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Heaven Sounds So Boring! Why Would I Want To Go?

“Heaven sounds incredibly boring — who’d want to spend eternity in a never ending dusty and boring church service!” a friend once remarked. Admittedly an eternal church service does sound a bit boring; and the idea of a party in the sky doesn’t sound much better either (surely you’d eventually get bored). But what if the reality is something MUCH more exciting than either of those stereotypes? In this Short Answers video, Andy Bannister explores what the Bible really promises about life after death and why it’s such exciting news.

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Can We Trust the Gospels? In conversation with Peter J. Williams

Gavin Matthews spoke to Dr Peter J. Williams for Solas.

Solas: HI Peter – thanks for speaking to us today. I’d like to ask you about your book “Can We trust the Gospels?” which I know a lot of people have found really helpful.

PJW: Thanks! That little book has now been translated into seven languages, and I think it has been useful because it is not embarrassing; but makes reasonable claims.

Solas: You decided to write a popular-level book on the trustworthiness of the gospels. Why was that something that you thought needed to be done?

PJW: I felt there was a gap in the kind of literature that someone could hand out to an enquiring friend who might not be ready to commit a vast number of hours to investigating this. There are some helpful works on the reliability of the Bible (such as Craig Blomberg’s) but those tend to be written for people who are studying theology, whereas I am trying to introduce these ideas to someone who has never thought about them before. So I wrote a book which doesn’t dwell on complex theories of textual criticism or assume background knowledge and is also short. It’s over fifty years since F.F. Bruce published “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” and that was in some ways a model for what I was attempting.

Solas: This question “Can we trust the gospels?” has been answered in a number of ways. Some have said ‘no’ it’s all fables; others have said ‘yes – because it sits under the authority of a church/magisterium’. Others have said, ‘just read it and you’ll have a self-authenticating spiritual experience’ – and others have said ‘it says it is, so it must be’ – a kind of circular-argument. But you’ve taken a quite different approach, tell us more..

PJW: The philosophy of knowledge is known as epistemology and a lot of people think that knowledge comes from knowing your epistemology. But it doesn’t, because you know things as a 2-yr old but you don’t have an articulated epistemology then! A lot of what we know is mediated via relationships. We are relational beings and so the concept of “trust” is a key thing. You can see this in the Bible where faith is not seen as an abstract thing, but as personal trust. The other biblical category you get is “witness” which again is a very personal thing. So I come in at that relational angle.

A typical hard-core evidentialist might want to make an argument that the facts themselves speak in such a compelling way that they force you to a particular conclusion. But that is a total “oversell” because there is no coercion that goes on in this. Christians see God revealed most vividly at the cross of Christ. However people can stand underneath that same cross and see compelling evidence that Christ is a fraud. His crucifixion by the Romans, could provide you with a pretty good reason to think that. And that is the nature of evidence, because God is a God who reveals Himself, and a God who hides Himself too, and both of those things are true. Now that has to be the case because evidence is morally structured.

I don’t actually say any of that in the book! But in this book I am trying to bring people through a fairly quick encounter with a sense of confidence in the gospels, because a good case can quite naturally be made that these documents are trustworthy. If people resist that, then they are asked to question what it is within themselves which is resistant to this message. They are prompted to think, “Isn’t there a moral element to me which is running away from God?” I hint at that at the end of the book a little.

Solas: And you draw on a whole raft of different types of evidence, to show the reliability/trustworthiness of the gospels. You cite use of people’s names, geography and several other strands. Give us an idea of some of the threads you bring together in this, and which you find most compelling..

PJW: I’ve been planning this book in my mind for twenty-years! So when I came to write it over a few months, it was relatively easy process. I don’t often enjoy writing but this really flowed because I didn’t have to twist or shoehorn the evidence in to make the case. I opened the gospels and looked at things such as the names, the coins, the biology, and the places that are mentioned. Then I looked to see what knowledge is presupposed there, and there was all kinds. That implies something about the writers and makes you ask the question, ‘how did these writers get hold of all that?’ Because overall the gospel writers have a huge and detailed familiarity with the time and place that they wrote about.

One example of this is that names they use. Simon was the most common name for a Jewish man from Palestine at the time. This is quite different from other places, as Jews in Turkey, Rome or Egypt weren’t called Peter. So that fits, as does the second most common name inside and outside the New Testament which is ‘Joseph’. These are impressive things, but they are only one example because they get everything else right too. People criticise Mark’s geography in one or two places, but they haven’t got a lot to go on, as all of those arguments can be addressed. So at the end of the day the gospels contain an impressive set of things we know are accurate. That’s something that New Testament scholars at universities around the world agree on, by the way. While they might not put it as positively as I do, they would concede that the gospels themselves show all this sort of accurate knowledge. Some might want to make cases for bits of ignorance here and there, but broadly you can’t dispute that Luke knew where Jericho was, (for example) and that is all on the surface of the text.

I think that this is a striking thing because God seems to present Himself to us with evidence. And he doesn’t do so in a way that favours those who have got PhD’s. It is quite democratic and open to all sorts of people to see and that’s what I dwell on.

The Good News is that you could open up the gospels with a friend and read them. Then, without doing the detailed textual analysis that I do – you could probably see signs of reliability. In fact, as humans we are built to be able to detect reliability all the time; we depend on being able to develop interpersonal trust. We need other people socially so that we can even eat, and survive. If you don’t trust anyone you won’t take a vaccine, or go to the supermarket. So the gospels are written so that an ordinary person without any historical training can look at them and think “there’s something about this that really comes across as trustworthy” – just as when you meet a trustworthy person. Of course, sometimes you can be wrong in decisions about who to trust but broadly speaking it works.

Solas: And presumably then, it would be extremely difficult for someone 250miles from the events, 200 years after the life of Christ- to fake these accounts?

PJW: Absolutely! And the further away and later that you want to make the composition of the gospels, the harder it would be to get that right. However, I think there is a gap between what the average person thinks and what scholarship says. There is a popular view that the gospels were written centuries after the life of Christ, or there’s a conspiracy somewhere in the Vatican to conceal the truth. But when scholars debate the dating of the composition of the gospels they are not talking about more than about fifty years of variation. Now, obviously a lot can happen in fifty years, but something can be falsified in a day or an hour and something can be reliably transmitted for centuries!

