THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT BOOK REVIEW
Updated: Jun 30
This was one of my favorite reads of 2019. Not only is Rosaria Butterfield’s story of conversion compelling and thought provoking, her writing is also masterful. This book, for so many reasons, was a page turner for me. Butterfield reveals raw and honest reflections on her journey to salvation from a life that was outwardly against God in so many ways. Her story is engaging, but ultimately, I left this book amazed at the ways in which God reveals himself, softens hardened hearts, and brings people we would never expect to himself.
WHAT IS IN THE BOOK:
“How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck?” (p.1)
The opening sentence of chapter one encapsulates the journey that Butterfield is about to let you in on. Worldview, sexuality, evangelism methods, the power of sin, the journey of repentance, God’s work of conversion, and Christian doctrine are all topics Butterfield walks through over and over again: her thoughts on them as a non-believer and the shift in her thinking as God saved her. The reader is invited into the depths of her wrestling with these things through the process of her conversion. She gives insight into the intellectual and practical challenges she faced in attempting to reconcile truths of God with a life that was outwardly opposing him in many ways.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT:
This book is accessible to many “categories” of non-believers and believers alike: parents, high schoolers, feminists, ministry/church workers, university professors, the LGBTQ community, your average church goer, college students, etc. As a college student, you should read this book because of the insights it gives you into the mind of a feminist, lesbian activist who was a tenured English professor at Syracuse University with a specialty in Queer Theory, a Marxist worldview, and a Unitarian Universalist Church member. So many of the lost students and professors on your campus will fall into at least one of these categories, if not multiple.
“Christians always seemed like bad thinkers to me. It seemed that they could maintain their worldview only because they were sheltered from the world’s real problems..Christians always seemed like bad readers to me, too..They appeared to use the Bible in a way..that stopped conversation, not to deepen it..”(p. 4).
Butterfield (reflecting back on her life before converting) lays out the ways she thought about Christians and their beliefs. As a believer, being invited into the mind of an unbeliever (similar often to the way of thinking many on your campus would align with) is convicting and helpful in the ways we think about how we communicate the hope we have in Christ and the truth of God. The insights she gives are informative for conversations you are very likely to have throughout your college career with non-believers.
Now, as a believer, Butterfield also takes a lot of time to comment on repentance and sanctification. She devotes many pages to the topic of sin and the power it wields in the lives of non-believers and believers alike and how this truth is important in evangelism. Paragraphs like these will challenge you, as a believer, in your sin and inform you in your evangelism and communication of what sin is and does to non-believers.
“I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin” (p.21).
“Sin is not a mistake. A mistake is taking the wrong exit on the highway. A sin is a treason against a Holy God. A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding… In accepting misrepresentations of the gospel that render sin any less than this, you will never learn of the fruit of repentance.” (p.36).
(There is so much more I could’ve written about why you should read this book, but I am self restraining as to not make this blog post a novel and therefore unreadable!!)
CRITIQUES OF THE BOOK:
Like I mentioned previously, this was one of my favorite books I read last year. However, my love for this book is focused on the first three chapters (94 pages). Beginning in chapter four, the book shifts from focusing on Butterfield’s conversion and initial life as a believer to talk more about the way she lives her life now. Butterfield is a member of a Reformed Presbyterian Church. She spends a lot of time in the latter half of the book talking through the denomination’s secondary and tertiary doctrines and practices and why she holds to them. These chapters are still interesting, but they feel like a different book than the first three chapters, to be frank. I skimmed these chapters and found her points of view on the RPC, marriage, homeschooling, hospitality, etc to be informative and interesting but not as engaging as the first half of the book.
However, the cost of the book is worth what you read in the first three chapters (to quote Cole Penick when I first started reading this book last year), so you should definitely not let the last few chapters dissuade you from the gold you will mine in the beginning of the book. I have also listened to many podcasts with Butterfield and always enjoy all that she has to say. Another book of hers that is widely popular is The Gospel Comes with a House Key, where she focuses more on the practice of hospitality in the Christian life as well as tells a lot of her conversion story. I have not read it, but everyone I know who has has loved it as much as I loved reading her story in this book.
There really is so much more I could say about what I learned from this book and how much I loved it, but I will leave you with this: Reading this book will give you insights into the mind of a non-believer that held many views that I am sure are held by your classmates and professors. It will help you see the ways Christians and their message are often perceived by non-believers in a university setting. It will inform your evangelistic conversations. It will encourage grace and compassion for those who are not believers and live radically different lives than you do. It will help give you a deeper, Biblical understanding of sin, repentance, and sanctification. And, ultimately, it will engage you with a complicated and beautiful story of God’s grace and work in the life of an unlikely convert.
Click here to read the book.