Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers) by Mark Mittelberg

As a progressive Christian, this book grabbed my attention and I hoped to gain some insight into difficult questions that people ask about Christianity. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. I read the first chapter ("What makes you so sure that God exists at all?") and agreed with the conclusion that of course God exists, but disagreed with much of Mittelberg's supporting evidence, which used circular reasoning and other faulty arguments. For example, he states that apart from God there can be no objective moral standards, but we clearly live in a world that has objective moral standards, so there has to be a divine moral lawgiver. Why do moral standards necessarily come from God though? Or: one of the ways we can know that God is real and active in our world is that he's real and active in our lives. What?

So I turned to Chapter 7 ("Why do you condemn homosexuality when it's clear that God made gays and that he loves all people the same?") Mittelberg takes a step in the right direction by saying we shouldn't condemn gay people, that we should seek to understand them, etc. But his answer to the question is essentially "love the sinner but hate the sin" or "we condemn gay people because the Bible says we should." He especially turned me off when he essentially said "notice I haven't used any scriptures to condemn homosexuality because they can be used to make people feel bad" but then goes on to outline them all. Ugh. I had hoped for something more progressive here.

I figured I would give the book one more chance. So I read Chapter 5 ("How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering?) The answer was basically "that's just how it is and we have to live with it", and gave the standard answers I hear at church every Sunday -- pain can deepen our character, it gives a spiritual and eternal perspective, he uses pain to protect us from ourselves (what?!), etc. real answers here for a non-Christian asking the question, let alone a Christian sincerely struggling with the issue.

I read the summaries of the rest of the chapters, but disappointingly it was more of the same. Mittelberg is a good and engaging writer, and (from my perspective) comes from a loving, caring, but conservative and traditional approach. For a more hopeful approach, I would recommend "A New Kind of Christianity" by Brian D. McLaren.


Mister Curie said...

I have found few answers to my questions from faithful Christian perspectives (Mormon or not). The books with the most satisfying answers to me have been by atheists.

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