Why would a world-renowned defender of Christianity write about all the terrible things Christians have done?

That’s what I wanted to ask John Dickson, author of the new book, Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History (Zondervan). Dickson has written more than 20 books and hosted two television documentaries in addition to his podcast, Undeceptions.

Dickson takes an honest look at the church’s successes and failures. On the one hand, he warns readers not to depend too much on Christian behavior to boost their faith. He writes, “Disregarding Christianity on the basis of the poor performance of the Church is a bit like dismissing Johann Sebastian Bach after hearing Dickson attempt the Cello Suites.” At the same time, he’s torn about the disconnect between the life and teaching of Jesus and the behavior of his followers. “God’s love must animate the Christian’s love for all,” he writes. “The obvious fact that this moral logic did not translate into a consistent moral history is the dilemma at the heart of this book.” 

These days you’ll see many Christians defend the faith by pointing out the problems with others. But owning up to ways the church has fallen short of its own ideals may be the more appropriate path. After all, no one in our lifetime could have invented a more damaging attack on the church than the scandals involving the cover-up of abuse toward children. Those wounds are entirely self-inflicted.

Dickson sums up history by observing, “Bullies are common. Saints are not.” So on Gospelbound, I dug in on his survey and asked whether Christianity has been a bigger contributor to evil than atheism and Islam; his high and low points in Christian history; and why Christians are cheerful losers.

Editors’ note: 

This episode of Gospelbound is sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of the God’s Word for You expository Bible study guides. More information at thegoodbook.com.