The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST David Robertson

Episode 2

Introduction
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student well-being, character development, and academic improvement. Welcome to the Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Well, David Robinson, it’s fantastic to get some time to talk with you, and to learn a little about what your life has been, and what’s proceeded your ministry that you’ve come to Australia. It’s wonderful to have you as part of Australian Christian College venture.

David Robertson
It’s great to be here actually.

Brendan Corr
Fantastic. You’ve got a bit of a interesting background. You came to prominence, firstly, with the writing of what became a very popular book, The Dawkins Letters. You want to tell me a bit about how that eventuated? What opportunity or what provoked you to engage in that endeavour?

David Robertson
Sure. I became a Christian at school, when I was about 16. I think one of the first things I ever spoke as a Christian was in a debating society. I remember being asked to speak, and I wasn’t known as a Christian at all, in fact, almost the opposite, being asked to speak on behalf of evangelical Christians, and I did. Afterwards, the head of the English department came up to me and said, “David, that was absolutely brilliant.” He said, “You almost had me convinced you really were a Christian.” He thought it was a performance. I looked at him, I said, “Mr. Patterson, sir, I am and no one will ever say that again to me.” I decided just to live out, if you’d like, to come out as a Christian.

Brendan Corr
This was still early in your Christian faith? Had you-

David Robertson
Oh yeah. I was just-

Brendan Corr
… had a Christian background?

David Robertson
My parents… I came from a Christian home, but I rejected it all. I stopped going to church when I was about 12, 13, but annoyingly, for me, I was converted. It was a wonderful thing. The reason I say that, in terms of the book, was because I was used to debating and dialoguing with people. I went through university, I went through theological college. I became a minister for six years, up in the Highland village. Then, I went down to the city of Dundee, in Scotland, and very small church, that could only grow through outreach.

Brendan Corr
How big is the town of Dundee?

David Robertson
150,000, but [inaudible 00:02:38] from the area was about quarter of a million. We had seven people in the church. I mean, it was tiny. I decided deliberately not to dumb down, not to be academic, but not to dumb down, and also to engage with the culture around, and seek to communicate the gospel through various means.

David Robertson
I was in a bookstore one day, and Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion was there. I knew Richard Dawkins, I knew he was fairly strong atheist. I knew he was actually a good writer on science issues. I dreaded getting that book, but I did take it, and I did read it. I couldn’t believe how dumb it was. It was really bad. It wasn’t just me that said that.

David Robertson
Prospect magazine, who regarded him as the world’s number one intellectual, thought it was a dreadful book, and it was a dreadful book. I didn’t really know what to do with that. I sat down and wrote an open letter to him, which got published on the church website. Suddenly, I started getting lots, and lots and lots of emails from atheist. I was so impressed, because free church people don’t read the free church website, and these atheists were reading it. Except they weren’t, because I got an email saying, “David, I’m really sorry, I’m an atheist. I don’t agree with you, but I’m sorry for what they’re saying about you”. I wrote him back and said, “What do you mean, ‘What they’re saying?’“. He said, “Oh, you’re later. It’s on the Dawkins website”.

David Robertson
I went, and there was about 600 or 700 replies when I got there. There were 7,000 when I left, but a third of them were okay. A third of them were a bit dodgy, but a third were really vitriolic, I mean, just bitter, bitter. I could not believe it. I thought, “No, you guys are not getting away with this”. I started answering them. Also, I’d written one letter for the first chapter for The Dawkins Book, and I then decided, “I’m going to write a letter for every chapter”. Then, Christian focused publications phoned me up and said, “Can we publish these? Can you write a book for us?“. I said, “When do you want it by?“. This was the beginning of December. They said, “By the end of Christmas”. I said, “You want me to write a book in a month, when I’ve got Christmas and I’m a pastor?“.

David Robertson
Honestly, Billy, I’m not claiming it was inspired, but I believe that when Paul says, “Through all his energy who works through me”, I believe God gave me the energy. We got it done, much to their shock and delight, and my shock too, it became a bestseller. I mean, it was reprinted four or five times in the first year. It was a best seller in secular bookshops, which it was just open layers to Richard Dawkins.

David Robertson
For me, it was a device to present the gospel, and that’s what I used it for. I wrote it for my friends, and young people, who were not Christians. I used Dawkins as the conduit for that. I mean, I wasn’t trying to convince him, or thinking I could argue him, because his argument was largely prejudice.

