I was teaching a grade twelve biblical studies class when something unexpected happened. In a class full of strong minds and bodies, I saw fear in my students’ eyes. They were afraid of University; not afraid of the workload or the professors, but afraid of not being able to answer the onslaught of questions about Christianity and their personal faith. It was at this point as a teacher that I wanted to do my best to answer these questions in the short time I had with them. While I know we weren’t able to cover every question, or even most of the questions, the experience led me to look for viable and relatable resources that I could share with my students after high school. It would be almost two years later that I was blessed to listen to Rebecca McLaughlin speak and then shortly afterward to read her phenomenal book Confronting Christianity.
YouTube and social media platforms seem to be teaming with biblically based philosophy and Christian apologetics. And while I am grateful for this kingdom work, as a teacher, I struggle to connect this wealth of information with the adolescent brains in my classroom. This is why I believe Confronting Christianity is so timely. McLaughlin’s book is conversational yet contemplative, vulnerable yet convicting. In many ways, it is the type of book that appeals to both Christians and atheists alike. The type of book that high school students desperately need.
McLaughlin breaks her book into twelve questions that high school students are either asking or will soon be compelled to ask:
- Aren’t we better off without religion?
- Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?
- How can you say there’s 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?
- Doesn’t the Bible condone slavery?
- How could a loving God allow so much suffering?
- How could a loving God send people to hell?
McLaughlin is disarming in her convictions as she discusses some of the more difficult topics for Christians today—using a strong biblical framework and historical evidence. Indeed, McLaughlin leads her readers to see Jesus as our only hope in this life and in the next. McLaughlin summarizes,
McLaughlin leads her readers to see Jesus as our only hope in this life and in the next
In Jesus’s world, we find connective tissue between the truths of science and morality. We find a basis for saying that all human beings are created equal, and a deep call to love across diversity. We find a name for evil, and a means of forgiveness. We find a vision of love that is so much deeper than our current hearts can hold, and a true intimacy better than our weak bodies could ever experience. We find a diagnosis of human nature as shot through with sin and yet as redeemable by grace. We find a call to care for the poor, oppressed, and lonely, a call springing from the heart of God himself and grounded in the hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, every stomach will be filled, and every outcast will be embraced. But we do not find glib answers or an easy road. Instead, we find a call to come and die. (222)
I wish I could go back to that group of grade twelve students and share Confronting Christianity with them. I wish I could spend more time with them and help ease their fears a bit more. I wish I could help them understand that every question and objection to Christianity will never be completely answered, but as I learned from McLaughlin, the world is a better place because of Christianity.
Note: You can read a short article from McLaughlin at www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/enlightenment-now.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion. Crossway, 2019.
Josh Withrow is a high school biblical studies teacher in Langley, BC. He has taught middle school and high school humanities and biblical studies for seventeen years and also teaches Bible study at his church in Cloverdale. Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids and feels at home when reading the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling. He is a Ravenclaw.