GD: Hello David Robertson, and welcome to Exiled Preacher. Please tell us a little about yourself.
DR: I’m the minister of StPeter’s Free Church in Dundee, Church of Robert Murray McCheyne. I’m married to Annabel and have three grown up children – Andrew, Becky, and Emma Jane. I’m the associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity. I edit the Free Church's Record, have authored several books and a regular columnist for Christian Today and write occasionally for other websites and magazines
GD: You blog at: 'The Blog of David Robertson'. What made you start blogging?
DR: I’ve always written but I guess this was a kind of personal therapy! It was the best way that I could be free to express my views without incriminating or being restricted by the websites that I often wrote for.
GD: Which blogs do you enjoy reading and why?
DR: I don’t usually read blogs!
GD: Fair enough. What are the strengths and weaknesses of blogging as a medium for reflection on theological and ministry matters?
DR: You can delude yourself that you are reaching far more people than you in reality are. You can pontificate as though you were some kind of papal figure. And you can take things far too personally. On the other hand it is a great way to encourage people, to challenge people and to provoke and stimulate constructive discussion.
GD: Do you use other forms of social media, and why/what for?
DR: I use Twitter to post links to good articles, Facebook for more personal stuff and to provoke unto love and good works and Instagram to report on preaching and other speaking engagements. I use all of these to try and provoke interest in the gospel as well as some of its implications and some of its personal impact upon me.
GD: Do you think engaging in discussion on social media changes people’s minds, or is it just an echo chamber?
DR: It is primarily an echo chamber. Although I have known people whose minds have been changed and indeed who have been converted through social media. My mind has occasionally been changed!
GD: Tell us how you felt called to pastoral ministry:
DR: Too long a story to tell! Acts 5:20, the guidance of the church, the prompting of the Holy Spirit and providential circumstances all contributed
GD: Where did you train for the ministry and what did you find especially helpful about your training?
DR: Edinburgh theologicalseminary – systematic theology, new Testament Greek, old Testament Hebrew and church history were all particularly helpful.
GD: Who has had the greatest influence on your theological development?
DR: John Calvin; Augustine; John Flavel; John Owen; Tim Keller
GD: What do you cherish most about the Free Church of Scotland?
DR: Its people and its wholehearted commitment to the gospel
GD: How does the Free Church engage with the wider Evangelical world?
DR: Not very well! We are involved with the evangelical alliance, various reformed fellowships and in local gospel partnerships.
GD: What is Solas all about?
DR: The communication of Christianity in the public square through media, training and public engagement.
GD: You often engage in public debate with atheists. What is the strongest argument atheists have produced in debate and what was your response?
DR: Often the strongest arguments are based upon personal experience – the answers depend on listening to what those experiences are an engaging with them from a Christian perspective. The hardest biblical ones tend to be those associated with passages which seem to imply that God commanded genocide. Paul Copan’s “ Is God a Moral Monster?” Is very helpful on this.
GD: You recently labelled Steve Chalke’s message anti-Christ, yet you have also referred to Pope Benedict XVI as a ‘Christian brother’. Please explain.
DR: One mocks the Bible, denies the atonement, rejects Christ’s teaching on marriage and adopts all the liberal shibboleths of our culture. the other accepts the Bible, celebrates the atonement, endorses Christ’s teaching on marriage and challenges the liberal shibboleths of our culture. I prefer the latter
GD: What’s your take on Jordan Peterson’s message to men? Does the church have anything to say to the male of the species?
DR: He comes very close – but still does not get the gospel. I find him very inspiring and very challenging. And of course we have plenty to say to the male of the species because the gospel is addressed to both male and female.
GD: You are often quite vocal about political matters, such as Scottish independence and Brexit. Shouldn’t preachers stick to the pulpit?
DR: If you thought that was the case you would not ask me to spend time with the pulpit commenting on these issues! As a private citizen I am perfectly entitled to express opinions about many different matters. As a Christian minister I have no right to, and I never do, bring party political matters into the pulpit. The Bible has nothing to say on Scottish independence or Brexit. This does not mean that I should not… But I should not equate my views with those of the Bible or the message of the church, which should be the message of the Bible.
GD: Which character from post-New Testament church history would you most like to meet and what would you say to him/her?
DR: John Owen… What did you mean by…?
GD: Do let us know what he said. Billy Graham passed into the presence of the Lord just recently. What is your assessment of his life and ministry?
DR: See my blog written on that matter.
GD: What would be your three top tips for budding preachers?
DR: Get a formal training, continue to be involved in a biblical church, and pray without ceasing!
GD: What is the most helpful theological book that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because?
DR: Sinclair Ferguson’s “The Whole Christ” – the best book you will ever read on theology!
GD: What do you do to relax?
DR: Cycle, play chess, go to the cinema
GD: Care to share your top three songs or pieces of music?
DR: Bach’s St John’s Passion; Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven; Beethoven’s Pastoral
GD: What is the biggest problem facing evangelicalism in the UK today and how should we respond?
DR: Loss of confidence in the Bible, especially in its sufficiency and power. Combined with the inability to discern the times and realise what is going on in the culture. The solution is to have a recommitment to the supremacy of Scripture and to live it out in our contemporary culture.
GD: Thanks for dropping by for this conversation.