Unbelief in the Church of Scotland
According to a newspaper survey of 200 Church of Scotland ministers, almost one in five does not believe that Jesus is literally the Son of God. Among the unbelievers is Rev Andrew McLellan, moderator of the Church at the time of the survey. He claimed that it is far more important to know the teachings of Jesus rather than to “worry about theological debates”. “None of our language can express fully who Jesus is,” he said. “To call him Son of God is a very powerful way of making clear the belief that I hold, that God is in Jesus in a unique way.”
Of course, human language can never express fully the truth about God or, in particular, about Jesus as the Son of God. The human mind is far too limited for that. But that is not the point. The point is that in Scripture we have an accurate revelation. And Scripture makes it abundantly plain that Jesus is, without qualification, in a sense which cannot be explained away, the Son of God. He is “Emmanuel”, who came to do what no mere man could do, however much God might be in him in a unique way. Only one who is divine could “save His people from their sins”. And in the Gospels the high point of the expression of an individual’s faith was the confession that Jesus is the Son of God. Nathanael, for example, acknowledged, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God;” (John 1:49), and he intended those who heard him to take him literally.
The one in five highlighted in the survey claim to believe that the term Son of God is a metaphor, explaining Jesus’ extraordinary human status. “Many people feel that being told the virgin birth and the resurrection actually happened is to insult their intelligence”, said Rev Alastair Hunter, a lecturer in divinity at Glasgow University. To speak in this way betrays intellectual arrogance. Why should the human mind be made the measure of what God is able or not able to do? This is of course an expression of the rationalism which is fundamental to the thinking of the age. Rather we should bow before the power of the Almighty.
The statement of a Dundee minister is typical of so much of the meaningless talk that passes for theological communication today: “As a title it is more metaphorical. But it doesn’t make it less important. Jesus is more human than we are: his humanity and divinity are greater than ours.” The fact is, however, that the Saviour we need is one who is fully human and fully divine. That is the Saviour whom the Bible reveals to us. That is the Saviour whom the Church has an absolute duty to proclaim.
Summing up, the Moderator declared: “It’s no surprise to me that our ministers understand Christian teaching in different ways. Theology matters, but healing and loving and believing matter more.” No, truth is fundamental. Certainly, truth without loving and believing has no place in a pulpit. Minds and hearts must together be in subjection to the God of heaven.
One in five, it seems, of Church of Scotland ministers are prepared to confess heretical views on the person of Christ. What about the others? We fully accept that some sincerely believe the doctrine of Scripture, but we fear that many others do not have clear views on such doctrines and therefore do not have a meaningful gospel to present to their hearers.
The 2001 General Election
The British General Election is to take place, God willing, on June 7. When we vote, we will be carrying out the responsibility which falls on members of a democratic society – to choose those whom they wish to discharge the important function of ruling over them. Some will argue that, on many issues, there is little difference between the main political parties and that there is no point in voting. But if we succumb to the election apathy which is said to be prevalent, we will have to bear part of the blame if we be saddled with MPs who ride roughshod over Biblical principles and Christian values. It is our duty to cast our vote.
The difficulty for many is to know which candidates will honestly represent them when moral and constitutional issues are dealt with by Parliament. While issues like the economy, the health service and education are important, there are more important ones, such as the sanctity of life, the institution of marriage, the observance of the Lord’s Day, our religious and civil liberties, and the preservation of our Protestant constitution.
We must therefore know where the political parties and parliamentary candidates stand on these key issues. We must also let our candidates know our own views on these matters. As the Lord’s Day Observance Society says in its leaflet, Election 2001, “This could have a significant impact on the next Parliament. The worst thing is to do nothing.”
Fundamental to our national peace and prosperity is our Protestant Constitution. The Protestant Truth Society is right when it says in its leaflet, A Nation at the Crossroads – General Election 2001: “The Protestant Constitution of this Realm, as contained in the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Act of Settlement of 1701, is also under severe threat. History itself proves that it is vital for our present Constitution to be safeguarded. . . . Our Protestant Constitution may be further threatened if our nation moves towards closer integration with Europe.” One clear example of Britain’s loss of sovereignty would be joining the European single currency.
Our natural tendency is to seek our own happiness and ease above everything but, as we cast our vote, may God’s glory, the promotion of His cause, and the welfare of precious souls be paramount to us. To honour Him by going in the path of righteousness is the only safe way for us, both personally and nationally. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34).