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Summer Preaching Series, Confronting Christianity

(News: Begins May 30, 2021)

About a year ago some of us read Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin. The book gives solid Biblical answers to “12 hard questions for the world’s largest religion.” We had hoped to go through the book as a Sunday School class last summer, but with COVID, that didn’t happen. This summer, though, Bob and a few others are going to go through the book as a preaching series. In addition we’re going to offer a small group where we can go a little deeper with the material and address questions it may raise in your mind.

Here are the details:

(1) Preaching Series – We’ll start on May 30, 2021 and end on August 22. Each week we’ll ask the one of the kinds of hard questions that Rebecca McLaughlin raises, and answer them first from Scripture and then from the resources she provides in her book.

(2) Small Group – Bob and Gail DeGray will host a discussion small group in their home each of the twelve weeks of the study. The small group will meet on Monday night from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. We’ll start on May 31, 2021. If you are interested in participating, please let Bob or Gail know. But feel free to show up on any given week where the topic of the Sunday message intrigued you or raised questions.

If you would like to purchase the book, here’s the Amazon link: Confronting Christianity.

Below are the topics for each Sunday. Notice that we are not walking through the book in order. We felt that a different sequence would be most helpful, and we needed to fit it together with Bob’s vacation schedule.
Date: May 30, 2021
Title: The Fundamental Failure of Western Culture
Text: Romans 1:16-32
Worship: The Power of the Gospel
Key Sentence: The rejection of God leads to the rise and triumph of self
I. The rejection of God (Romans 1:18-21)
II. The rise and triumph of the modern self (Romans 1:22-32)
III. The power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17)

Note: This first week of the series is actually based on The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman. It sets the stage for the hard questions which we’ll be answering in the remainder of the series.

Date: June 6, 2021
Title: Aren’t We Better Off without Religion?
Text: Proverbs 19:23
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 1, with some of 4
Worship: Lord, You Have Been Good
Key Sentence:
To the contrary, Christianity offers many proven opportunities to thrive
I. Introduction (Proverbs 19:23)
II. Seven Biblical Principles
a. It is better to give (Acts 20:35)
b. Love of money disappoints (1 Timothy 6:10)
c. Work works when it’s a calling (Colossians 3:23-24)
d. We really can be happy in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13)
e. Gratitude is good for us (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)
f. Perseverance helps us thrive (Hebrews 12:1–2)
g. Forgiveness is foundational (Matthew 18:21-22)

We began this chapter wondering if we are simply better off without religion. My classmates at Cambridge certainly thought so. But while it is impossible to explore all the relevant data, there is compelling evidence that many individual and social goods arise from religious participation, and that Christianity in particular is well aligned with the findings of modern psychology. Does this alignment prove that Christianity is true? Certainly not! Rather, it should raise a hundred questions in our minds—questions the chapters following will explore. But the positive effects of religious participation on our mental and physical health should give us pause before we buy the claim that religion poisons everything.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 33)

Date: June 13, 2021
Title: How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
Text: John 14:6
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 3
Worship: God of Truth and Beauty
Key Sentence: Jesus is too radical to be packaged with other faiths
I. Introduction (John 14:6)
II. Some Issues with the Elephant
III. The Radical Jesus (Mark 2:3-12; John 11:25-26; Matthew 28:18-20)

But are there real consequences to disagreements about religious truth, or does religious truth simply boil down to cultural preference? If I say, “Christianity is true, and Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism are not,” is that like saying, “Stop smoking; it could kill you,” or is it more like saying, “My grandmother’s cooking is better than yours”?
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 54)

Date: June 20, 2021
Title: Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 5
Worship: God of Peace
Key Sentence: True Christian faith does not glorify violence. It humiliates it.
I. Jesus’ rejection of violence (Matthew 5:38-48)
II. Christianity’s rejection of violence (Ephesians 2:13–18, Romans 12:17-21)
III. Christianity’s record of violence
IV. Non-Christianity’s record of violence
V. The violence at the heart of Christianity (Matthew 20:17–19)

All religions have violence. Violence has been done in the name of Christianity, but Christianity is the opposite of a religion of violence:

Staked at the heart of Christianity is a symbol of extreme violence—the brutal, torturous, state-sponsored execution of an innocent man. Christians believe that this execution was orchestrated by God himself. Some argue from this that Christianity glorifies violence. But the meaning of the cross is precisely the opposite. Violence is the use of power by the strong to hurt the weak. At the cross, the most powerful man who ever lived submitted to the most brutal death ever died, to save the powerless. Christianity does not glorify violence. It humiliates it.

McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (pp. 97-98).

Date: June 27, 2021
Title: Isn’t the Bible Full of Contradictions?
Text: 2 Peter 3:1-13
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 6
Worship: Eternal God
Key Sentence:
Scripture’s full orbed revelation of truth does not constitute contradiction
I. Introduction: the American Atheists
II. A classic Biblical response: 2 Peter 3:1-13
III. The metaphorical stumbling block
IV. Progressive revelation
V. The historical reliability of the Gospels

In this chapter, we will explore the misconception that it is inconsistent to read some biblical passages literally and others not, the assumption that not always “taking the Bible literally” licenses us to dodge its miraculous claims, the question of contradictions in the Gospels, and the idea that the New Testament is not a trustworthy source regarding the first-century Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 102).

Date: July 4, 2021
Title: Doesn’t Christianity Denigrate Women? (RM 8)
Text: Genesis 1:27-28
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 8
Worship: As Christ Loved the Church
Key Sentence:
Jesus Christ elevates women by his relationship and his sacrifice
I. The Marriage Metaphor (Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 3:16, Isaiah 54:5-8)
II. Jesus Valued Women (Luke 8:1-3, Matthew 26:6-13)
III. The Offense of the Marriage Metaphor (Ephesians 5:22-27)
IV. The Lens of the Marriage Metaphor

Throughout the Old Testament, we see sin resulting in appalling treatment of women by men—and vice versa. We see murder and rape and exploitation. But this is a diagnosis, not a prescription. The Bible does not endorse what it reports, as New Atheist mash-ups of Scripture would have us believe. But it does present a realistic picture of how human beings treat each other and, in particular, how we wield power.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 150).

Date: July 11, 2021
Title: Hasn’t Science Made Christianity Ridiculous?
Text: Psalm 19:1-4, Psalm 8:1-6
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 7
Worship: The Heavens Declare
Key Sentence: Science still declares God’s glory to those who will see it.
I. Science Points us to God (Psalm 19:1-4)
II. Science Cannot Give Meaning (Psalm 8:1-6)
III. God is Still the Best Explanation

In this chapter, we will question the common assumption that science points to atheism. We will explore the Christian origins of science and how Christians have often been at the forefront of scientific discoveries. We will then take a snapshot of some emerging scientific fields that have been heralded as blows to faith and suggest that, far from validating secular humanism, they expose key weaknesses in a belief system that seeks, on the one hand, to reduce truth to that which is scientifically measurable and, on the other, to uphold the intrinsic value of life.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 117). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Date: July 18, 2021 (Doug Rask)
Title: Hasn’t Science Disproven the Creation Accounts?

Rebecca Mclaughlin doesn’t have a chapter at this level of detail. Doug Rask will be presenting this message, with details coming soon.

Date: July 25, 2021 (Todd Cobbs)
Title: How Could a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering? (RM 11)
Text: John 11:1-44
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 11
Worship: The Resurrection and the Life
Key Sentence: Only Christianity offers the suffering a suffering and rising God
I. The Problem of Suffering
II. The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:1-44)
III. Jesus of the Scars

How can we reckon with suffering? For many, this question torpedoes the Christian faith. How can the hypothesis of a loving, powerful God stand under the crushing weight of human distress? Does Christianity work only for those whose lives are not shipwrecked? Must we gloss over others’ distress to believe in an omnipotent, benevolent Creator? This chapter will examine three broad frameworks for suffering: suffering without God, suffering from a Buddhist perspective, and suffering in the Christian worldview. It will suggest that suffering is not the wrecking ball that knocks Christianity down but rather the cornerstone on which, painfully, brick by brick, it has always been built.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 208).

