27 May 2024

Podcast: The History of the Church in Scotland – with Iver Martin

This article is part of the Affinity Talks Gospel Podcast series.

Hosts Graham Nicholls and Lizzie Harewood welcome Iver Martin, Principal and lecturer in Church History at Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS), to discuss the history of the church in Scotland. They explore the Reformation under leaders like John Knox, the struggles of early reformers, the establishment of Presbyterianism, and key events such as the disruption of 1843. The conversation also addresses modern Christian challenges in a secular society and the importance of engaging with contemporary issues, inspired by historical figures who championed both spiritual and social causes.

In this episode of Affinity Talks Gospel Podcast, we welcome Iver Martin. Iver shares insights from his extensive ministry experience, including his work with bilingual congregations in Aberdeen and Stornoway, and his journey to becoming Principal of ETS.

We delve into the rich history of the gospel in Scotland, highlighting the contributions of pivotal figures like St. Columba. The discussion explores the Reformation period, focusing on influential leaders such as John Knox and the persecution faced by reformers like George Wishart. The conversation also examines the impact of the European Reformation on Scotland and the intricate relationship between politics and religion during that time.

The episode covers the establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland, with Iver illuminating significant events such as the disruption of 1843, when ministers protested state interference, leading to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. The dialogue extends to the development of denominations, including the Baptist movement, and the challenges faced by modern Christians in an increasingly secular society.

As the discussion draws to a close, Iver reflects on how church history informs current challenges. He emphasises the need for the church to engage courageously with contemporary issues, advocating a balanced approach that integrates gospel preaching with societal reform. Drawing inspiration from historical figures who advanced both spiritual and social causes, Iver calls for a proactive stance in addressing today’s obstacles to spreading the gospel and making a positive societal impact.

Find out more about Edinburgh Theological Seminary on their website: ets.ac.uk

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Topics addressed in this Podcast:

  • Identity and cultural differences within the United Kingdom
  • Arrival of the Gospel in Scotland
  • Corruption and executions in the Roman Catholic Church
  • The arrival of the Reformation in Scotland and John Knox
  • Uprising under the leadership of Thomas Chalmers
  • State interference in church affairs and the birth of the Free Church of Scotland
  • The state of the church in Scotland today
  • Courageously standing up for Christian beliefs


[0:11] My name is Graham Nicholls and I’m Lizzie Harewood and this is the Affinity Talks Gospel Podcast.

[0:18] And we have another one of our guests and we’re very excited that we have Iver Martin from Edinburgh Theological Seminary which not surprisingly is based in Edinburgh. So welcome Ivor, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up being in Edinburgh Theological Seminary and what that place is all about. Yeah, thank you, Graham. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Iver Martin. I grew up in Glasgow, although both my parents came from the north of Scotland. I grew up within the Free Church of Scotland, but spent 12 years, first of all, in the microelectronics industry before going into ministry during my early 30s. I then had two congregations within the Free Church of Scotland, one in Aberdeen and the other one in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. I spent 12 years there and my congregation were bilingual. We had services in English and in Scots Gaelic.

[1:19] So that was a very interesting place to minister, as was Aberdeen. A lot of our congregation in Aberdeen were students, so that was a really interesting and a really important ministry. So I love ministry very, very much indeed. But then in 2015, the Free Church of Scotland wanted me to run Edinburgh Theological Seminary, so we moved to Edinburgh, and we’ve been here ever since.

[1:49] It’s a beautiful place to live. Absolutely. I wish you could see the view out my window. has got to be the most enviable you in the country. Yeah, which is of? The United Kingdom. No, I mean, sorry. Of you. What’s the country of? The country of. I thought you were trying to provoke some political discussion. Oh, no, no, no. Not yet.