So no one is compelled to think that everything has been reliably transmitted – but if you do, and you see that it all focusses on Jesus, then you have a coherent explanation for the data.  However, if you accept the claim in the gospels that Jesus is the son of God come into the world to tell us who God is, what He’s like and that He’s come to save us; then the whole picture fits together.

Solas: You also mention that the key ideas about Jesus disperse out from Jerusalem very early on. And you say in the book that that is significant, could you tell us a little bit about why that is?

PJW: Yes, so my first substantial chapter begins with the non-Christian sources and really makes a case that Pliny, Tacitus, and Josephus all corroborate the story in the book of Acts in the Bible, that Christianity spread far and fast in its early years. Now you could try and create a complicated theory for why they might say that if it wasn’t true, but it would look highly improbable. So if you then want to say that substantial bits of the core message were made up later, on the road, after many decades, that presents all kinds logistical problems for how an idea might disseminate from somewhere other than Jerusalem and then permeate throughout the rest of the church. People have tried to do that, but these theories tend to be more messy and complex.

The nature of things is that there is no evidence that will compel people to believe if they do not want to. However there is a beauty and simplicity to saying that this is true.

Solas: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it was the gospel-sceptic Bart Ehrman who was asked what he would use as his best argument if he had to defend Christianity. And he replied, ‘the story of James’ . James appears as a sceptic of Jesus’ messianic claims in the gospels, but ends up as a worshipper after the resurrection! You mention James in the book – do you think that the power of the story of James has been overlooked?

PJW: Well we have a few data points with James. We have the epistle of James, we have him in Acts and in Josephus too. Josephus doesn’t say that James was a Christian, but it does call him the “brother of Christ”, and he is said to have been stoned for law-breaking. That would make a lot of sense if he was attacked for religious reasons. The early Christians have a memory of him as one of the key leaders in the church. So putting that together in the simplest way is to say that James was convinced that his brother really was the Son of God, which is a remarkable thing within the context of Judaism. And James died for those beliefs within the first thirty years of the beginning of Christianity  – that’s all rather striking. That’s all the more remarkable because he would know where his older brother was born (so the idea that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was just made up late in the first-century when people were trying to make it fit with Micah doesn’t work). Again, I’m trying to look at it in a simple way – I’m not saying there aren’t other ways of looking at it. It is just that the alternatives are going to be more expensive, more complex and less elegant; which is always the nature of explanations that run away from God.

Solas: You don’t specify composition dates for the gospels in the book, but you do insist that these are first-generation reports and that they are early, reliable sources. Can you tell us a little about why you take us back to that?

PJW: Yes, so one reason I don’t give dates is because the gospels come with names on them, not with dates! But unless you were going to affirm the chronology provided by Eusebius in the fourth century (and not many people do) then you are not going to have precise dates for the gospels. However, what we can say is that if Matthew and John are by Matthew and John they have to be first-century, and first generation. If Luke is by a companion of Paul, that is first-generation and if Mark is by a companion of Peter that’s basically first-generation too. Apart from the names of the authors, another way of getting to the first generation is by looking at the quality of the information. In comparison we have apocryphal gospels from later centuries which are more confused and whose content doesn’t look genuinely 1st generation. That’s where the argument from personal names is significant. We do know that when people transmit stories, names are one of the first things to change and be forgotten. So if we’re getting a set of names which by their relative percentages are fitting the patterns for the time and place they come from, that’s a good argument that they don’t come via three or four steps of transmission. That process would simply not provide us with the quality of information overall that we observe in the gospels.

Another thing is just how “Jewish” and familiar with the Old Testament the gospels are. Later generations of Christians were more Gentile and less familiar with the Old Testament. Then there are other arguments around the teachings of Jesus. The transmission of the teachings of Jesus only work if it comes from (i) one authoritative source (ii) who was familiar with the Old Testament (iii) within Palestinian Judaism; so let’s say it’s from Jesus! Any other explanation is going to be more complex than you need to be.

Solas; And yet despite the fact that you can put together a very clear, robust case for the reliability of the gospels – most people today dismiss the gospels as mere fable. Why is it that people so easily write the gospels off?

PJW: Well I think that there is an element of spiritual war going on there – and that humans are in rebellion against God. But even at a psychological level, the idea that God is in charge of our lives would make a lot of people recoil from this material.  And sin works at a societal and informational level too. So sin can affect the whole structures by which we disseminate information and misinformation can get embedded in society. Sin is present in everyone, including in Christians of course, such that we all love news which confirms our own biases. So you get to a situation where there is a really substantial gap between reality and perception. I also think that the way that we are supposed to witness is by our integrity and our lives, by modelling Jesus Christ so that others see something different about us. So when Christians are not doing that adequately it creates no incentive for people to look further.  “I’ve seen the book in the person, now I want to read the book”, is what should be happening. We shouldn’t blame people outside the church for not getting better data sources, rather it’s a challenge to Christian believers to make sure that we are communicating Jesus through our lives.

Solas: That’s very helpful. In the book you make several remarks about the coherence of the gospels, particularly the differences between John and the synoptics. Is that a problem?

PJW: I don’t think the differences between John and the Synoptics are very striking, in the perspective of ancient texts. I think what is actually striking is the similarity between the synoptics! If you compare the different biographies of Alexander the Great or Tiberias, they are all very, very different. It’s as if they have four different accounts which are as different as Luke is to John! That’s normal. What is abnormal is that Matthew, Mark and Luke are so similar.

The gospels are selective in what they include and are only nine hours long between them, they are incredibly short! People sometimes have this expectation that any one of them is going to be complete which is not the case.

Sometimes people ask about the “I Am” sayings in John and why they are absent in the other gospels. But in John, Jesus says “I am the light of the world”, in Matthew he says “You are the light of the world”, but the idea that they could become light the world without him somehow giving them light is unrealistic. Then in John, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”, but in Matthew he portrays himself as a good shepherd. In John, Jesus says “I am the bread of life” and in the synoptics he says, “take eat this is my body which is broken for you”. So it’s not that there is a huge gap there. There is in fact an overlap in which these independent sources arrive at the same metaphors –  that there is an alignment between Jesus and bread, or Jesus and shepherd, or Jesus and light. Now that is really striking.

