Reviewed September 2022
Rebecca McLaughlin grew up in England and earned her PhD in Renaissance Literature from Cambridge and a degree in theology from Oak Hill Seminary in London. She came to the United States in 2008 and spent almost a decade with the Veritas Forum, an organization which seeks discourse with students on life’s most difficult questions. She is a frequent contributor to The Gospel Coalition and her work is published by this organization.
The Secular Creed is by no means an academic study. Coming in at just over 100 pages that are easy to read and containing plenty of anecdotes, the book is aimed at lay people who desire a brief but lucid interaction with the five mantras she covers in the book. It is a great introduction to the issues from a Reformed perspective. [Note: If you are looking for a more thorough examination of CRT and its implications see Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender and Identity by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. This work is by two admitted liberal non-Christians so avoid their solutions, but their research, explanation and criticisms are spot on.]
In her book, Rebecca McLaughlin puts five contemporary statements in her cross hairs. They are familiar to all of us:
“Black Lives Matter”
“Love Is Love”
“The Gay Rights Movement Is the New Civil Rights Movement”
“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights”
“Transgender Women Are Women”
According to Dr. McLaughlin, “Signs like this sketch out a secular creed or statement of belief. It centres not on God, but on diversity, equality, and everybody’s right to be themselves.” She is right in articulating these as “creeds” for they truly are “I believe” statements which are religious in nature. Our society may seek to dispose of God, but in doing so it has not lost religion. It has simply created another one; one that is humanistic and secular to its core. Her book is an apologetic attempt to refocus our attention on the divine in order to best “disentangle ideas Christians can and must affirm from ideas Christians cannot and must not embrace.” She does this with equal parts intelligence, conviction and compassion.
McLaughlin is no fundamentalist as she approaches these issues. Her response is never to pit the church against society as if the church is right and society is wrong. She is well aware of the failure of the church in many of the areas she discusses which have, in many ways, allowed some of these particular viewpoints to grow. She admits,
“We must fall to our knees and repent. The frequent failure of Christians to meet biblical ideals of fellowship across racial differences, equal valuing of men and women, welcome for outcasts, love for those with unfulfilled desire, and care for the most marginalized has allowed this mixture of ideas to coalesce under the banner of diversity.”
Yet this does not cause her to abandon hope in God, the gospel or the church. She fights against the temptation to view the Christian faith, its doctrines and the church as oppressive, irredeemable, and thus in need of radical revisioning or to be jettisoned entirely. For example, in her chapter on LGBT issues, the best in the book along with chapter 3, she writes,
“Some argue that for the church to survive in a love-is-love world, we must become less biblical. I think the opposite is true.” She goes on to emphasize the place of the church in this process, “I Christ we are one body together, brothers and sisters, comrades in arms, knit together in love. If Christians lived like this, the plague of loneliness would be over, and all of us — single or married, same-sex attracted or straight, old or you, widowed or newlywed — would be embraced into a family.”
This may sound idealistic, but it is biblical idealism which is eminently achievable through the grace of God. Our society needs to be challenged on these issues but the church needs to become better at living out the truth of Scripture on these issues in order to better influence those around us. This book is valuable because it helps us in both areas.
I would have some quibbles over a few of the foundations for some of the points McLaughlin makes but overall I would recommend this book to any who have come across the issues listed above. This is a simple, winsome read that will yield great benefit. What more could you want from an evening’s read?
Soli Deo Gloria