GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!
Well, I will start right off with the answer to the question posed in the title … “Yes, you can!” You can trust what the Bible says about Jesus, and today, you will understand why.
Jesus is the Christ, and yet, He is so controversial, isn’t He? He impacts our political discussions and our dinner table debates, but lots of people are pretty confused about who He really is.
Often, the Jesus we’re presented with is nothing more than a good person and a positive influence—a mixture of Mr. Rogers and Tony Robbins. But when we dig a little deeper into the Bible, we discover a very different picture of Jesus. Wherever He went in His life—from the day He was born until the day He died—scandal and controversy followed Him … yet so did love, mercy, and compassion.
Today on the 4:13 Podcast, author Mark Clark will give you a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, why you can trust Him, and what the Bible says about Him.
But heads up, my friend, this conversation may challenge you in all the best ways. You’ll get a front row seat of Mark’s search for truth and how he came to trust what the Bible says about Jesus.
Mark is the founding pastor of Village Church, a multi-site church with locations in multiple cities across Canada plus an online global presence. He’s the author of The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity and has been the subject of several articles in Christianity Today. His most recent book, The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus, is the one we’ll discuss today. Mark and his wife, Erin, live in Vancouver, Canada with their three daughters.
Mark’s goal is to reach skeptics and challenge Christians, and I pray you are also encouraged and inspired. This conversation is warm, smart, exceptionally practical, and … it’s just for you.
Jennifer’s Highlights and Take-Aways
Before Mark came to Christ, he was a skeptic, meaning he wanted evidence.
As he studied Christianity in comparison to other religions, Christianity held up in the marketplace of ideas. He looked at it from all angles—including philosophical, historical, and scientific—and he researched and investigated each belief system thoroughly.
The result was that Christianity rose above all other religions in all categories.
Mark’s search was completed on a heart level, and it was the fusion of both logic and love that brought him to Christ. Now, his goal is to convince the skeptic and inspire the believer.
I asked Mark some tough questions, and you’ll find his responses were delivered in the spirit of grace and truth.
What’s the Difference Between a Christian Worldview and a Biblical Worldview?
Mark pointed out that there is a difference between settling for a vague spirituality and a Christ-centered, cross-centered gospel. You can have a biblical worldview to the extent that it informs your ethics or morals, but Christ is essential in a Christian worldview.
And beyond that, when you have a cruciform worldview, it changes your heart and the way you live.
Mark said, “Jesus came to exegete God for us.” Consequently, a Christian’s task in the world is to be explicitly gospel-oriented (Jesus-oriented) rather than vaguely biblical.
As I listened to Mark speak, I thought of how important it is to read the Bible as a revelation of God—keeping Him the main character so it reveals Christ to us.
Why Can We Trust the Bible and What It Says About Jesus?
You must listen to the podcast or read the transcript below to get the most out of this section. There’s no way I can do justice to all of Mark’s great points!
But I’ll still list just a few examples from our conversation of how we can trust the Bible and what it says about Jesus:
Christianity is based on a historical moment, which is the death and resurrection of the incarnate God. This is evidenced in the Bible, which is continually proven true historically, geographically, and archaeologically.
Mark also affirmed that we can trust the gospels because they tell the same stories in different ways. If the gospel writers had made up the story of Jesus, they all would have said the exact same things in the exact same ways.
There’s also so much counterproductive content included in their writings, such as human emotion, fear, failure, etc. “If you were making it up,” Mark explained, “You would create it better. Even the discrepancies of the gospels prove their authenticity and make them more trustworthy.”
Why is it Hard to Accept Jesus?
Mark discussed that the Bible includes hard things about Jesus that are hard to accept, such as His teaching on Hell, exclusivity, and claiming Himself as God. He explained, “Jesus is more than a metaphor for how to love your enemies. He is more than a teacher or a paradigm of thought.”
And beyond accepting the hard things Jesus taught, we must accept Him for all He is. We must receive Him as Lord, as Savior, and as our treasure—all three are important.
Mark explained that Satan believes and knows Jesus died and rose again, but it doesn’t save him because he doesn’t treasure Jesus above everything in the universe.
Mark loosely cited a quote from Jonathan Edwards saying, “Love is actually the main ingredient in saving faith.” So we must also accept Him as our ultimate treasure.
Why Have Many Left Christianity?
Mark described two ways in history that the church has fumbled following Jesus:
- By seeking power instead of Jesus
He described how this power grab started in Mark 10:35-40 when James and John asked Jesus to sit at His right and left hand in glory.
Mark gave a brief history of the migration of Christianity over the centuries around the world, and unlike other religions that have remained geographically in the places they originated, Christianity moves.