Brendan Corr
What I’m hearing is, you were taking the ideas he was representing, and giving account of view [crosstalk 00:05:46]?

David Robertson
Yeah. I tell you, I remember being in a book… In terms of promoting it, I did it in secular bookstores rather than Christian ones. I remember being in a secular bookstore in Edinburgh, and sometimes the audience was very mixed. Sometimes it was largely Christian, and this one it was mainly Christian. One man stood up and said, “Don’t you think it’s a terrible age we live in when Dawkins has this book?”, and he was so depressing. I said to him, “Stop. I want you to look over to your left. What is the number one selling book in this store?“. He looked, and he said, “Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion”. I said, “Yeah, exactly. A book about God, a book about the Bible, a book asking lots of questions”. I said, “All the wrong answers, but if you can’t use this to present the gospel, there’s something wrong with you”. I said, “This is a great opportunity. You will have people at work, you will have people in your family”. I said, “You may think I can’t do much. Okay, then take The Dawkins Letters, because that’s what that’s for”.

David Robertson
I think lots of people did that. I mean, I’ve met people who have been converted through it. In fact, I’ve met more people who’ve been converted through Richard Dawkins, none who’ve been de-converted, if you like.

Brendan Corr
That’s, that’s fascinating.

David Robertson
Isn’t it? It’s amazing.

Brendan Corr
What you’re describing is that the tool that you provided in your open letters, these personal rebuttals, would you describe the misery battles of?

David Robertson
Well, yeah. I like using the language, and playing with the concepts that other people use. For example, the book was titled, The Dawkins letters, but underneath the title was Challenging Atheist Myths. The myths, for me, were things like, “Religion and science are opposed. The Bible is an immoral book”, and the kind of standard tropes that people have. I just thought, “One, this is a great opportunity to answer those. Two, it’s a great opportunity to point to Christ”, and that’s what I did.

David Robertson
I mean, it was interesting, because we put it out to about 30 people, Christians, non-Christians, different cultural backgrounds. I found this quite fascinating, the atheists that we sent it to, loved it and thought it was funny. I mean, I was quite humorous with some things, but also I took the Mickey out of Dawkins a wee bit. There’s a part in his book where he talks about, “You could exist in a universe with a green moustache somewhere else”. I just had so much fun with that. It was funny, because some American Christians from the South, they thought, “Oh, it’s a bit impolite to disagree and to make fun”.

Brendan Corr
You should have been turning the other cheek sort of Christian?

David Robertson
Well, I don’t know. I think their view was, “If you’re nice to everybody, then they’ll want to become Christians”. My view was much more Elijah, the profits of bail, “Where’s your God? Has he gone to the toilet or something? Is he on holiday?”, you know?

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

David Robertson
I did feel a certain amount of biblical justification for what I did.

Brendan Corr
Let me take you back. You’ve demonstrated,, obviously through the success, the appeal of The Dawkins Letters, that you are a good writer, engaging writer. You’ve just described that you like playing with ideas, and taking concepts and the language of other people, and deconstructing it, or seeing it from a different perspective. When were you aware that this was the sort of thinking, the sort of intellectual life that you enjoyed? Was that back at school, or is it something that developed later?

David Robertson
At school I loved history, and that’s because I had a good history teacher. I mean, we’re at school here, and teachers make all the difference. I didn’t do science, not because I didn’t like science, but because my science teacher was rubbish. My history teacher was wonderful. She encouraged me, and so I did history.

Brendan Corr
You were already involved in debates back at school?

David Robertson
I did do debates. I enjoyed that. I think also, I loved reading, and I always have done. I mean, it’s strange. When I was in primary school I went to a… I was thinking about this the other day actually. I went to a school when I was five, six years old, which was meant to be mega modern, and it didn’t believe in teaching you to read and write. You could just go play in the sand if you wanted to, and so I played in the sand.

David Robertson
When we moved, because my dad was a farm worker, and our house was a tied house, and we often moved. I remember, I think it was about seven or eight years old, I went to a school, and I was so embarrassed I couldn’t read. Within a year I was reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, just purely and simply because I was so motivated. I was so humiliated. I guess I was just a quick learner. Ever since then I’ve always enjoyed reading. So there was that part of it.

