How Can You Believe; How Can You Not?

Author: Rebecca McLaughlin

Have you ever wondered if the world would be better off – more peaceful, more accepting – without the specter of religion? Have you ever wondered why God seems so interested in what goes on in the sanctity of our bedrooms, why He allows good people to suffer, and why a loving God created an eternal Hell? If so, then this book is for you.

I came to Confronting Christianity through my studies with the C.S. Lewis Institute as part of the Year 1 Fellowship study, which is essentially an intensive deep dive on the Bible and what it means to be a Christian. The last several months concentrated on evangelism, apologetics, and the hard questions that many claim disprove Christianity. Rebecca McLaughlin, however, declares that these seemingly insurmountable controversies are signposts that lead straight to God, not away from Him. If we put aside our fear and look for the real answers, we find God, she argues. Knowledge, logic, and Christianity all go together.

In this short work, McLaughlin covers a lot of ground with wisdom and statistics. Apologetics is not the act of apologizing for the scriptures, defending Christianity with a weak, “I’m sorry, but God says so.” Instead, it’s a commonsense approach, it’s a way of looking at the hard issues, not avoiding them, and seeking real answers. It is both a pillar of scholarship and a necessity for Christians everywhere. As the Bible states, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. Apologetics isn’t an option, and it isn’t something only for the advanced believer; the Bible encourages us to sit with the hard questions and be prepared to speak to them. And Confronting Christianity is the perfect place to start.

McLaughlin covers 12 of the most difficult and most constant objections to Christianity: isn’t society better off without religion of any kind; isn’t Christianity just the white-man’s religion (i.e. what about diversity?); how can you say that there is only one true way (what about everyone else and all the other religions); doesn’t religion hinder morality (i.e., look at all the unarguably evil things done in the name of God); doesn’t religion cause violence (i.e., the Crusades, World War II Germany’s claim of being a Christian society, etc.);  how can you take the Bible literarily; what about science – hasn’t it disproved Christianity; isn’t Christianity misogynistic; isn’t Christianity homophobic; doesn’t Christianity condone slavery; if God is loving, why is the world so full of suffering and why do bad things happen to good people; and finally, how could a loving God send people to Hell? As you can see, McLaughlin goes straight to the heart of some of the most difficult and frequently asked questions, and she does so with unwavering honesty, grace, statistics, logic, common sense, and life experience.

McLaughlin captures a nice blend here. She examines the full scope of history, never shying away from owning the many mistakes and downright travesties people have claimed to do in the name of God. She lays blame where blame belongs, and often this is with Christians, because we as a group are imperfect people. However, do our historical failures really degenerate the Bible and God, or do they simply reveal the fallibility and weakness of humanity? McLaughlin explores, setting the historical scenery, exposing the complexities and failings, and then getting to the heart of what God really said.

McLaughlin also looks at science – how does religion (of any kind) really impact society, an individual, our happiness? Has Christianity really been all bad – what about the hospitals created by Christians, the way Christians lead abolition, and the way that Christians also lead scientific discoveries and saw science as a way to discover more about God’s rule-following universe? How does Christianity inform not only how we suffer, but why?

One of the most interesting aspects that McLaughlin handles here is homosexuality. McLaughlin admits to a strong, predominantly same-sex attraction that was always with her. McLaughlin struggled with this attraction, confronted it, and ultimately mastered it (and she tells us why.) While she does use statistics and proofs here, she also delves into personal stories, both her own and those of close friends. She shares an unusual look on the depths of friendship, something often ignored in Western society, and how God did call us to close same-sex friendships, and how abstaining from homosexuality does not equate a life of loneliness for a same-sex attracted person. It’s an especially moving piece because here, McLaughlin steps out of theory into personal practice, showing her own soft, beating heart. She holds nothing back, and this makes readers both trust and listen.

I can’t count all the interesting and surprising elements here. You just have to read the book for that. McLaughlin, however, does a great job bringing a modern, sensitive perspective to all these topics and answering them head on, looking at the logic behind the Bible. She doesn’t sidestep or sugar coat anything, and because of this, her answers resonate with truth and wisdom. This objective stance takes us to the basis of each issue and gives us a frame of how and why to examine it, inspiring us to further introspection. Confronting Christianity is a good place for both new and mature believers to study hard question and a strong encouragement of an intellectual approach: ask the hard questions. Ask all of them!

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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