Education Scotland

The Reincarnation of John Knox!

The National Secular Society in Scotland is struggling. Its numbers are low and it is being outdone in stridency (and thus publicity) by the Scottish Secular Society. It has an affable spokesperson, Alistair McBay, whom I have debated a couple of times, and who I actually like and enjoy banter with. But I suspect they are getting a wee bit desperate because Alistair’s latest article on the National Secular Society webpage is somewhat OTT!

In this somewhat rambling article, Alistair , suggests that I am the reincarnation of John Knox. I suspect he is using this in the lazy kind of way that most Scottish journalists do – i.e. they don’t really know anything about John Knox, but he is a really handy bogeyman to blame for everything from decline in the Arts, depression and the North East haar! For me I regard it as badge of honour and feel that this article should be sent to those of my Christian brothers and sisters, who think that I am a Jesuit in disguise, sent to infiltrate the Free Church and return us to Rome!

Why has Alistair written this? After all I am just one minister in a denomination that is relatively small. The NSS, along with their wee cousins the SSS, keep telling us how irrelevant Christianity is in modern Scotland, that we are all dying dinosaurs and that the Free Church in particular is nothing to be worried about. We don’t have bishops in the House of Lords, we don’t have or seek political power and we don’t believe in theocracy or indoctrination. So what’s the problem? Alistair helpfully informs us: “We are usually indifferent to who leads religious organisations in Scotland, but David Robertson is a frequent and noisy critic of ours and persists in misrepresenting us, no matter how often his deceits are pointed out to him.” So lets examine the list of deceits and misrepresentations that so upset the NSS.

1) Is the Christian Immune from plane crashes? This is Alistair’s first point and indeed the headline of the article. He is referring to a previous blog of yours truly. Given that some 47 members of one church died in one of the crashes I mentioned, and given that I wrote the article just before I was about to fly to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian airlines and I have a fear of flying – the answer should have been obvious. But just as obvious is the question – what does this have to do with the NSS and secularism? How does a discussion of the Christian teaching of providence, suffering and the sovereignty of God misrepresent the NSS?!

2) The Free Church engages in Idol Worship of John Knox. This would be an interesting one (if it were true) because if we did so then we would be going against the teachings of Knox and more importantly the Bible. Alistair’s ‘evidence’ for this. We held a conference to mark the 500th anniversary of Knox’s birth. Birthday parties (or even historical commemorations) maybe considered ‘idolatry’ in the NSS, but not in the Free Church. And again – what does this have to do with ‘misrepresenting’ the NSS? Maybe however he is trying to demonstrate what misrepresentation actually is, before he gets to the point. So lets move on.

3) Militant Secularists – Ah, now we get to the point. “Reverend Robertson never fails to describe us as militant, fundamentalist, extremist, fanatical or aggressive. Every secularist is by default an atheist and is apparently out to ‘persecute’ Christians at every turn. There are no religious secularists in David’s world, “ There is some truth in this. I confess that sometimes I forget to label the militant secularists as such but yes indeed, that is what the NSS and the SSS are. But there are plenty religious secularists in my world. I don’t believe that every secularist is an atheist. Why? Because I and most of the Christians I know are secularists in the sense that we do not believe that the Church (or any religious group) should run the State. We believe that they should be ‘good neighbours and good friends’, to borrow the title of a chapter I wrote on this subject for the Free Church. But the NSS and SSS are not just your average run of the mill secularists. They are obsessed with religion. I have not misrepresented them at all. Just go to their websites and you will find 95% of their posts and articles are anti-religious in general and anti-Christian in particular. These groups are often filled (to their small capacities) with people who are bitter, angry and hate religion because sadly, of the damage that has been done to them by religion. NSS and SSS are more like recovery groups for those who need anti-religious therapy than they are political secular groups.

4) Christian or Secular Primacy and Supremacy – Alistair says that he knows of no secularist who wants to drive Christianity out of the public square. I do. His organisation. The NSS campaign against religious observance in schools. Hospital chaplains, Christian schools and such mega issues as free parking for all in Edinburgh on a Sunday morning because it ‘discriminates’ in favour of Christians. Of course the atheistic secularists don’t mind if we are Christian, as long as we do so as the equivalent of a Trekkie society, or line-dancing club. Keep it private, keep it indoors where it won’t upset any atheist, and as long as we pay for our parking, they will ‘tolerate’ us.

5) Christian Education – Again I have to plead guilty here. But not of misrepresentation. I am just commenting on their stated policies. I agree with the United Nations Charter of Human Rights that states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” (Article 26:3). The NSS clearly do not accept this. They don’t believe “it’s the function of state education to fund indoctrination of children in one religious ideology, although I support education about religion.” And they accuse us of educational apartheid. You see the trouble is that the secular humanists are so convinced that there was is the ONE TRUE WAY that they are prepared to override the UNCHR and insist that all of us must only be educated in their philosophy/faith and principles. They will deny this and say that if you want your children to be educated in schools with a Christian ethos you must pay for it yourself. But I also believe in this part of the UNCHR “ Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” (Article 26:1). If only the NSS and SSS could come to the more enlightened understanding that exists in secular countries such as Australia and the Netherlands, where parents are allowed choice!