It began in Israel, moved on to Europe, and then to North America. And now it has moved to Latin America, Asia, and Africa. But why?
Mark explained that Christianity is flourishing in places other than North America because when Christians start to grab for power, Christianity in that area starts to die. The gospel flourishes in the margins—among the people who aren’t vying for political power and cultural change.
“When we confuse Christianity with nationalism—or when we turn our faith into a power play,” Mark said, “We can create a culture that sounds Christian, looks Christian, and acts Christian … but goes to hell.” Ouch, right?
- By obsessing over safety, wealth, and comfort
Mark reminded us of the biblical truth that we can either serve God or money, not both (Matthew 6:24). Often, we want Jesus, but we want to tack Him onto a Christianized version of who we already are or who we’re determined to become. Mark emphasized our need to examine and get rid of our idols of comfort, money, or even family.
While the church has made mistakes historically, Mark encourages us, “Don’t leave Christianity because the church has fumbled trying to follow Jesus!” Instead of looking to the church, we should look to Jesus alone.
How Do We Look to Jesus?
Mark defined two ways:
- Through the Word—meaning Scripture as God’s written Word.
Quoting Augustine, Mark said, “Scriptures are the face of God for us now.” When you connect to the Scriptures, there’s something powerful in the Bible itself.
- Through the Word—meaning Jesus, who is the living Word of God.
The point of Scripture is not just knowing Scripture, but knowing Jesus—the living Word within the written Word.
Mark recommends allowing the fusion of the Word and the Word—meaning we get into God’s written Word for the purpose of knowing Jesus, who is the living Word. So when we read and study Scripture, pray and meditate, we also bring Jesus into our everyday lives. We invite Him into our decisions, our emotions, and all the details of our lives in a very personal way.
“Getting close to Him as your treasure is going to result in you becoming like Him,” Mark explained.
Is Jesus the Only Way?
Mark offers three considerations if you don’t like or doubt the exclusive claims of Christ:
- Make sure you aren’t just reacting as a product of your cultural moment.
Mark suggests you think about it—make sure you aren’t just reading the script our culture is feeding us. Base your response on a sincere heart and mind-generated pursuit.
I was struck during our conversation by how so many assume the “everything is relative” or “pick your own truth” narrative is actually true, because it isn’t!
- Determine the difference between a doubt based on evidence or just a repulsion.
You may be repulsed by an idea, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Get to the root of your push back. I appreciate the challenge to our intellectual honesty on this.
- Be rational.
We live in a culture that wants to believe opposite ideas can be true at the same time. Yet, as Mark pointed out, the idea that “all religions lead to God” is not true. Their opposite natures and contradicting beliefs prove they can’t all lead to God.
Mark also pointed out that in Jesus, you get the only concept of God where He comes down the mountain for us. He doesn’t expect us to climb the mountain to get to Him. Every other religion is telling you, “Here’s how to get on the bus, and hopefully you can get on it.” But Jesus is saying, “I am the bus.”
So as we look at Christianity, we must focus on Jesus. Mark said, “Let’s come back and look at Jesus, and then judge Christianity based on Him and Him alone,”
Every person must make their own decision about Jesus, choosing how they will live in light of the answers they discover about this amazing man.
Some love Him—approving Him as a good teacher, a political revolutionary or a prophetic voice speaking out against the rich and powerful. Others find Him narrow-minded and old-fashioned, even as they are forced to admit that His words and teachings are utterly unique.
But Scripture tells us who Jesus really is. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He has forever altered the course of human history, and He has the power to alter your story.
So I encourage you, friend, to dig into God’s Word and look for Jesus, setting aside your own cultural lens or desires. He will reveal Himself to you and you can know Him, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
- You can win a copy of Mark’s new book, The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus. Hurry, we’re picking a random winner on September 3. Enter on Instagram here.
Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- God is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
- God is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense [Audio Book]
- Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything Bible Study
More from Mark Clark
- Visit Mark’s website
- The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus
- Follow Mark on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the 4:13 Podcast here.
- Were you encouraged by this podcast? Reviews help the 4:13 Podcast reach more women with the “I can” message. Click here to leave a review on iTunes.
4:13 Podcast: Can I Trust What the Bible Says About Jesus? With Mark Clark [Episode 156]
Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, 4:13ers, Jennifer here. This week you got to hear part one of my conversation with Coach Mark Richt on a bonus "I can" power boost episode. It was really good, wasn't it? Well, you are going to get to hear the second part of that conversation really soon in another "I Can" power boost episode. Mark Richt was the head football coach for the University of Georgia for 15 years and the University of Miami for three. But this year he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. You are going to love the second part of this rich and engaging conversation that we had from his home in Athens, Georgia. After you hear it, you're going to say, "If Mark Richt can, I can." So follow the 4:13 Podcast to make sure that you know exactly when the "I Can" power boost episode with Mark Richt is going to drop. It is coming up very soon and I don't want you to miss it. But now to today's episode of the 4:13.
