Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 2

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Pic: Ravi and his son, Nathan, at our home

Once again, we have the privilege to hear from Ravi Zacharias via an interview I did with him.  Though done years ago, his answers are timeless, interesting, and applicable for us.  This time, we take personal and insightful look into his life and ministry.

For those of you who missed Part 1, Click Here .  Ravi was a precious friend and hero who has had an immeasurable impact in my life as well as thousands of others.  He was widely considered as the finest and most impactful Christian apologist/evangelist in the world before his passing on May 19, 2020.

We have used the last two weeks to honor his life and legacy and to help inspire you to have a greater perspective on life and your calling in Christ:

Ravi: A Poetical Sketch – A Tribute to Ravi Zacharias by Daniel Hsieh

Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

Ravi Zacharias: A Singular Life (1946 – 2020)

Ravi Zacharias Buried in Casket Built by Prisoners

A MUST WATCH! – Ravi’s Memorial

Enjoy and glean from this titan of the faith! – Arthur

Arthur:  You said at Founders Weekend (an annual weekend retreat for close friends of the ministry), with respect to the ministry, that God gave you a vision without giving you omniscience.  I knew what you were saying because if you really knew what lay ahead, in your human mind, you would have been overwhelmed and felled before you even started.  But what was it that you did see?  I’m sure you never envisioned the grandness of the impact that RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) would have.  What was it that you were looking to do when you started the ministry?

Ravi:  The need.  I saw the need .  That’s about all I could see . . . that the need was incredibly vast to reach the mind and that we were going to be committed.  What I did see in my mind were university open forums, businessmen’s luncheons, international conferences where we are reaching the thinker;  and so I very clearly envisioned these audiences coming in large numbers to listen to a defense of the Christian faith but I did not envision, say, the growth of the radio ministry, the growth of our team, . . . the marvelous opportunities that have come are extraordinary.  I mean we have a full time staff of 18 here (Atlanta), 14 or 15 in Madras (India), and now with Oxford (England), and Canada . . . we have contained growth in our planning.  We have made every effort to limit growth.

[Note: It was in 1984 that Zacharias founded RZIM, which today has 16 offices throughout the world in the United States, Canada, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and the Middle East. Through its global team of more than 90 full-time speakers and nearly 300 employees worldwide, RZIM seeks to impact the heart and intellect of society’s thinkers and influencers through evangelism, apologetics, spiritual disciplines, training, and humanitarian support.]

Arthur:  That’s a new approach!  Everyone else seems to strive to do it the other way (i.e. strive for growth rather than limit it).

Ravi:  (chuckling) This is the truth.  People sort of chuckle at it in our meetings but I think one of the most difficult decisions in life is to know when you are at your maximum and not to go wider but to go deeper.

Arthur:  That’s something I came away with at Founders.  Let me tell you that that has been so profound in my life.  Not only the messages but the people I was around . . . talking to different people and listening to the testimonies, I was there humbled . . .  It was kind of scary for me because I had never thought in such grand and deep terms.  It seemed that everyone I was meeting had that kind of deeper vision for ministry.  I was kind of scared because I think, as you would say, Aslan is on the move;  something was going on in my heart, like I was approaching a next step [in my spiritual life] or something.  That was so enriching.  We appreciate that (being included) very much.

Ravi:  I appreciate that, Arthur.  That was a special weekend, no doubt.

Arthur:  Back to the ministry, how did it come about that the vision came to mind.  [Weren’t] you in the business world before you were in ministry?  How did God bring you to this point?

Ravi:  When I came to Canada (from his homeland, India), I worked in the hotel industry.  I trained in catering technology and hotel management.  My whole goal was to be in the hospitality and hotel industry.  I enjoyed that very much and still miss it a lot because I like the hospitality industry, my focus mainly being food and beverage management;  but after working in it for two years, there was no doubt in my mind, that as each day was going by, God’s voice was getting clearer and clearer.  By that I don’t mean an audible voice but a tug at the heart to get myself into theological training and into ministry because that was where I was most fulfilled – in sharing my testimony or speaking to audiences.  It was very obvious to me where it was going but I just did not know what form it would take.  I knew it was going to be ministry but I didn’t know whether it would be as a missionary or an evangelist.  I just did not understand those terms very well, coming from India. . . .  I finished my undergrad and then worked full time for the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) for one year.  I then felt I needed graduate level education in philosophy if I was to truly wrestle with the questions people were asking.  I did my graduate level work at Trinity and after that became a professor for the Alliance . . . When I finally left the professorship to form RZIM, it was with the goal of reaching the thinker and training men and women to be able to think again for the glory of God.

