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A Voice in the Wilderness
Has the church a future?

The address given at the invitation of the Synod of Lothian, 12th October 1977.

I was more than a little astonished when asked to address this venerable court on the theme, 'Has the Church a Future?' My surprise was twofold. Firstly, because I felt that the question was a little old fashioned in view of the work of W. H. van der Pol, [1] Robert Adolfs [2] and many others [3] which has appeared during the last two decades and my own prognostications were not seriously considered by the presbytery of Edinburgh when I addressed it in 1970. [4] Secondly, it is probably the first time in the history of this synod that one who has persistently and consistently passed judgement on the ecclesiastical establishment, has been asked to address representatives of it.

I am, however, greatly heartened by your invitation. I hope that it is a recognition that my continual, constructive criticisms of more than quarter of a century are inspired by a true concern for the Kirk and are founded upon the Word of God and a theological and historical scholarship. In other words, I trust that you will accept the cry of a watchman which arises from conviction and from research and not from indigestion and from committee minutes. [5]

Because the Church's heedlessness has been most marked in its complete lack of interest in the worldwide reappraisals of the place of faith and religion in the modern world, I am all the more compelled to speak. Who has read, e.g., Desqueyrat's La crise religieuse de temps nouveaux [6] or the the seminal book by the Dutch Augustianian, The Grave of God: has the Church a Future? [7] Programme 2000 [8] or the volume of articles edited by Schmacke entitled, 1980 ist morgen. [9] It is almost certain that the very incisive article of General Superintendent Gunter Jacob, 'Die Zukunft der Kirche in der Welt des 1985' [10] has never been read by anyone in Scotland. More surprisingly, the small but significant book by Professor Donald MacKinnon of Cambridge, 'The Stripping of the Altars'', [11] did not cause a ripple on the stagnant pools of sludgy, unthinking complacency in the Kirk. The most telling fact, however, is that these articulate prophets - like many others - are all outside the Church of Scotland as those inside it have been effectively silenced.

Why then do I dare to accept the role of a contemporary prophet? You have thrust this duty upon me and I am grateful that a court of the Church has finally recognised that the question has to be faced. Therefore, in obedience to your request, I will try at least to point to ways in which an answer may be found if I cannot indeed supply it.

The title which you set me for this paper has been interpreted as being: 'Has the ecclesiastical, institutional, juridical body, known as the Church of Scotland, the capacity to survive, for at least the next fifty years, as an organisation capable of carrying out its declared responsibilities as set out in the Declaratory Articles?'

I have framed your remit to me in this way for I am very conscious of the truth of Joseph Hromadka's great statement that 'Church history makes it very clear to us the damnable temptation concerning the things of God of making the kingdom of God identical with the empirical church, His truth with ecclesiastical constructed teaching and concepts, His will with conventional moral standards, His heavenly power with clerical and ecclesiastical privileges and possessions, His aim with the triumph of the visible church, His purposes with earthly organisational projects, and His authority with canonical authority in the form of a Christian highpriests' tribunal'. [12] This synod is meeting against the background of the last General Assembly's call for urgent renewal and, at the outset, may I warn against any attempt at a ready-made white-robed revivalism which perpetuates the present situation by cosmetically applying a snowy veneer of sweet sentimental religiosity which many think can result from religious keep fit exercises. The initial requirement is not a praying huddle as the presbytery of Edinburgh recently decided - a 'yammer for grace' as a revered professor used to put it. No! What is needed is the true repentance of the Church; after an immediate and serious examination of its God-forsaken past. What is required is not a mere renewal of the church but a radical reform. Reform, the concept which has made an important impact on Christian thought and action since the age of the early church fathers - Gerhart Ladner has expounded this in great detail. [13]

The change must be radical so that the church can fully recognise the situation as it really exists and cast aside its rose-tinted reading glasses. As the confession of faith of the most successful secular religion of this century puts it: 'All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind'. [14]

It will be recognised that before anyone can give a prognosis about a body suffering from an apparently terminal disease, the critical situation calls for a deep exploratory operation. This is what has to be attempted first and, if some of you find it extremely painful, all I can do is to apologise that I cannot, in the given situation, undertake the operation under an anaesthetic.

To undertake such an investigation, it is necessary to tear off rose-tinted spectacles, smash the religious opium pipes, break out from the antiseptic atmosphere of the isolation ward of the religious institution and face reality as it exists inside and outside the Church.

