Several years ago research pointed to a growing trend of young people leaving the church en masse following their graduation from high school.* This trend alarmed many in the evangelical world, especially those in youth and college ministry. Much was and has been attempted to correct this trend, such as making church more appealing to young people by making youth gatherings more fun and entertainment driven. However, in the subsequent years since that research first came out it has been shown that the entertainment and fun driven youth ministry does not always work to keep kids engaged in church ministries.** In fact this mindset has caused many to become nominal Christians who still do not engage in church after high school or college. Much of the reason younger people do not desire to engage in church, is that there is a lack of solid answers to their deepest questions. This is what writer and leading Christian thinker Rebecca McLaughlin in discusses in her book 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity (Crossway 2021).
Much ink has been spilled, at least among the Christian subculture, as to how to rectify the issue of young people leaving the church. Some argue that the problem is that liberal unbelieving college professors are to blame for unraveling the faith of young Christians in college. However, the blame must be put on the western Christian subculture at least in part. For many decades youth and college ministries have been entertainment driven with lacking solid biblical answers to life’s deepest and most thought provoking questions. Yes, it is true that many young people “lose their faith” in college, but many of them are not prepared to face such harsh unrelenting criticism of the Christian faith when they arrive on campus, which is why their faith so easily unravels. McLaughlin believes that if young people were given solid biblical answers to their questions about life and the Christian faith that this would provide a better foundation for them to stand on when they are approached with different ideas and critiques.
Time will not allow us to discuss all 10 questions raised and answered in the book. However, I will discuss three of the ones that I found most compelling for teens today. The first question we will discuss is “How Can You Believe the Bible is True?” In this chapter McLaughlin interacts with the age old question of the Bible’s reliability. This is one of the major critiques that young people will face in non-Christian settings, such as higher education or even in some career paths. The argument is that the Bible is several thousand years old, written by many different authors in three different languages, and therefore not a cohesive story. Once this foundational truth of the Bible‘s reliability is undermined it is easy for the faith of someone to crumble underneath. For this reason, McLaughlin provides basic arguments for the Bible’s reliability. First, she finds strength in the supposed weaknesses proposed by opponents of the Bible. Namely, that while it is true that the Bible is written in three different languages, by several different authors, over hundreds of years and completed more than 2000 years ago, it does in fact tell one cohesive story from Genesis to Revelation. Second, McLaughlin takes on the issue of the Bible being taken literally. This is the foundational doctrine, particularly of fundamentalist Christians that believe for every word of the Bible to be true therefore God‘s word it must be literal in the strictest sense. McLaughlin disagrees with this statement and argues for reading each biblical genre not only in its context but according to it’s a literary form. This takes the pressure off of many of the sticky passages found in the Bible. I would agree with the first sentiment that the Bible supposed weaknesses are the strengths. To her second point. While I agree for the most part that the Bible must be read in its context and according to its literary form, I believe that this chapter could have been expound at a little further. Yet, I understand given the audience and space in the boo, only so much could be said and discussed.
Second, we will discuss the question of “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?” This is a question sparked by the enlightenment of the 17th century where scientists and leading thinkers of that day began to question the validity of claims of scripture and other firmly held beliefs. This is not a negative thing to say the least. Because of the thinking developed in this era we have come to see that the world is not flat but round, the earth is not the center of our solar system, the sun is. Science has brought much good to our modern world and is to be commended and studied by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is therefore a myth that science has in any way disapproved Christianity or religious faith in general and it is also a myth that science and faith are mutually exclusive. McLaughlin argues that science and faith (Christianity) are friends. Where science speaks the Bible is accurate, and where the Bible is silent, science often times provide solid reasonable answers for understanding our universe. For McLaughlin and the biblical worldview, science is a tool by which humans can understand the world and better know God and worship him. This is a very compelling chapter and provides ample room for differences in opinions on a variety of topics. However, the foundation remains faith and science are not juxtaposed. McLaughlin calls many young Christians to become scientists, so as to use their ability to reason and articulate discoveries in an effort to point to Christ and his gospel.
Third and possibly most important we will discuss the question of “Why can’t we just agree that love is love? “ in this chapter McLaughlin discusses the biblical sexual epic. It is no understatement that the issue of sexuality is the most crucial issue facing young people today. The modern western secular culture bombards all of us, but especially young people, with sexuality and the need to express oneself in a sexual way. Young people today face far greater challenges in regards to sexual ethics than did previous generations. For this reason, they must have a biblical foundation and worldview with which to see the world around them. Much of what is discussed in this chapter and in this review regarding a biblical sexual ethic is discussed in a previous review posted on Reading for the Glory in McLaughlin’s 2019 book Confronting Christianity. For the sake of brevity, I will allow the reader to reference that post for further discussion on this topic. However, I firmly believe that McLaughlin provides the best response to the sexual revolution with which young people are bombarded with on a daily basis in advertisements, TV shows, movies, video games, social media and the list goes on. My only regret about this book is that I wish it was published when I was a teenager. The nuance with which McLaughlin discusses this topic is both soundly biblical, yet understanding of the struggle with which many people have regarding sexuality.
10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity is the best resource on the market today at helping teens think through a biblical worldview for many of their leading questions about the world and their faith. This book is the most important book besides the Bible, of course, for young people to read before they graduate from high school. In fact, I feel strongly that this book should be required reading for every youth group in America.
*See also Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Tell the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean (Oxford University Press, 2010).
For a list of additional apologetics resources please visit the Apologetics page
Editor’s Note: This book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.