Arthur:  Going back to [your early life], you were converted in India.  You said you were very sick or something?

Ravi:  Well, I was on a bed of suicide when I was 17.

Arthur:  Oh, that’s right. Was it really that meaningless or seemingly so at that point?

Ravi:  I think so because of the kind of culture in which I lived.  There’s a lot of pressure to do well in your studies and if you’re not going to do well, there’s no hope.

Arthur:  The Chinese kids that I work with have a strong feeling of that.

Ravi:  Exactly.  I talk to them here at Georgia Tech.  I’ve had them come to the office.  A Chinese youngster understands that very well [and] an Indian youngster understands it very well.  There’s a great similarity because of the size of our nations and the emphasis that is placed on scholarship, and then limited opportunities . . . it’s not good enough to do well, you have to be at the top of your class.  That’s the pressure.  If you don’t make it, there’s a lot of shame.

Arthur:  That’s right. So, you said your mother brought the Word in to you?

Ravi:  Yes, somebody brought a Bible into the hospital room –  a friend of mine whom I didn’t know that well – and he gave her John 14 to read to me.  In the hospital room, when she read it, that’s when [I made my commitment].  I had heard the gospel before but I didn’t have full understanding of the terms.

Arthur:  When she was reading the words, did something happen?

Ravi:  When she came to the verse when Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” I said, “Lord, I don’t know exactly what this means but if this means that You’re the giver of life, then I want it, and I want Your life because the life I have I do not want.  I will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of truth if You will just change my life for me.

Arthur:  Afterward, then, was there an immediate difference?

Ravi:  Yes, an incredible difference.  I left the hospital room a brand new man.  I got involved in Bible studies with Youth for Christ and they became my nurturing agent really.

Arthur:  You told me in your letter to me last year that you thought the Chinese people had a special role in God’s plan in the next century.  What did you mean by that?

Ravi:  Well, I think they are a very, very uniquely gifted people.  If you look at the Chinese culture, there’s almost nothing, in terms of human capacity, that they as a culture do not possess.  [They are] incredible artists, very competitive in athletics, very gifted musically.  They know the diligence of thinking [and] scholarship – the Chinese scholar and so on.  They’re very, very gifted in business acumen and learning to make the best out of difficult situations.  They have an incredible survival instinct . . . through thick and thin, somehow they have managed to keep the home fires burning.  There’s a lot of courage in Chinese culture . . . If the gospel takes hold in China, I have no doubt that they will be the agents of change in the twenty first century . . . the key is going to be how the gospel takes root.

Arthur:  Are there any plans for RZIM to (minister in China)?

Ravi:  I think so, Arthur, I think so.  We generally wait for things to come about naturally;  we seldom construct a specific plan but the way God has opened up doors for us in the past, I think something will happen because of the impact we had in Hong Kong and in Singapore.

Arthur:  In your last statement here, what is your life’s passion or purpose?

Ravi:  Oh, to receive the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”;  I think to win the applause of God rather than anything else;  that God would be pleased with my life, that is my goal without a doubt.

Arthur:  Ravi, this has been a great time for me.  Thank you so much!

Ravi:  Oh, I appreciate that, Arthur.  We appreciate you, too, very much.  Give our love to Sandra . . . and thank you for taking the time.  It’s good to talk to you again.

Arthur:  You and your family have a great Christmas.

Ravi:  You too, my brother.  The Lord bless you.

Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

 

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Pic: When Ravi visited our home

Hey TD,

It was great to spend time with you on Friday at “Remembering Ravi: A Conversation.”  It was our honor to introduce many of you to Ravi’s life and ministry for the first time, as well as to recollect with others of you who have been touched by Christ through his life. For several of the TD leaders, it was a time of renewal and refocus, as we receive our portion of the baton that he handed off.

I am reminded of something I shared with you earlier this year … that in order to really live, something or someone must die.  In that spirit, as promised, I will be sharing with you some valuable insights from Ravi’s life that will help you deepen your life and ministry for Christ.

Here’s part 1 of a personal interview I had with Ravi years ago.  Please take the time to read, reread, and internalize his comments as I truly believe it can make a difference in your walk with God.  It has made a huge difference in mine.

