Can we reach a culture that considers our faith irrelevant?
‘People perceive Christians as irrelevant and extreme.” This is the…
The secularization of North America seems to attract ever-increasing attention from the media, sociologists and students of culture (both Christian and not).
For many Americans, David Kinnaman of the Barna Group and Gabe Lyons of Q ministry were among the first popular writers to examine and put hard data to an anecdotal experience, suggesting that a significant cohort of the millennial generation is disassociating itself from Christianity and church.
In “The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity,” Mark Clark engages this same phenomena and invites all parties to attend to what he considers the most persuasive arguments in favor of the Christian faith.
Clark begins by relating his story of growing up as a member of this irreligious generation. Following his testimony of conversion as a teen with a self-confessed disposition toward doubt (which he sees as related to his unapologetic ration-alism), Clark takes us on a journey through the most pressing questions that have emerged through his work over the last decade to “start a church for skeptics.”
Most readers will find familiar the list of problems Clark identifies: science, the existence of God, the authority of scripture, evil and suffering, hell, sexuality, hypocrisy and other such questions.
Relying heavily on scholars including Alvin Plantinga and Alister McGrath and popular apologists such as C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller, Clark seeks to demonstrate on each of these issues that “the Christian position” can be proven not only intellectually defensible but is, in fact, often more reasonable than the atheistic worldview.
Readers who find their beliefs under attack by acquaintances holding views that might be characterized as militantly anti-Christian will discover in Clark a resource to help bolster their faith.
As we live in an ever-globalizing world, it is vital that those of us ministering cross-culturally overcome the belief that all of any group thinks and believes only one thing.
For those who wish simply to engage their non-Christian neighbors in evangelistic conversation, however, Clark’s approach to interreligious dialogue has a couple of shortcomings. Throughout the book, the worldviews of non-Christian groups are often overly simplified. (“Athiests believe ___” or “Buddhists claim ___ has to be true.”)
As we live in an ever-globalizing world, it is vital that those of us ministering cross-culturally overcome the belief that all of any group thinks and believes only one thing. While the lack of nuance does not invalidate most of Clark’s arguments, I would suggest that we not expect all our neighbors to share opinions identical to the non-Christians presented here.
Clark also tends to present the “Christian perspective” without acknowledging the great diversity of belief that exists throughout the church on the various issues he addresses. Upon reading “The Problem of God,” one could easily conclude that no “real” Christians differ from Clark in their beliefs about evolution, inerrancy, the depiction of hell in Scripture, etc., and this sets up a number of false dichotomies between the Christian worldview and others in which the reader is asked to pick a side.
This book provides a set of answers to common challenges that Christians may encounter in engaging others about faith. And we need works that come from the kind of personal experience recounted by Clark to help us navigate the enormous changes taking place in our culture.
However, we also need those resources to try and capture the complexity of our world in a way which empowers all the church to engage the world on behalf of God’s kingdom
Seth Bouchelle lives in the Bronx, N.Y., and works with Global City Mission Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on cross-cultural evangelism, disciple-making and church planting among the diverse immigrant populations in big cities around the world. He is a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas.
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