David Robertson
I think in terms of ministry, I mean, I went to university and studied history and politics at Edinburgh university. Then, when I went in for the ministry, I did history, Greek, Hebrew theology and so on, at what was then the Free Church College, and is now Edinburgh Theological Seminary. When I went into ministry, it was in a small Highland village. My view was, “Everybody thinks everybody”. Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Did you find that to be true?

David Robertson
Yes. My view, I think if you’re human you think, unless you’re brain dead, but everybody thinks. They just think in different ways. I always wanted to try and get people to think, to push them, and to get them to consider things. I followed, was it Kuypers Maxim, “The old truth is God’s truth”. I just thought you could present the gospel.

David Robertson
Anyway, I’d look for what people are interested in, “You’re interested in soccer. Fine, let’s go there. Interested in music, let’s go there. Interested in culture, let’s go there”.

Brendan Corr
Let me tell you, with somebody who likes ideas, and appreciates thinking, you mentioned earlier that inconveniently to you, you converted around 16. What was the thing that convinced you? What brought you to faith?

David Robertson
I mean, the simple answer is the Holy Spirit. What happened was, I was invited by my aunt and uncle to go to the United States. They asked me to go, they said, “Would you like to go a college?“. They didn’t tell me a Christian college actually, that was bad of them. “There’s going to be a week of events, and 10,000 students or something”. I went, and I was furious because it was a Christian convention.

Brendan Corr
You were not a Christian at this stage?

David Robertson
I was not a Christian. I was [inaudible 00:12:12]. I was probably the most obnoxious guest. I would challenge, argue in the seminars, different things. There was four Palestinian Arab Christians who, I just watched them, and I just thought, “This is really disturbing me, because their life. One, they really believe this. Two, they’re not crazy”. I could be dismissive of hypocrites and everything else. I could not be dismissive of them.

David Robertson
I thought, “You know this, I’m going to go home, and I’m going to give the Bible another go”. I was told, “Start with the gospel of John”, so I never do what I’m told. I started First Kings, and I remember reading it in bed at night. I shared a room with two of my brothers, at this farm cottage. I remember I would be reading it under the bed cloths with a torch. I think they thought I was looking at something else, and not getting anywhere, but I just thought, “I’ll continue doing, I’ll continue doing it”. Then, that Christmas and New Year, one of my friends, who’s not a Christian, I phoned up asking about going to a party, because we had endless parties around then. He just said to me, “God is good”.

David Robertson
My first reaction was, “If you’ve become a Christian that’s not fair, because you weren’t brought up in a Christian home, and I’m not one”. I thought, “Why are you thinking that? You don’t want to be a Christian”. Anyway, he invited me to what we call a watch night service, midnight on New Year’s Eve. I went, and I remember the clock going around to 000. I remember praying, “God, if you’re there, you show me, and I’ll serve you the rest of my life”. Just very simple, and that was it. Came out, remember the place, remember the night, remember the moon, remember everything about it. Nothing happened, not a thing. Two weeks, nothing happened. I get up one Sunday, and I said to my kid brother, “Come on, we’re going to church”. He said, “No”, but he’s smaller than me, so I beat him up, and he came to church. It was my first successful evangelism. I’m not methodology, I’m commending by the way.

David Robertson
My mother was astonished, because we were obviously dressed up then, and we cycled to the church. She couldn’t believe that her two children, who were so against… She was still going to church without us… That we went down to this church. I’m sitting in this church in the Scottish Highlands, with the sea lapping against the walls of it. I remember they were singing a psalm, and I just remember thinking, “You complete idiot. Of course God exists. Nothing makes sense if he doesn’t exist”. I always say to people, “The rest of my life is the second half of that prayer, ‘I’ll serve you the rest of my life’”, and I just knew it. I mean, if people ask me why I believe, I will tell them, “Because it’s true”. If they want to describe the process, I will describe what happened to me.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s a good distinction as to why you believe.

David Robertson
Well, I can’t rely on my experience, because the experience could be false. Any of your listeners could say, “Oh yeah. Well, maybe you just had this feeling, and it was”-

Brendan Corr
This encounter, or this-

David Robertson
… or someone else-

Brendan Corr
… emotional-

David Robertson
Yeah. Someone else could be saying, “Well, I haven’t had that, so I’m not”. I’m saying, “No, no, I’m a Christian because I believe in Jesus, not because I had that, but I’m telling you how I came to it”. Everyone comes differently, I think.

