony—followed by a lengthy Q&A—given at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church (Tampa, Florida) on February 8, 2013:

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7 thoughts on “Rosaria Butterfield After Wheaton: Three Unbiblical Positions on Christianity and Homosexuality”

  1. Mr. Conservative says:

    This is a great piece and so relevant to all that us going on these days in the media. There does seem to be an assault on the Christian view toward homosexuality these days: The college football player from Missouri who “came out”–so much of Olympic coverage (and commercials), Modern Family, etc. And it is so one-sided. Anyone who does not worship homosexual relationships is automatically a hater and homophobe.

    I don’t hate homosexuals, I love them, pity them and want to point them to Christ as our only hope and comfort in all of humanity’s fight against indwelling sin. I struggle with sin too, but it’s not helpful to just deem my sin a “lifestyle” and ask that others celebrate it with me.

    One final word: Knowing there have always been homosexuals and always will be—why is it right to ask them to keep their sin in the shadows, in the closet so-to-speak—like in most of recorded history? Why ask them to be hypocrites about it (assuming they reject God, His Word, and are going to do what they want to do anyway)? Great quote: “Hypocrisy is vice tipping its hat to virtue.” Because sin kept in the shadows—whether it’s the homosexual, the adulterer, the prostitute, the drug addict, or the drunkard–is at least saying to society—“I know I am making bad choices, it is the road I have chosen, but don’t be like me, I know what I am doing is wrong and shameful.” That is worth something.

  2. Jim Lee says:

    Praise God for what the Lord has done to save Dr. Butterfield!

  3. Curt Day says:

    Regarding the reparative therapy heresy, we need to distinguish between error and heresy. The former says we are wrong but inside the faith while the latter defines us as being outside the faith. I don’t see everybody who subscribed to this “heresy” as being outside the faith.

    1. Mark says:

      Yeah, I definitely agree that heresy and error shouldn’t be conflated.

      I’d go farther and say that it’s silly to call reparative therapy a heresy. God is powerful and does change people (= sanctification). We shouldn’t assume He will do this work of sanctification in the same way for each person who has homosexual desires, but as biblical Christians believing those desires are disordered, it’s ridiculous to say that it’s a “heresy” to pray that God would change people’s desires.

      If a Christian has exclusively homosexual desires, and knows that (s)he cannot marry someone of the same-sex and remain faithful to God, and thus faces the prospect of a life of singleness, and is open to the idea of being attracted to the other-sex, and even wants that, there’s certainly no harm in praying for that. “Such *were* some of you” (1 Cor 6:11); in behavior, certainly; and perhaps in terms of desire, too.

      God did that for me. I had exclusively homosexual desires; now I am married w/ children, and I love my wife, and I’m attracted to her. That wasn’t true before. I still am attracted to men, but not in the same way as before — I don’t posit my whole identity in them. I’m much freer, praise be to God.

      There are many people like me — I know them. I think that Dr Butterfield has good things to say, but I also think she’s a rigid thinker. She was on one end of the pendulum (liberal), and now she’s swung to the other (conservative Reformed cessationist), and she has a hard time allowing for other versions of Christian thinking to be part of the conversation.

      We should honor her for her courage and the good she has to say. But the conservative, liturgical, cessationist, Reformed version of the story isn’t the only one. And to label any other versions as “heresy” is petty, theologically misinformed, and overly-dichotomous. It’s black-and-white thinking.

      Ironically, she herself witnesses to the fact that God changed her desires. He didn’t do it through an “ex-gay” ministry, as she carefully points out in her book. Fine. But some people need a season of receiving prayer for injuries to their souls. One friend of mine was sexually abused for years by an uncle. He needed healing. God healed him and, lo and behold, my friend desired women after that! To say God can’t do that, or that we shouldn’t pursue that, is certainly to close one’s eyes to the pain of a person who’s been sexually abused, in this example (not in every example, of course!).

      1. Lou G. says:

        Praise God for the change that He has done in our lives!
        One thing, though, I came to the faith back in the 90s and when Dr. Butterfield or others use the term “Reparative Therapy”, there is something specific in view here. I’ve benefited from ministries like Harvest and Exodus, but neither of these would be classified as belonging to the “Reparative Therapy” model. RT models were either very gnostic (if they even tried to be biblical) or included extremely harsh treatments of the body (including shock therapy and even mild poisoning) or highly manipulative and controlling psychotherapy.

        I think for the most part, RT has died off. At this point, I would not call any of the more prominenat Biblical counseling ministries/paraministries reparative therapy by any stretch though, unless I’m missing something.

        1. Mark says:

          Lou — reparative therapy is simply a secular kind of psychotherapy, promoted by Dr Joseph Nicolosi and those associated with him. It’s not gnostic at all. And it certainly has nothing to do with electroshock therapy! It’s one kind of “conversion therapy,” for lack of a better term.

          There have been others who’ve tried to change homosexuals’ orientation with other kinds of “conversion therapy,” and some of those in the past have used electroshock, but that has absolutely nothing to do with reparative therapy.

          1. Lou G. says:

            Back in the ’90s some of the “reparation therapy” styled ministries were very gnostic, or perhaps I should say more specifically dualistic. Basically holding to the Col. 2 false teaching that Body=bad – Spirit=good. This may not have been the norm or held by secular therapists, but it is a part of the history of reparation therapy.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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