Arthur:  I’ve heard you state many times that “the loneliest moment in life is when you’ve experienced what you thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down.”  Could you comment on that?

Ravi:  A lot of young people, particularly in their days of aspiring and dreaming, they look at their heroes that are ahead of them that are in sports, or in the entertainment world, or in the business world, and say to themselves, “That’s the kind of success I’d like to enjoy.  That’s the kind of wealth I’d like to own.  That’s the kind of power I’d like to wield.”  For many of them, as each stage comes and certain accomplishments are made that they never thought were possible, they find it to be very surprisingly hollow.  One look at the movie stars’ world and you’ll see how they constantly are in situations of broken homes and broken situations; sometimes there’s drugs, sometimes there’s violence in the home.  There are certainly lots of breakages in marriage and so on.  It just goes to prove that in the pleasures of the world, even in the legitimate pleasures of the world, there is no consummate expression;  only in God can you find constant fulfillment.  Take Deion Sanders, for example, in his conversion, making the comment that after attaining everything, the Super Bowl and all of that, he was still emptier than ever.  So that’s the comment, the comment that we need to learn quickly in life that in worldly terms all those momentary fulfillments come and go and they leave you hungrier than before.

Arthur:  That can come in a Christian context too, right?

Ravi:  You’re right!  You’re absolutely right.  That’s an important point.  Even success in ministry can become a disappointing factor after some time because that ought not to be the goal of your life.  The goal of your life ought to be God Himself.

Arthur:  Last year, I told you that I worked with youth and I had asked you what your advice would be to youth today.  Your response to me, as far as what I should do with my kids (youth), was, “Teach your kids how to read.”  Could you explain that a little bit?

Ravi:  Yes.  I think there’s so much that is going on today where minds are growing without our imaginations being given their freedom and their sovereignty.  So much is being given to us visually that I feel our imagination is being taken hostage and in reading you have two things happening:  First of all, words, concepts, ideas are coming into your mind that’ll help you relate and interact with the idea;  but more than that, it gives you the sovereignty of your own imagination.  I think a lot of havoc is wreaked in a life when an imagination has not matured, when an imagination has not been rightly tutored.  So reading is an important aspect in training the imagination.

Arthur:  So you yourself are not engaging your mind particularly in media very much are you?

Ravi:  No, I really don’t.  For various reasons, I find the visual very unattractive to myself.  I’m kind of a news man and the few things that I would watch would be historic documentary type things. The world of entertainment on TV has very little appeal for me personally.  I would sooner read a book than be entertained by the visual media.  I’m not saying it’s all wrong or bad, that’s not the point.  I’m just saying for my personal preference, I have very limited time to give to that kind of entertainment.

Arthur:  So with you, personally, with all the demands on you to be right at the cutting edge of social commentary, you have to saturate yourself with news items and things like that, which also brings the temptation to be overloaded that way too, right?

Ravi:  Oh, you’re right.  You’re absolutely right.  Over the years, I’ve been very selective in the magazines I subscribe to and read ones that will give me the news and keep me in tune with the culture.

Arthur:  Ravi, how do you nurture your soul, then?

Ravi:  Two or three things.  I think first of all, a daily devotional life and scripture reading is going to be very, very important.  You have to be disciplined.  You have to have a pattern.  You can’t do a hit and miss approach.  If you do not have a pattern or a plan, you’ll drop the ball with the busyness of life. . . You have to be careful that you’re not neglecting that.  Then I do a lot of reading of devotional material so that there are others whose writings are inspiring me and raising me to new heights.  I plan on a lot of time at home with my wife.  We travel together [and] we spend time together.  I have time with my colleagues in ministry.  They inspire me [and] sharpen points, as it were.  So I would say through the devotional life, the biblical readings, the devotional readings, my wife, and my colleagues, that’s the way [I] stay fresh and accountable.

Arthur:  Does music play any part?

Ravi:  It does.  I really enjoy music but I’m a great old traditional hymn man and that’s what I enjoy.

Arthur:  Yeah, me too.

Ravi:  I like language to be used well and to probe.

Arthur:  You were saying you read inspiring writers.  Do you have any off the top of your head?

Ravi:  Yes, I really enjoy the Scottish writer, James Stewart.  I like G. Campbell Morgan.  I like the English writer, F.W. Boreham.  I enjoy reading F.B. Meyer.  I love reading Spurgeon. . . A.W. Tozer, I enjoy him very much.  James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul. . .so I’m a reader of the grand themes.

