The truth is that Christianity will stand up to scrutiny, but Christians must also stand up and become informed adherents to our faith as we strive to love God fully.

Will Your Faith Stand the Test of Hard Questions?

Pushing a middle-aged body out the door for a daily walk comes with its challenges, especially when I step up the pace to a jog/trot on the final hill leading home. I’m learning, though, that this discipline offers benefits beyond cardiovascular fitness and tending to the needs of a demanding dog. The impact of my feet against the road and the weight-bearing physical activity is actually strengthening my bones.

The push and pull of muscle and mortal clay against the resistance of gravity, inertia, and the furry beast on the other end of the leash all work together in the formation of new bone tissue. Something similar happens to my faith when it bumps up against the hard surface of doubt and principled queries, and while I am no fan of confrontation, Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion lays down a foundation of sinewy truth that pushes back against the temptation of simplistic answers or the tendency toward complacent dismissal of thoughtful skepticism.

The truth is that Christianity will stand up to scrutiny, but Christians must also stand up and become informed adherents to our faith as we strive to love God fully–heart, soul, and mind. McLaughlin unpacks twelve questions, incubated in our post-Christian culture, to pound against the pavement of our well-loved orthodoxy:

1.  Aren’t we better off without religion?

An honest glance into history’s rear view mirror can hardly miss the positive impact of Christianity upon human flourishing. Biblical principles dovetail with findings of modern psychology and if you scratch the surface of many ethical ideals, there’s a Christian principle waiting to be found.

2.  Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?

Actually, Christianity is the most “diverse, multiethnic, and multicultural movement in all of history.” (Loc 837)

3.  How can you say there’s only one true faith?

We’ve confused respect for other people’s beliefs with respect for other people. McLaughlin asserts that challenging another person’s beliefs is actually a sign of of respect, and it is logically impossible for two diametrically opposed belief systems to be equally true.  “Claiming that monotheism fits with an all-religions-are-one approach is like claiming someone can be in two places at one time: it’s possible, but only if you kill the person first and dismember the body!” (Loc 1069)

4.  Doesn’t religion hinder morality?

If Christianity had to stand or fall based on the performance of Christ’s followers, it was doomed before it ever began! However, “to be a Christian is to acknowledge your utter moral failure and to throw yourself on the mercy of the only truly good man who ever lived.” (Loc 1369)

5.  Doesn’t religion cause violence?

This question fails to take into consideration the breadth of religiously motivated violence beyond Christianity and the devastation that has been caused by non-religious (and anti-religious) ideologies bent on cementing their hold and wiping out their detractors.

6.  How can you take the Bible literally?

It is more important to approach the Bible literately than literally, meaning that, just as with any other written text, it is necessary to read with genre in mind. I would not apply Shakespeare in the same way that I apply a recipe book, and I should not read Psalms or a parable in the way I read the Gospels or the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis.

7.  Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?

Since Christians developed the scientific method and have been well-represented in scientific discovery throughout history, this misunderstanding is rooted in a deficient view of the purpose of science. “Christians and atheists are vulnerable to the same mistake:  the idea that science will either prove or disprove theism. A more fruitful approach is to look at the world around us and ask ourselves, does this seem coherent with the possibility of God?” (Loc 2533)

8.  Doesn’t Christianity denigrate women?

Criticism of the role of women in Christianity is often based in a poor reading of Paul’s epistles that equate his words with “traditional” gender roles and impose male “headship” in ways God did not intend. Having said that, biblical marriage is a metaphor soaked in mutual sacrifice and death to selfishness, and the role of Christian women in the New Testament church sets the bar high for us today to follow in the sandaled footsteps of our first-century sisters in Christ.

9.  Isn’t Christianity homophobic?

Throwing baby and bath water out the window in one fell swoop, evangelicals have elevated marriage at the expense of what McLaughlin refers to as “one-body unity.” Since “we who are many are one body,” (I Corinthians 10:16-17) friendship is “not the consolation prize for those who fail to gain romantic love.” (Loc 3217) However, the Bible is also clear that Jesus preached a morality that was (and still is) offensive to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

10.  Doesn’t the Bible condone slavery?

When the Bible describes a scene from history, it is often merely descriptive without being prescriptive. Having said that, slave terminology is used in the New Testament as a thing to be desired. Paul routinely rejects any higher title than “bond servant,” and when he refers to Onesimus, an actual slave who became a Christ follower, he calls him “a brother, beloved in the Lord.” It is a mistake to let the racism of white church leaders of the past define Christianity going forward.

11.  How could a loving God allow so much suffering?

This may be the most difficult question McLaughlin tackles in her book because it’s one that we all encounter sooner or later, and it’s easy to fall into error in our efforts to “excuse” God for the problem of evil on a fallen planet. She bases her examination of suffering in the death of Lazarus and the crisis of faith this caused for Mary and Martha. Jesus self-identification as “the resurrection and the life” is a statement to the grieving sisters that “your greatest need is not to have your brother back again. It’s to have me.” Suffering sifts our desires, and the instinct that rises first is to push back. It is in this pushing back that relationship begins to take root.

12.  How could a loving God send people to hell?

Neither heaven nor hell, in biblical terms, are geographic localities. While heaven is “shorthand for the full blessing of relationship with God,” hell is separation and rejection. The scandalous grace of God is all that stands between hell and every human rebel on the planet.


