Jan 272014

I preached last night on the power of focus in transforming our lives. When we look at Jesus we see a perfectly and utterly focused life, focused on the purposes and priorities His Father had for His earthly life. He calls us to that same focus.

focus - qui gon jinnThe title of this post is a quotation from Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. While it might not be 100% true that we’re determined by our focus, we are certainly deeply impacted by it, in a number of ways. Last night I shared 5 of those ways.

1. Focus brings FREEDOM

Jesus is going great guns. He’s healing the sick, casting out demons, the whole works. He’s doing this in Capernaum, and the townsfolk want Him to stay. Why wouldn’t they?! His response?

“I must go and proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43)

He basically says ‘no’. I’m not very good at that. If someone asks something of me, I want to say ‘yes’. I want to help them. Jesus could say ‘no’ because He’d said ‘yes’ to something else. He’d said ‘yes’ to the purposes God had for Him, and He was utterly focused on them.

That meant He was free from the burden of having to say ‘yes’ to everyone, and from worrying what folk thought. He was focused on a different audience. What freedom!

2. Focus brings ORDER

My life is busy. I’m not special in that. I’m sure yours is too. There will be lots of stuff going on, lots of things you could do. How do we work out which to prioritise?

focus - prioritiesFor Jesus, we see very clearly that His focus on His purpose led to a clear ordering of priorities. In Mark 7:24-30 He has a conversation with a non-Jewish woman who wants her daughter healed. What He says could appear racist, but it’s not. He tells her, cryptically and evocatively, that His message must be preached first to the Jews, then to Gentiles.

It’s not that He had no dealings with Gentiles – he had plenty, and He does heal her daughter! But He was so focused on His purpose that He knew what came first and what came second. He could articulate that order, and live accordingly.

3. Focus brings COMMITMENT

Being focused on God’s purposes for our lives can bring hardship. It can lead us to places that are difficult. The passage in Philippians 2 which describes Jesus’ humility in becoming ‘obedient to death, even death on a cross’ demonstrates real determination and commitment.

He leaves the glories of His heavenly throne to become a human. To become a servant. To become nothing. To become dead. That takes commitment. But the passage starts with His focus. He…

“did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Philippians 2:6)

He’s not focused on the things that aren’t going to help Him achieve His purposes. He’s focused on what will, which is the humility of the incarnation and the humiliation of the cross. That focus is what enabled Him to commit to the cause.

4. Focus brings USEFULNESS

But that’s not the end of the passage. Paul continues with a mighty ‘Therefore’ and then goes on to articulate all the fruit of Jesus’ achievements. God is glorified. People are able to bow before Him. He is restored to His rightful place. Through His commitment to completing His work, redemption and salvation come.

If He’d veered off and done something else – written a book, settled down, kept up the carpentry (all good things) – He wouldn’t have actually achieved what was meant for Him. His focus brought commitment, and commitment made Him useful.

I quoted a Native American saying last night which many found helpful:

“If you chase two rabbits, both will get away.”

5. Focus brings STAMINA

I want a focused life, if it brings all these things! But I also know a life focused on pursuing God’s purposes will be a lot of hard work. I don’t want to drop before the finishing line, and I believe focus brings the stamina I need. Read this:

‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him … so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ (Hebrews 12:1c-3)

What got Jesus through? Lifting His eyes above what was around to what was ahead. Keeping His eyes on the prize, the joy before Him.

What gets us through? The same thing. Only for us the prize isn’t the fruit of our labour. Our prize is Jesus Himself! We fix our eyes on Him, we consider Him, we look always and only to Him. He must be the focus of our lives, and everything else – freedom to say no, order of priorities, commitment to the cause, usefulness and stamina – it all comes from Him.

Go on, focus your life. Focus it on Jesus!


My sermon was part of a series on ‘Changing the Culture of your Life’. It can , and the  and putting P131 in the search box.

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Jan 242014

This will probably be the last post responding to comments on my much-read Ricky Gervais post. The first explored why it is actually ok for people to challenge Christians, and the second presented a gospel which is not just a threat of hell. Now I come to probably the most common question:

Why do I believe things I acknowledge are a bit ridiculous?


I want to be honest up front. I don’t think the thoughts I have on this will satisfy many people.