Arthur:  That segues into my next question which is not meant to make you feel [embarrassed] or anything.  What is it that sets you apart from most people?  I guess in my definition and in many of ours’ we would consider you a great man of God.  So if we can say, neutrally, that that perhaps is a fact or a developing fact as you continue to grow in your sanctification, what is it that makes you so uniquely different?  Maybe it’s a gift or maybe not.  Maybe it’s a discipline you’ve committed yourself to.

Ravi:  Well, first of all, it’s humbling when you make a comment like that, Arthur, and so I don’t even know what’s the best way to respond to that.  I think the simplest thing I can say is when people are relating to each other, we generally tend to look for people who either sharpen what we are thinking, to take it to a higher level, or else complement what we are thinking so that we find a balance.  In a lot of my friendships, for example, I look for people who have gifts that I don’t have and that brings you to a real sense of a balanced friendship.  You’re giving and taking. . . I suppose what people possibly find helpful in their lives in the way we have focused our ministry (he is referring to RZIM) is that people seem to appreciate the privilege of thinking and the privilege of growing and having their minds challenged and complemented.  So I think what I have committed my life to is to stretch my mind and my spiritual commitment;  those are definitely goals that I have so that I never stagnate, and I think the result of growing is that the average person you meet, whom you befriend, or whom you love, or are ministering to . . . appreciates that priority because that’s what they want for their lives too.  So, in a sense, I believe what brings about the response from people to what we are trying to do is an affirmation that they too want to go higher.  I think that’s what they’re saying when they thank you for challenging their lives.

Arthur:  I think that states it pretty well.  But with that being the case, you carry a lot of responsibility with so many people looking up to you.  How do you guard against 1)  getting big headed or prideful, and 2) falling into temptation.  Do you know what I’m saying, with the burden your bear?

Ravi:  Yeah.  The first is easier than the second.  I think you make enough mistakes in life.  You fail enough number of times to know that there is never a guarantee that you are going to succeed or you’re going to do well.  God has enough ways of bursting your balloon and keeping you humble.  That happens so many times in a year that there’s never a sense of overconfidence.  I don’t think that’s been a struggle for me at all through life because I know that if it weren’t for Him, we would never even have this privilege, leave alone have the capacity.  There have been enough blunders and failures and shortcomings that keep us very close to Him.  (Now referring to part two of the question)  Temptation of different kinds will always stalk us, especially when I think things are going well.  Temptations are easier to handle when things are not going well because your life and energies are being consumed in just turning things around in life.  When things are going well, Satan will try and knock you off your feet.  The best thing to do is to take the precautions.  One of the precautions I take, for example, [is that] I never travel alone anymore . . . I’m always with my wife or with my colleague, Gavin.  I do not ever turn the television on in a hotel room . . . the movies or shows seduce the mind in some way because you’re alone on the road.  I’m very, very aware of what I watch when I’m on the road.  Generally, it’s a sporting event or the news.  I guard my reading as carefully as I can as well as the places that I go.  I think the best time to whip temptation is when it makes its first approach on you.  So the lines should be drawn well before. . .

Arthur:  Like Daniel in Marching to A Different Drummer (the title of one of his messages)

Ravi:  Exactly, exactly.

 

TD Fri. – Getting to Know … ???

Mystery Girl Silhouette

Hey TD!

Tomorrow night at TD, we’re going to have another fun get-together with a game, a time of praise, and … an interview with one of our beloved leaders …

This time, the interviewee is … (drum roll, please) … Rebecca, who will be interviewed by Kathy!  As always, we want to go under the hood and get to know the real Rebecca – the good and the not as good – as well as where she is and where she’s been on the journey called life.  Of course, it will be followed up with a time of Q&A with her, so be ready to ask her the good stuff! 🙂

After the meeting, Arthur will host his usual AAA (Ask Arthur Anything) time of discussing any questions or issues any of you might want him to discuss.  He may or may not be able to give a good answer, but so far he’s been able.  You can at least ask!  If anything, he can at least direct you to a good resource that can be of help.

TD will be from 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. at the usual Zoom link. Get it from your small group leader, if you don’t have it.

Catching Up With Francis Chan, now in Hong Kong (3/25/20)

Challenging Interview with Francis Chan from his new home – Hong Kong

Hey TD!

