Paul Grimmond: What’s it been like to write your first book?
Martin Ayers: It’s been a great experience, seeing how the whole process works. I approached Matthias Media with this idea and then, obviously, I was delighted when Tony Payne said, “Hey, we’re interested in this. Can you rework it?” We developed it together, and now it’s very exciting to see the book go into print.
PG: The book’s called Naked God. What’s with the title?
MA: The idea is that lots of people walk around with ideas about God that they’ve inherited from the culture around them—from parents or friends, from the media, or from experiences of church that haven’t been authentic. These ideas obscure what God is really like. What we need to do is strip away those ideas and get to the truth about God. The book’s subtitle is “The truth about God exposed”.
PG: What motivated you to write the book?
MA: I was at law school when I really started to ask my questions about Christianity—about who Jesus is and about God. It was the first time I understood for myself who Jesus is and why he died. Naturally, I’ve been trying to tell my friends ever since.
I found that I had friends and colleagues who were interested in what I believed and could see that it was different. Sometimes they would even come to church or to a guest event where they’d hear something of what I believed. But they weren’t interested in taking things much further.
The books that had really helped me when I’d been looking into it all assumed that people had a level of interest that my friends just don’t have. They wouldn’t read them. My idea was to write a book that would draw people in a bit more—a book that assumed people were further back than I had been in their understanding of real Christianity and in their desire to know about it.
PG: There are lots of evangelistic books in the marketplace. What makes Naked God different to other evangelistic books?
MA: There are a few things that come together to make it a distinctive book. Firstly, I try to deal with the contemporary scepticism around us. I do it by taking the atheist world view and deconstructing it. What I’m saying to the reader is “You might not think there’s much point looking into this because you don’t think it makes any difference to you whether or not there’s a God. But let me show you what the world is really like if there is no God.” The aim of the first part of the book is to show somebody that they really need to look into who Jesus is.
Secondly, there’s the style of the book: I tried to write it in an informal way—in what you might call a ‘matey’ style. All the time I’m aiming to step into the shoes of the non-Christian reader and show them that I understand what they are thinking and why. But then I try and help them to examine their presuppositions, and suggest some evidence that challenges their way of thinking. I’m empathizing with the reader and bringing them with me through the evidence.
Thirdly, I’m trying to combine apologetics with a presentation of the gospel. I keep the apologetics—the answers to people’s objections—going throughout the book. But as the book develops, I also present a vivid, clear explanation of the gospel that finishes with an invitation to respond.
My heart’s desire for my friends and for any non-Christian reader is that they will have their objections dealt with, and will look at Jesus in the Bible and see for themselves who he really is.
PG: Is the book aimed at a particular kind of person?
MA: I hope it appeals to a wide variety of people. But let me paint a picture of the kind of person who might particularly benefit from the book: it’s written for someone who is unashamedly irreligious. What I mean by that is someone who is beyond the fringes of church and who doesn’t feel guilty about that—someone who doesn’t sit around on the weekend, thinking they should be in church. It doesn’t even occur to them.
If you asked that kind of person what they believed, they might say that they were agnostic or atheist. But even if they call themselves agnostic, they’re so surrounded by atheism and secularism, they’re pretty sceptical. They think that Christianity is implausible and irrelevant. My aim is to draw that sort of person in and encourage them to look at Jesus.
In a very real sense, I am writing to my friends. But I think that lots of people have friends just like mine!