[2:17] Which is of Princess Street and Edinburgh Newtown, what they call Edinburgh Newtown. Edinburgh used to be concentrated in where I am, the sort of eye elevation of the castle but then of course it expanded in the various centuries and so I’m looking out over the Firth of Forth which is the stretch of water that eventually becomes the river Forth and on a clear day which it is not uh you can see all the way over to the kingdom of faith wow uh do you feel yourself to be well are you a gaelic speaker for one yes and do you feel yourself to be Scottish like it’s a thing um as a Gaelic speaker or as just I don’t know I suppose the Gaelic speaking sort of adding to that it was a sort of question but it was more you know obviously you’ve ministered in Scotland grew up in Scotland uh i don’t think the English feel themselves to be English. Lizzie might contradict me.

[3:25] I think we just feel ourselves to be something bland. I think if we were to compare it to, say, the Welsh identity, and I spent years living in Wales, where although it’s a small population, there’s still a significant number of people who speak Welsh and it’s mandatory in schools. And obviously that isn’t the same in Scotland. Right. So, yeah, how does that tap into your sense of identity? I think I would answer that question, yes, I do. Historically, I have a tremendous appreciation, not everyone will agree with me, but a tremendous appreciation for all of the countries that make up our United Kingdom. Them um and it all strikes me the diversity that there is within England itself i mean we have somebody who works here who’s from Newcastle for example and i asked her the other day you know does she feel more identified with me as a Scot or somebody from london and there was this hesitation.

[4:32] Yeah so there is such a diversity within the country which I always find fascinating their team well it’s interesting because I live in Doncaster and there’s some I don’t know old adage around here that says that we are still or we are somehow a part of Scotland because we had I think we had a lot of Scottish immigration so I’m not entirely sure where that came from but I must say that our church was blessed with a Scottish minister for well over 20 years from Edinburgh and now we have a Scottish family doing, well he’s our youth worker and his wife and so we’ve been very blessed from Edinburgh in particular in fact.

[5:13] Yeah. I am sometimes asked when I talk to my English friends, you know, how is Edinburgh Theological Seminary doing for the church in Scotland? Yeah. I think there’s a sort of a subtle presupposition there that there’s a sort of mythical border. Well, there is an actual border, but it really is a psychological one as much as everything else. Because in an age of high technology and fast travel and everything else, we can serve the theological training needs of the whole country and indeed beyond that, you know, to Europe and the rest of the world. Um so I’m always interested to answer that question how’s ETS doing for school what’s it doing for Scotland just really briefly because we’re going to talk about church history but just so you can tell us about evangelical um sorry edinburgh theological seminary well what do you do i think i know what you do but just so our listeners get to hear what you do A lot of my work is managerial, it’s admin, fundraising.

[6:19] A lot of my work is going to meetings and everything that you do at this level, which is sometimes quite tedious, but necessary at the same time. Our degrees are validated by the University of Glasgow, so I have to make sure that all of the requirements are in place. We’re also QAA registered. So a lot of my job is that kind of administrative stuff. I do teach church history, particularly Scottish church history, and that runs all the way from just before the Reformation all the way up to the present moment. Right.

[6:54] Well, we’re going to talk about church history in Scotland as a companion to us looking at the history in Wales and Northern Ireland, well, the whole of Ireland, actually, and England. We found someone to talk about England church history, which is kind of, in a sense, it’s the history of the whole church. But tell us, first of all, how the gospel came to Scotland.

[7:19] Did it come distinctly from it arriving in England or indeed into Wales? No. Yeah, fascinating question. And truth be known, nobody completely knows. If you go all the way back to the early church, the first two or three centuries, we’re really not sure. Sure, it is thought that the Romans would have, or some of the Romans would have, would have taken the gospel across because we know that within the Roman military, there were Christian people. So there must have been a Christian influence there.

[7:56] The big name, of course, is St. Columba, who was Irish. He was from Donegal. He lived from 521 to 597. And at the age of 42, he took a trip to Scotland for some undefined reason. He had already come to faith by that stage, but we don’t know how or when. But he decided to set up a monastery somewhere.