Now John does present long discourses, but the longest is actually in Matthew! In fact the two people who provide the longest discourses are the two authors who are supposed to be eye-witnesses -the two disciples! So it’s important not to exaggerate those differences or miss the unusual coherence between them for texts of their age.

Solas: Then later in the book you make some comments about the reliability of the transmission of the gospels after their initial writing. Obviously we have to have some confidence in that as well. So can we trust that what we read today is a reasonable representation of what was these writers originally said?

PJW: Well, the first thing is that most literature is well transmitted. Chinese, Arabic, Sanskrit, the Qur’an are all ancient languages and texts well-transmitted over centuries. This is normal. Scribes copy stuff! Today in a copying-culture when we are always copying files, we know that sometimes files get corrupted, but on the whole copying works.

Then if we look at the specifics, there’s been a raging debate between the textus receptus, King James-version-only type people, and those who prefer a more modern critical text. And I try to create a bit of unity here, because I come at it saying that the differences between that Erasmus type text and the modern text is very small if we factor in a certain tendency in Erasmus to print what would go down well with the hierarchies of his day. But if he hadn’t, he’d have passed on something very, very close to the contemporary text.

I make my position pretty clear that I think that the last twelve verses of Mark are not original, and that the woman caught in adultery (in John) isn’t either. However, that is the limit of the uncertainties that there are. So if you take out those two sets of twelve verses, the range of differences that scholars would identify in the original New Testament are tiny. Bart Ehrman would strip out a few more verses that I would retain, but we’re talking about four or five verses, that’s it! So, at the end of the day we are dealing with a lot of similarities and the limits of uncertainties and debates are pretty small.

Solas:  If a 21st century reader is convinced that they do need to take these documents seriously, and they open the documents themselves, and they stumble because they come across things they have already categorically decided cannot happen  (like miracles), where do you start to speak to someone when they encounter things they already “know” cannot be true?

PJW: One of the barriers that people often have is with miracles. But imagine if you lived in a world in which all the other billions of people in it claim that they experience a miracle every night. They get transported out of their bodies and see God every night. You’d think that there must be something weird about you because you hadn’t experienced this. You’d trust the testimony of the people around you, because that is the way we are. So most people reject miracles because of the social way in which knowledge works – not because of a philosophical objection to them that stands up to any rigour. So I’d say to folk, ‘if you believe in an atheistic universe which came about purely by chance, then it is almost infinitely improbable that there are miracles and no amount of evidence will ever convince you otherwise.’ Your prior beliefs dictate how probable you think miracles are. Now when Christians believe in miracles they are not believing in random stuff like pixies getting into my cup of tea or fairies; rather we actually believe in a set of signals. The miracles form messages clustering around the person of Jesus and they group there for the purpose of communicating God’s son to us. So we don’t need to worry that belief in miracles is in conflict with performing scientific experiments, because God isn’t there to mess up signals – rather to create them.

We are not asking people to give up their orderly atheistic universe and then accept that the order is sometimes disrupted by something random. We’re saying that there are a set of signals which cohere around Jesus.  We’re saying look away from that thing you can see that it beautiful because we’re going to show you something even more beautiful that makes even more sense. All of these things come together and form a message in the person of Jesus.

Solas: So if someone reads your book and thinks actually these documents do seem to be reliable. What are the implications for them?

PJW: That Jesus is the Lord of Life, the King of the World and the guy in charge of the universe and you need to give your life to him. But there is something still more wonderful than that: that he has given his life for you. At a human level he submitted to the most painful possible death, but he did that at yet greater cost, in taking on himself the punishment for our sins. So that’s very life-changing.

It also means that Jesus is the organising principle of the universe. The beginning of John’s gospel says that ‘the word’ was always with God and has become flesh. That is the idea that God communicates to us through His Son in an embodied way. God has approached us in person-to-person communication and so he then is the one who we should be following in everything he says.

Solas: So what have responses to the book been like? You mentioned that it’s had several translations..

PJW: It’s in French, German, Hungarian, Polish. Romanian and is going into Italian and Spanish next. The book seems to have touched a nerve and that’s good.

Solas: And if someone is fascinated with what you have written and wants to explore more, what things would you recommend that people read?

PJW: Well, there are a few things I’d recommend. Charles E. Hill’s “Who Chose the Gospels?” is helpful, as is Lydia McGrew’s “Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels” and at greater length Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament”, which you can see by the title covers more than just the gospels. That’s where I’d start!

Solas: Thanks so much for speaking to us, I hugely enjoyed that and could have spoken for many more hours!

PJW: Thanks Gavin, I hope that’s useful for folks.


Can we Trust the Gospels? By Peter J. Williams is available here:

Peter J. Williams is the Principal and CEO of Tyndale House, Cambridge. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he received his MA, MPhil, and PhD in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible. After his PhD, he was on staff in the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (1997–1998), and thereafter taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Cambridge University as Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic and as Research Fellow in Old Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge (1998–2003). From 2003 to 2007 he was on the faculty of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he became a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy. Since 2007 he has been leading Tyndale House, and he is also an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. He is Chair of the International Greek New Testament Project and a member of the Translation Oversight Committee of the English Standard Version of the Bible. He assisted Dr Dirk Jongkind in Tyndale House’s production of a major edition of the Greek New Testament and his recent book Can We Trust the Gospels? was published in late 2018.

 

Andy Bannister on the “Islam Critiqued” webinar

I hugely enjoyed my time on the “Islam Critiqued” podcast. We talked about everything from the origins of the Qur’an, to the big questions around the origins of Islam, to my forthcoming book “Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?”  I really enjoyed meeting and chatting with Colin who hosts the programme – which was recorded and can be seen in full below.

-Andy

PEP Talk Podcast With Mark Oliver

In this “down to earth” episode we speak with a career dairy farmer who has only recently become a local church pastor. As you’d stereotypically expect, he is full of practical wisdom and a can-do attitude when it comes to sharing faith, both in new ways online and in the age-old ministry of feeding the needy.

