Friday, February 23, 2007

Blogging in the name of the Lord: Geoff Thomas

This is the last in a series of interviews with Christian bloggers. In the hot seat today is...
GD: Hello Geoff and welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
GT: I was born in Merthyr Tydfil 24 miles north of Cardiff in 1938. A wonderful town in those days. An only child; my parents were Christians reflecting non-conformist life of that period. My father's twin brother was a Congregationalist preacher and his sister married a Congregationalist preacher. My mother was evangelical and Baptist and we went to church together. She sang hymns hour after hour as she did all her household chores. I was converted in a little chapel in Hengoed, now closed in the year 1954 but the preacher quickly left the gospel faith through the influence of the modernism he heard in the South Wales Baptist College. I studied in Cardiff University, 1958 through 1961 taking Biblical Studies, Greek and Philosophy. I proceeded to Westminster Seminary for three years and sat at the feet of John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, Edward J. Young, John Skilton, John Sanderson, Norman Shepherd, Meredith Kline, Edmund Clowney and Ned Stonehouse. What a privilege. Thank God for each one of them. Kline is one of the few alive, and he was the best lecturer I ever had. What skills and knowledge, but I loved the safe conservatism of Edward Young, though unscintillating as a lecturer. So America for three years and then back home the day after graduation and I married Iola in that year of 1964 and was called to Aberystwyth - the cultural capital of Wales in 1965 and here I have stayed.
GD: Why do you blog?
GT: I don't know if mine is a blog. I give a description of the ethos of the people I meet, the places and meetings I visit. I would send them to friends in my letters. I have many in the USA. Then I decided to put them on my website. Few write to me in response to the letters, and there is no place for interaction on this blog, so it is not a proper blog is it?. Blogs are a bit of an ego trip and that gets into mine too no doubt, but I try to make them an encouragement and educational and not about my 'fascinating life.'
GD: Well, the Alfred Place website calls your journal a "blog". And it is called "Glog", presumably an amalgam of Geoff and Blog. In my opinion, if it's called a blog and looks like a blog, then it's a Glog, er... blog. Whether you allow feedback or not doesn't really matter. But you not only have a blog (or whatever), your sermons are published on the Alfred Place website and you look after the articles page on the Banner of Truth site. Are you Wales' first cyber-pastor?
GT: The church website is important. Begun eight years ago I put my evening sermons on the web, and then after a few years I put the morning sermons there too. I haven't come across any other preacher in the world who does this. There are thousands of hits each week, and I continually get letters about the sermons. The challenge is not to read or lecture those sermons (which I have written out in full and which I give out to all the deaf and also to the people who have English as a second language before the service begins). I print my own copies of the pulpit sermons at an 18 type-size and use Book Antigua as the font. I then personalise the MS and correct it and try to improve it, finally sending the sermon much as I preached it to a former student in Cardiff who is my webmaster. I always prepare more than I preach, but like an ill-disciplined writer can't bear to cut out anything
Iain Murray asked me to take charge of the Banner of Truth articles page on its new website. I considered that at the time and still today an extraordinary honour, that he should entrust me with that. The Banner of Truth is God's unique gift to the church in the past fifty years. It is truly of him. Iain has been my wisest and most consistent counsellor. I am privileged to have him as my friend. The website has grown, and there are no restrictions of length to the articles. They are read all over the world. There are themes which the Banner commends which are dear to me. The need of a true awakening; church reformation and the battle with liberalism and sacerdotalism; the truth of the doctrines of grace; prayer and the paramountcy of preaching; godly living and the manifestation of true piety as the mark of regeneration; the importance of learning from the past; orthodoxy as found in confessional Christianity, the Westminster standards, the 1689 and Savoy Confessions, Dort also, and the Triple Knowledge, and the importance of a redemptive historical or biblical theological approach to Scripture. I think that those are the cluster of themes which are what the Banner of Truth stands for in my mind and what I have sought to foster on the web. I comb the best magazines from all over the world and put the articles that touch my heart and enlighten my mind onto the web. But there is rarely any response. I take the silence and the figure of the growing number of those who visit the site as a mark of the churches' approval.
GD: What do you think of so-called "cyber churches" where people log on rather than turn up?
GT: I have not come across such people.
GD: Of course you haven't they never go anywhere. Your son-in-law Gary Brady has a blog. Have you ever taken a look, if so what did you think?
GT: I think that that is a true blog and so characteristic of him. What a wonderful work he has done in Child's Hill. His two books on the Song and Proverbs are quite outstanding. I stand in awe of him. His home is loving and happy. The first of his five sons has come to faith in the Saviour. I would love him to study here in Abersystwyth in 2008. Gary is a people person, meeting naturally with all kinds of men and women. The morning congregation has had a growth spurt this year. He works hard and there can be no growth without that. I believe he is a man of God. We have different tastes in music.
GD: Gary's taste in music is quite unique! Which Christian book, published in the last twelve months, should all thinking believers read?
GT: The one about religion (but not written by a Christian nor about an evangelical man) which I enjoyed the most is the biography of the poet R.S. Thomas, "The Man Who Went into the West" by Byron Rogers. He was the most famous "Reverend Thomas" in the world, and of the three famous Thomas poets, Edward (my grandfather's cousin), Dylan and R.S. the latter wins by the sheer bulk of his output, but what a poser. If anything can persuade you of the bankruptcy of modernism and its fatal alignment with moral decrepitude it is this book. His life is quite shocking; he is a phoney, but the book is also hilarious, but maybe you have to be Welsh to appreciate it. I have had a stab at writing biography in my life of Ernest Reisinger but this book of Byron Rogers sets a standard for that genre. How not to be a pastor is the theme of this book. (Once I completed writing all the previous paragraph I thought of others I would have done better to commend). But I read and enjoyed for macabre reasons this book. It gave me a taste for the delights of reading once again.
GD: I enjoyed the RST biog too. (See my review here). Name your top three songs/pieces of music.
GT: Mahler's Fifth, the fourth movement, the Adagietto. Borodin's Second String Quartet. Bach's Goldberg Variation played by Glenn Gould
GD: What has been the most useful piece of advice that anyone has ever given you as a preacher?
GT: Do everything for double usefulness. For example, if you can type your sermons rather than write them, you should, and also put them on a website. There are so few of us and the challenge is huge. The night comes so soon. Do everything for double usefulness.
GD: I think that blogs can fulfil the "double usefulness" principle too. Previously prepared talks or articles can easily be turned into blog posts and made available to the wider world. What do you see as the greatest challenge that is facing Reformed Christianity in the UK at this point in time?
GT: The trivialisation of Sunday services, as though we are ashamed of taking them with reverence, godly fear and seriousness.
GD: The Disneyfication of worship is definitely one of the key issues of our time. Geoff Thomas, it has been a privilege to talk to you here at Exiled Preacher. Thank you very much for dropping by.

This brings to an end our series of interviews with Christian bloggers. Click on the "interviews" label below for the whole set.


Gary Brady said...

Thanks Guy and Geoff. Even I learned some things there. There is a double usefulness blog isn't there? Now I understand. Is the series on non-bloggers next?

Guy Davies said...

Non-bloggers will have to do their own series on their own non-blog. I have another couple of series ideas, though, but that will have to wait.