Thursday, February 5, 2009

Phil Baiden's faith journey, thus far...

[My thanks to Phil, a regular commentator on this blog, for sharing something of his story about moving from Liberal Christianity to a Reformed faith. Phil has also started his own blog http://philbaiden.wordpress.com/, check it out, but only after you have read Xenos :-p]

A while ago Jon asked me to write about how I came to be where I am now – a historically Reformed minister in a liberal mainline denomination. Jon and I were at school together and were also involved in church youth events in East Kent. We once shared a two-man tent together on a church camp when we were 16. And yes, it did smell bad.

However, as I moved from Kent and began my A-Levels I entered a period of rebellion from the church. The Jesus I'd been taught about in Sunday School wasn't fitting with the Jesus I was reading about in the Bible. So I left it. I still believed in God but there was no way that Jesus was anything more than a bloke with some weird ideas.

I went off to Sheffield to study for a Biblical Studies degree. I have no idea why. It was a secular, liberal course that taught the Bible as ancient literature but not as God's Word. That suited me just fine.

That began to change when we looked at the Bible and the Arts. As part of that course I watched The Gospel according to Matthew by Pasolini. In that film I was confronted by the words of the Jesus I had rejected but now they didn't repulse me - they attracted me. Over the Christmas break I started going back to church. I went to everything. On the 2nd January 2000 I realised that I was nothing without Jesus and I broke down.

I was baptised and started going to the local United Reformed Church. It was an old Scottish Presbyterian Church with in depth preaching and a great minister. Every sermon seemed to be speaking to me and I began to feel that God was calling me to ministry. And so after a time of testing that call I was accepted for training.

At the time I considered myself to be a good liberal Christian. I was campaigning for left-wing causes, questioning whether Jesus really said that and dismissing John's Gospel and Paul's letters. But I also had a burgeoning love of church history, especially the Reformed heritage.
I then was sent to Madagascar in my third year of seminary. There I saw people that prayed and meant it. There I saw real poverty and the hypocrisy of aid. There I read the Bible like I'd never done before. On my return I read The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter and I realised that being a minister wasn't about being a social worker. I've since looked back and seen that I was never that liberal to begin with - I had a commitment to the Bible and to Reformed beliefs above and beyond my contemporaries.

God has opened my eyes to the glories of his Gospel.

And so now I'm a minister to two churches in Doncaster, England. I realise that my zeal for the Reformation of the church puts me at odds with a lot of my peers but I keep the words of Paul to Timothy in my mind at all times: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” I've already seen God blessing that work and I pray that he may continue to do so.

So when I come and cause trouble on this blog, you'll know where I'm coming from.
But it doesn't matter about me. So I'll sign off with those watchwords of the Reformation:

Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone!

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