Book review: Exposing Myths About Christianity
by Jeffrey Burton Russell
In general, I enjoyed this one. I hardly agreed with everything Russell wrote—probably no Christian will—but it introduced several thought-provoking topics. The subtitle is A Guide to Answering 145 Lies and Legends, and that’s what it is. 145 short discussions, under the following headings:
Christianity is Dying Out
Christianity is Destructive
Christianity is Stupid
Jesus and the Bible Have Been Shown to Be False
Christian Beliefs Have Been Shown to Be Wrong
Miracles Are Impossible
Worldviews Cant Be Evaluated
What’s New Is True
I may as well get this out of the way first: Russell comes down hard on liberal Christians, who he says dilute the message of the Bible. Guys like me are allowed to call themselves followers of Jesus, but never Christians. Oddly, the book then closes with a passionate plea to recognize and embrace truth. Eh? Mr. Russell, it was my search for Truth—my deep, hard-nosed research into the Bible, with all its warts and human touches—that turned me into a liberal. Anyway …
The word “myth” may not be quite what Russell means. His “myths” seem to fall mostly into two categories: (1) inappropriate stereotypes about Christians, and (2) misinterpretations of scripture. For example, one of the myths is that Christians hate Jews, but guess what? Some do, and they find their justification in scripture to do so. Russell’s point is that such feelings and scriptural interpretation aren’t “Christian.”
I noticed that Russell has some strange ideas about atheism, and may need help dispelling some of the “myths” he himself believes about atheists. For example, in discussing the myth that Christians need a crutch, Russell turns the tables, explaining that atheism can also be a crutch; indeed, “The most persuasive argument for atheism is its permission to do whatever we feel like doing.” Huh?
Russell loves to talk about cosmology and science. He feels the findings of science now indicate that the existence of God is more likely than not, so such topics get quite a bit of press time.
The book is bold and serves as an apologetic for Russell’s particular brand of Christianity, which makes it interesting reading. You’ll learn who really burned down the great library at Alexandria (not the Christians), what the Word of God is (not the Bible), how quickly Christians began to worship Jesus as God (immediately), and where to find heaven and hell (in a spiritual state, not in a place). 145 topics was probably too many for 350 pages, as many of the discussions left me hungering for more.