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Negotiating our way through the maze 

 

A maze of contradictions surround the subject of faith in Britain today - how do we disarm suspicion and direct people towards an authentic encounter with the living Jesus? By Chick Yuill



RooksatDuskcover300Our 21st century culture has a confused and confusing attitude to faith. Never has that been more clearly demonstrated than by recent events.

On the one hand, a major political figure is forced to resign from the leadership of his party because much of the press and the public seem to be deeply suspicious of his Christian faith, to the point where they believe it renders him unable to make objective decisions or function effectively in a liberal democracy.

On the other hand, faced with the terrorist atrocities in Manchester and London, millions have looked at the destructive power of evil and defiantly repeated the mantra that ‘love is stronger than hate’. A moment’s reflection is enough to reveal that such a statement goes far beyond cold rationality. It is, in truth, the ultimate statement of faith – a bold assertion that life is not merely at the mercy of blind chance or competing powerful forces, and that goodness and love will ultimately prevail.
 
These are just a couple of examples of the maze of contradictions that surround the subject of faith in Britain today.
 
The challenge for those of us who declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus, is how do we negotiate our way through that maze in such a way as to disarm suspicion, discern people’s genuine experiences of God, and direct them towards an authentic encounter with the living Jesus.

Some would argue that all we need to do is to declare biblical truth clearly and equip Christians with the skills of personal evangelism that will enable them to share their faith boldly and effectively.

But my growing sense is that, vital as those things are, there is other work to be done to prepare the soil if we want to see the seed of the gospel sprout into life in our culture and in our lifetime. A scriptural warrant for this approach would be Paul’s strategy when he addressed the people of Athens, making reference to their religious practices and quoting from their poets (Acts 17:16-34). In effect, he was ‘tuning in’ to their culture – with all its confused understanding of what faith means – in order to prepare their minds and hearts to receive his message.
 
Of late, this has become a matter of more than passing interest to me. Over the last 30 years I’ve written a number of books explicitly aimed at the ‘Christian market’ on such topics as discipleship, grace and holiness. I hope and pray that they have been of help to readers.

But increasingly I’ve had a deepening conviction that I need to play my small part in bringing the subject of faith out of the narrow confines of the Christian subculture and into the wider arena of public life and discourse. And for me that means using whatever skills I possess as a writer to tell a good story that deals with real-life issues and invites the reader to reflect on what they have read and make up their minds as to where the truth is leading them. After all, that’s what Jesus did in the parables. So I know I’m in good company.
 
Rooks at Dusk is my first novel. It tells the story of Ray Young, a Christian leader, who experiences a complete loss of faith and undergoes a moral and emotional collapse, allowing himself to become involved in an escapist affair with a younger woman. His son, Ollie, a stand-up comic who rejected his parents’ faith in his teenage years, discovers his father’s infidelity and threatens to expose him unless Ray confesses to his wife.

But when tragedy strikes, Ray is left not only with his guilt, but also with the seemingly irresolvable agony of a situation that he can never put right. As the two men struggle to come to terms with what has happened, they’re forced to face the question that confronts our secular culture today: ‘Where can you find grace when you no longer believe?’ And, without selling out to the kind of glib and easy endings that have blighted too much so-called ‘Christian fiction’, I’ve tried to bring the reader to the realisation that grace is available and is the only thing that makes real life possible.
 
Readers will decide whether I’ve gone some way to achieving what I set out to do. Already, however, I am enormously encouraged. Social media has provided me with the opportunity to alert people to the availability of the book, and the response has been more than I could have hoped for. Of course, many of these early readers are Christians. But the list also includes several Muslim acquaintances, neighbours from communist mainland China, self-confessed atheists – the kind of people who would never dream of reading an overtly Christian book. And the message coming back is, ‘I loved the story. It made me think. When are you going to write the next one?’ I’ve no expectation of becoming the next J K Rowling, but if I can help people find their way through the maze to a place of grace with a good story as their guide, I’ll be happy. For, when all is said and done, without grace, neither cynical political pundits nor broken-hearted mourners have any hope.

 
Chick Yuill is the author of Rooks at Dusk (ISBN 978-1-909728-65-3), published by Instant Apostle in July. It is available in bookshops and is available for pre-order online.
 

Baptist Times, 01/08/2017
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