6) The NSS is guilty of sectarianism. To which I simply reply – not guilty. I have never said that the NSS are guilty of sectarianism. Unless of course Alistair wants to ally himself with Garry Otton of the SSS who was clearly guilty of sectarianism and can hardly contain his anti-Catholic bile. You can read about it here –

But in order to defend his fellow secularist, Alistair goes on to accuse us of sectarianism. Given that I have spoken out in defence of the Catholic Church and the Pope this is a hard circle for him to square but he has a valiant go. Firstly he argues that calling NSS militant is ‘sectarian’ – I suppose it would be if they were a sect. Then he says we are sectarian because we say that some Roman Catholic teachings such as ‘Maryism” are unbiblical. Here is the problem with fundamentalists – they think that if you don’t agree with every part of someone’s doctrine (usually theirs) you are guilty of ‘sectarianism’. I assume that Alistair nor anyone else in the NSS actually believes in the Immaculate Conception, or that Mary was taken straight up to heaven without dying, or that we should confess our sins to her. Does that mean they are sectarian? No – then how could it mean that we are sectarian? On the other hand if every time a politician such as Jim Murphy is mentioned you put in front of his name ‘extreme catholic, pope-loving, fundamentalist catholic’, even though the subject you are discussing has nothing to do with the Catholic church – then yes, that is sectarian – especially given the context of the West of Scotland. It is shameful that the NSS seeks to defend such language just because it comes from a fellow militant secularist.

7) The Scottish Government has been ignoring Christians of late. I’m not quite sure how this is a misrepresentation of the NSS but leaving that aside I have one simple plea – VERITAS. Its true. At least in part. I’m not saying that the Scottish government always ignores Christians nor that we are never asked to give our opinions. But I am arguing that the Christian viewpoint is often ignored because it is Christian and does not suit the secular humanist agenda of many of our elected representatives. Alaister cites the Scottish Government’s ‘consultation’ on SSM and suggests that it was a genuine consultation where, if our arguments had been good enough, we would have ‘won’. It’s a very touching faith in the power, rational and free-thinking of our governments. But it’s completely false. After I debated Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie an experienced journalist there told me that he thought we had won the argument, but that it was all a waste of time because the matter had been pre-determined and the consultation was a sham. Like most government consultations.

8) The Church of Scotland has many Atheists in its pews – Again I am not sure why NSS think this is misrepresenting them. Although given that their other cousins, the Humanists, have just struck up a deal with the Church of Scotland to provide Humanist chaplains in schools, perhaps he feels the need to defend his bedfellows?! I’m not sure where I said “the Church of Scotland has many atheists in its pews”. Alistair cites this article –
Whilst I am delighted that members of the NSS and the SSS so avidly follow my blog (may the Lord use it to enlighten their minds and open their eyes!), it would be helpful if they read what it said and didn’t report it with such exaggeration.

9) Healing – “There is one more thing people should know about David, and that is his claim to be the living proof that people can be healed in answer to prayer.” This is again a response to one of my blogs.

Now again you have to ask what this actually has to do with secularism and the NSS? And how this is part of my misrepresenting them? Alistair goes on to say “ He is entitled to his beliefs and to express them, but I can’t rationalise why prayers should deliver clergy from acute illness but be so ineffective when uttered by believers in crashing aeroplanes.” It’s not only the crass insensitivity and spitefulness of these remarks but their ignorance that is astonishing. Not only would I never argue that ‘prayers deliver clergy from acute illness’, as though clergy were something special, but at exactly the same time as I was ill, another Free Church minister was also seriously ill. He went to be with the Lord. I got to stay here a bit longer. The pathetic dumbed down mocking caricature presented by the NSS on their website indicates that my earlier claim that they are primarily an extreme anti-religious group is justified. You shall know them by their fruits.

Conclusion: A while ago I withdrew from participating on the SSS site. Although there were some good people on it, it was far too often toxic, bitter and hate filled. I was glad to be out. And I kind of hoped that I would be left in peace. But the abuse and vitriol continues. There is hardly a week goes by without another thread attacking and mocking me. It’s disappointing that the NSS have joined the mocking crowd. I think Alistair has written this, not because I have misrepresented NSS or SSS, but because I have got under their skin and they just don’t like their anti-Christian agenda being exposed. Hence the resort to personalised abuse and mockery. As I said I quite like Alistair and I bear him no ill will. I don’t know the people at SSS and again I bear them no ill will. They are not our enemies. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. I pray for them, that God will stop them in their tracks and show them their need of Christ. Alistair objected to my statement that for the atheist life is ultimately ‘random and utterly meaningless”. That I’m afraid is the logical position. Atheists can talk all they want about making your own meaning, but it remains just that – your own meaning…and thus ultimately meaningless. If as Bertrand Russell states “we are a blob of carbon floating from one meaningless existence to another” then my statement is the uncomfortable truth. Whilst Alaister is entitled to believe that, I’m sure he will forgive me if I dare to hope and pray for something better for him and his fellow atheists. Meanwhile I will continue to oppose the NSS and the SSS and the Humanist Society as they seek to impose their godless philosophy on a nation which was once greatly blessed by God, and we hope may yet be.

So in the spirit of John Knox I leave you with some of his words that I can fully identify with!

“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am compelled to thunder out the threatening’s of God against the obstinate rebels.”

Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.

As the world is wearie of me so am I of it.”

I will keep the ground that God has given me and perhaps in his grace, he will ignite me again. But ignite me or not, in his grace, in his power, I will hold the ground.”

Give me Scotland or I die

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