In such circumstances, we find ourselves in the company of Jesus Christ. We are called to 'go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach', [15] We have to victimise ourselves to gain a true perspective by leaving for a time the faithless and be with him who is the outsider. It must never be forgotten that Christ felt that, as a precondition to the coming of the Kingdom of God, he had to pass judgement on all that was 'religious' - the temple, the priests, the Levites, the Pharisees, and all who mouthed the right words but who had failed. 'Judgement must begin at the house of God'. [17] If there is to be any real saving of the situation, there must be a real sorrow for our share in the Church's plight. Remember, 'godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation'. [16] Many express a desire that the Church might be saved from disintegratingness - the nihil of Karl Barth [18] - but how many are prepared to undertake the examination needed to discover those sins of the Church which must be confessed and repented from if there is to be any future for the Church in Scotland. This is the first task I propose to attempt.

Probably the greatest indictment of the Church of Scotland if Christ were to come to the Jerusalem, so to speak, of the Church today would be that he would have to find other words than those he spoke long ago of the killing and stoning of the prophets. Those who have guided the Church's destiny during this century have lacked the nerve to kill and stone the prophets - they have merely scrupulously ensured that the majority of the prophets in the Church have been emasculated by the exclusion from the exercise of any ecclesiastical constitutional and financial power and they have quietly ignored those outside.

There are so many obvious cases. One of the most significant and one which has undermined the influence of the Church in the postwar world was the Church of Scotland's total failure to support the Confessing Church in Germany in its stand against Adolph Hitler even although as early as 1935 Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to visit his old teacher from New York days, John Baillie to enlist his support. [19] Not a word was spoken by Baillie, later to be a Companion of Honour, or anyone else in any debate or Report in a pre-war General Assembly nor were any of the world-embracing theological or ecclesiastical problems involved ever pondered by any such Assembly. It is all the more portentous when it has to be revealed that no correspondence can be found in either the former Colonial and Continental Committee files or the papers transferred to Geneva from Edinburgh, when the headquarters of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches moved there after the war, to indicate those responsible for the scared and sinful silence of the Church of Scotland. [20]

We must remember with shame that students for the ministry were still encouraged to go to Nazi controlled universities right up to the outbreak of war. Yet who even knows - let alone honours - the three Scottish theological students who identified themselves with the Confessing Church and studied in its illegal theological seminary in Wuppertal under the redoubtable Beni Locher. [21] One incident during this time in the life of one of the Church's ecclesiastical managers, unillumined by a single prophetic insight, sums up the Church's segregated outlook in these early years of pagan Fascist aggression. This man never recognised the real needs of the hour and played no part at all in the significant ideological struggles before, during or after the war. He was more concerned about a silly question put by a hanger-on at the Lambeth Conference [22] than the fundamental questions being discussed by the Protestant Churches which were to lead in the same year to the Barman Declaration - he probably never even knew what was happening. It was in 1934 that John White admitted, 'I was much concerned about what lay behind the question and on my return from the Lambeth Conference I consulted Church leaders (sic) and made an important change (sic) in the ceremonial at the opening of the General Assembly. We arranged to have the Moderator installed in his office'. [23] So that old highland mystic, Lachlan MacLean Watt was induced to put a ring on his successor's moderatorial finger. [24] Thus, as the embers glowed for the future conflagration of Europe, the moderator for 1934 started off with a ring on his finger although the silver buckles were not replaced. Suitably, attired, parish pump hobby-horses continued to be ridden. [25] The situation has not changed. Charades of irrelevance continue to be re-enacted. In our own time, when the Church groans for a renewal of its inmost soul, a letter is sent out from the Dean of the Chapel Royal to all the Chaplains to the Queen, both Ordinary and Extra Ordinary, calling them to a conference at the New Club, Edinburgh at 10.45 am., 19th January 1976 to hear a 'report on the situation'. It was a very serious situation, it concerned 'Purple Stock and Red Cassock' [26] and so it goes on.

Thus, the prophets have been effectively silenced - most of them rendered speechless with despair. However, one or two have learned from Wittgenstein that 'what we cannot speak about we must assign to silence'. [27] To those in such a position, the words of Professor Donald McKinnon come in comfort, 'such silence is itself a kind of indirect communication, the ultimate 'marturia te aletheia' [28] There are some who can thank God for every remembrance of such men. These are the men who have kept more than one in the ministry of the Church. The destruction of the prophetic has developed from the strong obsession of men of acquired influence in the Church with sacerdotalism and ecclesiasticism and their influence has been cyclically derived from such obsessions.

