Book Review | Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age by Rosaria Butterfield
Rosaria Butterfield doesn’t hold back. It’s refreshing in a time of theological ambiguity to hear someone so clearly state the truth in boldness. Growing up in Madison, WI (the Portland of the Midwest) conversations about homosexuality, sin, hell, and God’s commands were often times overshadowed by “nuance” and questions regarding the authority of God’s word. Does the Bible really say that homosexuality is a sin? How can homosexuality be a sin if God created you that way? The Greek word for homosexuality is actually more nuanced than men having sex with men and women having sex with women. These were the questions and phrases I heard in the evangelical church growing up – constant questioning, redefining, and nuancing of Biblical passages and truths that I believed meant what they said. And sadly, most American evangelical churches have fallen prey to these same questions and beliefs about the Bible. In Rosaria Butterfield’s new book, Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age, she tackles these topics head on and with furious passion. Rosaria doesn’t hold back, and that’s why I couldn’t put the book down.
She starts with an introduction that left me wondering whether Rosaria had a death wish – her pointed clarity and ruthless confrontation of sinful, unbiblical doctrine was so stark that it’s hard to remember the last time someone of influence talked with that much certainty and clarity on Biblical topics. Immediately, Butterfield calls our current Christian age a modern Babel – run amuck with people trying to play God. She then names the five lies that our modern, American Christian culture believes.
Homosexuality is normal.
Being a spiritual person is kinder than being a Biblical Christian.
Feminism is good for the world and the church.
Transgenderism is normal.
Modesty is an outdated burden that serves male dominance and holds women back.
These are the five lies that have found a home in the modern evangelical church. I was surprised Rosaria decided to write on these topics, because, as far as I can tell, it seems that the church in America has lost on all five fronts. If you ask a group of average evangelicals under the age of 40 if homosexuality or transgenderism is normal, I will bet a lot of money that well over half of the group would say “yeah, that’s completely normal.” And as for the other three lies, well, those battles were lost a long time ago, maybe even before I was born. Feminism, homosexuality, spiritualism, immodesty, and sexual sin have become staples of the progressive evangelical church. So I was taken aback that Rosaria decided to pick the gloves back up and take another swing at things. I was also quite delighted! In a world that has completely belittled, mocked, and ridiculed the church for their “archaic” and “outdated” moral ethics on sexuality, this book serves as a reminder why we, as Christians, believe the things we do. It’s not because these things are outdated or bigoted – it’s because these things are true.
While I won’t spend time breaking down each lie addressed in the book, I will point out some highlights. In her section on transgenderism, Rosaria directly confronts someone most Christians know, Preston Sprinkle. Sprinkle is known for his many books on how Christians should interact with homosexuals and trans people. And while Sprinkle claims to be doing exegetical theology on the Biblical text to make clear that sexual identity is part of the way God created people, I have never seen him do any exegesis or theology. Rather, Sprinkle spends his time emotionally manipulating people into heresy because he himself is too much of a coward to state a sin as sin. Butterfield quotes a section of Sprinkle’s book, Embodied, in which Sprinkle makes a slight nod to the idea that King David of the Old Testament and his friend Johnathan could have been gay. Here’s what she says.
“In this fictional experiment, Sprinkle is casting King David (“K.D.”) as an effeminate poet and Jonathan (“John”) as his unrequited love. In keeping with postmodernism, Sprinkle tips his hat to the false claim that David and Jonathan were probably gay. Playing with the Bible in this way is meant, I supposed, to make it friendlier to sexual minorities. But lies are not our friends. We see here how Preston Sprinkle provides many useful examples for how not to care well for Christians who identify as transgendered.”
In my podcast interview with Rosaria, she went even further and called Sprinkle a heretic. And while I’m ecstatic to hear someone actually call out false teaching and heresy, I remain sad that so many young people get caught up in the nonsensical lies and emotionally abusive tactics of someone like Sprinkle. Hats off to Rosaria for doing what few others would do and standing for Biblical doctrine in a time of confusion.
In the final section of the book, Rosaria discusses the lie that the Christian virtue of modesty is outdated and serves only male dominance. In this section she talks specifically about social media, and even more specifically, about women using social media. This is a topic most pastors are too cowardly to talk about, but nonetheless, a topic very relevant to our modern age. Butterfield starts by saying,
“I don’t reject social media for its information-gathering or -sharing aspects. But because information gathering is not how social media is predominantly used, I know it’s use can be addictive, sinful, ungodly, and damaging to one’s soul. Social media is a place where anger flares, context is nonexistent, and words and images are delivered that can never be taken back. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord,” but the Internet claims otherwise.”
Over the last two decades we’ve seen pastors and churches try to find a way to integrate social media into the local church. Rosaria’s claims are clear and true – social media isn’t going to produce godliness. It’s designed to profit off of our sinful desires and while it certainly preys on men, its greatest victim is women. Rosaria says,
“The bottom line is this: when modesty is exchanged for exhibitionism and then promoted as a new Christian virtue, especially in our social media-infused world, no one is more hurt by it than women. For women who wish to conduct themselves with modesty, as the Lord desires, we need to be mindful of our social media footprint. Regardless of what others do or say, we are called to be above reproach. The Internet escalates gossip, slander, and irreconcilable breaches of fellowship.”
And while these are only a few of the book’s highlights, I think they paint a clear picture of what Rosaria Butterfield is saying and doing in this work. She’s calling true believers out of the slavery of progressive, unbiblical Christianity and into the life-giving Biblical doctrine that has been tried and tested through the ages.
But a book review wouldn’t be completely honest without a critique. And it was hard to find a critique! At the end of the book Rosaria gives guidance to parents who are struggling with children who have fallen prey to these lies and left the faith. In her guidance she says,
“Going boldly to the throne of grace requires daily repentance of your own sin, but this means not taking on your prodigal’s sin as your own. It means repenting of the sin of self-pity. Satan wants you to feel responsible that you have a prodigal child. He wants you to think that it is all your fault, and that God is punishing you.”
With this I almost entirely disagree. The Bible makes clear in many passages that it is the parents’ responsibility to raise their children in the way of Christ. Many times throughout my life I have seen once-Christian friends who went to church with me completely walk away from the faith for ridiculously illogical and emotional reasons. These same kids had parents who sent them to government schools, shipped them off to AWANA or youth group on Wednesday nights for a weekly dose of Christianity, gave them smartphones with no monitoring systems, allowed them to disobey without real consequences – the list goes on. These friends of mine grew up in evangelical Christian homes that were identical to the world. And when these kids became gay or trans or walked away from the faith, parents were somehow dumbfounded as to how that could possibly happen.
The great Jedi Master Yoda once said, “only Siths deal in absolutes.” And I believe that Satan does deal in absolutes. He does want parents to think that it is all their fault. But Christians need to be smarter than that – of course a child’s choice to walk away from Christ is their own. But the responsibility of the child is given to parents to steward from God. If your child falls to the lies of this world, you must take some of that responsibility and repent of the failures in your leadership. I sometimes think that all it would take for some of these kids to come back to submission to Christ is for their parents to practice some humility and ask forgiveness for their parenting mistakes.
Rosaria’s book is a great reminder to true Christians of what the Bible says about homosexuality, transgenderism, modesty, and sin. In the aftermath of a modern Babel, Butterfield gives clarity, light, and hope through scripture to believers battling with the sins of our anti-Christian age.