Believing the ridiculous

This is the offending quotation from that post:

“for what it’s worth, my beliefs are ridiculous. I believe a man rose from the dead. I believe I am filled with the Spirit of God. I believe that because a man died and rose 2,000 years ago I will know eternity with a God I’ve never seen with my eyes. These are big claims. Even Paul says it sounds like foolishness and will be a stumbling block to people who don’t believe it.”

I stand by this. Any Christian who says talk of resurrection, miracles and heaven is just plain old common sense probably doesn’t understand the concepts of resurrection, miracles or heaven. Or, more likely, common sense. Like I said, Paul even said it sounds foolish.

And yet I believe it all. I would be willing to stake my life on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago, and I am giving my life in service of that same Jesus Christ. If it’s true, I have to.

But that’s the question, isn’t it? Is it true? There are two ways I want to look at that: from the perspective of ‘reason’ and from the perspective of ‘faith’.

Reasoning the ridiculous

One of the things I’ve been asked to do a number of times on Twitter and in comments here is to give some evidence for the claims I make. I’ve been told that since I make the claim there is ‘a god’, the burden of evidence is on me to prove it if I want people to believe it too.

ReasonIt will come as no shock to anyone (I hope) when I say that I cannot.

Of course I could demand that others provide proof there is no God, since that is what they claim. They wouldn’t be able to do that either. So this whole reason thing isn’t getting us very far so far.

A lot of the conversation seems to revolve around how the world came into being. Since science can explain things, we don’t need God anymore, surely. At times this has been presented as the knockdown reasoned argument. This makes the massive assumption that the reason people started believing (and believe now) is because they needed to explain things that don’t make sense otherwise. As it happens (and I know many of my Christian brothers and sisters don’t share this view) I affirm the theory of evolution. I’ve been amazed that is a surprise to some atheists.

In fact a lot of the assumptions about the content of my faith which I’ve heard from people who don’t share my faith have simply not been true. There is a huge breakdown in communication somewhere, and a lot of folk seem willing to lump all people of faith into one big category, make sweeping assumptions, and denounce the lot of us. In my original post, I spoke against unhelpful dialogue from Christians. Now I add that these generalisations by non-Christians don’t help either.

Faith in the ridiculous

That’s all I want to say about reason. What? Wait! You haven’t reasoned your faith, Dave! You haven’t presented us with the evidence upon which your beliefs are built, the logical steps you take to get to where you are now!

You’re right. I haven’t.

I don’t believe what I believe because of logic or reason. I absolutely assert that my faith is not illogical, it is not disproven and it correlates completely with the reality we see around us. But I can’t convince you of that. I can’t argue it.


That is not to say my faith is baseless. Jesus is an attested figure rooted in history. People have spent their lives investigating Christian claims and found they stand up to critique. There is a branch of Christian study called apologetics which articulates responses to common questions and criticisms of our faith, and they do a great job. Though that’s not my area of expertise, I do have specific answers to specific questions and criticisms you may level against my faith. Maybe if you have specific critiques, I can give specific answers. Leave a comment. But ‘Prove your faith’ isn’t helpful.

I’ll say it again: my faith is not illogical, it is not disproven and it correlates completely with the reality we see around us. My faith is not devoid of reason. It’s just not based on reason.

Ultimately, I believe what I believe because I have faith. This next sentence might anger some people. Faith is a mystery. The best description I can give is a biblical definition:

“Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you cannot see” (Heb 11:1)

In other words, it’s being sure of something you can’t prove. So why can’t I just “let go of [my] security blanket” (quote from one of the comments)? The answer is simple and complex at the same time: I have faith, I’m sure of what I can’t prove.

Like I said, I sincerely doubt this post will satisfy many.

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Jan 192014

When is the last time you started to believe something new? When is the last time you changed your mind? When is the last time you had a debate or discussion with someone you knew you disagreed with and actually – actually – entered into it open to being persuaded you were wrong? When did you last adopt some new thinking?

If the answer to these questions is ‘not very recently’ or ‘never’, you may be missing out on some new beginnings.

New thinking renewed mind

I wrote something about this a while back, but I want to revisit the subject. Last time I wrote about the need to be open to new thinking because some of our thinking can be wrong, and we don’t really want to be wrong do we?