With such a total neglect of the prophetic, it can be seen from the past history of the Church 'how an institution and an ideal is modified as it passes through the centuries, and takes its colour from its surroundings. In such a gradual transformation, the crisis comes when the ideal has lost its force and the surrounding world has imposed its spirit as well as its pattern'.[29] This is the verdict of a contemporary Roman Catholic academic historian who is also a monk. Friedrich Heer puts it more cogently. 'Luther's reproach of the 'Babylonian whore' is, if properly understood timeless! The so-called 'church' - meaning concrete Christianity - has up until now gone to bed with every overlord in every — moment of history'. [30] This whoredom of the church, Bonhoeffer reminds us arises from 'a resurgence of the old Adam, the sin Adam committed when he desired to be as God, to be the creator of life, to rule rather than to serve'. [31]

The temptation to rule, to superintend, to 'give leadership', to speak for the Church of Scotland, to become a controller of the heritage of Christ, to be one of 'the great statesmen of the Church' or even, as has been mealily mouthed at not a few ecclesiastical sunshine hours, to be 'a prince of the Church'. All this, God help us, is still with us despite the lessons of the reformation and the gradual jettisoning of the mediaeval hierarchical concepts [32] within a redeemed society.

The following extract from The Glimmering Landscape is sufficient to illustrate such an attitude and more: 'the doctrine that all men are equal, however, has never worked in this world, and it was not likely that it would work in the church. In so far as it is still maintained by Presbyterianism, it is but a mere fiction and pretence. Like many another popular slogan, it impresses the crowd and means nothing. In practice the Church of Scotland has long departed from the position that all its ministers, as regards their ecclesiastical status, stand in a position of complete equality. Having abolished one set of dignitaries, it has learned from experience and has had to create another. The Moderator of the General Assembly, with his title of Right Reverend, his chaplains and the rest, invested in face of the Assembly with an official ring like any prelate, has been exalted into a sort of national archbishop. In the official papers of the Assembly the word consecration is now used in connection with his installation to office! ... Ex-Moderators constitute a select hierarchy, and are styled not the Reverend like their humbler brethren, but the Very Reverend. Her Majesty's Chaplains with their scarlet cassocks enjoy a high prestige, and a quite august atmosphere surrounds a Professor of Divinity, the Convener of an Assembly Committee, or even a presbytery greatest tragedy affecting the life of the Church of Scotland is apparent. The tragedy has been its growing absorption, since the reformation of middle class cultural values.[36] In saying this, I am well aware that such values pre-date the reformation. [37] Much of the success of Marxist attacks on Protestant Christianity has been because of its epitomization of all that is bourgeois or better petit bourgeois - in contradistinction to the continuing Fascism of Roman Catholicism. [38] In saying this, I am not criticising middle class cultural values but the Church's adoption of them to the exclusion of others. This has been the root cause of the Church of Scotland's failure to integrate the proletarianised Scots of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into the life of the Church. How could one expect to bring the working class community into a meaningful Christian fellowship through Missions and Mission Sunday Schools run not so long ago by middle class elders and well-meaning nice ladies of independent means from Broughton Place, St. George's and the like, who were neither members of the community nor prepared to be identified with it. [39] As a contemporary distinguished historian has said, 'Church and Mission were associated but distinct; one gave charity and the other received it. Women and children attended the Mission Hall and self-respecting working men were absent... The wife of a visiting minister once hurriedly put on an old raincoat to attend [a Glasgow church's] evening service when her husband was preaching. As she was leaving someone said to her, We were glad to have you here tonight; but wouldn't you be more at home in the Mission!' [40/41] We still have not learned as John Miller recently made clear. [42] In addition, this middle class gentility still continues to distort the totality and catholicity of the proclamation of the gospel. This gentility is demonstrated in all its pathos, e.g., in the Church Hymnary. Third Edition. Hymn 476 omits the strongest part of its advent theme: As nearer draws the day of doom, While still the battle rages, The heavenly dayspring, through the gloom, Breaks on the night of ages.[42]

Not the kind of stuff to appeal to those sitting in suburbia in a moquette covered easy chair and it certainly reduces the great eschaton to the more readily acceptable atmosphere of a church hall coffee morning! The excisions from the psalter seem to be motivated by the same kind of atmospheric conditions. [43] This churchy hazy haar contributes greatly to one growing practice which makes the future of the church most uncertain. That is, the failure to state clearly what it maintains to be true and essential. This is so widespread that even the most central words which define fundamentals of doctrine and worship are misused. The Church long ago was aware of the necessity 'to labour to have things rightly worded'. [44] The primary cause of the current corruption is, of course, that the Church has often failed to support the truth or even lived out a lie. However, at the present time, many pronouncements or even words are used to conceal radical differences so that the membership has no idea of what the Church of Scotland really means when words are used. There is no future for a Church given to semantic dishonesty.

