Anyone who has grown up in mainstream North American culture has inherited a freight of mythology — some of it fun like Babe the Blue Ox and his exploits with Paul Bunyan. Some of it is misleading but harmless like George Washington and the cherry tree. However, some of our myths have grown up alongside our heritage of the little white-steepled building in the center of the village square. Just enough of Christianity still remains diluted within our culture to provide a basis for misunderstanding. Therefore, criticisms based on the inadequacy of its followers or the insufficiency of its truth claims have led many to reject Christianity without a second glance.
In The God You Thought You Knew, apologist Alex McFarland has compiled a list of ten myths about Christianity that he has encountered in communicating with audiences around the world for the past two decades. Each contains a grain of truth mixed with a measure of deception. He exposes the false thinking behind them and then builds a foundation of accurate thinking that rests on facts from church history, a right understanding of the content and preservation of Scripture, truth about the nature of God, and a broad and unbiased reading of the assertions of the scientific community. He addresses myths about Christianity “both from the factual evidence that exists as well as through the offer of a secure relationship of unconditional love.” Christianity was never meant to be just an idea to believe, but, rather, a truth to explore relationally.
For example, Myth #1 that Christianity is intolerant and judgmental toward others would be easy enough to prove accurate if all the data collected came from a sub-section of Christians who are ignorant, narrow-minded, and vocal. I would argue that a search of the Internet would just as easily locate a sub-set of atheists (or environmentalists or Buddhists or whatever-ists) with the same three “endearing” qualities. The truth is that believers of all creeds will, at times, behave badly and that arguing from worst-case scenario will always produce fallacy.
An individual’s dissatisfaction with Christianity is often only one of many disappointments, philosophically and experientially, and it demonstrates the truth of C.S. Lewis’s words: “If I find in myself desires which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
One of Alex’s many strengths is his admission from the outset of his own brokenness, his vulnerable sharing of his own story of redemption, and his acknowledgement that there are unresolved “mysteries” in the Christian faith that no fancy ribbon will tie up. His readers are not asked to embrace square circles or four-sided triangles, but, instead, are invited into the pursuit of answers to ultimate questions without faithless detours into vague generalities. With candor, the reader is challenged not to be put off by the exclusivity of Christ’s claims in favor of a mushy spirituality in which there is no “truth to embrace or error to avoid.”
Chapter 9 should be required pre-Easter reading for everyone who believingly follows Jesus Christ, for it zeroes in on the miracle of resurrection, but not before backing up to defend the historicity of Jesus. Providing a detailed look at all twelve of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, what emerges is a deeply nuanced portrait of eye-witness accounts.
Appendices serve the casually curious with information available at Alex McFarland’s website, and also address the voracious truth seeker with an extensive annotated bibliography. Coming out of myth and into truth is not for the faint-hearted. It involves a careful consideration of long-cherished ideas, and may even require life-change that is both invasive and inconvenient. How much is it worth to begin living our days in the light of truth?
This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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