The subtitle of this book is “A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends.” Thus Russell has set quite a task for himself in claiming to provide answers to nearly 150 myths about Christianity. He does provide answers, mostly quite good ones in my opinion (of course, I am just as biased as anyone). I think this book is most useful as a reference. It would come in handy as a sort of apologetics dictionary, something to consult when a question is asked and you want help with a quick answer. The negative in this is that many of the answers come across overly simplified. Plus, there is no assumption that the reader will read through this from beginning to end, so if you do be prepared for a whole lot of repetition. As someone who read straight through, this became tedious at times.
The 145 lies and legends are divided up into eight sections:
1. Christianity is dying out. Think Christianity is old and boring? This is the section for you.
2. Christianity is destructive. Was Hitler a Christian? Are Christians all crazy fanatics? Read here to find out.
3. Christianity is stupid. This is where you find a lot of science. Did medieval Christians believe the world was flat? Does science contradict faith?
4. Jesus and the Bible have been shown to be false. Did you read the Da Vinci Code? Bart Ehrman’s bestsellers? This section answers questions from that realm.
5. Christian Beliefs have been shown to be wrong. This may sound a lot like section four, but there the focus was on history, here it is more on theology. Do Christians believe in three gods? Does evil disprove Christianity?
6. Miracles are impossible. This section is on miracles, obviously.
7. Worldviews can’t be evaluated. I am not sure how this section is different from some others. The first question is “no one believes in God anymore.” Wouldn’t that fit into the first section?
8. What’s New is True. Like the last section, this seems to catch a few that didn’t fit elsewhere and a few others that could have fit elsewhere.
Overall this is a helpful book. It is probably not good for it to be your only apologetics resource, but it would certainly be useful for any Christian with questions.
Besides the repetition there were a few other things that bothered me about the book. I realize that in a book answering 145 legends and lies there is going to be some oversimplification. Another thing that bothered me was that I found myself confused at times with what exactly the “myth”, “legend” or “lie” was? For example, one chapter was titled “Christians believe in hell.” This is clearly not a myth, lie or legend. Russell shows that Christians do indeed believe in hell. So what was the myth or lie here? This occurred a few times. I was trying to explain how the book worked to my wife and she looked at the chapter titled, “Christianity has repented for its sins against others.” Does this mean it is a myth that Christians have repented? Or is it a myth that Christianity has sinned against others?
Finally, Russell’s use of footnotes nearly drove me insane! For example, at one point he was talking about how secular thought has replaced a future kingdom of God with the belief in progress. Near the end of this discussion was a footnote, which I clicked on, thinking I’d find a quote from a secular writer. Instead there was a listing of a book. Not even a page or section of a book, though this occurred other times, but a whole book. This is not to dispute the point he made in my example, it is a basic truth of the difference between secularism and faith. I just want some meat in the footnotes, at least explanations in a bit more depth of what he is saying in the text along with a brief summary of the book’s argument which he is citing. Further, I am more skeptical when a secondary source is quoted in regards to proving a point. If I wanted to check this, I’d have to find the source he quotes and then in that book find the primary source it quotes.
In another chapter he seeks to refute the myth that Hitler was a Christian. He presents a good argument, including a quote from Hitler. Yet if you follow the link for the Hitler quote, you find not the time and place when Hitler said it, but a book by a Christian author in response to the new atheism. Again, a primary source is needed here, not a secondary one.
Maybe that’s just the nature of a reference book. Which is what this book really is, in the end. And it is quite a good one which I wouldn’t be surprised if I consult many times in the future. Check it out, even if you don’t read through the whole thing.