Through the decades of speaking at colleges, high schools, retreats, etc., I’ve been told by people that when I speak, I remind them of so-and-so; or so-and-so (one person said when I speak, I really reminded her of Obama! And that was a half a year before he was elected as the POTUS!).  I’m not surprised when I hear that I remind some people of some theologian or apologist because some of the people they have mentioned have indeed had a strong impact on me, both personally and through their ministries of teaching, writing, and personal conversation.

One person that has come up a few times is Francis Chan. Even Joni Eareckson Tada told me during one conversation that when I speak, I remind her of Francis, whom she knows and loves personally, and vice versa.  While I’ve had a few conversations with him, we don’t really know each other outside the occasional run-in at a conference.

And though I do have a great admiration for his work, I have an even greater admiration for his life.  One of Ravi Zacharias’s favorite authors, F.W. Boreham, once wrote:

“It puts iron into the blood to spend time with one for whom the claim of conscience is supreme and who loves the truth of God with so deathless an affection.”

I must admit that whenever I read Chan, listen to a message or him interviewed, it puts serious iron into my blood and leaves me yearning to love Christ better.  His trust in the Lord and His courage to follow Him truly humbles me and sends me to God praying for Him to have His way with me.

When you watch this interview that was done just a few days ago, I know it will do something similar for you too!

– Arthur

TD Vlog – “How the Arts Can Deepen Your Faith” w/Jill Carattini

Hey Masterpieces of God!

This summer, while at ReFresh with in Atlanta with some TD’ers, I had a chance to spend some time with dear friend, Jill Carattini, writer extraordinaire on the deeper spiritual life, managing editor of Ravi Zacharias Int’l Ministries’ (RZIM) Slice of Infinity, and curator of RZIM’s formal art gallery, Stillpoint.

Jill agreed to come on camera with me and share with you TD’ers how the arts can deepen and energize your faith, and help you to get a greater apprehension of who we are. It’s spiritually insightful and very personal and vulnerable, reflecting her journey, my journey, … and for many of you … your journey. Where she was is where many of you are at. It will be a worthwhile viewing.

With Offerings 8 coming up on November 16, I thought this would be a great time to give you some inspiration and perspective, so you can prepare to give a meaningful offering to the Lord. Enjoy! – Arthur

Remembering RC Sproul (MUST reading)

Short video of clips of RC proclaiming the gospel through the years

Hi TD Family,

I’ve thought about, gave thanks for, and ached for RC everyday since I first learned of his hospitalization and then ensuing Homecoming.  I’ve reminisced fondly over our times spent together, enjoying not only fine food, but hearing him explain to us the finer details of our Real Food, our faith in Christ.

My family will remember his gentleness and frivolity with our kids over the decades.  He loved kids, knew how to make them feel comfortable, and knew how to make them laugh.  He’s the one who taught us the unique “Give me five … up high … down low … ” ritual that I use with young ones today.

RC was also sincerely humble, not taking himself too seriously, often making fun of himself.  He once was excited to tell us, “As I came out of the shower this morning, do you know what Vesta (his wife) said to me? She said, ‘When I married you, I knew I was marrying an athlete, I just didn’t know it was going to be a sumo wrestler!'” We howled in laughter together.

I have often had people address me as Pastor or Pastor Arthur, have assumed I went to seminary, or comment that they couldn’t believe that I didn’t go to seminary.  More than anyone, I owe that to RC Sproul, whose calling and vision was to bring the seminary to the layman, to bridge the gap between seminary and Sunday School.  I am the fruit of what RC envisioned, a lay theologian on the street or in the field, as it were.

I commuted for work from South Pasadena to Orange County from 1990 – 1997, before opening up my Pasadena office.  I have often called my little blue Honda Civic my seminary, for it was there that I had stacks of theological courses taught by RC Sproul sitting in my passenger seat.  Each day, for nearly an hour’s drive each way, I would listen to the audio cassette tapes over and over again, hanging on RC’s teaching and being increasingly blown away with each listen … of the same lesson!  For hundreds of hours, I listened and learned from RC, meeting ultimately with … God.

It was RC that alerted me to the fact that in order to really maximize what you get out of a lecture, you need to listen to it about a dozen times.  I have found that to be true and lament when I see Christians think they know what a passage in the Bible says because they have read that passage before or have heard a message on that passage already.

In the absence of any older spiritual mentors at church for me, RC was like a surrogate spiritual father to me; not directly, but certainly indirectly.  Thus, it was a distinct privilege and joy to interview RC for you at TD a few years ago when we did the “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” series.