New thinking: why bother?

But there’s a deeper reason for new thinking, new beliefs, an openness to new ideas. There’s a verse I’ve been coming back to again and again over the last few months. It’s Romans 12:2, and it says this:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Being wrong in our minds about something isn’t the biggest problem we could have. That’s an intellectual problem. What’s far worse is if we are pursuing the wrong things, doing the wrong things, having our very being somehow askew.

As a Christian, I believe I’m called to be different. That’s what Paul says in that verse. I’m not meant to conform, but be transformed. I can’t stay the way I am, because the way I am (not just the way I think) is wrong. If this is the diagnosis, then, what is the prescription? What does Paul say is the road to transformation? The ‘renewing of your mind’?

Our thinking matters

Renewing of our minds, Paul? Really? Not our soul? Or our hearts? Or our actions? Why start with our minds? Faith isn’t a thing primarily of the intellect, so why start with the brain?

I used to be very involved in drama. I acted a lot, and I loved it. At school, I studied various theatre practitioners, and one was a Russian chap called Constantin Stanislavski. At a time when actors didn’t act but just stood at the front of the stage and declared lines, he had a different idea. He wrote about it in his book,

He began with imagination. He would encourage actors not to move a muscle but focus their minds on the feelings, the histories, the deep being of the characters they played. Instead of starting with mannerisms, accents or anything external, start on the inside. Think like the character, and everything else will flow from there. At the heart of his method was imagination.

Stanislavski caused something of a revolution in theatre in Russia because of this idea. Plays started to grip people because the characters were real. This was over a hundred years go, but actors today still practice his method.

The mind is a powerful thing. What we think works itself out in who we are, what we do, what we don’t do.

The fruit of new thinking

The church (and the world) doesn’t need more people who have learnt to go through the motions of faith. The church (and the world) needs people whose lives are transformed, and that transformation begins on the inside.

It begins with getting our minds in order. We make hundreds of tiny decisions each day, and each of them is based on the system of thought we have picked up and developed over our lives. Some of that thinking will be wrong, so some of those decisions will be wrong.

We pray ‘Your will be done’, and we recognised – rightly – that we can’t always know what God’s will is. But that verse I started with makes a massive claim. If our thinking is brought in line with God’s, we will be transformed to the point that we can discern what God’s will is, we can know His mind and His heart for situations.

I want that! I know I’ll never attain it properly, but I want it. And if I can get closer to that by allowing my thinking to be challenged, changed and made more perfect by God, when bring it on!

I don’t want to be right just for the sake of being right. I want to be right so I can pursue all the right thing, work for all the right things, walk in step with what God’s purposes are instead of straining against them.

It starts with this: are you willing to realise your thinking isn’t right, and are you willing to get some new thinking? As Hyundai tell us, ‘New Thinking, New Possibilities’.


This post is part of January’s Synchroblog on ‘New Beginnings’. I’d encourage you to check out the rest:

Jen Bradbury – Enough
Abbie Watters – New Beginnings
Cara Strickland – Bursting
Carol Kuniholm – Acorns, King, Beloved Community
Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning
Kelly Stanley –  Glenn Hager –  David Derbyshire –  J A Carter – The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time
Damon – New Beginnings: Consider These 5 Questions Before Tying The Knot
Jeffrey Kranz – Where To Start Reading The Bible
Joanna990 – On survival – my one word for 2014
K W Leslie – Atonement
Happy – my One Word 365 surprise
Michelle Moseley – Ends and Beginnings
Matthew Bryant – A New Creation
Liz Dyer – It’s a new year and time to make some new mistakes
Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream
Jennifer Clark Tinker – Starting a New Year Presently
Loveday Anyim –  Loveday Anyim –  Loveday Anyim –  Loveday Anyim –  Jeremy Myers – Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press
Amy Hetland – New Beginnings
Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings
Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New
Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief

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Jan 162014

As I continue responding to the discussions on my post about Ricky Gervais, I now come to the second of three challenges I made to Christians (first here). It’s to do with the message we have to offer.