Perhaps you are one who bumps into a cocktail of these twelve questions on the daily. Or, maybe you (like me!) are happy for the insight they give, but are rarely pressed into a defensive stance. Thinking about what we believe helps to solidify our faith, strengthening the bones of belief as we resist the subtle slippage toward lazy theology. God is greatly glorified by a probing faith that puts truth on the table for a rigorous discussion that confronts doubt and comes away even stronger.

Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because confrontation strengthens the bones of our faith,

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, simply click on the title within the text of my review, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

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45 thoughts on “Will Your Faith Stand the Test of Hard Questions?”

  1. Michele, I LOVE this review of this powerful book. We can never be too prepared for the gospel conversations our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has planned as divine appointments for us. I was reminded of such an appointment this morning, and wanted to share this with you…

    Sometimes it’s just a brief memory of a past gospel conversation that brings someone to mind for whom you can pray…

    “I just felt led to share this with you today. I was in a Bible study on the book of Jonah, and suddenly I remembered having a brief conversation with you in a math class back in 1970 at Sebring High School. I remembered you asking me about the story of Jonah in the Bible. This is a little blog post I wrote recently about Jonah, and I just felt led to send it to you…”

    https://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2018/10/i-cried-unto-lord-and-he-heard-me.html

    Like

  2. Wonderful review, Michele. This > “God is greatly glorified by a probing faith that puts truth on the table for a rigorous discussion that confronts doubt and comes away even stronger.”

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I listened to a couple of podcasts featuring Rebecca McLaughlin and was challenged by her faith and her intellect, so I really wanted to share this book with readers.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I am getting ready to push my old body out the door for a daily walk, as has been a long time habit. Beautiful connection you made concerning health, and the defence of Christianity. Thanks.

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  4. I agree that #11 is often one of hardest questions any of us have to answer, both to others and to ourselves. This book sounds like it hits a lot of the difficult questions. And count me in the numbers of those who find it hard to push this middle-aged body to get up and exercise. 🙂 But I always feel better when I do. Keep at it, Michele!

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  5. This sounds like a great and very thoughtful book. There’s nothing like having teenagers/young adults facing the world to bring up some of these hard questions – at least, that’s where I have discovered some of them. My early Christian background was of the “Don’t ask, just trust” variety. But, as you said, Christianity holds up to scrutiny. If we don’t think through these questions ourselves, how can we help anyone else answer them?

    And in the scores of times I have heard the resurrection of Lazarus preached on, I have never heard the emphasis, “Your greatest need is not to have your brother back again. It’s to have me.” But that’s what it all boiled down to! That insight alone makes me want to buy the book.

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  6. Thank you for a meaty-yet-succinct review of Confronting Christianity, Michele. SO helpful to have responses ready for the common objections to our faith! Sounds like Rebecca McLaughlin has tackled them especially well.

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    1. She really has, and thank you for using the word “succinct” to describe this post. I agonized over trying to make it shorter–I try to stay under 1,000 words, and this one is about 1200, but I wanted to hit all 12 points…

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  7. Each question that is studied is deeper and more challenging than the one before. This is the kind of book I need to read but often steer away from because it will dig at my own core belief system. Thank you for reviewing and causing me to look more closely at myself through your review.

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    1. I am never a big fan of apologetics either, but this book was so compelling to me, and I think it was Rebecca McLaughlin’s lovely writing and thoughtful manner of addressing the questions. She’s been featured on a number of podcasts lately which further clarify the book’s content.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think there were at least three, and the one I remember very clearly came through the Crossway Podcast, which makes sense because they are her publisher.

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  8. You have given us a lot to think about. This sounds like another interesting book. It is so good to do some deep thinking and soul-searching to really know what you believe. I know I am not good when I am put on the spot with a question, if I haven’t given some thought to the topic. Thank you for sharing another great book review!

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  9. What a great resource Michele! These are hard questions and I appreciate your tackling them. So many just try to shy away from the difficult topics. Saving this! Sharing! Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  10. This book looks like a great resource to have “in your back pocket”.

    I recently had a young woman from my church come to me saying that she was having a crisis of faith, but I was not prepared for what her crisis was about. She did not believe Jesus was God and did not believe that God wrote the Bible. I was quite taken aback to say the least. I prayed for guidance and the Lord provided wisdom for me in how to answer.

    It was a lesson for me to hone my answers to the tough questions.

    Thanks so much for sharing this book review.

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  11. Michele, such a good and needed message. You touched on so many issues raised in the past and present, and got to the heart of the matter. Right out of the gate with the question of being better off without religion made me think of how we are celebrating America’s birthday and our founding forefathers worshipped God Almighty. I’m reading “The Logic of God: 52 Essentials for The Heart and Mind,” by Ravi Zacharias. And love the apologetics and truths that relate so much to the insight you have here.

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    1. Ravi is brilliant!
      And I had not thought of the connection you made with our country’s roots and the first question Rebecca poses. Thanks for these great insights!

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  12. Michele! This is wonderful! Confronting Christianity sounds like a great book. I’m going to have to add it to my to be read list.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Gosh, I wasn’t expecting those questions at all. Seeing them in black and white makes them feel quite fierce and bold. Your thoughtful answers has made this a riveting read. Thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam.

    Like

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