[8:25] And he made his way to the west part of Scotland, which was known in those days as Dalriada. And that occupied the sort of extreme west, the islands and the mainland on the extreme west. And that part of Scotland had already been populated by many people from Ireland. So in coming and settling in that region, he began to minister essentially to his own people, to people of his own culture. However, once he did that, he then began to spread the gospel to various parts of Scotland. Long story short, churches were planted in various parts of Scotland through his influence. So St. Columba is the person who is credited with bringing the gospel to Scotland. Although there were other influences, for sure. There’s not a huge amount of information.

[9:28] So that’s about 500 years after, well, 500 AD-ish. Yeah, in the 6th century, yeah. Yes, wow. Wow. And you have a Free Church of Scotland church of that name in the Golden Mile, don’t you? We have indeed, yes. St. Columbus Free Church, that’s right. So you venerate saints in your denomination? No, we don’t. No, not the dead ones. Sometimes we venerate the living ones. Is that why? No, no.

[10:03] This is a really stupid question, but you would count him, in as much as we can understand it, a genuine believer who actually understood the gospel and was speaking the gospel as we would recognize it. It’s so difficult to answer that kind of question because there’s so little known. And there is a lot of hagiography with St. Columba. And there’s so much that has been written about him that hasn’t actually come from him at all. So we’re not sure of the sources. We can only go by what we think we know. But I think it’s fair to say that we can trace our roots back to then defective as his message may have been we just don’t know.

[10:59] And that’s true for so much of that era of course there’s far more information that the more recent the cases are. And your sort of specialist or your particular knowledge seems to be devoted to sort of Reformation history. Is that correct? And would that be focusing on people like John Knot? Yeah, yeah. As time went on, again, we’re condensing centuries here, But as the church spread and as the influence of the gospel spread, of course, Scotland became part of what was known as Christendom, became part of the Roman Catholic system. System and by the 15th, 16th century, things had become so hopelessly corrupt, even you’ll, get Roman Catholic historians who will agree to that, and even at the time there was an agreement within the Roman Catholic hierarchy itself that things had become, it had gone out of control.

[12:16] Of money, power. For example, one particularly notorious character in the early 16th century was Cardinal David Beaton, and his seat of power was in St Andrews, and he was responsible for the.

[12:36] Death of a number of people because they preached the gospel. I mean, one of the most astonishing things of that era is people were hauled over the coals literally uh because they preached the gospel and because they didn’t adhere to the system as it were how were they discovering that so they’re in the Roman Catholic system and they how do they discover the gospel from the Bible I’m scared well from the Bible I mean anybody who took the Bible I mean at some points it was illegal even to have a Bible in your own language uh because there were there was one time when there was a reprieve during the time of Mary of Guise, who was the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. And there was a little period of a window of reprieve and she allowed people to have the Bible in their own language. And all of a sudden, everybody went out and bought a Bible, but only the rich could afford one. And it was an accessory to your furniture. It was to be displayed for guests to see and it was a kind of sign of your opulence. If you had a Bible on your coffee table. In fact, John Knox, when he came on the scene, he didn’t approve of this at all because they had Bibles for all the wrong reasons, just to kill off their wealth.

[13:57] But normally speaking, the Roman Catholic Church disapproved of anyone reading or understanding the Bible for themselves. That was one of the points of the Reformation. So does that mean you’ve got a thousand years, roughly, where there’s little pockets breaking out of people understanding the gospel, but overall the kind of same decline that was happening in England where the church was becoming more corrupt both theologically and financially, behaviorally as well. So that’s a tough thousand years, isn’t it? It was, yeah. Well, I think you say that, but there were some parts that were easier than others. I mean, some that were not as difficult as others. It all depended on where you lived and who was in charge at that particular time.

[14:48] But the interesting thing was, one of the really interesting things is that this was recognised within the Catholic system itself. I was listening this morning to an account and it really just, it sounded more like I was listening to some kind of, I don’t know, Italian mobster story whereby executions and people were invited to have debates and then they were executed.

