Rebecca McLaughlin’s book Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion is a breath of fresh air in the world of Christian Apologetics. It is refreshing in many ways but particularly for two reasons: (1) it is a written by a female; (2) with close ties to the UK Evangelical context. These reasons cannot be overstated in our current cultural milieu. In a YouTube interview McLaughlin mentioned the popular virtue today that says “who you are determines what you’re allowed to say.”1 Having struggled herself with same-sex attraction, this opens doors for her to be able to defend the truth claims of Christianity in settings typically dominated by straight white male. Conservatives, both politically and theologically might not appreciate the mitigation of these traditional blind spots. However, for those she is trying to reach with the Gospel, and its defense, this is an absolute game changer. Experts like McLaughlin and others such as the speaking team at Women in Apologetics2 will revolutionize the apologetics landscape of our churches in the coming years, especially when one considers the fact that more women than men claim to be church attenders and engage in other religious activities.3
The second reason McLaughlin’s contribution to apologetics is welcomed has to do with her background growing up in London. For decades the church has been told by academics that the UK and the rest of Europe is hopelessly secular. They would routinely remind us that secularization begins in the UK, travels to Canada, then the U.S. and then to the rest of the world, perhaps finally landing in the global south. McLaughlin is an outlier here and may be on to something. Perhaps the origins and bastions of secularization within the intellectual centers of Europe is abating and her book just might reveal a hopeful reversal.
McLaughlin’s most controversial4 chapter titled “Isn’t Christianity Homophobic?” is a gem because she writes from excellent primary sources, as well as her own personal struggles with same-sex attraction. There are plenty of experts who can pontificate about the perils, both from nature and Scripture, of the self-harm brought about by homosexual practices, but few can address this with insightful authority and provide practical knowledge on the matter.
One of the best heuristic takeaways from the chapter is the way she uses subversion to frame and deal with the question of homosexuality. She starts by saying:
“People sometimes say that the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. It does not. The Bible commands same-sex relationships at a level of intimacy that Christians seldom reach.”5
Stating it this way not only grabs one’s attention, it forces the reader to consider intently what God has to say about relationships in general and sexual ones specifically. To be clear McLaughlin believes the Bible unequivocally teaches that sexual intimacy belongs exclusively to heterosexual marriage. However, for those who have a different view, she invites them to consider the idea and benefits of boundaries which are not uncommon concepts in everyday life. While she herself is happily married with kids, she confesses that there is no guarantee that God could change her natural instinct to be drawn toward women. Apparently, sexual fluidity is more prevalent than initially thought and may persist over time in both men and women. Deploying new discoveries such as this helps lessen the stigma for whom homosexual tendencies is a struggle, allowing space for open dialog, transparency and counseling. This is helpful especially among 13 to 18 year-olds, only half of whom believe one’s sex at birth defines one’s gender; and one third says gender is “what a person feels like.”6
It is easy and regrettably far too common for Christians to judge homosexuals and cast their sin in some distinct dispensation meriting a special place in hell. It’s not true, it’s not biblical and serves to only besmirch the Christian witness. As Christian leaders we must continually remind ourselves that “heterosexuality is not the goal of the Christian life: Jesus is.”7
- Speak Life, “Rebecca McLaughlin Interviewed About Confronting Christianity,” interview by Glen Scrivener, May 6, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIYL7R7yaIg&t=14s.
- “Mission and Vision,” Women in Apologetics, accessed March 12, 2020, https://www.womeninapologetics.com/mission-and-vision/)
- “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World,” Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, December 31, 2019, https://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/)
- Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), Loc. 3196, Kindle.
- Ibid., Loc. 3209.
- Barna Group. Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46.
- McLaughlin, Loc. 3194.