Openness Unhindered: A Review

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ I recently read Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield.  This book is a sequel or follow-up to her previous title, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In fact, the first chapter is a summary of her first book which gave the story of her conversion to Christianity.  The rest of the book gives more detail on what conversion is all about, specifically in light of homosexuality and sexual issues.

Here’s an outline of the book, starting with chapter two:

Chapter Two: Identity. 1) Who am I? United to Christ.  2) What am I like? Fallen, depraved, and sinful. 3) What do I need? Union with Christ and sanctification.
Chapter Three: Repentance. What is sin? What is true repentance? More on original sin and a discussion of temptation.  How to mortify sin.
Chapter Four: Sexual Orientation. Sexual orientation in the 19th century (Freud, German Romanticism, Foucault).  Natural revelation and orientation.  Heterosexual blindness.  Use of terms.
Chapter Five: Self Representation. What does it mean to be gay? What does the word gay mean? What is biblical sexual identity?
Chapter Six: Conflict: This chapter is about Butterfield’s disagreement about sexual issues with a female Christian friend.
Chapter Seven: Community.  What is community?  How to make your home a ‘hospitality home’ – seven steps.  Neighborhood community.
Epilogue: Marriage, ministry, and children.  A few more personal notes about the Butterfields.

So what did I think of the book?  Well, honestly, it wasn’t a huge page-turner for me.  Why?  1) A decent part of the book was very similar to her first book; several times I found myself thinking, “I’ve read this before.”  2) The book was rather wordy and dense.  I realize this is subjective, but in my opinion Butterfield used too many words to make her points.  Again, some readers may enjoy the extra words and phrases, but I’m the kind of reader who gets bogged down by wordiness and lengthy descriptions/analogies.  3) Big sections of the material in this book are not unique to it. For example, Butterfield’s discussion of sin and repentance is a summary of several Puritan’s writings and her discussion of “gay” and “identity” is similar to that in other Christian books I’ve read on those issues (for example, Sam Allberry, Wes Hill, and Albert Mohler to name a few).

Basically, I don’t think the book was “bad” at all.  It’s just that for me it wasn’t overly groundbreaking.  If you’ve not read many books that deal with (sexual) sin, temptation, sanctification, and homosexuality, I do recommend this book.  As a side, it may be too thick and detailed for some readers: there were some terms and big sections of this book that “average” readers might not follow (e.g. Rousseau’s philosophy, ontology, platonic, semantic range, lengthy doctrinal discussions, etc.).  It’s not “light” reading at all – it’s very academic reading for those familiar with some philosophy and Reformed theology.  Back to the point : I’m glad we have solid Christian books like these that speak biblical sanity in the confusion of the sexual revolution!  I hope (and believe) it will be helpful to many who read it with attention.

Rosaria Butterfield, Openness Unhindered (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2015).

shane lems