Review of Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity, Wheaton: Crossway, 2019.

To be honest, I was slightly hesitant to pick up this book. I had heard great things about it, and this author is much respected. But I simply thought I wasn’t going to learn anything new on this topic. Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity carries the subtitle “12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion”. My Small Group was going through this book a few months ago, so I thought I would read it. As I read, I was amazed at three things: (1) the writing style was clear and lucid, (2) the illustrations and stories were captivating, and (3) the research was impressive. Every chapter was filled with citations from Christian experts on particular topics, as well as secular scholars who embodied the cultural position on various issues like science and God or sexuality and the Bible. 

Each chapter is framed by a question e.g., “Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?” or “How Could a Loving God Send People to Hell?” or “Isn’t Christianity Homophobic?” They are then answered with a mix of Biblical viewpoints and engagement with the secular culture in the West. This provides a solid foundation to cultivate meaningful conversations on a variety of related topics. The result is a great tool to use as a springboard for conversations with a non-believing friend. Since it’s not merely exposition or academic argumentation, it can facilitate more questions, which can allow for natural conversations about the Christian faith. Though this book–nor any other book–cannot be a replacement for the power of the Holy Spirit, it is a helpful resource for both new and seasoned Christians who can be reminded of the truth, goodness, and beauty of the gospel. 

The only thing that I would question is the first chapter, which, in its context, isn’t inherently wrong. The chapter is entitled: “Aren’t We Better Off without Religion?” The major thrust of the argument is that recent research shows that people who are religious ae more likely to have better mental health, and that core biblical principles are aligned to the findings of modern psychology. One may agree with these statistics, but I want unbelievers to see the truth and relevance of the Bible in their own lives, rather than pointing them to the benefits of Christianity that are recorded by modern psychology. Since living for God by faith is the best way to live, it logically follows that such a lifestyle will be conducive to overall joy and satisfaction in life.

If relevant research showed that modern psychology deemed Christianity as less fulfilling than another lifestyle or worldview, would that make Christianity any less true? By no means! In the Psalms, we frequently encounter the psalmists lamenting over the prosperity of the wicked and their gloating over the righteous. If at that time, we conducted a survey about the social and mental benefits of biblical faith, the results may show that living in ignorance of God is more satisfying. Consequently, I think that the question “Aren’t We Better Off Without Religion?” is the wrong question to address. Instead, what needs to be addressed is the underlying desire for a better world without religion, and to that end Christians can articulate the gospel and its relevance more effectively.

McLaughlin’s book and the track record of her ministry indicates that she holds the same gospel as we do. The difference is merely in approach. She takes the question (in this instance) at face value and shows the secularists that their claim about the free and satisfied life without God is an illusion. One acknowledges that she is writing in a context where renowned atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens argue that the world would be better off without religion.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through Confronting Christianity as it stimulated helpful conversations for my Small Group Bible Study at my local church. Overall, I recommend this book to be read in fellowship, so that you may enjoy refreshing conversations about the Bible, culture, and the world around us. 

– Koh Saito