Here we are not concerned, e.g., with the debate concerning the more academic problems of the semantic presuppositions of Kittel's Theologisches Worterbuch [45] but the terrible way in which, as that ecumenical scholar Professor Gordon Rupp has said, 'there is a disappearance of the beauty of our English language (the daily sacrifice offered or mutilated on the altar of the Ecumenical Movement)'. [46] Unfortunately, the content of our English language is also sacrificed and mutilated by that same movement. I take but three central words.

What a mess the Church is in as the current correspondence in Life and Work indicates. No one seems to know of baptists and anabaptists. While there is little awareness of the problem which faced the early church and the reformers: their attitudes and solutions. [47]

An alien word - eucharist - now in more common parlance describes just one aspect, and not the most important, of the Lord's Supper, seems to be used by certain ecclesiastical paperhangers to cover over chasms. Eucharist - a word which is often vocalised in such a way as to give out the antiseptic aura of the withdrawingroom rather than that power of communion with Him who triumphed over blood, sweat, toil, tears and death.

Probably the silliest use of a word which has been recently introduced through all kinds of revolving back doors is 'confirmation' which makes its debut in The Church Hymnary. Third Edition. This word reminds us of what Humpty Dumpty said in the same kind of scornful tones as has been heard from defenders of this and other such words which, to quote words used in another area of liturgical practice, have 'no genuine roots in Scottish tradition! [48] You remember what Humpty Dumpty said, When I use a word ... it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less'. 'But', said Alice, 'the question is ... whether you can make words mean so many different things'. [49] The church has become a Wonderland and it all depends on which side of the looking glass you stand.

To go one step further: probably the most serious condition of the Church is its complete uncertainty about what the Gospel is for the world of today and tomorrow. Karl Barth has said, We see the Church of today in no sure position, wavering between yes and no, even more in ethics than in dogmatics, now silent where it ought to speak, now speaking where it ought to be silent; always two steps behind in its deliberations, behind what the world has done without it; sulky and self-conscious in its ethical objectives; definite only where it has nothing to fear for itself. It is full of goodwill towards all sides; but certainly, very certainly, it raises no prophetic voice, no watchman's eye, above the confusion of other voices'. [50] The confusion of voices is in the Church as well as the world. So much confusion that the Committee of Forty has never been able to fulfil its first remit, viz. To seek to discern for the Church the nature of God's purposes for his people in Scotland! [51]

What do we hear from the pulpits? There is a wide choice! The candy floss preaching which leads to rampant diabetes bringing blindness and footrot or 'the ballet of bloodless categories; as Dr. F. H. Bradly wrote, that gyrate and dance in a vacuum. There is on the one hand the seventeenth century orthodoxy which induces schizophrenia in the simple and on the other the social gospel of the dilettante which is neither condescendingly considered in the Cafe Royal nor smirked at in the Artisan Bar. There are the vapours in which nothing can come alive as not one spark is flying upwards or one can hear the exhalings of The Expository Times or the purloinings or plagiarisations of the printed word preached in the time of the good old Queen or a little later! [52] The anaemia of the Church cries out for iron. This ferrous ingredient has to be hammered out by the theologians of the Church of which every minister has to be one. This is not a demand for writing table theology peering shortsightedly from behind the dust of tomes. Luther knew that 'not reading or speculating, but living, dying and being damned make a theologian'. Remember the words of St. John, Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof . [53] Why is this not happening in the midst of the Church? Why does the Lion of Judah not break open the book to reveal the destiny of the world as the allusion to Ezekiel infers? [54] The situation has been created where it is impossible for the Church to bear having the Book wrenched open, for it has turned the Lion of Judah into a domesticated pet.

The unawareness of the Christian gospel within the Church which has been brought about by such activity has had the effect of creating a conscious or unconscious disobedience of the people of God and the Church is in danger of the greatest of disasters, if the disaster has not already struck: it is not merely empty pews, nor empty coffers, nor empty lives but empty souls - the suspension of grace.

The result of this was seen quite clearly by Lord Eustace Percy who wrote, The twentieth-century Christian sees a static Church in a changing world; the first-century Christian saw a static world and, at the heart of it, a Church travailing in the birth-pangs of a new creation and looking for the revelation of the sons of God'. [55] In other words, the world is on the move and the Church has become paralysed. This paralysis is the direct result of a failure to appreciate the four essential factors in our Reformation heritage which Reinold von Thadden-Trieglaff has enunciated:

i the spirit of initiative
ii. the dynamic power of creative, imaginative ideas
ii. the capacity for realistic decision-making, and
iv. the courage of ethical responsibility [56]

These are almost non-existent in the Church of Scotland today. In such a situation, the question has now to be put, 'Has the Church of Scotland a future?