Mark Clark: When I became a Christian, I mean, I was a chain smoker guy, you know, baggy pants. You know, I would sit outside of my school and smoke a pack of cigarettes and just read the Bible constantly. For years I did that, right? I think I smoked for ten -- I only quit smoking because I got into ministry and everyone said I had to stop smoking before I preached. You know, I was like, "All right, fine."
Jennifer Rothschild: You are going to love this guy. Today on the 4:13, Author Mark Clark will take you beyond the superficial glance that most people give Jesus. And be warned, this conversation may challenge you in all the best ways. You're going to get a front row seat of Mark's truth search, because he was really seeking the truth when it came to God and to Jesus Christ. You're going to learn how he came to trust what the Bible says about Jesus. This conversation is warm and it's smart and it's safe and it is exceptionally practical, and it's just for you. So, K.C., let's get moving.
K.C. Wright: Let's do this. Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, welcome your host, a woman who believes if you have to stir it, it's homemade.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm. Hear, hear. Hey, welcome, everybody. I'm Jennifer and I am just here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. Scripture is true that whatever it is that you face, however you feel, when you are in Christ, Christ is in you and His power and strength will equip you to be and to do what He's called you to do. So that is good news for the 4:13ers today. And you already heard just a little bit of Mark Clark, and you are going to love this conversation. I'm telling you, it was fascinating. And I had trouble finishing the conversation because I just wanted to listen to him all day.
K.C. Wright: Wow.
Jennifer Rothschild: But you'll notice he's also from Canada, and so -- K.C., have you ever been to Canada?
K.C. Wright: No, I haven't. I've been a lot of places.
Jennifer Rothschild: But not Canada?
K.C. Wright: Never have I been to Canada, no.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I've been a couple of times. I love it. I love -- the people in Canada are so nice. You know, "Sorry, sorry." They're always sorry. They're just so kind. I love the Tim Hortons coffee, but what I really love is the Tim Hortons donuts. OK, that's enough of my Canadian accent. Anyway, because this is such a good conversation, I want us to get right to it. So let's introduce Mark.
K.C. Wright: Mark Clark is the founding pastor of Village Church, a multi-site church with locations in multiple cities across Canada and online around the world. His goal is to reach skeptics and challenge Christians. He is the author of "The Problem of God" and has been the subject of several articles in "Christianity Today." He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his beautiful wife, Erin, and their three daughters. This guy is definitely outnumbered.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, he is.
K.C. Wright: So listen in as Jennifer and Mark talk about his book, "The Problem of Jesus."
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, Mark, I have been looking really forward to this conversation because I love the nature of your book. And so I want us just to start with something, though, that I have been curious about. So in your opinion, do you think there is a difference between a Christian worldview and a Biblical worldview?
Mark Clark: Oh, interesting. Yeah, I think that oftentimes -- the way I would put it is I could go into a church and half the songs could be sung in a Buddhist temple sometimes. And what I mean by that is they're not -- there's a difference between vague spirituality and explicitly Christian. And so sometimes we kind of mix those things up and think, you know, our job is to get people to, you know, believe in God or think about God or whatever, and that's good. But the Gospel is about something a little bit more specific than that, which is, What about Jesus? What about the cross? What about the resurrection? What has this actually done and then how does that inform how we live? And so I think someone could have a Biblical worldview and say, you know, here's what I think about morality, here's what I think about ethics, or here's what I think about, you know, whatever. But then when you infuse kind of a cruciform, you know, concept where God became human and was the pinnacle of suffering and rose again, and then all of those pieces start being added to the way you do your job and the way you do marriage, then things start to change a bit and they're a little bit more specifically Christian where -- you know, John tells us that Jesus came and kind of exegeted God for us, right?
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: And so he showed us God. So I think the Christian task in the world is to do something then that's, you know, explicitly Gospel oriented, Jesus oriented versus just vaguely Biblical, if that distinction makes sense.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. You're saying basically you cannot extract Christ from Scripture and truly have a sound Biblical or Christian worldview. You just can't.
Mark Clark: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: You can't. So tell me then, how is it -- give us a reason that we can trust the Bible and what it says about Jesus.