Brendan Corr
How do you deal with the common concept that religion is religion, and it doesn’t really matter, and you believe this version, and other people believe other versions of her faith? What makes you convinced the Christian story is true, the Christian propositions of truth?

David Robertson
That brings me to another book that I ended up writing. Christopher Hitchens had a book called God Is Not Great. I saw some Christian responses too, which really annoyed me, because Hitchens’ book isn’t about God, it’s about religion. It hardly mentions God at all. I saw a response, which was why Christianity is great, and I thought, “Oh, you’ve got this so wrong, it’s Jesus, it’s Christ”.

David Robertson
I was writing a response to that, and I happened to be speaking at a university in Scotland, in Sterling. I remember, I think he was the president, or he was an office bearer in the atheist society, standing up and saying, “All right, you’ve destroyed my atheism. What do you believe?“. I thought, “No, that’s [inaudible 00:16:22]. That’s not for real. You’re setting me a trap”. It turned out it was for real. I said, and I started giving in, the back of The Dawkins Letters I had written, “10 reasons why I believe”, and I started giving him those. Then, I stopped and said, “Do you know this? I actually know. I believe because of Jesus, I’m not going to argue for theism. I’m not going to… I think without Jesus I’ve got nothing”.

Brendan Corr
That’s great.

David Robertson
He said to me, “Yeah, but who’s Jesus?“. Now, I knew that he knew there was a figure called Jesus. I knew he probably had the general knowledge. I thought, “I need to be”… I wanted to give him something to explain who Jesus was, and I couldn’t find anything. I ended up writing a book called Magnificent Obsession, which was an attempt to explain who Jesus is, past, present, and future, if you like, for people under 40s, postmodern Western society. Again, that was fantastic, because it became a bestseller. I think it did, because… I mean, I’m not the world’s greatest writer, but I’m readable.

David Robertson
What I do, my technique is to make it quite personal, but also to put a significant amount of information. I think, more than anything, to provide people with information that they can go look at, and research, and follow up further. The answer to your question, that’s a long way around of just simply saying, “Jesus Christ makes the absolute difference”. I do think religion is harmful, yet I also would argue as a historian that there hasn’t been a human society which isn’t religious, which to me indicates that every single human being has an appetite for God. It’s CS Lewis’ a great argument that, “We have an appetite for sex, because there is sex. We have an appetite for food because there is food. We have an appetite for God because”

Brendan Corr
There is God.

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

David Robertson
I think that argument holds substantial water, you know?

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

David Robertson
I just thought, “There’s a darkness over human beings, and what I need to bring them is not a theistic argument or a moralistic argument. I need to bring them Christ”. Magnificent obsession is, of all the books I’ve written, that’s the one that, for me, that I carry around with me, and I give it to people.

Brendan Corr
David, you get converted as a teenager, and finished school, head to university. By what process were you refining your ideas, your thoughts, your position on the things that would then become the platform or the expression of your thinking?

David Robertson
Number one, I read God’s word every day. Sometimes I didn’t want to, and sometimes I didn’t. I’m not saying I could… I don’t think I could sit before you, I can’t recall when I didn’t.

Brendan Corr
Did you adopt that as a discipline?

David Robertson
Yes. Yeah, an old fashioned thing. I mean, I use a calendar called the McShane Calendar, which you go through the whole Bible in a year, the new Testament twice and the Psalms twice. Spurgeon talks of his blood being Bibline. I’ve never ever regretted doing that, and I still do it, to this day I still do it. I feel as though it’s like when you get up and you don’t brush your teeth, or you don’t… I like my food, and you don’t eat your food. For me, not reading the Bible during the day, there’s something wrong or something missing. It’s not a guilt trip.

David Robertson
At times I would do it just out of sense of duty, but it’s not a bad duty to have, is it? Sometimes you’ll eat food, and you don’t feel like it, but you know you’ve got to, to keep well, but to have an appetite, and that’s a wonderful thing. Read the Bible, you pray, be involved in a biblical and lively church, a church that teaches and practises the Bible. Also, I observe the culture all the time. I read a lot. I did history at university, I did politics as well, but mainly history. I believed what the Bible said about Heaven and Hell. I’ve always wanted to be an evangelist, in that sense.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. You spoke a little about reading the culture.

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
There’s a deeper capacity in the things, that you critique the culture?

