12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion
Outreach Resources of the Year
“Apologetics can be an odd field, often answering questions that most non-Christians are not really asking. Too many such books are just ‘doubt repellent,’ mainly bolstering the faith of Christian readers, assuring them there are answers to the difficult questions raised.
“Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin is, in a sense, a different kind of apologetics book. It actually raises the hard questions and answers them.
“McLaughlin goes straight to questions secular people ask. Her experience with secular professors and students serves her (and us) well here. As you read it, you will find her writing top notch. But, unlike many other apologetics books, you will have confidence giving it to your secular friends.
“The book is considered both an apologetics and an evangelism title, which is right, but I’d also add the missiological dimension. As a missiologist, I see it answering the real questions people are asking in culture, rather than rehearsing old apologetics arguments.”
Evaluated by Ed Stetzer, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, who holds the Billy Graham distinguished chair of church, mission and evangelism at Wheaton College and the Wheaton Graduate School, where he also directs the Billy Graham Center.
WHO: Rebecca McLaughlin, cofounder of Vocable Communications.
SHE SAYS: “We must all confront Christianity: the most widespread belief system in the world, with the most far-reaching intellectual footprint, and a wealth of counterintuitive wisdom concerning how humans should thrive.”
THE BIG IDEA: This book challenges the widely held understanding of growing secularization, establishing a case for Christianity as the largest religion.
By examining 12 difficult questions that are often put to the Christian faith, the author examines diverse interpretations of the faith while presenting a strong argument for orthodox Christianity as presented in the Bible.
“Everyday I struggle to believe in Jesus’ world I struggle in the heart sense of living this truth: denying myself, taking up my cross, believing that Jesus is my life. And yet every day I find the fingerprints of this impossible man in my life.”
A CONVERSATION WITH REBECCA McLAUGHLIN
Why is religion a necessary part of social progression and sustenance?
The New Atheists claimed that religion poisons everything. But this turns out to be untrue. People who engage in religious services once a week or more are, on average, happier, healthier, longer-lived, more giving of their time and money to others, and less likely to use drugs and commit crimes. Indeed, regular church attendance is as positive a health intervention as stopping smoking or eating more fruits and vegetables! Of course, certain religious beliefs can have negative effects. We only have to open a newspaper to see that. But the idea that religion is generally bad for us is a figment of the secular imagination.
What advice would you offer pastors as they deal with nones and dones?
It’s easy for us to believe (and allow others to believe) that secularization is inevitable and that the traffic between the category of people who identify as “Christian” and those who identify as having “no particular religion” (religious “nones”) is one way. But this is also not true. A recent study showed that in the last generation, someone raised non-religious in America was twice as likely to become religious as an adult as someone raised Protestant was to become non-religious. Being non-religious just doesn’t work very well. So, the first piece of advice I’d give is to say don’t lose hope. Secondly, don’t underestimate community. People who aren’t engaged in church are less likely to have a rich experience of community. If we invite them into that—sharing not only the gospel, but also our lives (1 Thess. 2:8), and encouraging our congregations to do likewise—the effect can be powerful.
What led you to write this book at this moment in time?
Before writing Confronting Christianity, I had spent nine years working with Christian professors at leading secular universities. I’d been amazed by the ways in which God had raised up Christians at the top of every academic field that was supposed to have discredited Christianity, and I wanted to tell their stories and share their insights. I also felt passionately that the church needed to have a better word on sexuality for today’s culture: one that clung to biblical orthodoxy but also helped people to understand the logic of what the Bible says about sex. God hasn’t given us arbitrary rules designed to keep people out. Through the Christian concept of marriage, he’s told a story about his relationship with us—a story designed to draw people in. As someone who has struggled all my life with same-sex attraction, I felt a particular call to write on this topic and to present the Bible’s boundaries as beautiful and life-giving, not ugly and hateful.