Date: August 1, 2021
Title: How Could a Loving God Send People to Hell?
Text: Luke 15:11-24
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 12
Worship: The Cross
Key Sentence: Hell is the place you go when you move away from God
I. The bankruptcy of a world without judgment
II. The hell away from God (Luke 15:11-16)
III. The logic of the cross (Luke 22:41-42)
IV. What we find on the road back (Luke 15:17-24)

Heaven, in biblical terms, is not primarily a place. It is a shorthand for the full blessing of relationship with God. It is the prodigal son come home. It is the bride being embraced by her husband with tears of joy. It is the new heavens and the new earth, where God’s people with upgraded, resurrection bodies will enjoy eternity with him at a level of intimacy into which the best of human marriage gives us no more than a glimpse. Heaven is home: an embodied experience of deep relationship with God and his people on a recreated earth. Hell is the opposite. It is the door shut in the face of the wastrel son, the divorce certificate delivered at the moment of remorse, the criminal receiving his just deserts. If Jesus is the Bread of Life, loss of Jesus means starving. If Jesus is the Light of the World, loss of Jesus means darkness. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, loss of Jesus means wandering alone and lost. If Jesus is the resurrection and the life, loss of Jesus is eternal death. And if Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins, loss of Jesus means paying that price for ourselves.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (pp. 233-234).

Date: August 8, 2021
Title: Isn’t Christianity Homophobic?
Text: Genesis 2:24-25
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 9
Worship: God’s Compassion
Key Sentence: God’s call to sexual purity is a call to intimate community
I. God’s Design for Sexuality (Genesis 1:24-25, Matthew 19:3-6)
II. God’s Compassion for Sinners (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-17)
III. God’s Call to Community (Romans 12:3-13)

But then it’s a story of reading her way into Yale, being left by her high school girlfriend, plunging into existential angst, stealing a book called Mere Christianity from a lapsed-Catholic friend, and being overpowered by the gospel of Jesus. It’s a story of trying to reconcile her lifestyle with the Bible and failing; of committing to Jesus above sex with women and failing; and then gradually growing in obedience and ability to resist temptation. It’s a story of dependence on Jesus’s love and trusting that his no to sexual relationships with women meant a better yes to a deeper relationship with him.1
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 164).

Date: August 15, 2021
Title: Doesn’t the Bible Condone Slavery and Crush Diversity (RM 10, RM 2)
Text: Colossians 3:9-11
Chapter in Confronting Christianity: 10, 2
Worship: Every Tribe and Tongue
Key Sentence: True Christianity ends oppression and embraces of diversity
I. True Christianity undoes oppression and prejudice (Ephesians 2:11-22)
II. True Christianity means the end of slavery (Philemon 1:8-20)
III. True Christianity celebrates diversity (Revelation 7:9-12)

In this chapter we will explore why slaves throughout the centuries have been drawn to Christianity. We will examine the horror of the transatlantic slave trade, the sinful blot of slavery on American history, and the ways in which the Bible has been used at times to condone slavery. But we will also see how biblical ethics radically undermines human slavery and creates a whole new paradigm, within which every Christian is both a slave and deeply free. (p. 188).

But, ironically, our habit of equating Christianity with Western culture is itself an act of Western bias. The last book of the Bible paints a picture of the end of time, when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will worship Jesus (Rev. 7:9). This was the multicultural vision of Christianity from the beginning. For all the wrong turns made by Western Christians in the last two thousand years, when we look at church growth globally today, it is not crazy to think that this vision could ultimately be realized. So, if you care about diversity, don’t dismiss Christianity: it is the most diverse, multiethnic, and multicultural movement in all of history.
McLaughlin, Rebecca. Confronting Christianity (p. 48).

Date: August 22, 2021
Title: Why Doesn’t Faith Make a Difference?
Text: Joel 2:30-32
Worship: The Cross
Key Sentence: Faith makes a difference, but not always the difference we want
I. We are changed but we don’t see it. (Joel 2:30-32)
II. We have some responsibility for our changed lives. (Matthew 7:24-27)
III. Not all answers to prayer are welcome (Matthew 26:39-44)

We are like people walking into the cone of a volcano, surrounded by steaming, streaming lava. But we never see it, for in our hands is a small round mirror, and in the mirror we see only our own faces, and in our faces we see the smallest blemish, or the tiniest patch of dry skin or the slightest asymmetry. There comes a moment when we trip over a melting stone on this path that is quickly melting beneath us. We look up from our faces and cry out for help. But the moment passes so quickly, we turn back to our faces so quickly that we never see the change in the landscape, from the hell of the fiery lava to the heaven of a beautiful green land under a lovely cool swift sunrise. No, we focus again on our faces and see that the blemish is still there, the asymmetry is still there and we say “Why didn’t my cry for help make a difference?”