[15:17] And I think I was listening to an account of someone called Wishart, was he quite a significant… George Wisher, yeah. Wisher, okay, sorry, my pronunciation. And he was invited by some cardinal to come and debate. That’s right. Have a theological debate, but was obviously there under false pretences and was that same day burnt at the stake. Yeah, yeah. That was George Wishart and John Knox was his bodyguard. John Knox was a younger man then and Wishart was a very well-known preacher. He was an itinerant preacher who was arrested protested um because he preached the gospel and and what you’re referring to it’s really interesting you know they were called disputations right were illegal you know you couldn’t discuss the bible i mean it was so bizarre uh and i think modern Christians find this so incredible that you know that the roman catholic system was so rigid there was only one meaning to what the Bible said, and don’t question it, just accept it. And if you question it, you’re stepping so far out of line that you could be condemned to death by burning.

[16:37] It’s hard for us to understand what it must have been like at that time, but George Wishart was someone who was influenced by the European Reformation. He came over and he powerfully preached the gospel. He became well known amongst the ordinary people of that time and he was arrested and he was burned at the stake, like you say. That was a turning point because.

[17:02] There was politics involved. It wasn’t simply a theological matter or an ecclesiastical matter, but there was politics involved. Some people believe that Henry VIII had it in for him in any case. Sorry, had it in for, I’m talking about David Beaton, who tried him. Uh-huh right so David Beaton calls George Wishart and he puts him on trial it was a mock trial he has him burnt at the stake then David Beaton is assassinated uh by all these guys who break into his castle in St Andrews and who stab him to death and hang his body out for everybody to see is also grim and gruesome uh but like I say there was politics involved where it was said that Henry the 8th didn’t like him anyway, so who knows what part he had in this murder. But that was a turning point where his murder was the catalyst whereby a lot of events took place that led eventually to the Reformation. He’s not the guy, Wishart, who preached in a river once, I think.

[18:11] I think he preached, I think I’ve read somewhere that he preached in a frozen river in order to not be in either England or Scotland, so he couldn’t be arrested or something um that is possible story i remember i’m pretty sure it was him um because i remember commenting uh that um john knox was his bodyguard which i thought was just very amusing and yeah i’ve never thought john knox is being a bodyguard type person um but yeah so apparently knox was a very small man as well so not your kind of archetypal bodyguard one remarkable story i heard was um that knox uh was implicated apparently he was implicated in this kind of mob assassination of of the um of david’s beaten um i don’t know whether this is true whether i i was hearing this correctly and then he was taken capture and enslaved yeah and um was it the french yeah and uh and he was on a slave ship or boat or something and and uh as part of the uh um the kind of the catholic ritual was made to the other slaves were um forced to take part in in some of their kind of um.

[19:31] I don’t know, some rituals and the slaves in particular who I think were largely Protestant were made to bow to a statue of Mary and to venerate her. I don’t know if this is true, but apparently Knox managed to throw the statue into the sea.

[19:55] Is that a true anecdote? Well, I mean, it’s like I said before, you know, it’s as true as the people who put all these things together. It’s what you believe. Yeah, I mean, that is a well-known story. The statue of Mary was passed around the galley slaves. Right. It was to kiss the statue. And when it came to Knox, he is reported to have said, well, if she’s all that powerful, let her learn to swim. Yes. He was sent overboard, which must have caused a massive offense to some of the bosses at that time. But he was on the galley slave for a year and a half. He almost died. He was taken to France, and then he was taken back to Scotland, and he was released as part of a sort of diplomatic exchange agreement, and he was released into England. He spent quite a while in England after that time. So… Place us now in in kind of history what’s happening with Henry VIII at this time is as he is he as the sort of reformation started by now yeah yeah he he well again, one of the fascinating things about the protest reformation in Britain is the contrast between the way that it took place in England and uh where henry the eighth because of his exploits with.

[21:15] Who he wanted to marry and who he didn’t like as a wife and all the rest of it he falls out with the Pope, and then he decides that he’s the head of the Church of England and he’s going to allow all this Protestant stuff to come in and so on and so forth.