I said we often begin explaining our faith with “You’re going to hell”, before carrying on with “but…” and then explaining they don’t have to if they’ll sign on the dotted line. To quote myself:

It seems there is a two-step ‘evangelism’ method being practised far too often. Step 1: tell someone God is angry enough with them to send them to hell. Step 2: tell them God loves them enough to let them into heaven after all.

Hell is not good news

I’m laying my cards on the table: I don’t believe this is good news. It’s bad news, then a remedy for bad news. My main problem is that it uses fear as a tactic, not love. It even has a slogan: ‘Turn or burn’.

Turn or Burn

I believe there’s a better way. When the book of Acts talks of the early believers telling people the good news, I believe it means just that – they had good news to offer. They didn’t have a “You’re going to hell, but…” gospel.

That’s my real beef with this presentation of the Christian faith. Not just that it isn’t good news, but it isn’t the good news. It is not the gospel. It just isn’t. The gospel is far bigger and more wonderful than “You’re going to hell, but…”

How about something like this, instead…?

Restoration is good news

Christianity doesn’t start with us, it starts with God. God is brilliant. He’s perfect, He’s good and in His very being He is love. In fact He has so much love He couldn’t keep it to Himself. The whole created world is an overflow of His love, His desire for relationship.

God’s perfect world was defined by love, and people were the pinnacle, the high point, the part of creation into which God poured His very being. We were companions of God, made to love Him, be loved by Him, love and care for each other, love and care for the world around us.

Love isn’t love unless it’s a choice. Forced love isn’t love at all. So God gives us that choice, and since the dawn of time people have chosen not to live their lives directed towards love of God or each other. The world was meant for love, and without it became broken. The ripple effects of that brokenness affect all relationships: with God, each other, and the world. We see that brokenness every day. But here’s the good news.

Good newsEver since, God’s been in the work of restoration. He’s continued to pour out His love. Instead of staying far from us, leaving us broken, He entered in. He rubbed shoulders with us in the person of His Son, Jesus, who showed us what God is really like, and what it means to be truly human. He died, and as He did all the brokenness of the world was placed on His shoulders, dealt with there, once and for all.

And now the brokenness has been broken! When that happens, what’s left is wholeness.

Whole relationships: with God, with each other, with the world around us. All that was broken is being restored. It isn’t finished yet, but one day it will be. One day Jesus will return to our world and the work will be completed. And then all there will be is wholeness. No more pain, sickness, death, sorrow or hurt. Everything will be made new. Everything will reflect the perfect and goodness and beauty of God.

These are God’s purposes and plans, and He will achieve them. He has proven His power to bring life and restoration by the resurrection of His Son. He has poured His Spirit into people’s lives to begin the work of perfecting them. One day He’ll finish everything He’s started.

And He invites us – each one of us – to join Him in that restoration. This isn’t a threat. It’s an invitation. We can cling to that brokenness if we choose, because He still won’t force His love on us, and He will honour that choice. If we don’t want Him to be part of our lives, He won’t be.

Or we can step forever into the restoration He’s bringing about.

He will restore this world. He will restore relationships. He wants to restore you, too.

Isn’t that more enticing?

Is Hell real? I believe it is. It is God granting us our wish to have nothing to do with Him, and it’s horrible. Is avoiding Hell the reason I’m a Christian. Absolutely not! I have stepped into a story of hope, joy and great beauty.

I have taken up an invitation, not submitted to a threat.

So my question really is this: if we have a story of life, hope and restoration, why do we sometimes choose instead to tell a story of death, despair and destruction?

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Jan 112014

1se iPhoneSo, I’ve made a movie. And you might be in it!

Those who’ve been following this blog a while won’t be surprised by that. I wrote a post 9 months ago sharing the first 90 seconds of it, but now it’s 6 minutes long.

A movie about me

I made this film using an app called ‘1 Second Everyday’. The premise is simple: film one second of video each day, and then mash them all together into a film about your life. I have LOVED doing it (for all the reasons I blogged about 9 months ago) and I love the video I’ve now made.

It’s not finished because I’ll keep doing it and it’ll keep getting longer. But since I’ve now been doing it for exactly a year, it felt like a good time for an update. So here it is, my life:

Life changes, and so do we

I still love the process of making this for the same reasons I did 9 months ago, but there’s more now. This may not be a life-changing video for you, but it’s a video of life changing for me.