In spite of what has already been said, many will correctly maintain that the question, 'Will the Scottish Church Survive?' was put almost fifty years ago by George Thomson [57] and the Church is still here. However, fifty years in the life of a nation or a church is a very short time and all will admit that the catastrophic decline in the number of first communicants reveals the lowest proportion of that age group joining the Church in Scotland for a thousand years. The most recent work in this field is being undertaken by John F. Kirk. [58]

Yet most would claim that the Church of Scotland will always continue to exist. We are constantly being told - somewhat im-Moderatorily - that 'the Church is in good heart'. While our hymn revisers were so confident that they thought we were past maintaining that the Church's strength is unequal to her task. [59] However, is it absolutely certain that the Church will continue? Take a warning from the once powerful church in North Africa in the early centuries A.D., later swamped by the Moslems and now a mere shadow. Hidden beneath the pompous title of Pope and Patriarch of Alexanderia is a baptised membership roughly the same as the number in Orkney. Why did it happen? The old theory propounded by Christian crusading historians was that the Moslems put all Christians to the sword - an instance where the blood of martyrs was not the seed of the church. All contemporary historians [60] worthy of the name agree with the verdict of Hans Ruedi Weber, 'A church which does not recognise the sociological and economic changes in its environment and historical setting, and where its ecclesiastical structure hinders rather than further its pastorial and missionary task within modern society, is under sentence of death'. [61] The same symptoms are apparent in Scotland today!

Could the North African ecclesiastical desert winds blow into Scotland? Has the Church a future? If one is truthful, the answer has to be a hope without illusions [62] or, to put it more honestly, one has to strive for hope amid scepticism [63] to use phrases which come from men faced with real struggles to ensure some kind of future. It is because I cannot see the Church yet convinced of its sin, with an almost total absence of any impulse to real self-examination, and therefore having an inability to repent and reform that I can but view the future with hope amid scepticism.

I have hope because the Church is now acknowledged to be shrinking rapidly. I would be in extreme hopelessness if God continued the Church in its present form. I have hope that some strong minds may read the signs of the times and initiate radical measures. I am sceptical because the membership of the Church is old. It is very like those living on the state pension: having to be satisfied with what has been salvaged from an active life that is now over - a few mementos, the old-fashioned shiny suit or the outmoded faded straw hat bravely sporting a new plastic flower, greying surroundings and a minimum diet. These are the only things that can be clung to. They will be the sole support to the end. As eyesight dims with all passion spent, memories sustain. The shrivelling number of aged faces and the half remembered few old sweet songs alone give meaning to life. The past is always bright for today and tomorrow.

I have hope because it is only when men see that the shaping of the world's destiny has fallen from the hands of those who failed to make known the divine will and recovered by a vast fragmented army of technocrats that the world is seen to be crying out for those brave enough to assert once more the relevance of the queen of the sciences which alone can reintegrate to wholeness and completeness. This could be achieved if the total membership of the Church was involved for, as Alec Vidler has said, 'our professional theologians ... never seem to have any devastating new ideas'.[64]

Professor Whitehouse has neatly summarised the matter: The time is ripe for theology as a discipline to be re-orientated so as to become more open towards science, morals, law, letters, art and religions -including Chinese irreligion and the attitudes closely resembling it which are live options for persons in Britain today. This openness will be for the sake of directing attention to the ways in which men ask and answer fundamental human questions, and therefore for the sake of recovering what it is that makes human life the rewarding, rich, tragic, enigmatic adventure which it is known to be in any culture worth the name. Here then is new and exacting work to be done'. [65]

I am sceptical because in an age of rising levels of general education, the standard of theological competence and intellectual openness in many manses is non-existent: [66] while most elders, even those who are highly educated academically, have an understanding of the Bible and the doctrinal standards of the Church which would not equip them for a discussion with a ten year old member of the Young Communist League. Theology has become a four-letter word twice over in the Church and particularly in its courts. What confidence is inspired in such exalted surroundings when the church barrackroom lawyer proclaims, 'Of course, I am no theologian!' The tragedy is not that he invariably carries the vote but that his massive support reveals both the loss of nerve regarding the academic and intellectual status of theology within the ministry and the elders' relief that their theological illiteracy is considered commendable by their peers.

