I'm deeply saddened by the goings on in the Church of Scotland. Reading an absolutely cracking article in today's Scottish Daily Mail by John MacLeod helped crystallise my thoughts on the issues.
1. Carl Trueman is right, this was not the hill to die on. A long history of compromising on the plain teaching of Scripture, e.g. female ordination, left the evangelicals with little weight when they finally stood up on this issue. As Ligon Duncan once said, if there was a text in Scripture that plainly stated "You shall not baptise an infant" the paedobaptist debate would never have taken place. Yet we have such a text regarding female ordination (1 Tim. 2:12) and we either produce exegetical back flips to make it say the opposite, or simply crap all over the text by accusing Paul of misogyny to justify the canonising of our cultural sensibilities. If a church is willing to do that with 1 Timothy 2:12, why not do the same with Romans 1:18-32 or 1 Corinthians 6:9 in relation to homosexual practice?
2. Affirming the 'substance' of the Westminster Standards isn't enough. There are debates over how individuals should subscribe the standards. Does one subscribe the standards 'in so far' (quatenus) as that individual believes them to be biblical, or should one only subscribe to the standards if one can do so without mental reservation, i.e. because (quia) they are biblical? Which view is more honouring to Scripture? At first glance, quatenus seems more honouring. Surely refusing to let a confession dictate to us what we believe to be the teaching of Scripture helps to esteem that Scripture as the ultimate court in one's own mind. Yet it is only when you observe how allowing for confessional 'wiggle room' works out in practise that we see the devastating effects of such an approach. Every man becomes his own pope and maverick self-absorbed spirituality abounds.
Is it not a little wiser (and pragmatic) to say that we distrust our own lust for novelty and 'fresh' readings of Scripture due to the fact that our hearts are desperately sick and beyond cure? (Jer. 17:9) Is it not a little more honouring to the Spirit and the sacred text to affirm doctrinal standards that were thrashed out in community, standards around which there was remarkable unity?
3. If evangelical ministers are serious about a united Reformed witness in Scotland, would it not be expedient for them to surrender their own mental reservations to a quia subscription for the greater good? Would finding fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Free Church of Scotland really be that bad? Would ecclesiastical unity with those who confess the historic, Reformed, catholic practice of exclusive Psalmody and unaccompanied singing be much worse than unity with the sexually immoral and liberals? You decide.
4. 'Evangelical' is a meaningless term in this country. If one may affirm female ordination and homosexual practice, while harbouring doubts about penal substitutionary atonement and still retain the label 'conservative evangelical' then I'm a cessationist charismatic.
5. In seeking to be relevant the CofS is desperately irrelevant. It's now a sad, dead institution overrun by liberals and idiots who care more about keeping the on the good side of the liberal media (who never attend their churches anyway). The good men, like Willie Phillip and Ivor Macdonald are pilloried as homophobic fundamentalists. In seeking to be compassionate and relevant for a modern Scotland, the CofS has finally and arrogantly broken with the moral teaching of the 'one holy catholic church' passed down over two millennia. They are out of step even with Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome.
6. Why do those who sit in judgement on the Scriptural text have any desire to enter the ministry? I suspect much of it is the lifestyle i.e. nice salary, no mortgage, etc. You get the impression that for many of them their vocation was a toss up between ministry in the Kirk and signing up for the RSPCA to help labradors with thorns in their paws. Please, please, if God's law in Scripture is offensive to you, give the ministry a miss. You're messing with the mighty Christ who bought his church with the price of his blood. If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him (or her) (1 Cor. 3:17) Scott Rennie is an evil man, let's make no bones about it. As winsome and likeable as he comes across to some, he is thumbing his nose at the living God. May God have mercy on him.