[21:30] So in England, it’s happening, if you like, top down. In Scotland, it happens some decades afterwards, but it happens the opposite way. It happens bottom up. It’s the ordinary people that become reformed in their thinking. king. And it is our people’s revolution rather than it coming from the king or the queen, because the hierarchy were totally against it. You know, Mary, Queen of Scots’ mother, for example, Mary of Guise, she tried her best. She was a French queen, and she tried her best to resist the Reformation. But then she died in 1560, and that left an open door for the Reformation to happen but it happened as a people’s movement it was an overnight revolution and you still had you were a separate kingdom at this time oh yeah yeah um uh it was unified under James no it was unified in 1707 yeah no i think what you’re talking about is the union of the crowns was in 1603. Yeah.

[22:42] Right? Or 1603, yeah. So that was the union of the crowns. But that didn’t unify the two countries. The two countries were still separate, but they had the one king. Right. Which was James. James, and then Charles, and then Charles II. Yeah. Okay. But James, famous for the King James version. Yes. Correct. Yeah. So James II.

[23:08] Yeah, anyway, it’s second or first in England or Scotland. I can’t remember which. Yeah, that’s right. He was James VI of Scotland and James I of England. Now, just get back into John Knox. It seems a massive thing. So it’s grassroots. They rediscover the Bible, it would seem, and salvation by faith, by the grace of God. Where does the Westminster Confession fit into that? Is that being compiled at this time? No, no. Well, the Westminster Confession is 80 years later. Okay. Okay. The church at the time of Knox, Knox’s job was to re-educate the populace away from the idea of the mass, transubstantiation, the veneration of Mary, all of these pre-Reformation ideas, and to get people reading the Bible. So Knox’s dream was to, for example, set up schools in every parish, train ministers, you know, and to educate people into thinking for themselves about the Bible and to worshipping in a much more simple and more inclusive way. Remember, pre-Reformation, your worship was pretty much watching a choir and listening to them singing, whereas now, everybody sang for themselves. You know, they sang the Psalms.

[24:36] But the church then had to develop, and it was 80 years after John Knox that the Westminster Confession came into play.

[24:47] So what year would that be then? Well, John Knox, the Reformation happened in 1560 and Westminster was like 1643. Okay, okay. I was going to say, so at what point did Protestantism become the sort of religion of the realm, as it were, in Scotland? Well, in 1560, when the whole country overnight changed from being a Roman Catholic country to being a Protestant country, and it was literally illegal to practice the Mass. So it was like a night and day transformation. And what was this church called? The Kirk. The Kirk. The Kirk. And is that what kind of evolved into the Presbyterianship? Yeah, that’s correct. That’s absolutely correct.

[25:46] Presbyterianism wasn’t as defined at these early stages.

[25:51] Remember that the Reformation was only the beginning of something then developed over the next decades.

[26:01] And there were all these struggles, for example. One of the main ones was you know what’s the relationship between the church and the state because pre-reformation the church and the state they kind of worked together they were in collusion with each other uh and part of the challenge of Protestantism was to try and work out what exactly should be the relationship between the church and the state now remember the state were on side um it was a state that established Protestantism uh but then the state wanted too much involvement in the church because the church was really powerful. Everybody went to church. So that meant that if you preached against the state, you were likely to sway the minds of the populace. So the church had an interest, sorry, the state had an interest in what the church was saying. So the king and James, for example, the one we’re talking about, James VI, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, he took a tremendous interest in this because he believed in the divine right of kings. He believed that God had appointed him to be the king and therefore he was in charge of the church. And so he had to say exactly, you know, he had to give his approval of everything that the church did. So that was one of the big challenges that faced the church. But as time went on, it became what we now know as Presbyterianism. And James then ended up presiding over the Church of England, which was.

[27:24] What became Anglicanism really and yeah correct yeah all kind of system but in Scotland, he’s presiding over the church of Scotland which is going in a slightly different direction yeah probably a more orthodox Christian direction to some degree not to offend any Anglicans but then what was happening in the church of England probably yeah i think you’re right i I mean, in England, James was the head of the church. I mean, he called the shots. In Scotland, when he tried to do that, the church said, no, you’re not.