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Did you have people that you were bouncing ideas around or sharpening your…

David Robertson
Yeah, I didn’t live in a Christian ghetto. A lot of my friends at university were not Christians. I lived in a non Christian society. I didn’t think the church was a separate part of that. I thought that without knowing even what the term meant, I was adopting a Christian worldview, and applying it to the society that we live in. It’s only later on… For example, much later on in my life, I came to meet a guy called Tim Keller. This sounds really, really arrogant, but when I listened to him the first time, I didn’t hear anything new in that particular talk. He was talking about culture. It was just what I believed. He just articulated it so much better, and I realised that’s what God had been doing.

David Robertson
I think that’s what God does. You say, “How do you get there?”, when I was at university, I was involved in student politics. As part of that I did a lot of debating, and standing up in front of people, and making speeches. Did that for about three years, and then my political career, my want to be political career fell through, and that all seemed such a waste of time. I mean, I enjoyed it, and I was very involved in that kind of thing. About 20 years later, I write The Dawkins Letters, and suddenly I find myself in secular environments, standing up doing exactly the same thing, but not about politics this time, but about Christ, and answering people’s questions. I believe that God, in those three years, was preparing me, because I learned to think on my feet very quickly.

David Robertson
I mean, what I do in that… I mean, this is not about us, because I don’t think it’s that important, but somebody needs… God gives us all different gifts. You can stand me up in front of any audience, and I’ll take Q and A, and even hostility. I think God was preparing me for that. The thought had crossed my mind when I first did it. I remember, in fact, I remember distinctly standing up in a bookshop in Dundee, a hundred people there, 40 to 50 of them, non Christians. The questions firing in were absolutely wonderful. The Christians were buzzing afterwards. I went home saying, “This is what I’m meant to do. This is the Eric Little thing, “When I run I feel his pleasure”.

David Robertson
I remember praying, “Lord, why didn’t I do this from the beginning? Why have I had all these years of ministry and not done this?“. The answer I got, not a direct voice, but just the understanding I got was very simple, “Because you would have been an arrogant so-and-so”. 20 years of ministry, as I say, I’d buried the 18 month old, I’d made mistakes. I had been with a drug addict, I’d seen the elder back slide, dealt with suicides-

Brendan Corr
You’d done life.

David Robertson
… They were all real. The questions that were coming from me were not, “Hey, I’ve read a book”. I’ll give you an example of how that happened when I first started ministry. I went to do a Bible study in a small village, and a woman there, who was actually the hostess asked me, “Well, what about suffering?“. I gave her just, what I thought it was a brilliant answer. I mean, it was CS Lewis, the problem of pain. I thought I had nailed it. I was pretty impressed, “Horrendous thing to say”.

David Robertson
Then, she went through to make tea and coffee, and the other people there said, “Do you know who that is?“. I said, “No, who is she?“. They said, “Well, this is her house, and she’s Richard’s mom”. Richard was a kid who’d been born healthy, and then had an injection, and something happened that went wrong, and he became severely handicapped. The BBC had made a programme about him. I think she’d given up her job to look after him. She went through a lot of suffering. I mean, he was handicap from the neck down and-

Brendan Corr
Wow.

David Robertson
… I just sat there. I felt, if this was wasn’t radio, I’d make a gesture to the just very small. I just felt an [inaudible 00:00:24:36], I just felt such a fool. I got up, and I went through the kitchen. I said to her, “Look, I am so, so sorry. I had no idea when you asked that question, who you were”. She just looked at me, and she didn’t pity me or patronise me. She said, “That’s all right son, you’ll learn”, and she was right. She was absolutely right.

David Robertson
I mean, I was severely ill in 2011, I almost died. I was in a coma, et cetera, et cetera. I was in hospital for I think 11 weeks. The surgeon came to see me when I was going out, and he’s a Muslim. He said to me, “David, you’ve been given a great gift”, and I said, “What’s that?“. He said, “You deal with the most important things known to human beings”. He says, “You’ve been right to the edge”. It’s not a good experience I would recommend it, but he was right. He was absolutely right, so it’s tough going.

Brendan Corr
You can stand now, with the water under the bridge and-

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
… bestselling books behind you, and being recognised as one of the leading thinkers and speakers about Christian apologetics. At the time, when you’re aspiring political career, for whatever, reason didn’t eventuate, how did that feel? What were you [crosstalk 00:25:52]?

