by Pastor Tom Anderson
Rebecca McGlaughlin holds a Phd in Renaissance literature from Cambridge. She and her husband moved to America where he teaches at MIT. McGlaughlin is a very accomplished woman who also holds a theology degree from Oakhill college. She is a mother of three. It was a pleasure and a real encouragement to read her new book Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion. She writes from a deeply held and thoroughly Biblical faith. She and her family are active members of a church in Boston.
McGlaughlin introduces her work by calling our attention to a little acknowledged fact (at least in Europe and America): the world is becoming increasingly religious. At the current rate of growth there will be more Christians in China than all of America by 2030. And by 2050 China will be half Christian. This could be of great significance for the future of relations between China and the West. Even in America, orthodox Bible-based Christianity is growing as more liberal church expressions decline. Forty percent of children raised in non-religious homes become religious as adults. She observes, “The question for the next generation is not ‘How soon will religion die?’ but ‘Christianity or Islam?’”
For many secular people in the West, the expansion of religion is a troubling thought since religion--particularly Christianity--is widely blamed for numerous social ills. These concerns form the 12 questions which are the chapters of her book:
Are 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?
Does the Bible condone slavery?
How could a loving God allow so much suffering?
How could a loving God send people to hell?
McGlaughlin writes, “If you resonated with these questions, this book is for you. I feel their weight. If I give smug, simplistic answers, I have failed.” She contends that Christian faith will stand the test of research and concludes that “Christianity represents our tightest grasp on truth and the best hope for the world.”
The book is well-researched and amply footnoted. She writes well and is easy to follow. The tone is warm and open--a refreshing departure from the hostile and defensive spirit that permeates so much of modern conversation. Her expositions of scripture are particularly well done--I was especially moved by her treatment of the raising of Lazarus in John 11 as the major part of her discussion on the meaning of suffering.
This book will encourage Christians who are looking for intelligent and faithful ways to respond to these questions in university settings and elsewhere. It will also give non-believers pause to think more carefully about the Christian religion they too easily dismiss. Her book demonstrates timeless apologetics in innovative and engaging ways. It’d be a great book to read and give as a gift this Christmas.