Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History

John MacLeod
Banner of Truth, 1943, reprinted 2015.

Reviewed by Peter Barnes

The flow of church history in Scotland is indeed a fascinating subject, and few have handled it as well as John MacLeod. This work first appeared in 1943, and has been republished now with an appendix on “The Work of a Theological College”.

MacLeod is a fine judge of theological disputes and so, for example, cites the Auchterarder Creed in the days of Thomas Boston: “It is unsound to teach that men must forsake sin in order to come to Christ.” What it was trying to say is that we cannot reform ourselves to bring ourselves to Christ; we must simply come as we are. However, as it stands, it is ambiguous, and MacLeod is quite correct to say that it is “unfortunate and lent itself to misconstruction”.ScottishTheology2

There are a fund of stories here which illumine Scotland’s chequered history from the times of John Knox to those of the Broad Church ushering in what MacLeod calls “the ebb-tide”. Some interesting and contentious claims are made, such as that Jonathan Edwards came to Presbyterian views of church government, and that Paraphrases ought to be rejected as songs. Most incisively, he considers that Barthianism needs a controlling principle. MacLeod retired in 1942, and so missed the rise of the Baillies and the Torrances, but we can guess his what his views would have been – and applaud them. All students of Scottish theology – or Reformed theology in general – will welcome this study, anchored as it is in history.

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