I am hopeful where I hear a word or observe activity which reveals the existence of a faithful remnant within the Church. When semper reformanda is really accepted, the reform of the Church, which revitalises it, is invariably brought about by a minority. [67] Ibsen may not have been absolutely right when he formulated the phrase that 'the minority is always right' [68] but one can with confidence apply to the Church Sydney Smith's claim that 'Minorities ... are almost always in the right'.[69] I am hopeful because this is the era of minorities bringing about change and the world has made it possible for the Church's faithful remnant to take heart, not from the ecclesiastical, but from the worldly successes of remnants.

I am sceptical because devious flattery of the sweet rabble-rouser is used to delude the majority in the Church into a self-congratulatory frame of mind which reinforces them in their malaise and they are encouraged to sleep out their unthinking lives in the cultivated illusion that they are at ease in Zion. [70]

It has also to be recognised that the direction in which the Church is proceeding is so institutionalised that the possibility of an inspired minority ever being in a position to bring about the necessary reorientation appears almost impossible.

I am hopeful about the future of the Church when I observe specialists in various areas of life speaking convincingly with the combined authority of intellectual and spiritual insight about Christian obedience within their own spheres of competence. I am sceptical because far greater publicity is given to the unfailing store of omnicompetent 'church leaders' who are only too willing to fall as an easy prey to the lures of the hunters of the mass media and make long windy comments on the latest controversial theological advanced views, to pass highsounding ethical judgements on an unseen prose, whether a play or a novel, and to give endless nonchalant off-the-cuff pronouncements on all the manifold affairs of mice and men. Thus these naive unconscious ecclesiastical verbal caricaturists continue to supplement the ridiculous folk-lore which makes the Church appear so preposterous and so hollow that it ceases even to be the burlesque figure of fun it used to be.

I am hopeful for 'Indeed, today, after the miserable and gigantic breakdown of our Western Commonwealth and European politics, courage is needed to maintain, quand meme, in spite of the bankruptcy of European statesmanship and the general unrest and actual or menacing economic disorder and distress, the confidence that history is in God's hands and that it has a goal, surpassing human understanding. God's Revelation is not finished - it continues. To the task of Christian thought, it belongs little by little to make history understood in a religious sense, that is, to make men learn to see in the whole of history, in a prophetic way, God's miracle, his revelation. For that purpose are required, first and last, a scholarly penetration of the leading ideas of Scripture, then a broad and deep study of history, also clear and comprehensive thought, well versed in the progress of human thinking, and a truly scientific frame of mind, every ready to modify and correct conceptions and views, however dear, in deference to better information. But it is essential that such a Christian thinker on history should place himself within the glowing beams of light that issue forth from God's mercy in Christ'. [71] These words from Soderblom's Gifford lectures present clearly the way in which the Church must rethink its role as the interpreter of human existence and face, with a recovered confidence, the exponents of secular ideologies who not only claim but have convinced the vast majorities of the peoples of the world that history is on their side. These secular prophets are winning because of the church's flight from the actual within history. The secular faith-builders are active, informed, convinced and have the initiative because the primary functions of the ministry are lacking in the Church. The Church only has a future if it can again be convinced under the Lord of all to be the moulder and shaper of human history - the task to which the Church is ultimately called.

May I say that the form of this paper has been dictated by the prevailing condition of the patient. It would appear that most within the Church are suffering from schizophrenia or depression; it is usual in such cases to administer shock treatment as a precondition to recovery. If a little fear, fright or shock has gripped your heart and mind, I am more than rewarded.

In conclusion, may I quote Sir John Skene, James VI's famous Lord Advocate and Lord Clerk Register: [72] 'Quhat ever I have done I did it not to offend thee or to displease any man, bot to provoke uthers to do better'. [73]


1. W. H. van der Pol, The Christian Dilemma. new York. 1952, Das reformatorische Christentum in phaenomenologischer Betrachtung. Einsdeln. 1956, etc.

2. R. Adolfs, The Grave of God: has the Church a Future? trans. D. N. Smith. London. 1967.

3. A massive bibliography could be given.

4. D. Shaw, There I met an old man' in Manse Mail, Edinburgh. May 1970. 22-24.

5. Nor proceeding 'from coler then of zeal and reason'. (The Works of John Knox. ed. D. Laing. Edinburgh. 1846. v. 5).

6. Paris. 1955

7. R. Adolfs, op. cit.

8. 1970.

9. 1969.