Mark Clark: Yeah. Well, I talk about this in two chapters on the Problem of the Gospels and the idea that, like, people on the left and the right, so, you know, the secular scholars or Christians, whatever, they look at the Gospels and they say these can be trusted. Because you look at them and there's so many elements of them where they're -- you know, you look at Luke's Gospel and he's explaining all these different rulers, and these guys led here and this leader was this. And then he's got all these geography points where he's like, and then this and these -- you know, and archeology just continues to kind of vindicate all the claims of the Gospels, whether that's rulers at certain points or coins that were used or geography, whatever. And so you have all these, like, people who go, you know, from a museum standpoint, I trust the Gospels from this standpoint. And they continually are proven true. And then, of course, there's, you know, evidence within the Gospels themselves where they're, like, talking about certain people that existed and they're naming people, and sometimes we don't clue in that they're actually doing that. Richard Bauckham years ago wrote a book called "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses." And he talks about the idea that the reason the Gospel writers are citing these people's names is because they're still alive. It's like, go ask them. That's timeous. You know, they're the sons -- you know, that's why -- it's not just randomly throwing people's names around. Which is fascinating because most religions are -- the writings are founded, you know, hundreds, sometimes a thousand years, 800 years, 500 years after the events they're recording, where the Gospels are written 30 to 40 to 60 years after the events they're recording. So there's many -- and then, of course, there's all the stuff in the Gospels that, you know, if you were making up a religion -- I didn't grow up as a Christian, I grew up as a skeptic outside the church, and so -- like to the point where my father wanted -- my mom was like, I want to spell -- my brother's name is Mathew. And my dad made her spell his name with only one T so it wouldn't be Biblical. And then four years later they had me and named me Mark, so clearly they never read them. And so it's literally like -- so that's the home I grew up in. But then you start reading the Gospels and you see -- if they just created a religion, which is what skeptics like me growing up would have said, the Gospel writers are just making this guy up, then there's so much kind of counterproductive content where you're showing him scared in the Garden of Gethsemane, you're showing him not knowing things. You know, hey, when are you going to come back? I have no idea. You show him doing things that if you were really just -- you just take those things out.
Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. Yeah.
Mark Clark: Don't create that doubt. Or even as I talk about in the Problem of the Gospels chapter, scholars point out the discrepancies in the Bible.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.
Mark Clark: So like the same story -- right? -- the Easter story, Matthew says there were this many angels. John says there were that many angels. And it's like, well, which one is it? If you were making this up, then you would get in a room and you'd all make very clear how many angels are going to be in the story. We're going to go with two. Two, two, two. If any of you go rogue, I'll kill you myself.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right, right.
Mark Clark: Everybody get on the same page. But it's not. There's, like, these little discrepancies in the stories that make scholars actually trust the Gospels versus not trusting, which is fascinating, so...
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you know, I love that, Mark. Because I was actually thinking, when you were describing that, I was just with my husband and another couple on the way to the airport from a conference that I had just done and we had a flat tire right outside the airport. Well, it was just a funny experience where someone stopped and helped us. But when we were all recounting the story later, we all had a slightly different impression of what happened.
Mark Clark: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: And it reminded me -- I thought, that's just like the Gospel writers. Which, like you just said, is another reason to believe it's true, because it really verifies. You're right. Otherwise we would have all sat in the room and say, OK, now when we share the story, here's what we're going to say. And I appreciate that about your book and about what you're sharing with us. I do want to ask you -- because you're giving so much strong and solid evidence. Yet I want to know, when you said you grew up as a skeptic, yet you came to Christ, was that based merely and completely and solely on evidence, or was there something else that drew you to Christ?
Mark Clark: Yeah. So I was 17, 18 years old in high school and I was an evidential thinker. I've always been an evidential -- I'm not just going to believe something because it makes me feel better. I want to know whether there's reasons to believe it. And so I was investigating Christianity from both angles. And I think that's what I try to constantly capture, whether it's my preaching or writing, it's both angles. It's the logical, the mind, and the heart. And so for me, I was chasing both of those down. You know, there's a book on C.S. Lewis that calls him the romantic rationalist. And that's kind of me. It's like the fusion of both of those worlds was my journey to Jesus. Here I am a 17-, 18-year-old kid, a pretty -- I'm very on the kind of artsy scale, you know. I was never going to become a scientist, let's put it that way, working at NASA or something. So a little bit more of kind of the romantic, but then also rational in the sense of I want to believe something because it holds up when I compare the marketplace of ideas. I want to really be able to -- so when someone says something, I want to test it, I want to challenge it. So I started looking at Christianity from an evidential, a scientific, a philosophical angle and saying, does it hold up in the marketplace of ideas? I actually had another religious group come to my door, and I was so fascinated by their presentation that I started going -- I started researching that religion. And so I was someone who was ready to research, to investigate, to look into. And when I did so, Christianity just was so far above all of them in regard to its legitimacy, historically, philosophically, all of that, you know, if you compare its answers to the problem of evil and suffering compared to Buddhism, for instance. You know, we want to take the best ideas. If you compare it to atheism, where atheists call evil and suffering the rock of atheism, like it's the best proof against God. And it's like, no, it's not. The fact that you have a category called evil --
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, that it exists.
