John McIntyre, theologian
and minister of the church: born Glasgow 20 May 1916; ordained minister
1941; Minister, Parish of Fenwick, Ayrshire 1943-45; Hunter Baillie
Professor of Theology, St Andrew's College, University of Sydney
1946-56, Principal 1950-56, Honorary Fellow 1990; Professor of Divinity,
Edinburgh University 1956-86 (Emeritus), Dean of the Faculty of Divinity
1968-74, acting Principal and Vice-Chancellor 1973-74, 1979; Dean of the
Order of the Thistle 1974-89; Extra Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland
1974-75, 1986-2005, Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland 1975-86; Moderator
of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1982; married 1945 Jan
Buick (two sons, one daughter); died Edinburgh 18 December 2005.
John McIntyre was one of the most distinguished Scottish theologians and
churchmen of his generation. For 30 years, from 1956 until 1986, he was
Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, acting as Moderator of
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1982.
A talented pupil at Bathgate Academy, McIntyre confirmed his early
promise as a student at Edinburgh University, graduating MA with first
class honours in Philosophy and BD with distinction. His studies under
the philosopher Norman Kemp Smith and the theologian John Baillie were
to leave an indelible mark on his contribution as a teacher and scholar.
He was ordained in 1941 and several years were spent in parish ministry,
first in Argyll at Glenorchy and Inishail, and then in Fenwick,
Ayrshire. There he met and married Jan Buick, the district nurse at
Fenwick, with whom he celebrated 60 years of marriage last year.
In 1946, McIntyre was appointed Professor of Theology at St Andrew's
College in Sydney. His 10 years in Australia proved immensely
productive. Working in a small theological college, he taught across the
entire theological syllabus. He regarded this as of immeasurable benefit
in his early career and would later commend it to his own pupils as the
best means for mastering their discipline.
Work on two early books was completed during this period: Anselm and His
Critics (1954), his DPhil thesis, and The Christian Doctrine of History
(1957) established his reputation as a measured and lucid writer with a
capacity to apply analytic rigour to the central topics of theology.
These Australian years were also marked by a series of high-profile
public debates in which he explored questions of religious belief with
the eminent atheist philosopher John Anderson, another Scot who had
earlier settled in Sydney. Both McIntyre and Anderson had been pupils of
In 1956, following the retirement of John Baillie, McIntyre returned to
his Alma Mater as Professor of Divinity. His work in Edinburgh was
marked by highly effective leadership. He served as Principal Warden
during the time of the construction of Pollock Halls, as Acting
Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 1973-74, following the departure of
Michael Swann to the BBC, and again in 1979 after the death of Hugh
As Dean of the Faculty of Divinity and Principal of New College from
1968 to 1974, he was deeply committed to the centuries-long Scottish
tradition in which ministers were educated in the ancient universities.
He positioned the Faculty of Divinity at New College in the centre of
university life. Yet, while defending the place of the Church of
Scotland in his faculty, he also perceived the importance of ecumenical
links and of the burgeoning field of religious studies.
By the time of his retirement in 1986, New College had become a more
ecumenical institution, but one that retained much of its traditional
strength and appeal to students from overseas. An important marker had
been set down in 1979 with the appointment of James Mackey, a Roman
Catholic theologian, to a chair of theology in Edinburgh. His nomination
aroused controversy in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
and the national press.
As a university administrator, McIntyre had a mastery of detail that
could prove intimidating. Always in command of his brief, he would
attend to the finer points of debate while never losing sight of the
larger picture. His patient and measured style was to prove effective in
the building of Pollock Halls, in the reconstruction of New College, and
in his many dealings with university staff and students. In the more
militant era of the early 1970s, a long-running dispute within the
student body was resolved within 48 hours after McIntyre assumed
responsibility as Vice-Chancellor.
The same qualities were evident in his lecturing. Long before the time
when teaching aids became de rigueur, he would provide his students with
a complete transcript of his lecture notes. This imposed a significant
burden on his secretary, before the era of the photocopier. A quietly
methodical teacher, McIntyre possessed an urbane and self-deprecating
humour. He would sometimes remark that he not only put his students to
sleep, but gave them the sheets in which to do so. Whether they slept or
not, he could remember them clearly years later and was glad to follow
their progress in parish ministry or academic life.
Despite the burdens of administration, McIntyre maintained a significant
scholarly output that continued through many productive years of
retirement. A longstanding interest in the role of the imagination in
religious belief resulted in the publication of Faith, Theology and the
Imagination (1987), perhaps his most original work. The previous year,
Religious Imagination, a Festschrift collection in his honour, had
appeared on this same theme. Other volumes on traditional theological
topics such as the love of God, the person and work of Christ, and the
Holy Spirit were also undertaken.
McIntyre was one of very few academic theologians who engaged with the
charismatic movement. Largely eschewing intellectual fashions, he could
prove a difficult thinker to categorise. Nevertheless, his theology can
reasonably be situated within the Reformed tradition, though without a
commitment to some of its harsher aspects. As generally orthodox in its
doctrinal orientation, his work reveals that blend of philosophical
acumen and Christian piety that has characterised much of Scottish
A more cautious approach together with varied interests in apologetics,
philosophy of religion, the role of the human subject in knowledge, and
other faiths may have prevented his work from being too closely
identified with his distinguished Edinburgh contemporary Thomas F.
Torrance. Yet their differences in style and temperament probably
concealed an unacknowledged theological consensus.
Also a noteworthy churchman, McIntyre was appointed by the Queen as one
of her honorary chaplains in Scotland and as Dean of the Order of the
Thistle in 1974, a position he held for 15 years. The public highlight
of his career came in 1982. During his time as Moderator of the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he greeted Pope John Paul II before
the statue of John Knox in the New College courtyard. His words of
greeting were typically courteous and eirenic, celebrating the end of
years of sectarian division in Scotland while looking forward to