“Answering a Skeptics Challenges to Christianity” is the subtitle of this book. The reason I ended up reading this one is actually because of Jeremy. There was this apologetics conference being put on at Bayside Church and I really wanted to go. So I asked Jeremy and he said he would like to come with me and that he would take care of the logistics for us. Well, I was reluctant to let him be in charge of scheduling and getting tickets and what not but I stepped back and didn’t mention it until about a week before the event. Turns out, Jeremy had forgotten and didn’t purchase the tickets. Then we checked online to see that it was sold out. I was very sad to say the least. But Jeremy, being the awesome fella that he is, jumped online and researched the speakers for the event. Mark Clark was one of the main speakers, so Jeremy purchased his book for me as a gift. Needless to say, it definitely made it up to me and I have learned so much about the foundations of Christianity and how to combat some of the more difficult questions the world throws at this particular religion.
Clark writes in a way that clearly lays out what he is trying to say, in modern language using personal experiences as a pastor and church planter in Canada. The information the book lays out is easy to digest, and makes sense; this was refreshing after reading very challenging content in old English (shout out to Jonathan Edwards for that!). But because of this I was able to finish this book within a week. So easy read, critical information. Sparked your interest yet?
Each chapter covers a different “problem” in Christianity. The definition of problem he uses in the book is “A question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution; an intricate unsettled question.” So he tackles each problem that skeptics have raised in each chapter.
- The Problem of Science
- The Problem of God’s Existence
- The Problem of the Bible
- The Problem of the Christ Myth
- The Problem of Evil and Suffering
- The Problem of Hell
- The Problem of Sex
- The Problem of Hypocrisy
- The Problem of Exclusivity
- The Problem of Jesus
Even just reading this list makes me excited. These are all questions that everyone asks at one point or another, whether they claim to follow Jesus or not. The whole of the book is extremely informative and important but there were some select excerpts from each chapter that really stuck out to me that I wish to share with you all to give more insight into this book.
In the chapter “The Problem of Evil and Suffering” I found what Clark had to say on the subject enlightening and even comforting. Christianity offers a solution, whereas other religions do not. He writes:
“Christianity proclaims a God who is not distant or removed from human suffering. In every other religion, God (or the gods) remains aloof and distant, but the Christian God experienced human existence, identified and empathized with us, suffered with us and for us. And why? Why did God humiliate himself, suffer and die an awful death? Yes, to save us from our sins, but that is only part of the story. Christianity says that the suffering of the cross is something else: it reveals God’s very nature. Suffering is a reflection of who God is, not just something he did. This is an underappreciated idea within Christianity but a massively important one. The New Testament writers tell us that, yes, our need of saving was the occasion for God’s suffering on the cross, but not it’s only reason. God suffers, not as something additional to his identity, as just a rescue mission in response to our mistakes, but because of his identity (Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:5-11). In other words, the cross of Christ is not just about soteriology (salvation) but Christology (the identity of God and Jesus himself)” (Clark, 123).
This was a theme I honestly never thought about before. I always clung to the truth that God works all things for my good, and that is why it separated itself from other religions. I didn’t realize that through His suffering He not only saved me from my sins, but proved Himself to be a God who is right there with me always, offering peace, comfort and purpose even in my darkest hour.
Throughout the book he explains how other religions view each of these problems as well, and what kinds of solutions they offer, comparing those answers to the ones provided by Christianity. It creates a well-rounded argument, explaining all sides truthfully and factually. In his chapter “The Problem of Exclusivity” he tackles a main issue brought up against Christianity: the fact that Christianity claims that it is the only religion that is right and true, the only religion that connects to the real, one and true God. This issue is touchy, but he addresses it with enough force and enough grace that his points are compelling and really make you think.
“While we can fight for people’s rights to say what they believe, we do not have to conclude that what they believe is true. ‘Christian civility does not commit us to relativistic perspective,’ and ‘civility doesn’t require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions. It is another thing to say that they are right in doing so.’ The present day leap to metaphysical pluralism has proven devastating to the current state of religious and cultural discourse. It is rooted more in emotional sentiment than in reason or logic” (Clark, 209).
He ends his book on “The Problem of Jesus” and offers a call to take a chance. He hopes that through his writings, his readers have better understood Christianity, Jesus and how important it is that we hold fast to the truth. He writes:
“I was saved from a life without God. But also, I was saved from myself. Saved from what I had thought was a meaningful and joyful life. Maybe, that’s what you need saving from today: the philosophies and worldviews you have chosen to adopt in your life, not because they make the most sense or are the most historical and scientific, but for other reasons. Other motives, that if asked to explain, you couldn’t-or maybe wouldn’t want to- but nonetheless have driven your life to this point. Things you have believed because of comfort or pleasure or because you didn’t want to live differently than you do right now. A way I understand completely. I see it every day in myself and the people I pastor. But we must understand that, in reality, this approach to life is the opposite of freedom, even though it may feel like freedom. And this fact, beyond everything else, may be the hardest thing to come to terms with” (Clark, 247).
Growing up as an atheist himself, he brings a great perspective to all these issues. He sticks to the facts and the truth, but incorporates emotion and rawness as well. I highly recommend this read. I appreciated it a lot, and I hope you will give it a chance.