Tim Farron's faith and decision-making


Simon Harvey writes, 

Tim Farron is the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is also a Christian.

At a Lib Dem party rally in the swelteringly hot Islington Assembly Hall last night, just along Upper Street from our church, Farron gave his first leader's speech to the cheers of his supporters. But party leaders rarely get to enjoy applause for long before they're put on the spot.

So on BBC Radio Four's Today Programme this morning, John Humphrys gave him a much tougher time. (You can hear the interview here). I was interested that as well as focussing on the new leader's reputation for being more to the political left than his predecessor, he pressed him on his Christian faith and its relation to his politics.

"Would you seek advice from God when it came to making important policy decisions?"

The question reveals an inadequate understanding about the way that Christians live out their faith in the whole of their lives. I don't blame Humphrys for that. (His personal position on faith is agnostic.)

I guess it revealed to me the failure of us Christians to account for the way that faith makes a difference to what we do when we're at work, or out and about beyond the church doors.

When Farron said that leaders have to make judgements based on the evidence put in front of them, Humphrys put the question a different way, "So you wouldn't ask God for guidance?"

Farron said, "I don't ask him to present the answer to me. You seek wisdom..."

As part of the Capital Vision 2020 Programme, we're helping members of St Mary's to be more confident ambassadors for Christ. We recently ran a workshop on Making Better Choices to get to grips with how faith-based decision-making might work.

So how does prayer influence the work of a Christian decision-maker? And how does a commitment to a faith have an impact on what they do?

In my experience, and contrary to John Humphry's expectations, prayer doesn't usually involve getting advice from God or being guided to a particular path.

I echo Tim Farron's seeking of wisdom. We can ask God to give us resources to meet the challenges we face. As well as wisdom, that might include strength, endurance, patience, self-control, generosity or courage. But the actual decisions are still ours to make. We can't duck that.

The second way that faith informs our decisions is by informing our world-view. It's not the only thing that does this, of course. The culture in which our values are formed, the assumptions of our environment and the habits of thought among our colleagues all shape us profoundly. Christian faith offers vision and values which Jesus called The Kingdom of Heaven. These emphasise the dignity and worth of every individual and the care of neighbour as well as oneself. In economic terms, the Kingdom of Heaven prioritises people and relationships above wealth.

So Christians who are serious about living out their faith pray and read the Bible.

Some of them will vote Liberal Democrat, some will vote in another way. No political party monopolises the application of faith to policy.

It's the same in the workplace. If you pray and read the Bible, it will affect the your choices. If you do so pray humbly, and read with sensitivity and depth I believe profoundly that it will influence your decisions for the better. But I can't tell you what those decisions will be. They're yours to make.