Exposing Myths About Christianity: A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends by Jeffrey Burton Russell, available for pre-order now, shipping on June 4.
The word these days is that Christianity is immoral, unwise, dangerous, deceptive, pro-slavery, anti-women, anti-science, locked in the past, irrationally based, opposed to progress, and otherwise just really wrong. Or, as I have written recently at BreakPoint, “Christianity is bad and Christianity is stupid.”
My second article on that topic was published a few days ago–the same day our mail brought me a copy of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s new book on myths about Christianity. I opened the table of contents to look at the 145 “viral lies and legends” he writes about. They’re organized into eight categories, of which the second and third are Christianity is Destructive, and Christianity is Stupid.
It that’s not a similar wavelength, I don’t know what is, I thought. (Most of the other six categories of myths could also be subsumed under bad and stupid, taken broadly.)
Lately I’ve been coming to the conclusion that this might represent the most crucial Christian apologetic of our day: to counteract these very myths. I’m grateful to see such a thorough and responsibly handled treatment as this.
Russell is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He bears the graceful confidence of one who feels at ease holding his position, which I suspect reflects the fact that he has been tested in it.
Most tellingly, he’s comfortable being open with Christianity’s weaknesses. Is it a myth that Christianity is anti-Semitic? Well, yes and no. You need not go looking elsewhere for anti-Semitism in Christian history; Russell will tell you about it. And then he’ll put it in context. Similarly with slavery, women’s rights, and so on. Russell has no new myths to try to insinuate into the record. On the whole Christianity comes out looking okay in spite of all—especially in comparison to other currents of thought, and other social movements.
I can’t agree with everything he wrote, especially his overly cautious conclusions concerning homosexuality in the Bible. I know that will come as no surprise to him; he was quite sure, he said, that there would be no way to write on that without raising raising disagreement of some sort from almost everyone. It’s a tough one.
Setting that aside as just one among 145 topics, I find this to be an enormously helpful volume, especially in its doubly usable format, either as a book to sit and read from front to back, or else to keep on hand as a reference volume.
It belongs on every college student’s bookshelf, in particular—which makes it a great high school graduation gift—but it’s the kind of book that can help anyone who faces myths about Christianity. In a world that’s trying to make out Christianity to be bad and stupid, that means every one of us.
Exposing Myths About Christianity: A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends by Jeffrey Burton Russell. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012. 339 pages plus bibliography and index. Amazon price US$12.11.