It is a great interview that is personal, honest, real, and very candid.  There are things that will surprise you.  We typically receive about 20 – 25 views a day on the TD blog.  In the last few days, we have received well over 2,200 views, primarily driven by these interviews.  Some have linked them to their blogs.

I am also giving you the links to some extraordinary tributes from extraordinary people that are MUST READS.  They will not only give you more depth to understanding RC, but will also help you grow in living out your Christian life. – Arthur

Arthur’s Interview With RC

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 1

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 2

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 3

MUST READ Tributes to RC

Steven Lawson’s Tribute to RC (this one is especially good)

John Piper’s Tribute to RC 

Joni Eareckson Tada’s Tribute to RC

Sinclair Ferguson’s Tribute to RC

John MacArthur’s Tribute to RC

Al Mohler’s Tribute to RC

RC’s Biography

Stephen Nichols

 

Sexuality and the Christian Faith: A Google Hangout with Rosaria Butterfield Tomorrow at Noon

Hey TD!

In preparation for the TD year ahead, if any of you happen to be available at noon on Friday, this live Google Hangout with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield (hosted by Ligonier Ministries) will be very helpful for you as she will discuss sexuality, our culture’s objection to biblical morality, and what it looks like for Christians to speak the truth in love. You can watch it live above:

Courtesy of our friends at Tabletalk magazine, here is a very honest and riveting interview with this former atheist lesbian academic, who sought to protect society from the dangers and illogic of Christianity:

An Unlikely Convert: An Interview with Rosaria Butterfield

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Tabletalk: Your book is titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Could you explain some of your “secret thoughts,” and why you were an “unlikely convert”?

Rosaria Butterfield: I considered myself an atheist, having rejected my Catholic childhood and what I perceived to be the superstitions and illogic of the historic Christian faith. I found Christians to be difficult, sour, fearful, and intellectually unengaged people. In addition, since the age of twenty-eight, I had lived in monogamous lesbian relationships and politically supported LGBTcauses. I coauthored Syracuse University’s first successful domestic partnership policy while working there as a professor of English and women’s studies. I was terrified to aliate on any level with a worldview that called me, my life, my community, my scholarly interest, and my relationship sin. Add to this that I was working on a book “exposing” the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view. I approached the Bible with an agenda to tear it down because I firmly believed that it was threatening, dangerous, and irrational.

But when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” At the time of my conversion, my lesbian identity and feelings did not vanish. As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one. In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.

TT: How has your story been received by Christians?

RB: The protagonist of Secret Thoughts is Pastor Ken Smith, who modeled to me organic Christian hospitality and the life-sustaining action of neighboring. Christian readers have responded to Ken’s example and have been encouraged by it.

TT: How has your conversion to Christianity been received by your former colleagues?

RB: At the time of my conversion, my colleagues and students treated me with suspicion and confusion. Understandably, many friends felt betrayed, exposed, and criticized by my conversion and the changes in heart, life, and writing that this produced. When a person comes to Christ and repents of sin, this turning around makes enemies out of former allies. And while this aftershock eventually led to Bible studies and many opportunities to share the gospel, it also destroyed friendships and allegiances. The exclusivity of Christ has rugged consequences.

TT: How do you respond to someone who says that one can continue to live a homosexual lifestyle and yet also be a Christian?

RB: First, I always start by asking for clarification about what she means by “Christian,” often requesting that she share her testimony (and offering to share mine as well). She may tell me that she is a Christian because she believes in Jesus and said the sinner’s prayer at a certain moment in her childhood. She also may tell me that she has a “high view” of Scripture and believes that the historic Christian church has misrepresented the issue of homosexuality. As I listen, I pray for the Lord to give me not only the words to say, but a transparent kindness that can uphold the weight of these words. I say I am glad that she believes in Jesus, but I share that the Bible calls for more than that, as even the trembling demons believe in Jesus. The Bible defines a Christian in a fuller way, including an understanding that:

(1) God set me apart from before the foundations of the world.

(2) The Holy Spirit removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, leaving me with justifying faith.

(3) Jesus Christ infuses sanctifying grace through His hard-wrought love and blood.

(4) Repentance and belief go together, as both are gifts of God and fruit of Christian living. Without repentance there is no salvation.

