People have a lot of hard questions for the Christian faith. But why is it that, while there are some that we certainly give it our all to answer, there are others that Christians don’t seem to want to answer?
Why is that?
It’s (hopefully) not that we don’t want to give the answers, but it’s most likely that we don’t have the answers themselves.
That’s where The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask comes in. Author Mark Mittelberg, along with his publisher and the Barna Research group polled one thousand Christians asking them what questions they hoped no one would ask. The results came down to ten questions:
- What makes you so sure that God exists at all—especially when you can’t see, hear, or touch him?
- Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge?
- Why trust the Bible, a book based on myths and full of contradictions and mistakes?
- Everyone knows that Jesus was a good man and a wise teacher—but why try to make him into the Son of God, too?
- How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering—or does he simply not care?
- Why is abortion such a line in the sand for Christians—why can’t I be left alone to make my own choices for my body?
- Why do you condemn homosexuality when it’s clear that God made gays and that he loves all people the same?
- How can I trust in Christianity when so many Christians are hypocrites?
- Why are Christians so judgmental toward everyone who doesn’t agree with them? [note: questions 8 & 9 are combined in one chapter]
- Why should I think that heaven really exists—and that God sends people to hell?
These are not questions with easy answers, and Mittelberg offers thoughtful responses to each, along with very helpful discussion aids and small group questions.
One of the things I appreciated about the book was the author’s ability to be speak plainly on some very complex subject matter. Particularly when speaking about subjects such as evolution, it can be very easy to get bogged down in language that is foreign to the average person. He also tries to be careful about letting his position on each answer be the only position. Again, using the example of evolution, he doesn’t simply provide one option, but several generally accepted Christian views. While I don’t know if I would agree his inclusion theistic evolution, Mittelberg keeps his eye on accessibility and that’s something that should be commended.
Perhaps one of my favorite chapters was his response to question three: “Why trust the Bible if it’s full of contradictions and myths?” Mittelberg points out that many who pose this question don’t really have examples that they’ve seen for themselves. Most likely they’ve seen the film Zeitgeist or read something in a Dan Brown book. So the best thing to do is simply ask the question, “I’m curious, what contradictions have you found?” This not only shows you’re willing to dialogue, but also offers the questioner an opportunity to genuinely study the topic for him- or herself. (And as an aside, Mittelberg also does a terrific job deconstructing the Mithras objection. See pp. 87-89 for his take).
Probably the place where I was least satisfied with Mittelberg’s answer was in dealing with the problem of evil and suffering. Mittelberg recognizes the tension of the existence of an all-powerful and completely good God together with the very real presence of evil in the world and he is right that we should not desire to offer simplistic solutions in an effort to make people feel good (see p. 138). And much of his answer is very, very good; there is much that made me want to cheer, in fact. However, it seems like he almost puts more stock in human liberty than the Bible does. While there’s no doubt that man has the ability to make choices freely (as is affirmed in Scripture), it’s also clear in Scripture that, post-fall, we don’t have the kind of liberty that seems to be implied (that is, egalitarian free will—on my own, I am completely free and able to choose what is good or evil). There’s a lot of room for debate on this point and it’s not something that should prevent you from buying the book (and if it did, it’d be a silly reason) but it was something that caught my attention.
Overall, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask is a valuable study and discussion resource. If you’re looking for a primer on a number of key issues, or you’re after something to use as a small group study, this book will serve you well.
Title: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask: (With Answers)
Author: Mark Mittelberg
Publisher: Tyndale (2010)