Mark Clark: Exactly. The fact that you think that suffering is suffering and not just we're animals in the jungle. And if a lion kills a zebra, it's not murder, it's just -- so where did we all -- if that's all we know and we're programed for millions of years philosophically to only know nature, then why would we have ever said, my experience is a word called evil or suffering? We need a transcendent category, a person, a thing to give us these categories that seem to transcend nature. And so as I investigated that, I began to realize, man, Christianity really stands out. And so then there was a completion at the heart level too. You know, my father passed away when I was 15. He was 47 years old. That rocked me a bit. You know, obviously he wasn't a believer in Jesus. So I had this -- you know, standing at his funeral over the body asking these existential questions of origins, meaning, morality, destiny, and you're wanting to search out those answers. And so I think both of those worlds are so beautifully fulfilled in Jesus, which is why I wrote the book. It's like 20 years of let's pull together everything I know about Jesus and both convince the skeptic and inspire the believer.
Jennifer Rothschild: I love that. Well, and it is, it's kind of a beautiful combination of the logic and the wonder. Which is what you're describing your faith journey, you know. And it is very C.S. Lewis-like. I'm such a C.S. Lewis junkie, so I was really going with you on that. You know, it's interesting, though, Mark, because a lot about Jesus does trip people up. So what do you think is the hardest thing about Jesus for people to accept or understand?
Mark Clark: Yeah. I think there's a few things. I think some of his teachings, you know, whether that's the concept of hell or the concept of exclusivity, you know, that Jesus would be the only way, or the concept that Jesus is God. You know, this is probably some of the most scandalous stuff in a culture like ours. Because as I talk about in the opening chapter about the idea that our culture looks to Jesus and says he's a good guy.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Right.
Mark Clark: He's a good leader. He's a good metaphor for how to love your enemies or how to sacrifice yourself or, you know, he's a good teacher, he had some great ideas, the Golden Rule and this and that. And they take him as a teacher, as a deliverer of paradigms of thought. But Christianity really, at the end of the day -- like, when you look at Judaism, when you look at Islam, these are religions based on the interpretation of law.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.
Mark Clark: Christianity isn't that. I mean, sometimes we make it that, you know?
Jennifer Rothschild: Right, right.
Mark Clark: But it's different than that. It transcends that. It's a historical moment, the death and resurrection, that if it happened, you work backwards from there and you begin to go, OK, everything that we know and think needs to get rewired in light of this historical moment. And in that way, it's different than those religions because you can't really disprove Buddhism in the same way. Right?
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Mark Clark: Like it's concepts, it's stages of enlightenment, it's be a good person. Well, Christianity's -- that's not what it is. It's way more vulnerable than that. It goes, find the bones of Jesus and we all go home, you know? And so at the end of the day, it's not -- the teachings are massively important. So I think we need to -- when I baptize someone -- you know, we started a church 11 years ago now in Canada, which is not necessarily a Christian place. And so I remember when God called me to plant the church out here, I was like, why? There's no Christians here. And so we planted a church in Vancouver with 50 people and we started -- people started to come to know Jesus, and it was crazy. And so over the last 11 years, we -- someone told me the other day we baptized 2,000 people.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, wow.
Mark Clark: I mean, it's unbelievable. In Canada, which is -- you know, I like to say, when I'm speaking in the States, "I come to you from the future."
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh. No, may it not be. But, yeah, I get ya.
Mark Clark: This is where your country's going. I just -- it's post Christian culture.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: But the hope is people can still be reached for Jesus even in that culture. Even in that world, we're seeing people come to know Christ. And so when I baptize someone, I always say over them, "Do you receive Jesus as Lord, Savior, and Treasure?" Because I think all three of those are important. Someone can take Him as Lord, meaning he's my Master and I'm going to follow his teachings; some people can take Him as Savior, meaning I want to get out of hell and get freed from my sins; but they got to -- we got to take Him as Treasure too, meaning -- you know, one of the chapters is called Loving God -- "The Problem of Loving God," you know, and it talks about the idea that like -- yes, it's justification by faith, of course. But as Jonathan Edwards said, love is actually the main ingredient in saving faith. Meaning not only do you believe, but you treasure Jesus above every other thing in the universe. Satan believes and knows that Jesus died on a cross and rose again, but it doesn't save him --
Jennifer Rothschild: No.
