Education The Church in Scotland

The Politics of Spin in the Church – Forward Together?

The saga of the Church of Scotland and The Humanist Society continues.    I draw your attention to two articles – the first my own in Christian Today which shows how this whole story has been spun.

The second from Forward Together

This latter, despite being the result of an investigation is very naive.  The notion of the Church of Scotland and the Humanists allying together to protect religious observance from the evil machinations of the Scottish Secular Society is ludicrous.  I have been involved with this from the beginning and I have no doubt that the majority of SSS would want religion removed altogether – but that is not what their petition asks for and I believe they are sincere in seeking to have an opt in rather than an opt out.  But what Forward Together do not seem to know is that the Humanist Society did not support SS’s petition because it did not go far enough – not because it went too far!  The Humanists want the eradication of any meaningful religion from the education system.  It says a great deal about the current state of the C of S that the Humanists were prepared to ally with them to achieve that name.  I’m afraid for Forward Together to defend the C of S and Humanists going forward together is at best naive.  In a sad way it also helps explain why the evangelical cause in the C of S has been so sidelined.   To believe that making common cause with the Humanists to remove Christian worship and prayers from schools, is somehow working for the Gospel, is naive.  The original press release and  the original joint letter to the Parliament still stands.  No matter how it is spun.


  1. I have followed this debate closely and agree with you David that the Church of Scotland teaming up with the Humanist Society to make the statement that they made was completely wrong, and that there are things in that statement that may well cause serious problems in the future. However I am puzzled by your insistence that this is about keeping Christian worship and prayers in schools. Having looked into the matter it seems that the 2005 guidelines put an end to that and that therefore you are fighting the battle over worship and prayers 9 years too late! It seems to me that we have to accept the reality that we now live in a pluralist country not a Christian one and that therefore we should be concentrating on ensuring that we continue to have access to the public square to communicate Christian truth. It also seems to me that the Christians who supported the 2005 guidelines for RO (and SU certainly seem to support them now and I presume they also did at the time) have been wise because it overcame the complaint that some people had about Christian worship being imposed on those who weren’t Christian whilst protecting the opportunity of being able to teach Christian truth in RO as well as in RME lessons. I believe that we as Christians should be seeking to persuade people of Christian truth, not imposing it on them, and given your commitment to persuasive evangelism surely you agree! I agree with you that the SSS and the ESS are trying to drive Christianity from the public square completely (including schools) but surely we are wiser and more likely to maintain our access to teach Christian truth if we make the pluralist case for access than if we make an old ‘Christendom’ case which Scotland has a whole has clearly decisively rejected. And by the pluralist case I don’t mean that all religions are the same and get to God, if he exists. I mean that we live in a pluralist society where many different things are believed and that we need to have open and respectful debates between different groups with each, including us Christians, having the opportunity and freedom to seek to persuade the majority that what we are suggesting for society is the best for the common good. (The chapter in Tim Keller’s book ‘Reason for God’ on Jesus being the only way to God suggests this approach I believe)

  2. Long time listener to you and reader of your blog, but I must say Reverend that I don’t understand why you seem to be so annoyed about Humanist and Christians agreeing to work together – we seem to agree on more than we disagree. If it were the Church of Scotland allying with the Church of Satan I could understand, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Humanism (a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality; basically trying to behave decently without recourse to the supernatural) seems like a good thing, as does Christian moral teaching, and I can’t see why you’d oppose it. I can only speak for myself here, but as a humanist I don’t hate God or gods, hate religion or want to see it removed from schools etc. etc. – I’d be with you on the picket lines fighting for social justice, human rights etc. I think it’s a shame that you see us as your enemy rather than your friend.

    1. The Humanist Society does want to remove religion and religious observance from school. I appreciate your faith – but to me it is not based on empirical evidence at all and is therefore a dangerous fantasy. Better to stick with the realism of Christianity!

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