Listen on Spotify – Listen on Apple Podcasts – Listen on Google Podcasts

Our Guest

Mark Oliver spent the first 40 years of his life living on dairy farms in Devon or Cornwall. Alongside the farm, Mark and his family have always been heavily involved in church life, he has been preaching since age 16. When the family business finished in 2015 Mark was invited to become the Pastor of Plymstock Chapel where he has remained until today. Mark is married to Vickie and they have three school age children. When possible Mark likes to walk with his family and their dog on Dartmoor and the nearby South Devon Coast. He always has books on the go and is a lifetime supporter of Liverpool FC.

About PEP Talk

The Persuasive Evangelism Podcast aims to equip listeners to share their faith more effectively in a sceptical world. Each episode, Andy Bannister (Solas) and Kristi Mair (Oak Hill College) chat to a guest who has a great story, a useful resource, or some other expertise that helps equip you to talk persuasively, winsomely, and engagingly with your friends, colleagues and neighbours about Jesus.

The Adequacy Gap

Has there ever been a time when God has called you to “GO!” and you’ve replied “NO!”?  If you’re anything like me, then the honest answer will be: “YES!”.  But not because you were wanting to be disobedient, but rather because you were feeling disabled by inadequacy.  In those moments the soundtrack playing inside your head is like Robbie Williams’ hit track “I love my life” played backwards.  You don’t hear the words: “I am wonderful, I am magical, I am free”; instead you rehearse the lyrics: “I am weak, I am sinful, I am unable”.

It’s easy to buy into the lie that God calls and uses other people – the Christian celebrities (like John Lennox, Tim Keller, Amy Orr Ewing, or Rebecca McLaughlin) whose books adorn our shelves and podcasts are recorded on our phones.  We don’t feel worthy or adequate to be God’s spokespersons.  So we remain silent and under the radar.

However, when we feel that way, the Bible gives us with two liberating verses: “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).  This is an excuse to get a customised hat or t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: “I am a crack pot”.  We can rejoice in our felt weaknesses, because God demonstrates His power not in our strengths but in our weaknesses.  At a time when Paul felt at his lowest he wrote these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Let me tell you another story about how God uses people who are weak and feel inadequate.  Out in the Bedouin desert, amid the burning sands and under the blazing sun, we meet a man who God calls to be His spokesperson.  Yet Moses feels totally inadequate to the task.  It has been said that Moses spent 40 years in Egypt thinking he was somebody; Moses spent 40 years in the Wilderness learning he was nobody; and now Moses is going to spend the next 40 years of the life discovering what God can do with nobodies.  And that should be an encouragement to all of us who feel like inadequate nobodies in evangelism.

In the following conversation, God provides five antidotes to the disabling poison of inadequacy.

Antidote 1 (3:1-11)

First Moses objects: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (v.11).  And God responds: “I will be with you” (v.12)

Notice God didn’t answer Moses’ question: Who Am I?  He simply promises: “I WILL BE WITH YOU!”  God does not need Moses to be anybody special.  God will be to Moses all that he needs for the mission ahead!

The same is true for us in our evangelism.  From one point of view our sense of inadequacy is an indication of the reality that a human being is a breath clinging to the dust.  We are nothing in ourselves.  However, everything changes when we realise that the Living God is with us and we are filled with His Holy Spirit who breathes new life and power into us.

Antidote 2 (3:12-22):

Secondly, Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?”  This is a natural question for them to ask, because the Israelites have spent almost 400 years in Egypt, a culture filled with many different deities.  Which of them does Moses represent?

Sometimes we can be afraid of attempting or initiating a gospel conversation because we’re afraid we will be asked questions that we don’t know how to answer on the spot.  It’s interesting how God responds to Moses – He teaches him.  For the first time God reveals His covenant name YHWH: “I am who I am”.  Then God educates Moses how he is to answer that question: “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land flowing with milk and honey’.”

The Lord has blessed us by raising up many helpful apologists who can help us learn how to respond to the questions asked in our culture today (see “The Knowledge Gap” article to find out more).

Antidote 3 (4:1-9):

Thirdly Moses objected “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice”.  His concern is that history will repeat itself.  Remember how 40 years previously Moses had attempted in his own strength to liberate the Israelites from slavery.  However, the Israelites responded to him with contempt.  Moses has spent 40 years in the desert healing from the wounds of rejection and is afraid of getting hurt again.

Likewise, Christians can be afraid of how people will respond to us and fear being rejected by them (we have thought about this in “The Fear Gap”).  However, how people respond is not something you can control.  That’s God’s problem, not ours.

God corrects the problem by giving Moses three miraculous signs – which lifts everyone’s eyes off Moses and to see how great and mighty is his God! God usually chooses to work through unimpressive things – like an ordinary wooden staff, or like an ordinary shepherd called Moses.  But when they are taken up in God’s mighty hands, they became extraordinarily useful for accomplishing Hs invincible purposes.  And so you can be encouraged that God is able to take ordinary you, your testimony, your conversations, your good works, your invitations to gospel events, and work powerfully through you in the lives of your friends.

Antidote 4 (4:10-12)

Fourthly Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”   It’s been 40 long years out in the desert shepherding sheep and his powers of speech have atrophied due to saying “baaaaa” all day long.  Moses doesn’t believe he has the skills and abilities to do what God has asked him to do.  I’ve heard a lot of people lament: “I want to serve God, but I’m just not gifted enough”.

However God responds: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

God already knows what we can and cannot do – because He made us.  He formed us in our mother’s womb with the personality, talents, strengths and weaknesses that each of us possess.  When God calls us to play our part in His great work, then we can be sure He has a place that fits us (see “The Fear Gap”).  And He may also surprise us by enabling us to do things we never imagined we were capable of in ourselves.

Antidote 5 (4:13-17):

Lastly Moses exclaims: “Oh, my Lord, please send anyone else!”  By this point Moses has run out of excuses, and just wants to run away.  Then we read: “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…”

If you or I were writing the story, that would be the last we ever hear from Moses.  But amazingly and graciously, God responds: “Is there not Aaron, your brother?  I know that he can speak well.  You shall speak to him … and he shall speak for you to the people”.  As the story goes on we see that Aaron was more a hindrance than a help.  But here’s the crucial thing to see here: Aaron didn’t replace or displace Moses in the plan.  You cannot substitute someone else to take your place in God’s mission – you can’t just employ someone else to do it for you – it is no accident that God has placed you in your flat, in your course, with your friends, in your family, in your team.  There’s an old hymn that says “There’s a work for Jesus no one else can do but you”.  The only person adequate to that unique task is you and Christ in you!

