Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An interview with Brian Edwards

GD: Hello, Brian Edwards and welcome to Exiled Preacher. Please tell us a little about yourself.
BE: I am a Devonian by birth, though I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Kent. After studying in London, Barbara and I were married and I was assistant to Derek Prime in south-east London for two years and teaching at the same time. From there I came to Hook Evangelical Church in south-west London. Having told the Lord I would go anywhere except London, forty-five years later I am still here.

GD: Where did you train for the ministry and what did you find most helpful in your studies?
BE: I spent four years at the (then) London Bible College and took the London Bachelor of Divinity degree as an external student. Actually the best part of my time in London was being introduced to the ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel; I was one of his ‘Friday-nighters’ when he was working his way through Roman 7 and 8. It was all very new to me and certainly mind-shaping.

GD: How did you sustain so many years of fruitful ministry in one church?
BE: By a strongly supportive wife, a wonderfully supportive church fellowship and a never failingly supportive Saviour.

GD: What is the relationship between preaching and the power of the Holy Spirit?
BE: Preaching without the Spirit is a dead letter. I fear that too much of my preaching is the latter. Even enticing words of wisdom and superb rhetoric are poor relations to the demonstration of the Spirit and power.

GD: What kind of ministries are you involved in now that you have retired from full-time pastoral work?
BE: I am preaching every Sunday unless I choose not to, and as many midweek meetings as I consider it wise with my other commitments. Apart from my own writing, I edit the Day One Travel Guide series and there are always a number of these working their way through our schedule.

GD: Some men find it hard to adjust to life beyond full-time pastoral ministry. Any suggestions on how preachers can enjoy a happy and fruitful retirement?
BE: If they stay in the church where they ministered, as I have, the number one rule is not to interfere; there’s nothing worse than the previous pastor poking his nose in. Then, keep preaching for as long as you are able and as long as the invitations come; when you are past your sell-by date, the churches will kindly stop inviting you.

GD: Do you believe in revival? If so what is it?
BE: It is better described than defined, but it is a sovereign work of God pouring out his Holy Spirit upon the churches bringing an awesome sense of the presence of God, a deep conviction of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin, and a passion to reach the lost with the gospel.

GD: Can we do anything to help promote a revival?
BE: First, by understanding what revival is NOT as well as what it is. Biblical revival is not running a mission or holding a ‘revival meeting’. Our preparation is to know what it IS by reading the stories of revivals in the past and then to set ourselves to pray earnestly for it.

GD: Your latest book is on the canon of the New Testament. Why do we need to give attention to that subject at this particular time?
BE: Why 27? answers the question: How can we be sure that we have the right 27 books in the New Testament? The importance of this question at the present time is that trivial novels like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and thoughtless polemics like ‘The God Delusion’ — and they are only examples of many — have given people the confidence to dismiss the Bible as rubbish; sadly it is a dismissal based upon ignorance rather than knowledge. The subject of what books should be in the Bible needed to be dealt with in an accessible way for the church member, and that is what I have tried to do.

GD: You have also written biographies of William Tyndale and John Newton. What are the great lessons that we can learn from these two men?
BE: Far too many to abbreviate adequately here. However, Tyndale was a brilliant scholar of single minded passion to give England the Bible in our own language – at a time when this was illegal. Newton illustrates the grace of God par excellence, a beautiful marriage, and caring pastor and a preacher of sound common sense.

GD: You once made a distinction between "essential truth" that is essential for salvation, "significant truth" covering matters like church government and baptism and "phantom truth". How would you define "phantom truth"?
BE: Those many things that are so very important to me and for which I can so easily make a big issue, but in reality they are simply part of my culture, tradition or personal preference and have little or nothing to do with the Bible. Evangelical churches normally argue and divide over phantom truths (which are not really truths at all) and rarely over vital or even significant truths. In other words, we make a big issue about issues in reverse order to their true significance.

GD: I would have to agree with you there. We often seem unable to cope with differences over secondary matters in a mature and gracious way. Now, is it possible to be faithful to the gospel and truly contemporary?
BE: I don’t like to say ‘that depends on what you mean’, but it does depend on what you mean by ‘truly contemporary’. If you mean, in touch with where people are, using the language they use, and understanding the real world that we live in, then the answer is certainly yes. It is folly and not wisdom to worship, preach and behave as if we were still in the nineteenth century — or earlier. All that is old was not spiritual and all that is new is not worldly.

GD: You have a website. What kind of thing might readers find there? Ever thought of starting a blog?
BE: I haven’t time for a blog — I leave that to people like you, and my two sons! On my website, visitors will simply learn about my ministry and my books.

GD: It seems to me that evangelical publishers are falling over themselves to publish too many books (your own titles excepted!). For example, Banner of Truth, Evangelical Press, IVP and Day One all have at least two commentary series on the go. Some books I have read were poorly edited, suggesting that they had been rushed to press far too quickly. Isn't it about time that publishers slowed down a little?
BE: There is no excuse for poorly edited books and sloppy proof-reading. You can read old books of 500 pages with close type and barely find a single error, and that with old fashioned compositing. Today with our spell checks and ease of production we sometimes make any number of howlers. One problem is that the computer age demands that books are prepared more quickly and that is where errors come in. Are there too many books? Yes, I think there are. I believe publishers should be perhaps even more selective than they are. However, I’m glad I don’t have to make the decisions as to which books….

GD: That said, what is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because?
BE: The Bible, because that is where the best, and most straightforward theology is found! Apart from that, I haven’t read a helpful book of theology in the past twelve months, not because there isn’t one, but because I have not read it. My reading is more historical than theological at present. G W Bernard’s The King’s Reformation is a must for anyone who wants a new take on Henry VIII and his role in the Reformation — which won’t be too many of your blog readers I guess.

GD: You never know. What is the biggest problem facing evangelicalism and how should we respond?
BE: The downgrading of our Christian values and the upgrading of a wholly secular society. In response, the church must be what she is supposed to be: salt, light and the aroma of Christ and resist the easy temptation to absorb the mindset of the world into the life of the church.

GD: What are your top three songs or pieces of music?
BE: I don’t have a favourite musical taste — it all depends on my mood and the occasion; my taste is very eclectic. But when I am driving (a lot) I listen to talking books rather than music and that way I catch up on my reading.
GD: Thanks very much for taking part in this interview, Brian.
Note: Details of Brian Edwards' books can be found here.

3 comments:

Andrew and Carolyn said...

Just when you think 'Blogging in the Name of the Lord' can't get much better, an interview with Brian Edwards turns up.

Really interesting answers to your questions. I especially like the 'phantom truths' idea. I've seen this in action too many times to number...genuinely sad.

Steve F. said...

pumpkin,

recommend that you do your homework before posting. And first in line would be defining your 'liberal theologian' slap.

I can assure you that a fuller statement of beliefs would include the entire Scripture.

SF

Exiled Preacher said...

Steve,

Pumpkin's rather silly and uninformed comment has now been deleted.