Rebecca McLaughlin: Gospelizing Idolatry at TGC
It has been a hard year for The Gospel Coalition. As the months unfold, an increasing number of Evangelical voices question the goals and motives of this pervasive group. Critics see the organization more driven by identity politics than the gospel.
One writer who focuses quite intently on identity politics, Rebecca McLaughlin, enjoys increasing exposure at TGC’s website and conferences. McLaughlin has recently written a book on apologetics, Confronting Christianity. I write this piece to expose a crooked pattern in McLaughlin’s strategy for cultural engagement.
Rebecca McLaughlin holds a Ph.D from Cambridge University and a theology degree from Oak Hill seminary in London. She has spoken alongside leaders such as Andy Crouch and Paul Tripp and has been recorded in interviews with TGC heavyweights Donald Carson and Russell Moore. My first acquaintance with McLaughlin was reading an article she wrote in 2018 with subject matter quite startling.
This article,“50 Shades of Love,” was posted at TGC the day before Valentine’s day. Rebecca McLaughlin engages with the “50 Shades” films to assert that they “teach us something about the human condition.” That is: Longings for intimacy, evidently even a transgressive-sex type of intimacy, are legitimate and point us to Jesus who alone can satisfy. McLaughlin tells us that Jesus is our “immortal Lover” who can “literally take us to the moon and back and fulfill every dreamy metaphor of every love poem ever written. He can give us more than we can ask or imagine.”
This sort of breezy cultural engagement is a well-worn ditch at TGC: Take whatever sludge oozes out of the world’s treatment plant, find the human longing therein, call it legitimate and show how Jesus alone satisfies that longing. Tim Keller calls it winsome. Others call it syncretism.
For those who would rather read the highlights version than sit under this woman’s teaching, what follows is my summary of McLaughlin’s recent presentation at the Indianapolis TGC 2019 National Conference: “Confronting Christianity: Turning Gospel-Defeating Challenges into Gospel-Proclaiming Conversations.”
Rebecca McLaughlin opens her seminar by offering to sign her books (for free!) and explaining where to find her wares in the temple courts. In the ancient days (a few years ago), these TGC breakout sessions made a more Christian appearance with the leader praying and offering some Bible reading. Now they are much more plain-dealing, sticking closely to the politics.
Rebecca McLaughlin begins by asking an attendee to pray. She then opens the word…the word of J.K. Rowling that is, for McLaughlin begins with a dramatic reading from Harry Potter. I will skip over an analysis of this reading except to note Rowling has recently retro-edited her children’s books to make one of her characters homosexual. I’m pretty sure that authenticates Harry Potter for Ms. McLaughlin.
McLaughlin asserts that our non-Christian friends despise our religion because in it they see, among other things:
A white-centered religion with a Bible that condones slavery and a history of racism; a homophobic religion that denigrates women, and a refusal to acknowledge that love is love.
Ms. McLaughlin has reverently laid out her idols for us to see.
The world has told us what they worship-which victims we have offended and what those victims hate about our Bible. But, McLaughlin believes the above assertions are wrong, very wrong. Not because these are false categories or cheap shots at the elect. Rather, McLaughlin believes in this cultural moment we can and must proclaim to a misunderstanding world: Our religion really is superior at bowing down to each of these idols! We have a fashionable faith after all.
Such is Rebecca McLaughlin’s woefully compromised idea of contending for truth. As the presentation continues, McLaughlin collects statistics from the social sciences and smears them onto her ideology in thick glittery globs. These magical stats prove Christianity has always enshrined the current identity politics, so the ancient faith must be true!
“Christianity is THE belief system of diversity…Christianity has the most even (racial) spread of any belief system in the world…by 2060 most of the world’s Christians are expected to live in Sub-Saharan Africa…in the US black Americans are 10% more likely to identify as Christian than their white peers and they pull higher on every indicator of Christian commitment…Immigration is the much needed blood transfusion to the American church…in 2030 there will be more Christians in China than America…Ethiopia became one of the first Christian countries…1,000 years before the gospel ever came to America.”
Rebecca McLaughlin tells us her secular friends care deeply about diversity so:
“When they realize most Christians are not white and most evangelists are not white, the exclusive claims of Christianity can no longer be dismissed.”
It’s apologetics by politics. “More minority representation=more true.”
“Atheism will not progress because it is the movement of white western men!” reasons Ms. McLaughlin. This is identity politics all the way down.
For the Q and A at the end of her talk, Rebecca McLaughlin exercises affirmative action by requiring one female question for every male question, as she believes if the male voice is not muted women will keep very good questions to themselves. She simply cannot see persons, or ideas apart from gender, color, oppression.
Does it seem contra-Biblical to dwell in a world where truth claims are evaluated by the group status of the one making them? That is our Brave New World. Rebecca McLaughlin gladly embraces this rubric and runs with it.
The very few isolated Bible verses McLaughlin quotes out of context are used to shoe-horn critical race theory into the Bible. She makes no mention of the eternal categories of righteousness, holiness, heaven and hell, atonement, salvation, judgement, sanctification or forgiveness.
When McLaughlin does speak of repentance, she redefines the term to mean a repudiation of majority identity. She calls for American pastors to develop corporate confessions by which white church-goers can lament specific American sins they haven’t committed.
“My pastor is a white man from Oklahoma and he has preached very helpfully on race to our congregation…even if you do not see yourself today as being actively racist there are probably ways in which you, and your race, and your heritage have been complicit in things that have utterly disgraced the name of Christ.”
McLaughlin praises Christ for his wonderful activism:
“The first century man we worship broke through every racial and cultural barrier of his day.”
At one point, Rebecca McLaughlin asserts that suffering is found on nearly every page of the Bible, and therefore the Bible identifies with victims. This proves the Bible to be morally sound.
What would it be like to live in McLaughlin’s world and have no grasp of how the Bible speaks of suffering? Where does she find true consolation in her sorrows? She seems oblivious to the true Biblical purposes of suffering: as all mankind’s curse for violating God’s righteous law; as judgement against idolatrous nations and chastening for those who stray; as the just eternal punishment for rebels cast into outer darkness; to fashion believers unto the image of their Lord; as a groaning creation subjected to futility, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed; as the Man of Sorrow who bore the iniquity of many.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5).
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-of whom the world was not worthy…” (Hebrews 11:38).
Rebecca McLaughlin’s identity politics study Bible is weighed in the balance and found wanting. She has reduced the faith of the martyrs into a series of virtue signals that will have no value at all when the judge of the earth returns. They will be the fastest thing to go up in smoke. For any of my sisters in Christ who are listening to this sort of teaching, I admonish you to turn away swiftly.
But you have not yet heard the half of it.
In Part 2, we’ll expose where Rebecca McLaughlin really goes on deceiving and being deceived: her approach to sexuality.