Solas and Scripture Union Scotland’s Equip! Events

At Solas we’ve enjoyed working with Scripture Union Scotland over the last few years. Andy Bannister has spoken at Equip! Edinburgh and at the SU staff leaders retreat, while Gavin Matthews has spoken at various camps and conferences. So we were delighted to renew that friendship recently when Gavin was invited to speak at the Equip! East and North events.

Scripture Union Equip! events started a couple of years ago when the Edinburgh Schools team realised there was a great need to young people (S3-S6) to be equipped to respond to some of the huge questions they face. They wanted the young people to understand Christian perspectives on the questions being raised by their peers and to have confidence that the Bible’s message is both relevant and reliable.

SU’s Jenny Thomson noted: “The Edinburgh event grew to include the Lothians and the Borders and Glasgow began their own event, using the same topics and sometimes the same speakers. When the first lockdown hit we quickly joined forces to produce Equip Online, deciding to open it up to all of Scotland’s young people in S3-6, as many SU Regional Workers were on furlough. With the return of those Regional Workers three events began, East, West and North, each with it’s own way of doing things but with collective thinking on topics and speakers. We’ve enjoyed having input from both Andy and Gavin from Solas at our events.”

Gordon Roy’s “North” area event might well stay online even after lockdown – as covering “Stirling to Shetland” isn’t really feasible in person. However, with speakers from places like Solas, LivingOut and the Evangelical Alliance and the positive way the young people have engaged with breakout rooms for discussion, there seems to be an appetite to continue meeting in this way.

Gavin Matthews from Solas said, “Friday night was exhausting but hugely enjoyable! I did the same two talks on the way Jesus is Good News in a pandemic – looking at the gospel and the uniqueness of Jesus, first for the East group and then the North group. I was encouraged by the feedback from the breakout discussion groups too. One comment in particular stuck with me from a young person who picked up on the desirability of the gospel and was asking how we know it is true. In preparing the talks I had been speaking at length with both David Nixon and Kristi Mair about youth culture in the UK today. Both of them had referred me to a famous quote by Blaise Pascal:  ‘Make religion attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.” They observed that for many younger people today, truth questions are further down their agenda than questions of whether the gospel works in practice. As such we need to answer truth questions, via the desirability issue. The fact that this young person had seen the desirability of the gospel encouraged me greatly!

Regular Equip! meetings for each region of Scotland take place online, but for safeguarding reasons booking need to be via parents/guardians. All the information can be found here.

Why is God Against My Sexual Freedom?

“Why is God against my sexual freedom?” is a question we often hear and no wonder, for we live in a society in which sexual intimacy is often held up as the highest form of human experience. But whilst the Bible is clear that sex is one of God’s good gifts to us, is there more to life than sex? Does sexual intimacy have a place and a context? And are there bigger issues of freedom than just sexual ones? Solas Director Andy Bannister tries to shed some light on all these difficult questions and more in this Short Answers film.

In the film, Andy mentions the book “A War of Loves” by David Bennett: check out this Solas webinar with David here.

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Frontlines / Christians at Work: “The Sport Participation Manager”

Our series on Christians sharing their faith in the secular workplace continues here. Gavin Matthews spoke to Amy Kirkhouse who is a sport participation manager with basketballscotland.

Solas: Tell us a little about your job? What are your roles and responsibilities?

AK: I’m Amy Kirkhouse and I work for basketballscotland, which is the governing body for the sport across the whole of Scotland. We manage everything that goes on in clubs, in competitions, schools programmes and so on and I’ve worked there for five years. I’ve had several roles in basketballscotland, and I’m currently the “Participation Manager”, which means that in normal times I run programmes and initiatives to try and get more people playing basketball. Some of that is with adults, but a lot of that work is around schools, especially on the female side of the game. Getting women and girls involved in the sport is a big passion for me, so that is exciting. Of course, as basketball is an indoor team-sport, it has been particularly badly affected by the Covid-19 restrictions, so we’ve had to support clubs through all of that this year too.

Solas: What’s the best part of your job?

AK: I’m particularly keen on promoting the women and girls game, so a big part of my job recently has been writing a ‘female strategy’ to encourage their participation and identify where the game needs to change to make that happen. Actually lockdown has really moved that forward, I’ve been working on that for two years or so, but recently there have been many more opportunities to speak to clubs online and it’s been really exciting to see progress in this. I’ve done research and run events around this, and it’s something that really inspires and motivates me.

In normal times we’d run lots of competitions, which I’d be involved with too. I run the junior NBA programme, which is the youth participation strand of the NBA brand. We get loads of primary school kids involved in that, and it’s really cool to travel around the country and do those. Primary 6&7 competitions have an equal gender split, they all get great basketball kits – and they just love it! I like my office work, but I really do miss getting out and seeing those kids competitions and events.

Solas: What are some of the challenges that you face at work – and how does your faith in Christ help you to navigate those?

AK: In the first couple of years working at basketballscotland, when I was trying to settle into the role I felt very much the new person there. I was quite young, only 22, when I started, and I’m naturally quite shy, especially when it comes to meeting new people. I felt a good bit of anxiety around being in that new place, and not knowing the people, the organisation and being the ‘newbie’. That’s actually where my faith was super-helpful; because it helped me to not be overwhelmed by that, not let that define who I was, and for me at that time – being able to trust Jesus with that was significant. Everyone has peaks and troughs in their working life, and having that consistency and stability in my life that comes from my faith in Him has been helpful.

I am fortunate to have a job that I absolutely love, and very good colleagues and bosses who actually care about me – and that is great!

Solas: Do people you work with know that you are a Christian? How do they react to that?

