Rich Spear is the editor of the CCK Reason Blog, a new online resource that seeks to provide theologically sound answers to the questions people need answered. His passion for apologetics and Manchester Utd. were just some of things he talks about with Yohaan Philip...
YP: So tell me, how did you become a Christian?
RS: I had the privilege of being brought up by two great parents who both loved Jesus themselves, and so they brought me up teaching me about him. When I was 6 years old I realised my desire for a personal relationship with God, and so I asked Jesus to enter my life as my saviour. The next few years were steady in my growth and understanding of Jesus, but my world was turned upside down in 1994 when at the age of 11 my dad was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, was given around 2 months to live, and in April he passed away. By July 1995, my Mum had re-married and we had moved from Eastbourne to Brighton. My whole life had changed and I was just turning into a moody teenager too! I had lost something of my passion or even belief in God. This led to me telling my Mum that I didn’t believe in God anymore and didn’t feel church was for me. To her credit she just said she was ok with it and didn’t really force the issue, and this was probably quite important (I now know she was praying big time behind the scenes though).
Intellectually Christianity seemed very much at odds with what everyone at school believed, especially what we were taught in Science lessons. Because of this and a desire to be accepted and to ‘fit in’, I lied my butt off to my friends. I told them that my step-dad wasn’t a vicar (Clearly I wasn’t Einstein when it came to lying, because when your Step-Dad is a minister in the Church of England you live next door to church!) and when they found out he was, I then insisted that ‘It was his thing’ and had nothing to do with me. For me I tried to find my satisfaction in wanting to play county cricket for Sussex, and so I continued to pursue that dream above anything else. It was what I thought about all the time, it was what excited me, it was what I gave my time and money to. Although I still really enjoy cricket, it had taken the place of God in my heart. That said, I lacked integrity as an atheist (!) and carried on going to church anyway, largely because there were some attractive girls there! I started to realise I had become a total hypocrite as it had no effect on how I lived my life. I was just a social church go-er, then I would go and get drunk and smoke and try and join in with the worldly life my friends were living.
Eventually, at the age of 16 I went on an Alpha course, confronted my doubts and actually realised that there were answers to a lot of the questions that I had been storing up in my head. This led me to re-discover my love for Jesus, and I remember being both captivated and surprised that God actually wanted us to live life to the full (John 10:10), and that Christianity wasn’t just something for people old enough to have blue rinse hair, and on death’s door to be involved in. My story has been one of God’s continued faithfulness to me, and I guess in a sense I feel a bit like Peter who denied Jesus three times; by all accounts he looked to have disqualified himself from ever being used for God’s purposes. He had been unfaithful, and likewise I was totally unfaithful to God too, but he was used powerfully and fruitfully by God to bring many people to faith. That’s what you call grace. That is my prayer and hope for my own life.
YP: Wow! That's quite a story! And how do you see yourself balancing your love for Jesus and your future career plans?
RS: I’m just about to begin my postgraduate studies to become a Secondary school Maths teacher, having worked for American Express for the last 3 years. It will be great going back to University for the next 2 years. When I went to Sussex University in late 2002 I was challenged a lot by different tough questions about my faith, and it really helped me to grow as a Christian as a result. I’ve been living with Isaiah 26:8 in my heart for the last few years about making Jesus name famous in this city, and I hope to live out as a good ambassador for Jesus when I eventually become a Maths teacher. There are challenges to being a good representative for Christ in 21st Century Brighton. It is very misunderstood. Most people think that becoming a Christian is like committing intellectual suicide, which makes Christian apologetics very important to whatever sphere of life you find yourself in.
YP: Ah apologetics! What's that all about?
RS: It comes from the greek word apologia and in essence means providing a defence of the faith. It probably sounds very negative and as David Robertson pointed out in his recent interview, C.H. Spurgeon once said when asked about defending the bible, ‘I’d sooner defend a lion’. Really though it’s about trying to answer people’s objections to faith in Christ. 1 Peter 3:15 says ‘Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have’. It’s about being obedient to that call. In fact it’s actually something all Christians are called to pursue; it’s not for a select few.
YP: And what got you so interested in this? And how do you plan to build on your passion?
RS: Ever since God gave me a passion for sharing the good news about Jesus I realised that people had questions that needed to be answered first. This was the case from the time I set foot inside sixth form college at BHASVIC, and was even more true of being at University. I guess my passion for this area came from a desire for my non-christian family and friends to come to have this amazing relationship with God that I have enjoyed for the last 10 years or so. Secondly, it also brings greater depth to your own relationship with God. CS Lewis famously said ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ As you delve into how belief in Christ touches every area of human life from science to morality, from pain to joy, you end up worshipping a far bigger God than you thought there was.
Reading and listening to people like William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, Tim Keller, CS Lewis, Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing, Alister McGrath and Ravi Zacharias have had a particularly profound effect on me and have given me a passion for communicating the gospel to those around me in a way that they can relate to. Recently, I began the reason blog out of a desire to give our city, Brighton & Hove, answers to the kinds of questions that prevent people from coming to faith in Christ. It started as an overflow from my Q&A slot on the CCK Alpha Course, and then we just decided to go ahead with answering some of the kinds of questions I get asked often, be it from friends or family. It has been great to have so many people reading it, and I have had some excellent articles written by people within the church too. My aim is to provide a great resource for non-christians to get their questions about Christianity answered, and also to help Christians to find credible answers they can give to their friends about tough issues. Ephesians 4:12 says that Evangelists are called to encourage God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ (The Church) may be built up. I’d really like to encourage Christians to dig deeper and find effective ways of explaining the gospel to their friends. We’ve been called as believers to actively be a part of society and not removed from it, which will often involve entering into reasoned discussion, as the apostle Paul did, with those who live around us. I’m particularly really looking forward to our first edition of Reason:Live on Sundays which kicks off on November 15th, so stay tuned for that. I’ll be part of a panel with Ruth Preston and Tim Jones, who are two excellent apologists as well. It will be a great event to invite people to.
YP: That gives us something to look forward to! Thanks for taking the time to talk Rich!
RS: My pleasure!
Graphic by Sam Liddiard