David Robertson
I was crushed, because it was because of Christianity. I had done what I thought was the wise thing. I hadn’t emphasised my Christianity. I never spoke about it. Occasionally, I was asked. I was the favourite to be elected what was called the Senior President of Edinburgh University. I was pretty well guaranteed a safe seat in parliament. Everything looked great. Then, the night before the actual election I saw the student newspaper, which was the guideline people within politics and university, which is a couple of hundred people, knew this wasn’t true. Everyone else read the student newspaper. It was posted up outside the polling booths, and it said, “David Robertson is an extreme Marxist economically, and an extreme fascist socially”. I knew I was finished.

Brendan Corr
And no chance of rebuttal [crosstalk 00:26:39].

David Robertson
I just, I knew then, and there was a [inaudible 00:26:42] meeting. The editor of the newspaper stood up and said, “Could David Robertson tell us when God told him to stand?“. I made a speech about religious discrimination and so on. Even then it was kind of the gay issue as well, which you’re talking there 1981. No, maybe 19… Sorry, that wouldn’t be ‘81, it’d be ‘83. I just remember being absolutely devastated.

David Robertson
I just thought, “Lord, I did all of this. I work so hard for this, and in one night it’s gone”. I mean, I knew, even when I went to the count… I mean, it’s quite funny having all these drunk and communists coming up to me, and saying, “We’re really sorry, Dave. That was really unfair”. What was the point of me thinking that was unfair? Yet, what is it that proverb says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails”, and God had different plans.

David Robertson
Now, I mean, people occasionally still come to me and say, “Why don’t you get into politics? Why don’t you, because you’d be really good at this?“. I say, “No, no, God’s given me something greater to do from my point of vie”. Bizarrely, I have more influence, because I have more politicians who read my blogs, because of the very public nature of the ministry. By the way, I don’t really think I’m that great a thinker, and I don’t like the term apologists, because it carries connotations for a lot of people. I like to think that what I do is seek to communicate persuasively, and we call it persuasive evangelism, who Christ is. I do think that the Lord has given me an understanding of the culture, perhaps. I try and connect those two things.

Brendan Corr
The understanding of the culture that you refer about, are you intentional about exposing yourself to culture?

David Robertson
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Is something that you seek out? How do you go about keeping current?

David Robertson
Well, I’m here in Australia. I read the Sydney Morning Herald.

Brendan Corr
Good stuff.

David Robertson
Not because it’s a paper that I particularly admire, but it helps me understand how some people think. I’ll also read the Australian. I will occasionally watch television, though it does my head in, films, but most of all people. I used to have something stuck on my wall, and some of your listeners will thinking, “How could you be that stupid and not know this”, but I needed to know it. In ministry, you can become very insular, and all of us can go into our wee comfort zones. I just had this on my wall, “You can’t talk to people about Jesus unless you’re talking to people”.

David Robertson
Although, as your listeners will gather, I’m a talker, it’s when I listen that I get much. I try and listen to the culture. I listen to the music, I listened to… I read a lot of books, so I’m always reading at least… I read at least two non Christian books a month, probably more. I read a lot of Christian stuff as well.

Brendan Corr
In your favourite area of history or?

David Robertson
No. My pattern is very simple. I always have six books on the go.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

David Robertson
One is a history, one is what I’d call theological or whatever, another is devotional, like the Puritans or the early church fathers. One would probably be a secular novel, one would be a classic, and one would be poetry.

Brendan Corr
You have them stashed in different parts of life? You’ve got one in the train-

David Robertson
Yeah. Well, my Kindle-

Brendan Corr
… one in [crosstalk 00:29:51].

David Robertson
… at night, so I don’t wake my wife, because it’s a backlit Kindle. I have my Kindle. If I’m going on an air flight, I’ll often take my Kindle. I have one book that I carry around with me. I have a book in my study, and I have a book for my lunch break.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, in the spaces.

David Robertson
Yeah, it’s intentional in that way. Occasionally, I’ve just read Douglas Murray’s latest book, the Madness of Crowds. Well, that for me was un-put-down-able. Dawkins latest book for young people, I got that on my Kindle, because I knew it wouldn’t get it in time. I’d read it within 24 hours, so that I could write a response, which I did.

Brendan Corr
We’re come into the end of our time, David. Outcome of the session hopefully is framing something that young people might be able to take away and reflect on for themselves. If you had some final things that you wanted to share with a young person, who is imagining their life stretching out before them, wondering what God might have for their future, what would be some things you would encourage them to think about?

