Rich Bowpitt: Hi John, thanks for taking the time to share with us! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
John Baldock: My name is John – I became a Christian shortly before my eighteenth birthday and went on to study at Bible College in my early 20’s. I am married to Jean and we live in Worcester, having moved there to join Hope Church in 2011. I love to design things – practical things – and have a wide range of DIY skills, which are mainly employed on improving our home, and that of our son and his wife who recently bought a house near us. I also enjoy visiting a local auction, and often return home with paintings that I pick up cheaply. I am supposed to be re-framing these – although so far I have been too busy doing other things, like writing books!
JB: I was asked by one of the guys at church if I would speak to his elderly father who was asking questions about Christian faith. James started off our discussion by effectively asking me for my testimony – a great beginning! I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and this helped me to realise just how much I love to answer people’s questions – to explain Christian faith. I think there are lots of people like James out there, people for whom a lack of satisfying answers constitutes an obstacle to faith.
JB: I decided that the book should be questions-based and so compiled a list of the questions that I have been asked, or that I felt that those who are not Christians would want answers to. A few of these are clearly foundational, such as ‘Who is God?’ and ‘What is a Christian?’ I was thinking about this one day, wondering how to structure my ‘heap’ of questions. The thought dawned on me that as I already had ‘foundations’ – could I build a house on these, could the rooms of a house represent categories for the various types of question? I did some work on this idea and everything fitted into place. It was then just one step further to use the analogy of a house viewing; after all I am inviting people to look into genuine Christian faith, to consider some answers to the questions that they perhaps have. Surely this is similar to viewing a house – taking a good look, without any commitment, to see if the house is right for them. This is something that everyone can identify with, that we all understand.
JB: The questions in the bedroom section (related to sexuality, gender, marriage etc) are such a hot topic at the moment, both for those inside and outside the church. I think many Christians are wrestling with trying to understand how to respond to them in a balanced, Biblical way, and those looking in also want to know what genuine Christian faith has to say on these topics. There is perceived to be a conflict: between love and truth – love that is accepting, and truth that is condemning. The genuine Christian position holds firmly onto both of these. We demonstrate love for the lost, no matter how far they have strayed from God’s intentions; however we also proclaim the truth unreservedly, but with gentleness.
JB: I was determined to address the questions that people actually ask, rather than posing questions that would necessarily constitute an easy ‘preaching’ platform. In reality of course the message of the gospel is relevant to anything that anyone might ask of us: to the whole of life and everything that we may be faced with. Once I had the concept clear in my mind, and had defined an initial set of questions, I shared the book proposal with a number of people, including some who are not Christians. That proved to be very beneficial. Some people expressed surprise about inclusion of the more challenging topics, but I also received a few suggestions for additional questions that arose from a non-Christian perspective, and I was able to incorporate these into the book.
I am something of an original thinker – obviously I have read a lot and heard a lot over my many years as a follower of Jesus, but I find clarity comes through prayerfully considering topics. I always try to express truth in a simple, fresh way. You might say that I like to think outside of the box; this is true in how I communicate, but I also have a very clear, biblical, box that everything I write or say is based upon – sound theology is very important to me. I tend to rely primarily upon the Bible, and Bible study aids, and upon the Holy Spirit. I also have the experience of thinking through, and answering, difficult questions over some 50 years. The Viewing is my first book, so I was keen to make a start and get something drafted, to convince myself that I would be able to achieve what I set out to do. At the same time though, I needed a reasonably well defined plan, otherwise there would be no structure and no clarity of purpose. Once I had the plan, I was glad to get stuck into actually addressing the questions and writing the answers – that was the satisfying part.
JB: You can visit my website – askedquestions.org – where there is more information about The Viewing, including a list of the 70 topics that are covered (you can read a few sample topics there as well). There is also some biographical information about me, and a ‘Contact’ page, and you can buy the book directly from the website. The Viewing is published by Day One, so can also be purchased from their website, from any bookshop, or from on-line sellers.