AK: Yes, most of them do – and they’ve all learnt that I am a Christian in different ways. (I was about say ‘found out’, but that makes it sound like a secret!). When I was working in the office before lockdown, I found it quite easy to say to people that I’d been to church; when they asked what I’d been up to at the weekend. I’d say things like, “I had twenty people round at my house for a Bible-study last night!”. Some people say, “OK, cool”, others have said things like, “What?! Why would you do that with your time?!?” But generally just accept it.

Solas: Have you ever had opportunities to share your faith with people you know through work? What things have helped you to have good conversations about faith?

AK: I have had opportunities to chat to colleagues about my faith at a deeper level, but generally not in the office. The office work-ethos, and the office-banter don’t really allow those sorts of conversations to take place. It’s when we are out working at an event, or travelling –or we’re out socialising together, that more important conversations tend to happen. It’s in those contexts where you have more time, you get to know people better, to ask questions and to find out what people think.

I sometimes worry what people will say, or what they will think – or what I will say if they ask a question that I don’t know the answer to. But in fact, all the chats that I’ve had with people have been really positive, and people are really interested. A lot of people have got a little background knowledge, from attendance at Sunday School or from a Christian grandmother, or from Scouts attached to a church; and so they sometimes connect that with what I’m saying.

Each conversation I have had has been different too. Some have been disheartening, while others have been really encouraging. There have been one or two where I have felt threatened by what people have said, but generally they have been positive. So when I feel anxious about having a conversation about my faith, I have to remind myself that this is fine, and that you’re just telling people who you are and what you believe in. And people actually really appreciate that, and they find the fact that I have convictions about things interesting. I think they are especially intrigued to hear Christian convictions coming from a younger person.

Solas: Did you deliberately set about to have these conversations, or did they occur naturally?

AK: A bit of a mix! Usually I would happily wait until things come up naturally. Although recently, since March I’ve had some of the best conversations when I’ve been slightly more intentional about it. Perhaps there is something about being online when you feel a bit less inhibited maybe! We did a team exercise on a Zoom call in which we were all asked to share something we’d been doing under lockdown that was helping us maintain mental wellbeing. So it wouldn’t make sense for me not to talk about prayer. So I mentioned to a couple of Christian friends that this team call was coming up, and they encouraged me to be honest and share. Then my flat-mate prayed with me before the call. I was quite nervous because I felt quit exposed; but I did the call and spoke about praying. I thought everyone would think I was a complete weirdo, but actually one of my colleagues texted me and said that he’d like to chat further about that – which we did. So, for me, it would have been weird not to have been honest on that call. So speaking intentionally about my faith actually opened the door for further conversations.

Solas: Do folks ever raise objections when you talk about your faith?

AK: Well I have colleagues who have opinions, and definitely know what they do and don’t believe. And then some who have had bad experiences of church or Christians, and not been afraid to say that to me either – which I actually appreciate. I’m not naturally an argumentative person, but we have had honest conversations about what we believe and the differences there. No-one has responded in a really aggressive way, or anything like that, but they’ve definitely disagreed and we’ve had more robust conversations, which is good! I actually prefer that to apathy, you can’t go anywhere with the apathy that just says “cool”, shrugs its shoulders and wanders off!

Solas: Why do you want to talk to colleagues and friends about Jesus?

AK: Well one reason is that I have been placed where I have to work, and to do my work well and please God in that. The other is that I’m there to build relationships with my colleagues to share with them. And if I really believed what I believe – then I would probably share things a whole lot more readily! But when little opportunities come up, the more I get to know my colleagues, and the more I grow in my own faith – the more willing I am to share. It actually makes no sense to me, not to share my faith because it is so central to who I am. Not to share that with the people who I spend more time with than anyone else would actually be ridiculous. That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it makes sense. Of course Jesus calls us to share what we believe too, and Christians all go about that in different ways. I am always trying to work out how to do that in ways that are both natural and intentional.

Solas:  What advice would you give a young Christian entering your field of work who wants to be faithful to Christ there?

AK: If a young Christian was coming to start out in my role, I’d advise them to be natural and honest about who they really from the very start. Don’t hide your faith, but be honest about who you are! Don’t be weird about it, but on the other hand, just don’t hide. Early on, take opportunities to drop things into conversation such as your church, or other things which will open up opportunities. I wish I had done that a bit earlier on, and been a bit more open from the start; rather than having to sort-of catch up, and bring into the conversation who I really was. So while you are new in the office, don’t be pushy and get ahead of yourself; but equally don’t present a version of yourself-minus-your-faith, which is misleading. If someone asks, answer honestly, you do not need to hide.

Solas: Thanks Amy!

PEP Talk Podcast With David Nixon

It seems that in our culture today, it is all too easy to offend a person by disagreeing with their ideas. This fuels our fear of rejection, broken relationships, consequences for career or reputation when it comes to discussing our faith. What can we do to foster respect, humility and love that wins the heart of a person, instead of winning an argument? Today’s guest urges us to look to Jesus for a great example.

Listen on Spotify – Listen on Apple Podcasts – Listen on Google Podcasts

Our Guest

David Nixon is Associate Pastor at Carrubbers Christian Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. After studying Law at the University of Edinburgh, David went on to study Theology at the Faith Mission Bible College and London School of Theology, while also training and working in church-based ministry. He regularly writes for the Solas website. David is a husband to Kirsty and father to two energetic young boys.

About PEP Talk

The Persuasive Evangelism Podcast aims to equip listeners to share their faith more effectively in a sceptical world. Each episode, Andy Bannister (Solas) and Kristi Mair (Oak Hill College) chat to a guest who has a great story, a useful resource, or some other expertise that helps equip you to talk persuasively, winsomely, and engagingly with your friends, colleagues and neighbours about Jesus.

The Assurance Gap

“It’s no more difficult than walking along a plank” said the climbing instructor. I was on a week’s walking and scrambling holiday on the Isle of Skye, attempting to climb all of the Munros on that most dramatic of all the Scottish islands. (I didn’t manage them all by the way, but that is a story for another day!) A thin rocky ledge, with a breath-taking drop on either side stood between us and the final ascent to one airy mountain summit. The group stood anxiously waiting to see who would go first. We were all seasoned hillwalkers, but none of us had done much climbing, and we all stood motionless. That was until the instructor cheerily added, “but don’t worry, I’ll go first and you’ll all be roped”. At once the situation changed completely. We all went from picturing ourselves falling to certain death, to merely imagining the embarrassment of dangling from a rope for a few minutes if we lost our footing.