Mark Clark: -- because he doesn't treasure it above every other thing in the universe.
Jennifer Rothschild: No. He resents it above every other thing in the universe. You know, Mark, you're really describing -- I love that you have the addition of Him being our Treasure. I think that really adds a different layer. And it reminds me that, you know, we all can look at Jesus through our own lens, our own cultural lens, our own understanding, our own desire, and we can create these own versions of Jesus. Well, I want the BFF Jesus, you know, that's the Jesus I want. Or I want the butler Jesus, or whatever.
Mark Clark: Yeah, right.
Jennifer Rothschild: But I do think there is kind of a westernized version of Him, an Americanized.
Mark Clark: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: Have you seen that? And, if so, could you describe what you think the Americanized Jesus is.
Mark Clark: As a Canadian, I hesitate to answer these questions. I'm going to plead the Fifth. No, I'm just kidding. You know, there are elements where you certainly see -- and you see a lot of deconversion and deconstruction, this trend that is that among the 20-somethings where -- there's definitely sometimes a fusion of nationalism, I think, that we need to be able to show people that, hey, don't leave the church because of -- don't leave Christianity because the church has fumbled trying to follow Jesus. That's a category mistake.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: That's like rejecting the science of Einstein because you didn't think he was a good guy or the people around him weren't a good guy. It's like he was either true and right in what he did or he wasn't. And the church has all through history fumbled trying to follow Him, and one way it's done it is by trying to get power.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.
Mark Clark: And so, you know, whether that's, you know, James and John coming to Jesus in Mark 10 saying, Let us sit on your left and your right in your kingdom, and Jesus is like, Yeah, guys, you actually -- all through history -- I was sharing this in a sermon this week about -- Christianity is the only religion that geographically has moved around away from the place that it started. So if you look at Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the majority of people that practice those religions are still pretty well based geographically in the countries and places those things began.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: But Christianity, of course, begins, you know, in Israel, moves to Europe over hundreds of years, and then comes to North America. And now it's moved to Latin America -- three thousand people come to Jesus a day in Latin America -- Asia, which is the fastest growing Christianity in history, a move of the Holy Spirit; and Africa. That's now -- Asia, Africa and Latin America are now the face of Christianity. And I think one of the reasons that happens is because when Christianity gets into power, it dies because it flourishes on the margins. It flourishes among the people who aren't vying necessarily for cultural change, even though that's important, but they don't start there. Cultural change should be like a downstream goal.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, result of it, mm-hmm.
Mark Clark: Right. Because what happens is is we could create a culture that sounds Christian, looks Christian, acts Christian, and goes to hell when it dies because we were -- so I think that's one of the things that are -- the 20-somethings are trying to come to terms with about. The other one would be, you know, the obsession with safety and comfort and the kind of flourishing of wealth. You know, Jesus said you can either serve God, you know, or money. And we like to think that money's kind of the one god that we can maybe do both.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right, right.
Mark Clark: So it's like this -- you know, so I think that happens. And I think that happens in -- I mean, Canada's not that different at all from the U.S. in the sense of the kind of Christianity where we want Jesus, but we want to tack him on to a Christianized version of what we already are and what we're determined to remain and the idols that we can flourish in, whether that's family, you know, hey, I want to have a perfect family -- and I got three daughters, Jennifer, so it's like raising those daughters --
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: -- is, like, the goal of my life. But what's my goal? My goal should be that my daughters love Jesus more than they love me, because at some point they're going to stand before Him, and I can't, you know, stand before Him for them. And so we get obsessed with these kind of, you know, idols of comfort, idols of family, idols of money, idols of nations where -- the pure sense and what I try to encourage people in if they're struggling with that is let's come back and look at Jesus. That's the whole kind of heart behind it. It's like, let's look at Jesus. Not the Christendom or the versions of Christianity that grew up around Him that might fumble it or the Christians that you know that might fumble it. You got to come back and look at Jesus and then judge Christianity based on Him.
Jennifer Rothschild: OK, this is really convicting, Mark. And I think you just summed up -- because as you were sharing this, I was thinking, so how do we get past this, how do we break down these barriers? But you just said it. You've got to come back and look to Jesus. So, of course, you have written a thoughtful book. And we're giving one of those away and I'm excited to share this with our listeners.
Mark Clark: Awesome.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Besides your book, how do we look to Jesus? How do we do that and know that we're safe to know the real Jesus instead of our version of Him or how our church may have fumbled Him or our culture got it wrong? How do we look to Jesus?