Watching it shows the different seasons of life, and how things change. I have changed. I have grown. I am not the same person I was a year ago.

SeasonsIn just 6 minutes you see two different houses (we moved) and two different dogs (one tragically died, and we just got a new dog a week ago). You see snow and bright sunshine. The seasons of my life are changing. Things which were very much a part of me 12 months ago are now memories. There is sadness in that for sure, but also hope because there are new and wonderful things I never even imagined back then.

We are all changing, all the time, and it’s good to look back at the journey we’ve been on.

Invest in what matters

Watching the video also helps me realise what matters to me. When I see what I chose to remember, it reveals who I am.

You see loads of my beautiful wife and my dog(s). After Jesus, my wife is the most important person in the world to me, and always will be. Family is my top priority, and I’m pleased this is reflected in the video.

You also see quite a bit of my work activity, whether that be me preaching or at my desk or doing a whole host of other things. I see my work as an outworking of my calling, and it is deeply important to me.

I started trying to count all the friends I see in the 6 minutes, but I gave up. There are too many, and if you’re one of my friends know this: you matter to me very deeply.

(There’s also far more than I expected of me indulging in one of my hobbies, which is a card game called Magic: The Gathering. It’s very nerdy, but also very fun, and I’m a little obsessed. I guess I’ve outed myself now…)

So that’s some of what makes me tick. What about you? Who would be the stars in a movie about your life, and what would be the key features? Whoever they are and whatever they are, make sure you really invest in them. Who knows when the seasons might change again?

If you’re interested in the app, more can be found by clicking here.

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Jan 102014

If you were to read through the comments on last week’s post, ‘A warning to Christian followers of @RickyGervais’, you’d see they fall into three main areas of discussion. It’s not surprising these three areas relate to the three challenges I made to Christians seeking to engage with non-Christians, particularly followers of Ricky Gervais on Twitter.

The second and third are to do with whether Christianity has anything else to offer than a ‘You’re going to Hell’ gospel, and the issue of why I believe things I know sound ridiculous. I plan to discuss both of those shortly.

challenge christianity sign

But the first challenge I made was not to whinge and moan when people challenge Christianity, nor to cling so strongly to our right to faith that we deny others their right to express their convictions.

Afraid of challenge?

I said this:

Have we let Christianity get to the point that we desire not only to be allowed to express faith freely, but also never to have anyone challenge any part of that faith? If so, we’ve come a long way from the early church who had neither, and even further from our crucified messiah.

I see this kind of thing reasonably often. Whether it’s telling Ricky Gervais, ‘keep your atheism to yourself’ or whether it is expecting ‘Christian ideology’ to carry more weight than other ideologies in the making of public policy, there is at times almost a paranoia about Christians being maligned, sidelined or ignored.

The church has become afraid of being challenged. But not just challenged. Christians (myself included, sometimes) are often afraid merely to have someone disagree with us. How dare they challenge Christianity?

How did we get here?

One of my favourite comments on my post said this (I’ve omitted the name, because I haven’t asked permission):

Christianity has ‘been there, done that” Between the early persectued church and today there has been a Christian dominant culture which was accustomed to being the voice of God and did feel entitled to silence voices which were deemed heretical. I wonder if the problem is that Christianity is just not used to being in a conversation, let alone a dialogue. It is accustomed to having a monologue.

I believe this is very astute. The early church was persecuted. It’s clear from letters circulated among early believers and from general history that early Christians were persecuted for their faith. At various points it was illegal and punishable by death to be a Christian, as it is in various parts of the world today.

That changed when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. Gone were the days when one could safely challenge Christianity. I cannot deny the importance in that one event for the spread of the worldwide church. Suddenly preaching the message of Jesus was allowed (if not encouraged or enforced) all over the world. The church exploded!

Nor will I deny, though, the horror of some of the things done in the name of Jesus. In one of the most grotesque and contradictory events of history, the Roman armies marched to war under the banner of the cross. That symbol of self-dying, servanthood and sacrifice was now being used to oppress, defeat and beat down the enemy. It makes me sick to think of it.

flag challenge christianity

Of course from there it carried on, and from that point on (in the part of the world I live), the church has been part of the establishment, the power structures. When we drape our nation’s flag over a cross, are we really that different?

