5 Question on Christianity, life and books
1. How did you become a Christian?
I became a child of God when I was baptised as an infant in 1963 and I began to accept what that meant in September 1976 when I attended a Junior Christian Union meeting at school where my Baptist RE teacher, Dudley Carr, expounded Philippians and two things became crystal clear to me (a) there was a God and (b) he loved me. The rest of my life has been a process of seeking to learn more about this God and how to respond appropriately to the love he has shown me in sending Jesus Christ to die, rise and ascend so that I might be liberated from sin and death for ever.
2. Who is or has been an influential person in your Christian pilgrimage?
Apart from Dudley Carr, the two most influential people in my Christian pilgrimage have been John Wenham and Michael Green. They both mentored me during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies in theology at Oxford. They showed me that being Anglican is a good way of being a Christian, taught me that intellectual rigour and orthodox Evangelical faith could go together, and led me to see that my vocation was to engage in theological teaching and research. I also owe more than I can say to my wife Alyson and my son William, both of whom have kept me grounded in the real world and prevented me from becoming a purely ivory tower academic with no understanding of the everyday realities of church life today.
3. What piece of advice would you give young ordinands going into ordained ministry today?
My one big piece of advice to young ordinands would be to follow the wise advice of C S Lewis and read lots of old books. This is for two reasons. First, God has given us an enormous resource for theology and ministry in the works produced by orthodox Christian writers since the end of the apostolic period and so we should be making use of this resource. Secondly, and this is the major point made by Lewis, if we only read modern material, we risk existing in an echo chamber where everything is shaped by the particular issues of today’s world. If we want to expand our thinking and have a yardstick against which we can measure the ideas that are dominant today, we need to read material from other eras and that means reading books from the past (as Lewis pointed out, works from the future would do equally well, but by definition they are not yet available!).
4. Which is the best book you have read in 2021?
Of the books I read in 2021 two stick out as the most helpful. They are Rod Dreher, Live not by lies – A manual for Christian Dissenters (New York: Sentinel, 2020) and Stephen McAlpine, Being the bad guys – How to live for Jesus in a world that says you shouldn’t (Epsom: Good Book Company, 2021). Both books make the same point, which is that Western culture now has a prevailing ideology of self-determination and unlimited sexual self-expression and because orthodox Christianity opposes both, Christians are now the ‘bad guys’ in today’s society and must expect to have a hard time in consequence. Both books also contain a lot of practical wisdom about how we should respond positively to this situation by living lives marked by truth, hope and compassion.
5. What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am completing a big book entitled Bishops past, present and future which explains how the Christian church has had bishops since the time of the apostles, explains what the role of bishops is meant to be, considers the different types of bishops and what makes bishops good-enough and not good-enough, and finally looks at the challenges that Church of England bishops will face over the next few years. I am also working on a small book aimed at helping Christians to make sense of, and respond to, the different world views they will encounter in contemporary British society, and I am scheduled to write a chapter on ‘Anglicans and baptism in the Holy Spirit’ for a book of essays on Anglican-Pentecostal dialogue. In addition, I write regular blog posts and plan to restart my monthly book reviews for Latimer Trust after Easter.
Martin Davie is a research fellow with the Latimer Trust. He is the author of several books including LLF a concise introduction and review. You can find Martin's books published by the Latimer Trust here .