Mark Clark: That's a great question. I think there's probably two ways. I think it was Karl Barth years ago, he made this distinction. He said there's the word and then there's the Word behind the word. So there's the word -- small w -- word of God, which is the Scriptures themself.
Jennifer Rothschild: Gotcha.
Mark Clark: And Augustine said that the Scriptures are the face of God for us now. Like, we -- when you connect to the Scriptures, there's something powerful in the Bible itself. When I became a Christian, I mean, I was chain smoker guy, you know, baggy pants. You know, I would sit outside of my school and smoke a pack of cigarettes and just read the Bible constantly. For years I did that, right? I think I smoked for ten -- I only quit smoking because I got into ministry and everyone said I had to stop smoking before I preached. You know, I was like, "All right, fine." So there's a version of this where the Bible had this power in and of -- like, the written words of the Bible affected my life and I met Jesus there. But then Barth said there's the big W Word behind the word that you're actually trying to meet. And you're connecting and then that, that's got to be -- and I don't want to sound heretical here -- that's got to be almost something that is developed and cultivated beyond just reading the Bible.
Jennifer Rothschild: Are you talking about a relationship of knowing Jesus --
Mark Clark: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- through the Word? Yeah.
Mark Clark: Yeah. So you have that. But then once you put that -- once you put your Bible down for the day, what happens then as you connect to the big W, the Word behind the word, Jesus himself, in the comings and goings, in the daily, in the moments, in the relationship building that you do. So I think it's a fusion of both of those things coming together, whether that's prayer, whether that's meditation, whether that's, you know, making sure you're bringing Him in the daily -- you know, every decision you're making. That Jesus is a part of the stocks that you're buying, Jesus is a part of the way you're raising your kids, Jesus is a part of the way you're using your money and your time and your body and your -- you know, all of it, and a relationship with Jesus is being built. I quote Gordon T. Smith in the book and I talk about -- he makes this really good distinction. He says, you know, we constantly talk about be like Jesus in your life, in our preaching, in our thinking, be like Jesus, be like Jesus, you know, be Christ-like. But when you look to the letters of Paul, you see that Christ's likeness is -- it's almost -- it's a result of something that happens earlier that needs to be our emphasis, which is that we are in Christ. There's a proximity to Jesus, there's a leaning into, there's a relationship closeness, there's an identity that then results almost by default in being like Him. But if you just jump to be like Him, you're never really changed on the inside.
Jennifer Rothschild: No. You're a good legalist.
Mark Clark: You're a good legalist. What would Jesus do is -- actually can be -- and, I mean, it's good, but it can be destructive because we're not Jesus.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Right.
Mark Clark: Right? And so it's like when you're reading the Gospel stories, Jennifer, and you're like -- you're reading them and Jesus is hanging out with a prostitute. You know, in our devos, we're always Jesus in the story and we forget that we're actually the prostitute.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: You're not Jesus when you're reading the Bible, you're the person he's ministering to -- a disaster. And every day you wake up and you're -- you know, you cheat on him. You lie, you steal, you're a narcissist, you know, all of these things. You need Jesus' grace constantly in your life. And we're constantly going, oh, I'm going to be like -- I'm going to hang out with all the prostitutes. It's like, no, no, you're the prostitute, you know, emotionally and spiritually. And so getting that right and getting close to him as treasure is downstream then going to result in you becoming like him.
Jennifer Rothschild: Amen. Pastor -- well, I call you Pastor because you're talking like one right now. And I mean that as the highest compliment because my dad was one. But I got to tell you, I think you've just given some skin and bones to something that has felt elusive to people. And one of the things that I do when I read those Gospel stories where Jesus is in the center of them is I put myself as each character because I want to know Him, I want the relationship with Him. And I'll never forget the day I was listening to someone read publicly the story of the Good Samaritan. And so trying to engage with the story, I was like, well, am I the Levite? Am I the priest? Who I am? You know, picking all the heroes or all the bad guys. Until it dawned on me, no, I'm the broken man on the side of the road and I need Jesus far more than he needs me. And it helped change me learning Him and knowing Him as, like you were saying, the Word behind the word. And it's changed me. So I just encourage our listeners to do that. I could talk to you all day. I could listen to you all day. And our listeners, I'm going to make sure they know how to find you so they can even be a part of your churches that are online, too, because I know the Village Church is online. But I got to ask you one last question. This will be a hard one, but I think this is a stumbling block for so many of us. When we do love Jesus, we trust Jesus, he's changed us and we want other people to know. And then they'll say, yeah, but how can anyone who's really God and so loving say they are the only way? Are you telling me that if you don't believe that Jesus is the only way, you're going to hell? How could that be love? So what would you say, Mark, to someone who bumps up against the exclusive claim of Christ as the only way?