[27:59] Because God has appointed his own leadership in the church, and these are elders and ministers, and their job is to apply the Bible, which is the only authoritative rule in the church. So the king is not an authority in the church. In fact, there’s one famous episode where Andrew Melville, who was John Knox’s successor as a Reformation leader, he took James by the sleeve and called him God’s silly vassal. And he said that there are two kingdoms, your majesty. One is your kingdom over which you are the head. And the other one is the kingdom of the church. And you’re only a member in the church. church and he didn’t like this at all, as you can imagine. Yeah. Wow.

[28:50] Not that I’m a Presbyterian, but it sounds good as a matter of principle. And I guess that’s why when King Charles was coronated, or whatever that’s the word, there’s a separate swearing to do with the Church of Scotland, which is distinctive. Yeah, that’s right. It’s an autonomy, which is different to the Church of England. That’s correct. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. So what I’m interested in now is how the, the we freeze the tip of that, Please forgive my Scottish accent there. That’s all right. That’s okay. I think that was a fairly good attempt. I think you need to spend some more time up here. I need to explore some of the delights of Scotland. I really do. Okay, so we’re now fast-forwarding to the 19th century.

[29:38] And I think I probably need to say that there were some troubled times in the 18th century or the 17th century when particularly under the reign of Charles II, when he tried to really and violently impose his form of ecclesiology on the church in Scotland and many within the church were not prepared to do that and they gave their lives and that was the time of the Covenanters. In any case fast forward to 1690 and Charles II is now dead, and you have what they call the Glorious Revolution, at which there was all of a sudden peace between the church and the state in Scotland, and in which the king recognized the autonomy of the church, and the church became the established religion in Scotland. That was in 1690. so if you fast forward another hundred years to a man called Thomas Chalmers who’s probably apart from Knox the single most notable figure in Scottish church history I think I’m right in saying that Chalmers was a genius as well as being an incredible auditor and a jack of all trades he was an economist, he was a mathematician, he was a politician, he was a preacher, he was everything.

[31:05] And at that time, a dispute rose. Again, it was all to do with the state interfering in the church’s affairs. And this time it was about who gets to appoint ministers in congregations. And at that time, there was a system called patronage where the local landowner got to say who the minister was. And the time came at a time of revival round about the beginning of the 19th century, where again, Christians began to say, no, no, we don’t like this. We want to choose our own minister. And we believe that this is a really important part of church life. And so there was an uprising under the leadership of Thomas Chalmers. And long story short, it culminated in the disruption of 1843, where 470 ministers walked out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in protest at the state interfering in church affairs, and that became the Free Church of Scotland.

[32:08] Wow. So it was sort of theological, but more, I mean, it’s to do with theology,

[32:13] because obviously, who appoints it, but it was sort of political as well. Yeah, very much so. Yeah. And how would that sort of denomination then go on to be distinctive in its ecclesiology? Would it have quite distinct kind of features as opposed to the established church? Well, yes and no. I think as time went on, there was a divergence, but not that much. You know, there were various changes that were brought in in the 19th century and in the 20th century. Indeed, the Church of Scotland was the established church at that time. But then in 1921, the Church of Scotland joined, or they were in the process of joining with another big Presbyterian denomination called the United Free Church. And the United Free Church were kind of subsumed into the Church of Scotland in 1929. But the Free Church remained a distinctive denomination, and the Free Church is what I belong to today.

[33:29] It’s evangelical Bible-believing, it’s Reformed, it’s confessional. We’re trying to meet the modern challenges of a modern world in modern Scotland. Tell us if you can roughly speaking anything that happened to non-presbyterian church life uh during that time or is that all a very recent kind of innovation well what any other denominational groups or movements that happened in Scotland yeah um the baptist movement is relatively recent and when i say relatively recent we’re still going back a couple of hundred years. I mean, that is still recent.

[34:13] But it’s not as old as John Knox, for example. There weren’t, as far as I know, very few of any Baptistic-inclined believers at that time.

