Confronting Christianity

ccConfronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin is one of the most impressive defences of the Christian faith that I have read. It is robust, educated, well researched, gentle, and empathic. This is a book for people willing to take the time to consider challenges to Christian beliefs. Today’s culture tends to shut down reasoned discussion of theology, humanity, religion, and ideologies running counter to the winds of society. McLaughlin reopens the discussion and argues persuasively that Christian faith is a very reasonable worldview to hold.

McLaughlin doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. A scan of the chapter headings reveals her willingness to confront the big challenges:

    • Aren’t we better off without religion?
    • Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?
    • How can you say there is only one true faith?
    • Doesn’t religion hinder morality?
    • Doesn’t religion cause violence?
    • How can you take the Bible literally?
    • Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?
    • Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women?
    • Isn’t Christianity homophobic?
    • Doesn’t the Bible condone slavery?
    • How could a loving God allow so much suffering?
    • How could a loving God send people to hell?

This isn’t a book that sweeps the problems under the carpet. McLaughlin acknowledges the harm and problems created in the name of religion and, specifically, Christianity. The history of Christians is a history of failure and weakness, but it doesn’t destroy the credibility of the faith. McLaughlin shows a deep understanding of history, she faces the challenges of contemporary culture front on, and she displays a deep understanding of the biblical text. Her experience in the world of academia, her empathy for people struggling with their identities in a changing world, her willingness to listen carefully to the critiques of others, and her clarity of conviction in her argument are all on display in this book.

There are many surprises in the pages of this book. We discover things about the author, her research and experience, her family and friends that give us confidence that she is not one for trite or simplistic rhetoric. She understands and feels what she writes about. 

It is no surprise to me to discover that Confronting Christianity has been awarded the Christian book of the year in 2020. Having read it, I have already started giving copies away to others. I anticipate keeping one or two extras on my shelf for interested enquirers and religious sceptics alike. I will recommend it to new and old believers who are wanting to better understand their beliefs in today’s critical climate. I suggest purchasing at least two copies. One for yourself and the other for someone you care about.

5 thoughts on “Confronting Christianity”

  1. I have watched a lecture by Rebecca McLaughlin (in which she claimed authority for Jesus & Bible without giving evidence) so I am looking forward to reading the book and I like the idea of giving it to your skeptical friends….then I suggest listening to their point of view and having a dialogue. You could also wait a while as soon enough the Internet will have many skeptical reviews of the book (The blog When Belief Dies has one already).

    McLaughlin’s book is also available in audio version on Audible so you can listen on the go.

  2. Thanks Dave. It’s always good to get some wisdom and encouragement from the Bible or a book recommendation from you. David

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  3. David, whilst I welcome dialogue I have to disagree with your assessment of this book.

    McLaughlins’s (RM) argument is only as strong as its weakest point and the chapter on slavery shows a complete failure to “confront the big challenges”. Rather than having a “deep understanding” of the biblical text she cherry picks passages. Her methods and omissions are just one of the many reason’s sceptics like myself find the Christian worldview unappealing and in parts repugnant. Let me illustrate with examples:

    RM: “It was common for people to sell themselves into slavery as it represented a form of employment and was preferable to destitution”
    But RM cites only one mechanism for slavery, in addition captives of war where Israel’s slaves (Deut 20:10-11), the bible permits marriages to captured women without their consent (Deut 20:10-14)…that is sex slavery….and in one of the most sickening passages in all literature Israelite men are to “save for themselves” the virgin girls (Num 31:17-18)….these are clear descriptions of slave catching which RM contends the Bible doesn’t permit (Ex 21:16).
    Babies born of slave parents were the property of the master (Ex 21:4)…so the Bible commands child slavery…and Fathers could sell their daughters (scholars believe this refers to girls under 12) into servitude (Ex 21:7). Furthermore, the Bible condones the acquisition of foreign slaves who were bought (Lev 22:44-46) and became the owner’s property forever…. owning people is morally repugnant.

    As RM correctly notes the Hebrew slave could be set free after 6-years but she fails to point out this does not apply to foreigners who are permanent property…. that just reinforces the xenophobia of Yahweh.

    RM contents that God provides protections for slaves as “if the master’s did them permanent bodily harm they had to be release (Ex 21:26)”
    BUT masters were allow to potentially belt the hell out of slaves “but they are not be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property” (Ex 21:21)….that is assault causing actual bodily harm…..it is a level of ”brutality” just like what was inflicted on African American slaves and here it is specifically allowed by God.

    RM’s omissions and failures to confront the challenges of these passages speaks volumes about her agenda. If this constitutes an impressive defence of Christianity, it is a most unreasonable worldview…. frankly its abhorrent.

    I suggest readers wanting a more in-depth treatment of slavery access resources from Digital Hammurabi. I would welcome your assessment of where I have got things wrong.

    1. Hi Grant,
      I believe in order to establish a case that the Bible is pro-slavery, one would need to see it encouraged and intensified in the New Testament. For example, the Old Testament laws related to murder and adultery are shown by Jesus to extend to the heart attitudes of anger and lust in Matthew 5:21-30. The book of Philemon is a helpful case of the Apostle Paul calling Philemon to release his slave Onesimus. See also https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-wrong-say-bible-pro-slavery/

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