Mark Clark: Yeah. Well, I think I -- it's not a hypothetical for me. I mean, being raised in a family that's not Christian, it's literally like -- it's the reality of my life, you know, it's not an abstract doctrine. First thing I would do is say we have to make sure that the things that we push back against in regard to Christianity, that we're not just pushing back against them because we're being a product of our cultural moment and we're reading the script that our culture is feeding us. What I mean by that is if you live in North America right now, when you go to university and you're sitting around Starbucks drinking a latte, reading Kierkegaard or -- you know, you might struggle with hell, but as a judgment concept. But if you go to a village somewhere in the -- you know, whatever, North Africa somewhere, and people come in and rape and pillage these villages and they go away and there's never any justice, those people aren't struggling with that doctrine.
Jennifer Rothschild: No.
Mark Clark: Their experience may make them struggle with a concept of God where there is no judge, where there is no hell to be meted out in the end against evildoers who never get their just desserts in this world. They're going to reject the worship of God if you eliminate that doctrine. And so the question is, I want to make sure that the reasons I reject Christianity aren't just because I'm a product of a cultural moment. That's a scary trap to be in and we don't even know when we're in it.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Mark Clark: And so we have to be careful to say, so who's right, the person in the jungle or us, about the concept of hell. Because be very careful to -- so I think that's one thing about it. I think the second thing about it is to make the distinction between a doubt based on evidence and just a repulsion.
Jennifer Rothschild: Hmm.
Mark Clark: We might be repulsed by an idea, but it doesn't mean it's not true. So, you know, I don't like the concept of firing people. You know, I have a staff of 65 people and I've had to fire people. It never feels good, but sometimes it's the right thing to do. On the flip side, some things that feel really good aren't the right thing to do. So we have to be careful that we're not just picking and choosing based on repulsions, versus do you have reasons to actually think that Jesus isn't the only way, versus you don't like it, it doesn't land well with you. And then the third thing I would say is, I think it makes rational sense. Because we live in a culture that wants to believe that opposite ideas can be true at the same time, and it's just not true. And any religion -- we have a worldview that says every religion, you know, leads to God. All of these religions are exactly the opposite concepts of God. They all differ in concepts of God, salvation, heaven, hell, good works. Everything is the opposite. And so they can't all be true. Either I'm wearing socks or I'm not wearing socks.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Mark Clark: You know, it's not -- and so it's like two plus two equals four whether we like it or not. There's a logic to the concept that Jesus is saying I am the only way. And it's partly because in Jesus you get the only concept of God where he comes down the mountain for us. He doesn't expect us to climb the mountain to get to Him. He doesn't just send us laws and rules and say, If you're good enough, you'll climb up the mountain and stand before me one day, and if your good outweighs your bad. He comes down the mountain and in that way he says, I'm the only way, because by logical default -- here's, again, the distinction. It's not -- every other religion is telling you, here's how to get on the bus, and hopefully you can get on it. Jesus is saying, I am the bus. I'm not just telling you ways of doing things that then you should go and do in your life, I'm saying literally you have to attach yourself to me to get to God because, hey, lo and behold, I am God. I'm it. I'm the one all the stories have been about. I'm the one all the cultures have been setting fires trying to make sure that their sacrifices get to the gods and the gods turn nice to them. All these cultures have told these stories. Well, I'm here to tell you, all of them find their fulfillment in me.
K.C. Wright: Jesus is the Way, he is the Truth, and he is the Life. He is our life.
Jennifer Rothschild: A to the men. He is, K.C. And, you know, Jesus, not only -- when you think of who he is, you realize that not only do all seeking hearts find fulfillment in Him, in Christ, but he really is the place where logic and love meet. I mean, Jesus is God's kindness expressed to us.
K.C. Wright: You may know somebody right now in your life who is dealing with doubt. This book would be a great resource, I promise you this. We're giving one away at Jennifer's Instagram, and I hope you can win it. Yeah. Here's how you win. Go to @jennrothchild on Instagram, or we'll have a link to her Instagram at the show notes at 413podcast.com/156. So this was really, really good stuff today.
Jennifer Rothschild: It really was.
K.C. Wright: And I am praying this message met you right where you needed it. So we will wrap up today and do this again next week. Until then, remember, whatever you face, however you feel, you can trust and you can believe because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.
Jennifer Rothschild: I can.
Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.
Jennifer Rothschild: Good stuff.
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