[34:27] It just hadn’t gotten to that place. But the Baptist movement, the catalyst for the The Baptist movement in Scotland was a movement called the Haldane movement, and that took place in the early 19th century, as far as I can remember. I’m not good with dates, but they were a sort of non-conformist type movement. Evangelical movement that operated outside of the Church of Scotland and as they did so they became more and more Baptistic and so you have a very strong Baptistic movement now in Scotland that takes its place in evangelicalism along with all the rest of us. Right and Brethren is quite strong. Yeah again that, finds its roots south of the border and it’s more and more difficult to trace um a defined uh history uh because a lot of it was like a mission amongst you know fishermen and along the coast there was strong brethren movement on the northeast coast of Scotland um for example but again that’s in the last 100 200 years um do you think the history of the church in Scotland.

[35:52] Has affected the history of politics and the, I suppose, stronger movement for independence. You know, whether you agree with it or not, there is at least a movement that we can all agree exists.

[36:04] Do you think that’s kind of somehow connected with the church as being a defining thing that’s very distinctive? Like if you live in Doncaster, there are differences in there with Scottish people who live there, but it’s not quite the same. You know, people joke about Yorkshire and the independent state and all the rest of it, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t have a long history of that independence. But I think the church maybe history influences that.

[36:27] I’m struggling to think of any strong connection in the church that I belong to. Yes. I think most would probably be of a unionist frame of mind, ones that I know anyway. Maybe the other ones don’t talk to me. uh there are i do have friends who who politically would like to have independence yeah it was more the culturally to do with the broader population right it has the a long history of the church being distinctive and the kingdoms although brought together being distinct but the church as at a grassroots level being different always different in its whole history almost it it seems, or certainly after the Reformation, always different to the church in England. Maybe that culturally sort of… A cultural inheritance, which would perhaps, yeah, link into, I guess, kind of separation of a lot of political power as well, perhaps, in terms of Scottish Parliament, Scottish legal system being different, education system different. Is that linked to the kind of, yeah, the… The unique character of the church? I don’t think I would make that connection.

[37:52] It’s an interesting one. I don’t think, maybe some of my friends would disagree with me, but I don’t think you can make that connection. I think that there’s a lot of anti-Presbyterian sentiment in modern Scotland. A lot of people will want to dissociate from John Knox, partly out of ignorance, I think.

[38:18] They associate Calvinism with restrictive, kind of moralistic type, puritanical type attitudes. So they want to get away from that. So a lot of secularist people will want to dissociate themselves from the Scottish heritage.

[38:41] I would want to emphasise how much good the church has been for Scotland and how much of what we enjoy as benefits in Scottish life have come from a religious route and a particularly Protestant and Presbyterian route. It sounds really exciting and encouraging that that that um the world the reformation is obviously exciting and encouraging the denomination uh clearly the for most of its history was um orthodox bible believing bible teaching the church of Scotland I mean as well as the free church of Scotland um and uh the sadness I suppose is that uh it diverged more in the I don’t know 20 to 21st century where the Church of Scotland became less orthodox less bible believing bible teaching on on doctrine and ethics um and then the culture as a whole uh

[39:48] so i mean where Where does the church sit now? There must be a sadness in that. When you look at church history and think, okay, there are all these bad things going on with political disputes, but basically loads of people heard the gospel, thought the Bible was true, and believed lots of things that we believe now, but now they don’t. There must be a sadness in that.

[40:10] Yeah, I think there is, but I think this is where we’re at.

[40:15] There’s no point in going back over to try and sort of relive the glory days when they don’t exist anymore. A lot of my people, perhaps the generation just before me, they fell into that trap, I think, of sort of trying to pretend that things weren’t as they are. And uh what happens when you do that is you’re living in the past and you’re you’re not really facing the issues that you have to face at the moment and i think that um the bible believing.

[40:50] Modern church is is i think finally waking up to the fact that we’ve got to plant churches we’ve got to reach people we’ve got to live as a salt and light in the world we’ve got to let our light shine. We’ve got to bring the gospel in contemporary language to the people. We’ve got to try and get to know people on a personal basis to try and bring the church to the community as much as we possibly can, despite all of the obstacles that there are.