We don’t belong in power!

Over the last few decades, though, this has started to shift.I, for one, am glad. I don’t believe in imposing the idea of a ‘Christian nation’ or ‘Christian values’ on society. I won’t hide that I want people to become Christians. But I do not want people to be forced to act like they are if they’re not.

The church serves its mission (and its Lord) the best when it is on the edges of society, speaking into society. This is the position that we Christians need to get used to. It’s where we’re going to be, but it’s also where we belong.

I believe the church has a message and a voice. I consider it an important voice, one that can be very good for our nation because I believe God wants what’s best for people. But we never have the right to demand people listen to what we say or do what we want just because we’re Christians. People should be permitted to challenge Christianity.

Jesus never told anyone how to behave unless they were His follower already. Nor will I.

Sadly, being in power has been so much a part of our DNA for so long, we aren’t adjusting very well, and sometimes it makes us sound not very nice. For that I am deeply sorry.

Over to you? What have your experiences been of the church relating to others? Do you sense a change?

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Jan 062014

Three days ago I wrote a post called ‘A warning to Christian followers of @rickygervais’. It was about how Christians should – or more accurately should NOT – engage with people who don’t share our beliefs, using some of Ricky Gervais’s twitter followers as a window into the subject.

To cut a long story short, he saw it, he liked it, he wrote me some lovely messages, he tweeted links to it a number of times, and every time the influx of visitors took down the server that hosts this blog. In fact traffic spiked so high, my stats for the last couple of months now look literally like zero in comparison…

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 17.34.04

The first thing I want to say about this is simple: thank you! I have been blown away by the kindness, encouragement and level-headed discussion that I’ve seen from so so many people since the post went up. People who share my faith and people who don’t have engaged in such a wonderful way – it has deeply encouraged me to see that proper dialogue is possible, that people are committed to elevating the conversation and listening, not just shouting at each other. This was exactly the spirit of my post, and I’m delighted.

What I’m not going to do now

The truth is, my blog won’t change much as a result of the last few days. I’m delighted to have a number of new followers and subscribers to the blog, but this is still my blog, I’m still me and it would be wrong to pretend otherwise. So there are a couple of things I’m not going to do.

I won’t be dialling down my faith. I hope in the last post people saw that my faith leads me to engage with people in a way that’s gracious and reasonable. It also had a lot of ‘Christian language’ and I make no apology for the fact that all I said was motivated by my faith. I will keep talking as a Christian, and I’ll keep talking about Jesus, the Bible, church and faith. That’s always been what this blog is.

I won’t be trying to repeat the last post. A few people have said (some joking, some not) that I should ‘go for Dawkins next’, or suggested similar ideas. I’m not interested in doing that. If another post ever goes as big as this one, it won’t be because I sought it out.

Perhaps my favourite response on Twitter to this whole things said this: “@DaveCriddle for Pope!” Sorry to disappoint you, but I won’t be going for that, either.

What I will do now

Having said all that, I’d not be following my own example if I refused to engage with the non-Christians who’ve been kind enough to get involved with the discussion.

I’ve been asked some really good, reasonable and interesting questions in the comment section of the last post, and on Twitter. Some great points have been raised. The volume of comments and responses has been so high that I haven’t been able to reply to all of them. I will keep engaging with comments, but can’t respond to everyone.

What I will also do is take some of the questions that have come up from lots of people and seek to write full posts in response over the next few weeks. It won’t be all I blog about, but I will write about my thoughts. If there are any questions you have but didn’t ask, or points you want to make, please do and I’ll give them a think.

Basically, I’ll continue to develop the conversation I started, but the blog will not suddenly become all about it.

I really hope that whether you’ve been reading my blog for a while or have only just heard of it you enjoy what you read here and find it useful. We’ve proven in the last three days that proper dialogue is possible, so let’s keep that up!

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Jan 032014

I’m a big fan of Twitter. I love it, and one reason is that you can connect with people you don’t know, including celebrities. One of them is Ricky Gervais ().