10. In Zeichen der Zeit. Berlin. 1967. 441-51.

11. London. 1969.

12. J. L. Hromadka, Theologie und Kirche zwischen gestern und morgen. Neukirchen. 1960. 99.

13. G. B. Ladner, The Idea of Reform. Cambridge. Mass. 1959.

14. K Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto, ed. H. J. Laski. London. 1948.124.

15. Hebrews xiii. 14.

16. I Peter iv. 17.

17. II Corinthians vii. 10.

18. K. Barth, Church Dogmatics. Edinburgh. 1961. iii. part 3. 334f. cf. E. Jungel, Uber die Linie. 1950. 12.

19. E. Bethge, Dietrich Bonheoffer. Theologe, Christ, Zeitgenosse. Munich. 1967. 479.

20. This has to be viewed against the other churches' involvement in the apocalyptic events of the time. (cf. A. Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oecumene 1933-1939. Munich. 1969, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene 1939-1945. Munich. 1975).

21. J. Wilson Aderson, 'Forty Years On' in New College Bulletin. Edinburgh. No. 7. September, 1977. 4-5. Another student was J. Fraser McLusky who married the daughter of Herbert Calaminus, minister in Wuppertal, who acted as one of the Seminary Directors of the Prussian Bruderrat (W. Niemoller, Die Evangelische Kirche im Dritten Reich. Bielefeld. 1957. 347), until he, his wife, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were all killed in an air raid on Wuppertal.

22. The question was put by the bishop of Gloucester whose role prior to 1939 was very questionable. (cf. the German Christian Professor, G. Wobbermin, Der Bischof von Gloucester uber Volkstum, Christentum in Kirche in England und Deutschland. Berlin. 1939).

23. Quoted by A. Muir, John White. C. H., D. D., LL. D. London. 1958. 451.

24. Acts, Proceedings and Debates of the General Assembly. Held at Edinburgh, May 1934. Edinburgh. 1934. 9.

25. cf. the amazingly irrelevant Church and Nation Committee Report and ensuing debate in the General Assembly of 1934 which took place on the same day as the opening of the historic first Confessing Synod of Barman. (A. C. Cochrane, The Church's Confession under Hitler. Philadelphia. 1962. 140-180: cf. The Significance of the Barman Declaration for the Ecumenical Church. Theology. Occasional Papers. New Series. London. 1943. No. 5).

26. Letter dated 28th November 1975.

27. Quoted by D. MacKinnon, op. cit. 35.

28. Ibid.

29. D. Knowles, Saints and Scholars, Cambridge. 1962. 203.

30. F. Heer, quoted by K Farner, 'Criticism of Christianity' in Communio Viatorum, Prague. 1966. ix. 34.

31. D. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship. London. 1959. revised edition. 255.

32. cf. e.g., J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages. London. 1955. 56-66.

33. C. L. Warr, The Glimmering Landscape. London. 1960. 138-139.

34. Mark xii.37.

35. Quoted in D. Schmidt, Pastor Niemoller. London. 1959. 158 cf. Niemoller's own words in Zeitschrift fur evangelisches Kirchenrecht. 1959-1960. vii. 340.

36. cf. G. Harkness, John Calvin, the Man and his Ethics. New York. 1958. 157-177.

37. e.g. Leon Battista Alberti, Delgoverno della famiglia. cf. E. Aubel, Leon Batista Alberti e i libri Della Famiglia. 1913.

38. Continuing to be displayed in such activities as the canonisation of John Ogilvie who was rightly hanged for treason, although the King dispensed with his being drawn and quartered.

39. cf. e.g. A. A. MacLaren, Religion and Social Class. The Disruption Years in Aberdeen. London. 1974 and H. McLeod, Class and Religion in the late Victorian City. London. 1974.

40. A. L. Drummond and J. Bulloch, The Church in Victorian Scotland. 1843-1874. Edinburgh. 1975. 50.

41. J. D. Miller, Problems of the Ministry and Mission of the Church in New Housing Areas and other Working Class Parishes. Glasgow. 1976. passim, especially 2, 5-7.

42. Cp. Hymn 476 in The Church Hymnary. third edition. with Hymn 370 in The Revised Church Hymnary. There are several other genteel pearls! The omissions in Hymn 221 will be treasured by all such (cp. Hymn 77 in R.C.H.). In Hymn 519: Feed the faint and hungry heathen' has become Teed the faithless and the hungry - much more polite!

43. Psalm 72 appears twice in C.H.3. as Hymns 158 and 167 and in both cases verse 9 is omitted: to quote the metrical version:

'They in the wilderness that dwell
bow down before him must,
And they that are his enemies
shall lick the very dust'.

In Psalm 51, verse 5 is omitted (C.H.3. Hymn 63); Psalm 85 lacks verses 3 and 4 (C.H.3. Hymn 75) and Psalm 96 has verse 10 missing (C.H.3. Hymn 311) - all seem to be motivated by some genteel soul!