[41:21] So yes, I think that there has to be a shift in mindset. And I think that shift has taken place, At least in the church I belong to. I don’t think we’re living in the past any longer. I think we’re having to face the reality of a secular world. How do you feel that, so I don’t know if I mentioned, but I run an organisation that seeks to support Christians in education, so teachers, educators, governors. Yes.

[41:48] Etc um and uh and one of the um complaints i get is that um in schools in Scotland this there’s such an aggressively secular agenda that is largely not entirely but is largely politically controlled by one party in not in the same way um that is occurring in the rest of the UK and I’m wondering how is it I’m just thinking from an educator’s perspective how is it that we can use these institutions that god has ordained you know we have these world these human institutions like government how can we you know not just in churches and communities but how can we kind of make the most of of opportunities um in other parts of public life as Christians.

[42:43] I think that’s a burning question i think that that is such a relevant issue um how can Christians become involved in public life um I know many Christian teachers some of them have a relatively easy time it all depends or at least a lot depends on who your head teacher is yeah but other ones have a more difficult life and have to face the kind of challenges that you’re talking about. And I think the situation is going to vary depending on where you are and what school you belong to and what area and what council you belong to as well, because it all depends on who’s on the education committee and the council, that kind of thing.

[43:26] But a lot can be argued as well. You know, I wonder sometimes if we’re not just too sort of compliant with what is announced to be regulations and which actually are just people’s strong opinions. And I do think there’s a greater place for more courage and courageous debate within public life. Yeah, it does seem to me that one of the reasons for studying church history, I think, is to honor God and to be able to say, we thank God for the way he’s worked in the past and to be encouraged that he can work again and great movements, even against the flow of politics and everything can happen. And so that’s one good thing. I think it’s really helpful. You said about not looking back kind of romantically or fighting the battles of the past. But I think there are lessons in terms of the way some of those battles were fought, but not to necessarily fight those those particular battles. But what struck me about what you’re saying about John Knox, and it would be true of when we were speaking recently about the church in Wales, that those.

[44:47] Guys and it was mainly guys were um educational social reformers as well and they didn’t really think about it deeply and think okay so you know how do we match the gospel and the social gospel and you know it just seemed that they just naturally assumed we need to preach the gospel and we need to reform society that seemed to be just what they did because you were saying about John Knox starting schools and so forth. It didn’t seem like that was even disputable, that that would happen. Whereas now, probably for some good reasons to do with the history of the social gospel and overemphasizing that, but we kind of tiptoe around a bit more, don’t we? And we think, well, I could start a school, but shouldn’t I just be preaching the gospel or all that kind of thing? That’s just an observation, really. That’s not a question.

[45:41] No, you’re right. Right. You’re absolutely right. And I think what history does show us is that even in, you know, we may, the present, what we call hostility to the gospel may take a different form than it did then. But there was still hostility in the past. But what you had was Christians who were prepared to dig their heels in and to make their point and to argue their case. And one of the things that disturbs me about today’s world is that we’re just too silent.

[46:18] And I don’t mean, you know, I think John Knox perhaps went to the other extreme of becoming a nuisance in some cases. I mean, he did, he sometimes, you know, for example, the track that he wrote, the trumpet call against the monstrous regiment of women offended Queen Elizabeth and it destroyed his opportunities in England. So, you know, he went way too far on that point. In fact, John Calvin deplored what he wrote. Um uh but i think now the opposite problem exists where we’re not prepared to argue a case at all um because we’re afraid of of you know public opinion and and what people might say um.

[47:07] Well we’ve run out of time that was really interesting we thank god for how he’s worked in the past in Scotland uh we’re really thankful for the Free Church of Scotland and

[47:18] your commitment to teaching the Bible and planting churches for the seminary that you run. And we want to encourage people to take an interest in that and to pray for you. So thank you very much, Ivor. Thank you for having me.


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