Ricky Gervais

An introduction to @rickygervais

Ricky (yeah, I’m going with first names) is a controversial guy. His comedy is controversial, and so are his tweets. (By the way, I’m a fan of his work – his latest show Derek is the only show ever that’s made me both laugh and cry most episodes.)

As a committed atheist, and a controversial comedian, it’s not surprising his tweets poke fun at people of faith. But that’s not what this post is about. Right or wrong, that’s how he engages with Twitter, and it’s not my place to tell non-Christians how to behave.

What this post is about is some of the ways some of his Christian followers respond to him. I see in these responses mistakes Christians often make when talking with atheists about faith. I take this seriously not just because they aren’t very good arguments, but because they seriously misrepresent Jesus’ character.

“Keep your atheism to yourself, Ricky!”

One common thing Ricky gets told is summed up in this tweet which he quotes (kindly – I think – omitting the name of the original tweeter):

Keep atheism to yourself

I see tweets like this directed at Ricky most weeks. It seems that there are plenty of Christians who regard Ricky being and speaking like an atheist as a direct assault on their freedom to be and speak like a Christian.

This worries me. Have we let Christianity get to the point that we desire not only to be allowed to express faith freely, but also never to have anyone challenge any part of that faith? If so, we’ve come a long way from the early church who had neither, and even further from our crucified messiah.

We can’t have our cake and eat it. If I as a Christian want the freedom to speak, blog and tweet about my faith without restriction, I must also champion the rights of people of other faiths and none to do exactly the same.

“You’re going to hell, Ricky!”

This is something else Ricky gets quite often. It goes like this. First, he tweets something controversial, like “Remember, if you don’t sin Jesus died for nothing.” Then, along with hundreds of retweets, favourites and intelligent responses he gets told he’s going to hell for his sin and unbelief. OFTEN ALL IN CAPS AND WITH TOO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!

Gervais hell santa

This has become so common, Ricky has an image (of one of his tweets from 2012) ready to deploy at a moment’s notice (picture on the right), pointing out how silly this is.

But more than being stupid, is this really the best version of the gospel we have to offer? Is this really what we’re going to lead with? Really?

It seems there is a two-step ‘evangelism’ method being practised far too often. Step 1: tell someone God is angry enough with them to send them to hell. Step 2: tell them God loves them enough to let them into heaven after all. It’s all about the destination, never about the deliverer. Whatever happened to starting by talking about Jesus?

“Don’t call me ridiculous, Ricky!”

Maybe it’s because we feel as though celebrities are our property because we’re always being sold them by the media. Whatever causes it, there are plenty of folks who feel they have a right to have Ricky respect all their beliefs. He does not, and he says so:


Ricky is an atheist. I am a Christian. He thinks I’m wrong. I think he’s wrong. Neither of us have bought into the postmodern idea that we can both be right at once. No. We believe different things are true. In order to be committed to the things I am committed to, I have to say he is wrong. And vice versa.

Ok, he can say I’m wrong, but he shouldn’t ridicule me – that’s just mean. Right? Well, maybe, but again I can’t expect him to adopt my moral framework – why should he? I don’t adopt his.

And for what it’s worth, my beliefs are ridiculous. I believe a man rose from the dead. I believe I am filled with the Spirit of God. I believe that because a man died and rose 2,000 years ago I will know eternity with a God I’ve never seen with my eyes. These are big claims. Even Paul says it sounds like foolishness and will be a stumbling block to people who don’t believe it.

These claims. They’re either true, or they’re nuts! I think they’re true. Ricky thinks they’re not true, so they must be nuts. Can I really begrudge him for saying so?

If Ricky read this post

I think it highly unlikely Ricky will read this, but if he did I hope he would see someone who – yes – he disagrees with about faith, but who also engages with him and his atheism in a way that is respectful, honest and humanising. Unlike some of what he’s used to.

What have you found are useful ways to engage, online or otherwise, with people who hold very different beliefs than you? Please leave a comment – I want to learn to get better at this.

Since writing this post, I have received hundreds of comments, and have posted blogs in response. These are the responses so far:

  1. When Ricky broke my blog, and what’s next
  2. People should challenge Christianity
  3. “You’re going to hell, but…” isn’t good news
  4. Why do I believe the ridiculous?

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