44. MS Records of Presbytery of Fordyce, 1651.

45. The continuing debate started with J. Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language. Oxford. 1961 and his criticism particularly of the thesis of T. Boman, Hebrew Thought compared with Greek. London. 1960.

46. G. Rupp, The Old Reformation and the new: The Cato Lecture for 1966. London. 1967. 54.

47. cf. the massive and informative footnote in R. H. Bainton, 'The Struggle for Religious Liberty' in Studies on the Reformation. Boston. 1963. 215n.

48. R. S. Louden, The True Face of the Kirk. London. 1963. 59.

49. L. Carroll, Alice Through the Looking-Glass. Chap. vi. I owe this quotation to F. Stroud, The Judicial Dictionary. London. 1890. It may be significant that it has been dropped from the forefront of the third and fourth editions!

50. K. Barth, The Desirability and Possibility of a Universal Reformed Creed' in Theology and Church. London. 1962. 133.

51. Reports to the General Assembly. Edinburgh. 1977. 474f. where the underlying problems are revealed by what is not said.

52. cf. the letter from J. M. Gossip in Life and Work. Edinburgh. September, 1977.

53. Revelation v. 5.

54. Ezekiel ii. 9.

55. Lord Eustace Percy, The Unknown State: a Plea for the Study of Government. Oxford. 1944. 31.

56. R. von Thadden-Trieglass, Der mundige Christ. 1956 quoted by E. Emmen, 'Die Auswirking der Emder Synode von 1571 auf die Entwicklung der Niederlandischen Reformierten Kirche in Verfassung und Bekenntnis' in 1571 Emder Synode 1971. ed. E. Lomberg. Neukirchen-Vluyn. 1973. 149.

57. G. M. Thomson, Will the Scottish Church Survive? Edinburgh. 1930.

58. J. F. Kirk, Examining Edinburgh: A Survey of the Churches in the Presbytery of Edinburgh for the years 1960 to 1972. Edinburgh, n.d. Typewritten and privately circulated and the forthcoming study, The Statistical Survey of Church Life in Edinburgh. 1960-1974.

59. cp. Hymn 477 in C.H.3. with Hymn 344 in R.C.H. verse 3.

60. H. Russillon, Une Enigme missionnaire: Les Destines de l'Eglise Chretienne dans l'Afrique du Nord. Paris. 1931, C. P. Groves, The Planting of Christianity in Africa. London. 1948-1958. 2 vols., W. Freytag, 'Die Lehre der Kirchengeschichte Nordafrikas fur die heutige Mission' in Reden und Aufsatze. Munich. 1961. ii. 63-72.

61. H. R. Weber,'Kirche in Todesgefahr: Einige Lehren aus der nordafrikanischen Kirchengescchichte' in Aufruf und Aufbruch: Zur Gestalt der Kirche in Gegenwart und Zukunft. edd, G. Johann, J. Michel, A. Schonherr and B. Schottstadt. Berlin. 1965. 98.

62. Hoffnungohne Illusion, ed. Zeddies. Berlin. 1970.

63. V. Gardavsky, Hoffnung aus der Skepsis. Munich. 1970.

64. A. Vidler, 'The Future of Divinity in Crisis in the Humanities, ed. J. H. Plumb. London., 1964. 95.

65. W. A. Whitehouse, Theology as a Discipline?' in Universities Quarterly. London. September. 1962. 336.

66. cf. e.g. MS Proceedings of the General Assembly of 1977 and the comments regarding the Filioque Clause of the Nicene Creed during the debate on the Panel on Doctrine Report.

67. While his views on the Remnant are too canonicalised, there are very useful insights in A. T. Hanson, The Pioneer Ministry. London. 1961. 14-45.

68. H. Ibsen, The Enemy of the People. Act iv.

69. Quoted by H. Pearson, The Smith of Smiths. London. 1934. 220.

70. 'The heirarchs are always trying to do the popular thing. They are affable, condescending, and solicitous so that the people will not be aware of their immaturity and their lack of control over their future'. J. Moltmann, The Open Church: Invitation to a messianic life style. London. 1978. 99. (previously read in Neuer Lebenstil. Schritte zur Gemeinde. Munich. 1977).

71. N. Soderblom, The Living God. The Gifford Lectures of 1931. London. 1932. 377-378.

72. G.W.T. Omond, The Lord Advocates of Scotland. Edinburgh. 1883 i. 60-67.

73. Quoted on the title page of Lord Cooper, Select Scottish Cases of the Thirteenth Century. Edinburgh. 1944.

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