David Robertson
Well, I think I would say this. I would say that none of us can presume that we’ve got another day, so what do you do? Carpe Diem, you live for the moment. That is true. You must live for the moment, but also you don’t have to squeeze everything from the future into the moment. God knows. You don’t know. What I would suggest is, what you’re doing right now is you’re building foundations. If you’re building a house, and 10 years on, you discover the foundations are rotten, you’ve got to knock it down and start all over again. You’ve wasted so many years. “The Lord can give back the years the locusts have eaten”, as the Bible says, but how much better if you get a solid foundation?

David Robertson
I would say get the foundation. For example, the kind of stuff I’m talking about, “God gave me an interest in history. God gave me a love for reading. God gave”… I never saw how all these different things would come together, but they did. Who knows what God is doing in your life, so get the basics right. You’ve got to be into his work. Look after yourself, be part of a lively church. If you’re not a Christian, you need to come to know the Lord. That’s your first and number one priority, otherwise you’re building your house on sand. Build your house on Christ, your life on Christ. I would say, being in this school, it’s a Christian school, it’s a real privilege. Take advantage of it, because there’ll come a day when you will need everything that you’ve learned here. If you haven’t learned it, you’re going to struggle.

David Robertson
Don’t presume on the mercy of God in the sense of saying, “Oh, God will just look after it”. Just say, “I’m building foundations here. I look after my body, I look after my soul. I’m doing what I can to grow and to develop”. Especially a young person, right now you are going to learn more in the next couple years then you will learn in 10 years of life later on. You won’t have time later on, and also your brain won’t be so quick.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. You’re talking about holding a sense of the immediate.

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Enjoy today-

David Robertson
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
… but also keep your eye on the future.

David Robertson
Yeah. Don’t keep thinking, “Well, in a year’s time or another year’s time”… I love the sound of the children.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

David Robertson
That’s okay. That shows we’re in a real school. Don’t keep thinking, “When I do this, then I’ll do this, then I’ll do this”. You’re living for Christ now. The more I go on, the more I do live each day. You do also, you have to consider, and you have to plan, because you’re living for each day. You’re a farmer, you don’t say, “Well, I’m not going to plant my seed”. Of course, you’re going to plant your seed, because you’ve got to harvest next year, you hope. Now, you don’t know, there could be a drought, there could be a flood, there could be… you can have a heart attack, but you still plant your seed.

David Robertson
I think that’s exactly the same with what we’re doing, in terms of… Someone could say, “Oh, do you know this? I don’t care about my relationships. I’ll just have lots and lots of different relationships that are cheap and shoddy, and then later on I’ll settle down”. Yeah, but what you sew now, you’ll reap later. I think young people should learn to value themselves enough to not give into the pressures of the culture, and to build upon what Christ has given them now, and who knows how God will use them in the future, but I know that he will.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great. David, just in closing, we might remind people that you’ve written a book. It is Ask.

David Robertson
Yes, A-S-K, Ask, Seek, Knock.

Brendan Corr
Ask, Seek, Knock. It’s available in all good Christian bookstores and through Amazon. If you want to hear a bit more about how David thinks about the culture, and how we can engage in it, it would be well worth your while getting a hold of that book.

David Robertson
It’s for teenagers, although, bizarrely loads of adults are taking it. I’ve just discovered this week that quite a lot of parents… I know at least several fathers who are reading it with their teenage sons.

Brendan Corr
What a wonderful idea.

David Robertson
It’s like, what a great thing.I was so pleased with that. I wondered, “Why are adults reading it?“. I’ll tell you why, it’s because it’s 700 word answers and provocation, if you like, for people to think, from the Bible about key questions. Most people haven’t time to read 7,000 word answers. I mean, it works for adults as well, but it is written for teenagers.

Brendan Corr
Fantastic. David Robertson, thank you for your time, and thank you for the work that you continue to do. God bless.

About David Robertson

Rev. David Robertson is a Scottish minister who was Minister of St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee, Scotland. He graduated from both the University of Edinburgh with a degree in History and from Free Church College (now Edinburgh Theological Seminary) with a degree in Theology. He was also a former club chaplain of Dundee F.C. In 2019, David left St Peters to become the Director of Third Space, a new evangelism initiative of City Bible Forum. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, David was voted as one of the 100 most influential Christians in the UK on Archbishop Cranmer's Top 100 List. He has authored several books and regularly debates atheists on various topics related to God.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).