Sometimes at this point in the conversation, she will ask me where she might meet this Jesus, because this is a different Jesus than the one that she knows. We open the Bible together, and I invite her to my house for dinner and church. Alternatively, if she tells me that she just interprets the Bible differently than I do, I then discuss how Jesus is inseparable from the Bible, and how the Bible is a unified revelation of God, fully true, inspired, and inerrant. At some point, if God allows, I suggest that we start reading the Bible together, reading systematically and not topically.

As you can see, I do not ask my questioner about why she identifies as lesbian or what this means to her, or when she first felt like a lesbian or had her first sexual experience. It is not that I don’t care, but if I start with her, I start in the wrong place. Instead, I start with the triune God, and call out the soul-orientation of any person with whom I speak.

TT: What is the biggest misconception that evangelicals have about those who are a part of the “homosexual community”?

RB: Reformed Christians know that God’s elect people are everywhere, but one big misconception evangelicals have is the wholesale writing off of all people who identify as gay as God-hating reprobates. Another misconception is that a person’s homosexuality is the biggest and most life-defining sin of her life. When Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord used in my conversion, first met me, he knew that being a lesbian was not my biggest sin. My biggest sin was that I was an unbeliever.

TT: What counsel would you give to Christians as they attempt to preach the gospel to those who experience same-sex attraction?

RB: First, we need to apologize for “gay jokes” that we said or condoned in silence.

Next, we must: (1) counsel people who have repented from homosexual sexual pasts and feel called to heterosexual marriage; (2) encourage people who live daily with unwanted homosexual desires and feel called through justifying faith to celibacy, helping these brothers and sisters to resist temptation, secure accountability, and rely on the Word and on the fellowship of the saints to renew minds and affections; (3) lift the unearned burden of guilt off of the parents of children who identity as gay or lesbian; and (4) create meaningful community from within the membership of the church. To offer intentional commitment to members who are lonely and isolated, the church must demonstrate in everyday ways how we care for each other from cradle to grave. In the LGBTcommunity in the 1990s, I learned the power of accompanied suffering, of standing together in grief as we faced the AIDS virus. The hospitality gifts I use today as a pastor’s wife, I honed in myLGBT community.

Pastorally, the Westminster Standards give us much wisdom about sanctification and offer helpful correctives to the unbiblical teachings of our day. It is important to tell people who struggle with sexual sin that their struggle is not proof that God is not working sanctification in them, because God knows that sanctification is both imperfect and incomplete in this lifetime. For the church to lovingly counsel those who experience unwanted homosexual desire, she must steer clear of parachurch ministries that hold to a false understanding of sanctification (that it is complete in this lifetime) or an over-actualized eschatology (that God wants you to experience perfection this side of the second coming). The Reformed church is much more competent to counsel because of the systematic theology that informs our understanding of law and grace.

TT: What three things would you tell a Christian young person who is experiencing same-sex attraction and is tempted to selfidentify as a homosexual?

RB: (1) Don’t embrace labels that God doesn’t use. God does not rank-order His beloved sons and daughters. If you are a believer, then your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. MemorizeColossians 3:1–4, remembering that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Meditate on what it means to take refuge in Christ. And remember that union with Christ and the communion of the saints go together, so don’t isolate.

(2) As you practice the ordinary means of grace—Bible reading, psalm singing, taking the sacraments—do so with the communion of the saints. Don’t isolate. Be a fully present member of your church. If you struggle with unwanted homosexual desires, tell your pastor, elders, and friends so that they know how to pray for you and love you. But don’t think that the fact of these feelings makes you a dangerous person. A dangerous person is someone who either does not know what sin pattern percolates within him or foolishly believes that if he hides it, he is controlling it.

(3) Know your enemy. Unwanted homosexual desire is not the unforgivable sin. It is a vestige of the fall, and as such, is a vestige of original sin, the ultimate “pre-existing” condition. Daily, I ask the Lord: Lord, how has my original sin distorted me, how is my indwelling sin manipulating me, and how is Satan enlisting me? Your temptation pattern does not define you, but you must be armed for the battle, knowing that victory is promised, in God’s timing, incomplete but powerful here on earth, and complete and full in eternity.


Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife, full-time mother, and speaker. She is author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, a book detailing the experiences of her journey to Christianity. A former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, Dr. Butterfield started a college ministry upon her conversion to Christianity in 1999. Dr. Butterfield is a member of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., where her husband, Rev. Kent Butterfield, serves as senior pastor.

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