There’s a wonderful story I heard a few weeks ago about some minister somewhere giving a sermon on how Calvinism was wrong and terrible and not at all biblical and that it was all about free will and God gives us all a choice (a truth I fundamentally agree with but it is not the whole truth). He ranted and raved about this for some time and then as he drew his sermon to a close he started to pray and he prayed in particular that God would convict his Calvinist brothers and sisters of the error of their ways and lead them to the truth.
Well, huh, so much for my free will! And it serves to illustrate the point I want to make which is that functionally everyone prays as a Calvinist. As Spurgeon said: “We do not pray because we doubt but because we believe.” And in prayers we cannot help but express a belief in God’s sovereignty over the will of man. Specifically, we cannot help but express a belief that unless God is at work no one will come to Christ, second that if he works no one can resist him and third that he has the power to keep us following Christ to the end.
In saying that I’m going to sideline for a moment and deal with prayers for things other than conversion. When we face difficult conversations, hard situations or the need for something or other then we pray to God to provide, to help us, to deliver us and to bring good from evil. In other words we express our firm belief that nothing can stand against the sovereignty of God. We uphold as an article of faith Proverbs 21v1: “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” We do not pray as though God has no say over the will of man. Have you ever heard a Christian pray: “Lord, I am facing a difficult conversation but as you have let us have free will and are not in control over that then I know I cannot ask you to do anything to help me.”?
Primarily, this post is a reflection on the recent actions of the Church of Scotland but I’ve taken it as an opportunity to try out a new rhetoric style I call, because I am pretentious, temporal displacement writing. That is to say, I’m writing as though present events are being reflected on as happening years ago. In this context I’ve chosen to do so through an essay question. It may work, might not, feedback appreciated.
I’ve taken a certain amount of imaginative license in dealing with future events. All past events are, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.
Church History Exam 2025
Q3: How integral a role did the St George’s Tron play in the demise of the Church of Scotland?
Five years ago the Church of Scotland was disbanded, the great domination brought to a premature death with a speed that surprised many. Even as late as 2011 many expected the decline of the state church to be a prolonged and gradual affair taking at least a generation. There is a common misconception that it was St George’s Tron departure from the Church of Scotland in June 2012 that was the stone that caused the proverbial avalanche to fall. This essay will argue that this represents a false narrative and that it was not until the actions of the Kirk in October 2012 that the bell sounded on the beginning of the end of the Church of Scotland. Beforehand October little concern was shown either by congregations or ministers into the reasons for the Tron’s departure. The actions of the Kirk changed this and created the Separatist movement that was so vital to the eventual demise of the Church of Scotland.
The reasons for the Tron’s departure are readily apparent. Shocked by even the airing of a debate about homosexual ministers and frustrated by the General Assembly’s obvious move to prolong the debate as long as possible the congregation of the Tron under the leadership of Rev Dr Philip voted to secede from the Church of Scotland. In his press release Rev Philip spoke of his disappointment in the attempts of the General Assembly to normalise the issue of homosexuality. In a strongly worded statement he said:
“In doing so the highest court of the Kirk has marginalised the Bible, the written Word of God. We believe the Church of Scotland is choosing to walk away from the biblical gospel, and to walk apart from the faith of the worldwide Christian Church.”
The first time I read the statement above I must admit that I reacted against it. The guy who wrote is Francis Chan, one of those hippy Christians who is pretty bonkers but nevertheless can write what turns out to be frustrating biblical stuff. By which I mean that I want to disagree with it because Mr Chan is a little weird and I don’t like his writing style but he backs it up with the Bible and I can’t really argue with that. The book in question is called Crazy Love and it’s in part great and in part not so.
One of the most challenging chapters in the whole book is when Mr Chan goes through various signs of true Christianity and one of those signs is giving to the poor and to the work of God. When I read this sign then my conscience troubled me for while I was telling myself “Oh, I’ll give to God when I have a job” I realized that I had to give when I had little otherwise I would never give when (if) I had more. As Jesus says:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 12 v 33 – 34