In terms of the adventure of sharing our faith, the same picture applies. So many of us are stuck motionless, because we feel afraid. In this series of articles, we are looking at many of the things which provoke fear-based responses in us, but in this piece, I would like to turn our attention to the safety rope. That is the precious, and much neglected Christian teaching about ‘assurance of salvation’.

Christian Assurance is the deep, unshakable confidence that God loves you, that Christ died for you and rose again, that your sins are forgiven, that you will be with The Lord forever, and that nothing can take that away from you. In other words, you are completely, totally safe in the love of God. The reason that that is liberating in evangelism is that it removes the fear of failure, of abandonment, or of losing your faith – if you lose an argument. Most significantly it means that when we are rejected by people, for Christ’s name, we will still be OK, held safely in the love of God.  Evangelism always feels risky, knowing that we are undergirded by a Divine safety–net is liberating!

There are three elements to Christian Assurance that we need to grasp, which will help us go joyfully and confidently into God’s mission God in this world.

The first is that assurance comes by believing the gospel of Jesus. The Christian faith is categorically not a matter of saying, “I have done enough, so God will accept me, I am basically OK”. Rather we enter God’s family when we understand just how deeply flawed and sinful we are, and find no relief for that condition other than the forgiveness won for us on the cross by Jesus. If the gospel was about making ourselves worthy recipients of God’s favour, assurance would be a presumptuous conceit! Who could possibly claim to be acceptable to God on that basis, never mind be securely in His love? Even if someone could possibly do enough to earn God’s favour, surely no-one could ever remain pure enough in thought, word or deed to stay there! If this ‘pelagian’ view of salvation was true, it would mean that there could be no safety-net, and that mortal danger would be around every corner. The only response to this would be to hide from the world, avoid unbelievers, and never engage with the arguments of sceptics!

But the New Testament insists that, “nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]” How is that sort of confidence possible? The answer is that the Bible is not commending self-confidence, but confidence in Jesus to save us. Paul later wrote, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast[2].” In other words, real assurance is not based upon ourselves; but begins by fixing our eyes on Jesus himself. If you are struggling to deeply and profoundly know that you are loved, saved and secure in the love of Christ, start by taking your eyes off yourself and ask Jesus to forgive you. Not because you deserve that, but because He promises it. Shift your understanding from the instinctive impulse to think that in order to be loved you must become ‘lovely’, and become grounded in the truth that you are loved by God, because He Is Love[3].

Secondly though, there is a place for looking at ourselves – if we handle this very carefully. The truth is that while we receive the grace of God, not on the basis of our record, but because Jesus shares his righteousness with us; (and that is God’s work, not ours), this does demonstrably begin to change us over time! When we encounter God, by His sheer, free grace – He puts His Spirit in us; and we cannot help but begin to change. Ask yourself some questions. Do you love the Bible more than you used to? Do you love meeting together with God’s people for worship? Do you want to tell others about Jesus? Are you instinctively more generous, and compassionate to the poor and vulnerable than you once were? Are you less enamoured with sin that you used to be? Do you love the name of Jesus?!

I remember once overhearing a conversation in our local hospital, between two nurses.

“What has happened to Judy?” one asked.
“I don’t know”, said the other, “but she went to that Christian event at the football stadium; I think she’s had some kind of religious experience”.
“What on earth…?.”,
“I don’t really know what’s going on, but she doesn’t say “Oh My God!” anymore, and gets upset if anyone says “for Christ’s sake”.

This lady had been a Christian for only a couple of days, but God had started to change her. I know that you and I are not perfect – there is still plenty of sin and corruption lurking in your heart; but are you aware also of a power in you which has begun a good work in you, changing you?  You can be absolutely certain that the world, your sinful nature and the devil do not want you to glorify Jesus, enjoy fellowship. love the Bible or care for the poor. This is demonstrably the work of the Holy Spirit in you  – the outworking of the new life in Christ that God has given you. But note this. If you are not aware of any changes that the Holy Spirit has made in you, don’t try to work harder, do more, or get to work to fix this – that’s missing the point because what we are talking about here is a gauge not an engine.

When I was a kid, I had a tour of Concorde, in its hanger at Heathrow Airport. At the front of each compartment there was a display which showed how fast the aircraft was travelling. It would sit for a long time at Mach 0.9, tantalisingly just below the speed of sound. Passengers would apparently get up and in frustration tap the display, wanting it to reach the magic “Mach.1”. Of course, fiddling with the gauge wouldn’t actually affect the speed of the plane! To do that, would require going into the cockpit and pushing back the throttle. If today you find no evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit changing you, then go back to the source of the power: Jesus himself. Seek Him, find Him, trust Him, and ask Him to come into your life with his renewing power.  If on the other hand, you can say for certain that the Spirit’s power has done some work in you, then take great courage. The wonderful gospel of Jesus is yours. You are in Christ and He is in you. He is yours and you are His. You are utterly safe in his love.

Thirdly, there are precious times in the life of the believer when the Holy Spirit bears direct witness to us of our assurance of salvation.  The New Testament says

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.[4]

That is, that while we begin with trusting Jesus (not ourselves) for salvation, we then observe the effects of this upon us – there are also times when we experience the love of God too. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher, was fond of quoting the Puritan writer Thomas Goodwin on this point. Goodwin asked us to imagine a father his young son walking down the road together, when spontaneously the father picks up the lad and hugs him. The boy was no more or less a son of his father before the hug; but there was a moment when that relationship was especially enjoyed. So it is with us. We are the children of God, yet there are times when the Holy Spirit seems to help us enjoy that relationship to its fullest extent. The Holy Spirit makes us first grateful worshippers, who then become natural evangelists.

Jesus said these words: 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”[5]

The application is far from complex… !

