Debates The Church in Scotland The Free Church Theology

The Most Important Debate – Scott McKenna, Angus Morrison, the Atonement and the Future of the Church in Scotland

In March of this year I wrote the following article – based on a video which I watched with mounting horror (I attach that below as well).  In it Rev Scott McKenna in answering the question ‘do you believe that Jesus died for your sin?’, declared ‘no,no, no, thats ghastly theology’.  In one soundbite he denied the whole good news of Jesus Christ.  After writing the article Scott got in touch with me and we had a coffee in Cafe Musa on the Mound.   I felt we got on well and as a result we agreed to have an open discussion in his church on this subject and others to do with the Christian gospel. At a personal level I confess that I liked Scott – I prefer an honest liberal to a dishonest evangelical!   Scott is only declaring openly what many professing ‘Christians’  and ‘Christian’ ministers believe.  However this does not mean that I agree with him at all.   Indeed I regard Scott’s teaching as being from the pit of hell.  To me this denial of the Gospel is not a form or variant of Christianity…it is not Christianity at all, because it strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith.   Therefore it is a vital subject for us to be discussing.  Prayer much appreciated.  And if you are in Edinburgh on the 30th of September, feel free to come along to Salisbury Mayfield church at 7:30pm.  The discussion will be chaired by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev Angus Morrison.

What happened?  Here is my report…


  1. David

    I wish I could be there – I have been following you v sm this year – but can’t get through from Ayr.

    Will it be available on audio/stream view?

    Peter McLean

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Will remember you David , Praying also that the Rev McKenna will recognize his error and the significance of The Cross of Christ , above all that God shall have the glory .

  3. I hear you “horror” at the belief of Christ dying for your sin being “ghastly theology”, this being regarded by you as from the “pit of hell” I also hear the preference by you for an honest liberal rather than an dishonest evangelical.

    What surprises me is that this “debate” is still continuing after the mount of time it has been going. We know that the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement came under fire with Steve Chalke after his discussion in a pub with someone and them describing it a cosmic child abuse, that God poured out his own “wrath” on Jesus his son on the cross. Then Chalk taking about he wished that there was more of a Jewish understanding of the term “wrath” in this context, to mean something more akin to God being in distress in seeing Jesus crucified and believing that the doctrine of penal substitution is not supported biblically.

    This is the theology for the “pit of hell” that you talk of.

    So what is the truth? “Christ died for our sins” 1 Cor 15:3. There’s no denying that is there and that it is “the gospel I preached to you” 1 cor 15:1 according to the apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth.
    At the same time,David, as you have rightly stated about so called “street preachers” in Perth telling someone who is homosexual that they are a sinner and heading for hell is creating “train wreck” for everyone else to clear up. This therefore would suggest that there are different approaches appropriate for believers in the sharing of the gospel as for unbelievers. Did not Jesus speak in parables for that very reason?

    I suspect Rev Scott McKenna with what he regards as “ghastly” is a reaction gains preaching the gospel as “Christ died for your sins” to unbelievers. If that is what is implied then he has a point. Given what you have expressed about so called “street preachers” in Perth then in such case then maybe your positions could be not so different as they might otherwise seem. You have talked of there being pride in the Free church and more frequently of synchretism in the CofS. Tragically, it is all to frequent that the church has been become more concerned about wining internal arguments than holding all thoughts captive to Christ to destroy pretensions and arguments that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. It would be disastrous to the gospel if this were to happen at the upcoming meeting.

    So I guess it’s a choice (and this is for all of us) what is more important, winning an argument Oxford debating style, or surrendering all thoughts to Christ and putting him in place as Lord? Surely the gospel in Scotland must be dependent on the church getting it’s priorities right.

    Praying for you, Rev McKenna, and Rev Morrison at the upcoming “Most Important Debate”.

  4. Good for you David. I look forward to listening if its made available on line. I found the late John Stotts responses to David L Edwards most instructive in ‘Essentials’ (Hodder 1988). It was interesting and instructive in terms of understanding an ‘honest liberal’ position and I imagine Scott McKenna would take a similar position to David Edwards on many things. Stott responds in a very brief but gracious manner in each chapter and I’ve often gone back to his comments for reference. I’m sure you don’t need much help in matters of essential doctrine but always worth knowing the enemy. Even Stott struggled to answer Edwards on the subject of judgement and hell so you might have your ‘achilles heel’ too in this debate.

  5. Will be remembering you and praying for you in this, David. While I appreciate what you mean when you say that you prefer “an honest liberal”, this man isn’t a liberal,in my opinion, at least not in the usual sense that he is a Christian who doesn’t hold to some core beliefs. By the repeated testimony of his own lips all the evidence is that he is an unregenerate, unbeliever. Some time ago I stopped using the term liberal because I think it gives a cloak of undeserved respectability. These are the people so clearly identified by Jude and Peter.

  6. Galatians 2,11 comes to mind.

    If Paul had not strongly challenged Peter “to his face” then there could have been an early schism into a jewish and gentile church.

    Christ was generally very gentle when dealing with the general people, but ferociously direct when dealing with the religious authorities (i.e, the experts) who got things so wrong.

    The church today needs to learn from this.

  7. Followed the link on Twitter today and saw this- “The link you followed may have expired, or the Page may only be visible to an audience that you aren’t in.” Sorry we won’t be in the audience tonight! Thoughts and prayers are with you.

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