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Book Review: "Confronting Christianity" Rebecca McLaughlin

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

If you’re anything like me, “tough-question anxiety” can be a big barrier in evangelism.

As Christians on a university campus we can expect to be asked the tough questions. Perhaps it’ll be the intellectual questions like “hasn’t science disproved Christianity?”, or the philosophical questions like “how can you say there’s only one true faith?”, or maybe the deeply personal questions like “isn’t Christianity homophobic?”.

Even though I know Christianity has consistent & compelling answers to all of these questions, I often feel unsure about how to respond. I don’t want to give superficial or clumsy replies, because I know that this stuff matters. Often these sorts of questions become road-blocks to people finding out about Jesus, so I want to be well-equipped to engage in a helpful way.

Confronting Christianity is a book that faces these sorts of tough questions head-on. Rebecca McLaughlin is well-equipped to tackle many of the questions that we’ll come across on campus – she has a PhD from Cambridge University and a theology degree, and has connections with university students and academics from all over the world. As she states in her introduction,

If I give smug, simplistic answers, I have failed. I have spent decades of my life engaging with brilliant friends who have principled reasons for dismissing Christianity. But I have also spent years working with Christian professors at leading secular universities in fields ranging from physics to philosophy… This book aims to look closely at important questions through the lenses these friends have given me, and to share that experience with you. (p.14)

There have been many apologetics books written over the years, but in my eyes Confronting Christianity stands out from the crowd. McLaughlin writes both intelligently & winsomely, weaving academic discussion, statistics, personal stories, and biblical engagement in a smart, but incredibly readable and accessible style. Any book that manages to include references to Harry Potter & Dr Who, alongside powerful Christian testimonies, while engaging with super smart intellectuals, and quoting Christian scholars like Dietrich Bonhoeffer & N.T. Wright is going to be a win for me!

One of the things I appreciated most about Confronting Christianity is that it doesn’t try to explain away the failings of Christians, or side-step around the fact that many of the claims of the Bible are counter-cultural, controversial, or even offensive. McLaughlin addresses these areas with humility and compassion. This is especially evident in her chapter about Christianity and homophobia, where McLaughlin acknowledges that it will likely be the most controversial chapter in the book, but by infusing the chapter with her own story of same-sex attraction, we recognise immediately the chapter is written with sensitivity and deep care.

Would I give this book to a non-Christian friend? To be honest, I’m not sure I would. At various points throughout the book, it becomes clear that McLaughlin has the non-Christian reader in mind. But I think the overall vibe of the book assumes a favourable inclination or at least openness to Christianity. I certainly wouldn’t give it to a combative evangelistic contact! I think the real strength of the book is the confidence boost it can give to Christian readers, which will enable them to engage thoughtfully with questions that come up in conversation with their friends.

This isn’t a huge book, but it took me a long time to read. Each chapter is full of gold, so it will take time to process & reflect on what you are reading. I am so thankful for this book, after finishing it I feel more confident that as Christians we do have compelling answers to “tough questions”, and I know that I now have an excellent resource on my bookshelf to refer back to whenever these questions come up in conversation. I’d encourage every ES student to read this!

Flinders ES- Lauren H

Confronting Christianity : 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion

by Rebecca McLaughlin (2019, Crossway)

Reformer’s Bookshop/Koorong $29.99

Kindle $13.55

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