The end point is this. Processing doubts, and questions about the gospel, and our salvation is an important and inevitable part of the Christian life. However, the more we grow in confidence in the gospel and its work in us, the less we will be hampered by insecurity. Just as we will take fewer risks without the assistance of a climbing rope, so we will never be able to take the risks needed for evangelism, if we do not know the treasure of assurance. That comes in three ways as we have seen: Firstly grasp the gospel firmly. It’s about Jesus, about grace, and is about forgiveness for your sins and adoption into God’s family; not about you or your moral performance. Secondly look honestly and see if there is any evidence in you that you have really believed it. Thirdly ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit, to witness to your spirit that you are a son of God.

The experience of the most winsome and quietly effective witnesses for Jesus, is that it is when they are secure in Christ, and know His Spirit upon them, that they are bursting with love; and able most naturally to speak of their Saviour.

Further reading;

Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Whole Christ”, esp. ch9
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Sons of God” Exposition of Romans 8: 5-17
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Final Perseverance of The Saints” Exposition of Romans 8:17-39

[1] Romans 8:39

[2] Eph 2:8-9

[3] 1 John 4:8

[4] Romans 8: 11-13

[5] Luke 11;11-13

Doesn’t Christianity Impede Moral Progress?

“Society is progressing morally, getting better year by year!” some atheists have claimed (often adding “and religion threatens to hold this progress back”). But what do we mean by ‘progress’? Can one even use the word without first knowing what the destination is? In this Short Answers film, Solas Director Andy Bannister tackles a number of common myths about goodness, justice, and ethics — and shows how Christianity offers the best answer to the question ‘What is the purpose of human life?’, a question without an answer to which we can’t talk about these things meaningfully in the first place.

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Support

Short Answers is a viewer-supported video series: if you enjoy them, please help us continue to make them by donating to Solas. Visit our Donate page and choose “Digital Media Fund” under the Campaign/Appeal button.

Frontlines / Christians at Work: “The Pilot”

in the first of our interviews with Christians sharing their faith in the secular workplace, Gavin Matthews spoke to Rebecca Macdonald Ots.

Solas: Rebecca, thanks for speaking to us. Firstly tell us a little about your job.

Rebecca: I am a long haul airline pilot.  Normally I would be flying the B747 all over the world but sadly they retired that beautiful aircraft from passenger travel due to Covid. So I will hopefully be trained onto a newer plane sometime next year when flying picks up again.

Solas: What’s the best part of your job?

Rebecca: I’d say, the best part of my job is the team work involved in planning for a journey. Then safely and skilfully executing the take off,  climb, cruise, approach and landing into our destination airfield.  There is a unique camaraderie that pilots share and that’s one of the things I love.  It’s more than just a job for us. It’s a passion, a lifestyle.

Solas: What are some of the challenges you face at work and how does your faith in Christ help you to navigate those?

Rebecca: I face all kinds of challenges in my work ranging from dealing with the jet lag and fatigue due to working across time zones and very antisocial hours,  to navigating difficult airport procedures when you are tired.  It can also be quite lonely at times, being away from home for long periods of time with different crews every time.

My faith in Christ helps me navigate these challenges. I always bring my bible and Jesus with me. He truly is my closest friend and I have had many very precious encounters in his presence in my hotel room.  Also i have a strong network of family and friends who pray for me and keep me grounded in my faith .

Solas: Does being a Christian make a difference to the way you approach work?

Rececca: Yes! As with every job there are the boring and low periods of workload. At 2am across a vast Atlantic Ocean in the cruise, it can be easy to get tired with the jet lag and frustrated. I try and remember that my attitude should still be a good and positive one. Also sometimes in conversation, if my colleagues are being quite critical of the company and management, it can be easy to be drawn into gossip, so I try my best to refrain from this.

Solas: Do people you work with know that you are a Christian? How do they react to that?

Rebecca: In my job we fly with different pilots every trip. Sometimes we have met each other before and sometimes it’s for the first time. This is common in the aviation industry and in large airlines. The people I have flown with before definitely know I am a Christian, and even a lot who I haven’t met before probably because I do stand out as different.  I get a mix of reactions from intrigue and interest to poking fun or being apathetic.

Solas: Have you ever had opportunities to share your faith with people you know through work? What things have helped you to have good conversations about faith? Did you deliberately set about to have these conversations, or did they occur naturally?

Rebecca: In my job you are sat with one or two other pilots for a long period of time.  You are working together in a very confined and dynamic environment. This gives rise to lots of conversations. So I have had many opportunities to share my faith. Pilots talk about everything on a trip. During the cruise and then down route gives lots of time to chat. We find out a lot about each other and talk about everything from sport to politics to relationships.  I am very open with my faith and if ever asked for advice I tend to give it from a Christian perspective, which sometimes leads to very deep conversations.  Also the amazing sights we get to see from the flight deck gives rise sometimes to an open questions.

Solas: How do people react when you talk about your faith in Jesus? Interested? Angry? Apathetic? Do they ever raise objections…. What were they and how did you respond?

Rebecca: I get a mix of reactions when I talk about my faith. Some are intrigued, some will just change the topic of conversation, others will poke fun at me. The environment in the flight deck tends to be one of banter and something you just have to be quick to give a funny or smart answer back, in a light hearted way. Often that leads to a conversation later on in the bar.  A couple of occasions this has risen to a heated conversation down-route because the other person has become quite agitated with my answers, even although they kept asking the questions. I always try to give an answer for my faith if asked in a loving way.

Solas: Why do you want to talk to colleagues and friends about Jesus?

Rebecca: I love sharing my faith and Jesus with my colleagues because often I have come across an open willingness in them to think about the ‘what if there is something more’ because many do have frustrations with life and relationships and although they have it so good with a well paid job and fun lifestyle, deep down they are searching.  Sometimes a colleague will share with me about a sick loved one and I will as them if they would like me to pray for them in my church prayer group. I have never had anyone say no.  They may brush it off but they won’t say no.

Solas: What advice would you give a young Christian entering your field of work who wants to be faithful to Christ?

Rebecca: The advice I would give to a young Christian entering my field of work is that  there is beauty in being different, and from experience I get more respect and intrigue out of my colleagues for it. They may not agree with what I believe but they admire my strength and resilience and as a result I often have colleagues who open up and share things, knowing I won’t gossip but keep it discrete.  For guys especially it can often be easier to get things off their mind by chatting it through with a stranger than with a friend or family member.  Everyone is struggling with something and we should always act with love and  kindness yet be firm.