Christian Living Ethics Free Church Politics Scotland The Church in Scotland

Five Blessings and the Missing Church


I am rarely shocked but today I was.  But before we get on to that lets be positive and thankful and count our blessings.  I have five just now:

1) It is wonderful that the Lord has given us the gift or marriage whereby a man and a woman can enter into a joyful self-giving covenant, experience mutual companionship and provide a stable basis for bringing up children. As a society we have much to be thankful for.

2) It is wonderful that the Lord has given each child the gift of a mother, who for the first months of her life, carries her in her womb, the ultimate safe place, enabling her to develop and be prepared for entrance into the wider world.

3) It is wonderful that the Lord has given us his day. The one day in seven, set apart as a holy day, where we can rest from our normal work, focus on him, relax and have a real time to recharge our batteries. This gift is a reflection of Gods compassion and concern for social justice.

It is wonderful that all these gifts are not just for the benefit of the church, but also for the good of the whole of society. God does indeed make his sun to shine on the just and the unjust.

4) It is wonderful that the Lord has given us the Church, as the foundation and pillar of the truth, to proclaim, protect and preserve the Word of the God from whom all blessings flow.

And it is a wonder that the Church so often screws it up and instead of proclaiming the Word, ends up contradicting it. I am rarely surprised nowadays but this morning I was genuinely shocked. I read this in The Herald this morning:

“SCOTTISH faith leaders have urged the SNP to block plans to liberalise Sunday trading in a crunch Commons vote.Religious leaders warn Scottish workers would lose out under plans to for longer opening hours in England and Wales. The most senior Roman Catholic in Scotland, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland the Rev David Robertson and a representative from the Muslim Council of Scotland, as well as 16 others, have signed a letter to the SNP expressing their concerns.”

What is surprising about that?  Where’s Wally?  Who is missing?   The ‘National’ Church, the Church of Scotland.  Why?  Were they not asked to sign? Indeed they were and I just assumed that their Moderator would sign. We could all be united in fighting for the same biblical cause, and the social justice that goes along with it. But no. They refused to do so. Their reason? They believe in ‘subsidiarity’ and as long as the “decision does not impinge on the freedoms of those of faith”. Apart from the rather obvious fact that it does, this is a somewhat pathetic statement.   George Osborne is not putting this forward in order to defend workers rights! The Christian Institute summarises the case well.

Extending Sunday Trading will place more pressure on people to work on Sundays, harming family life and further interfering with Sunday as a day of rest. Employers will be forcing even more Christians to choose between their faith and their job. Asda are lobbying strongly for George Osborne’s plans.
Government Ministers claim they are improving protections for shop workers. But a legal opinion from leading employment lawyer John Bowers QC warns that the Government’s plans offer no protection from detriment or dismissal for people who object to working on Sundays during the opt-out notice period. There is also nothing to prevent employers from turning down a job applicant because they will not work on a Sunday.
The extended opening hours apply to England and Wales, but the changes to employment law include Scotland as well. If the law is amended it will also increase pressure for a similar change in Northern Ireland.

So the Catholics, the Free Church, the Muslims, other Christian churches, the Trade Unions, the Labour Party and possibly up to 50 Conservative MPs, and hopefully the 56 SNP MPs, are all opposed to the government’s attack on the Lords Day – but the Church of Scotland refuses to work together with us.

Now you may be tempted to think this is a little harsh. Maybe the C of S is just staying out of politics and maintaining a clear distinction between political and religious matters? Hardly. The Church of Scotland has already told us that we should vote to stay in the EU. It is incredible that the establishment of the C of S can make clear pronouncements about the EU (about which the Bible says nothing) and yet cannot defend the Lords Day, marriage and the unborn child, about which the Bible says plenty.

After my experience at the Scottish Parliament, where representatives of the Church of Scotland, sought to decry the notion that there was discrimination against Christians within Scotland today, I stated that the C of S establishment seemed to be the Humanist party at prayer. Today’s action (or rather inaction) further demonstrates that.

I know from personal experience and from my own personal mailbag that there are many fine individual C of S members who share my distress at the gormless, gutless and Godless actions of their leadership. These people are looking for biblical leadership. Is it not time for those evangelical leaders who remain to stop telling themselves and the rest of us that they stay in ‘to fight’ and instead actually get on with fighting the good fight? Is it not embarrassing that the Muslims and the Catholics are more on the ball and more in tune with the Word of God, at least on this issue? Every time the religious establishment come out with nonsense like todays, the evangelicals should challenge, proclaim and lead. It is time for the Protestants to Protest.

I forgot blessing number 5…. It is wonderful that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ, even when the gates of hell get within her!   Lord have mercy upon this poor nation.


  1. I agree that CofS would have been acting appropriately if representative were to sign.

    At the same time David, your “shocked” reaction doesn’t tally with views you have consistently expressed about the CofS. This cognitive dissonance is interesting in the light of your claim that a recent comment of mine was “confused”. I suspect relief with be found from that either with this comment not making it past moderation or with some criticism aimed at yours truly. Possibly something along the lines of “plying a game of equivalence”.

    If we are to be critical of the CofS, we must apply the same level of judgement to the rest of the church of we are to be truthful and just.

    I am a member of the CofS. While I agree with much if not all of what you say in principle, I can’t see what you hope to gain fro how you have gone about talking of the “national church”. While there was much to be said that was good about my experience with evangelicalism, I found frequently that there was a consensus that “we need to be thinking outside of the box”. So I would come to discussions with my “out there” ways. The response? More often than not that I was being unloving, causing my brother’s distress. After much thought, heartache and wise godly counsel, I decided that evangelicalism wasn’t for me. I think the cherry on the top was reading of Richard Tiplady, principle of the then International Christian College (now non-existent) expressing a view that Christian worship and community (speaking from an evangelical perspective) is unattractive and at ties even repulsive to outsiders. The only offence should be the offense of the cross.

    And this is the problem I have with evangelical churchmanship. It’s the distress at sin that leads one to beat oneself up and beat others up. Where is the joy of the Lord and life in it’s fullest in that? Where is the grace to compliment the truth?

    We become CofS to CofS so that the gospel won’t be hindered. We don’t think of the CofS as “them”. It makes it difficult to be part of the CofS and be making changes in there while being faced with attacks from outside of the CofS. It inclines one naturally to be defending one’s beloved denomination

    I don’t know why there was not representation made by the CofS as reported by the Herald. I would be interested in hearing the point of view for that side of things, not just a sound bite.

    1. Adam – you need to realise that not everything is about you – or your experience! My shocked reaction was genuine – this was a no-brainer for the C of S – they were asked to sign and they refused to do so….

  2. Unless I’m missing something, I thought we already had Sunday trading in Scotland. Either that or all these stores I pass on Sundays are trading illegally. Given that, I’m not sure why the SNP are going to vote against Sunday trading in England. Wouldn’t it be better for them to work to reverse the situation in Scotland?
    One more blessing I read today. One of the most Islamic states in the world, Indonesia, is experiencing a spiritual revival at the moment with claims of 30% (yes 30%) professing faith in Jesus Christ. If true is that not amazing?

  3. Amen from me too. Too often the ‘diplomatic’ approach is simply cowardice – not just on this but on the freedom that is at the very heart of the gospel

  4. Most (? all) of St. Paul’s epistles were polemical – he was addressing issues and false teaching which quickly infected the early church; and these same issues seem to emerge in every generation, albeit in slightly different forms.

    The point is that the early Christins were not afraid of confrontation if the essential truths of the gospel were being compromised or watered down.

    The late Malcolm Muggeridge (St. Mug) invented a word, “consensianity” to describe the way many churches today develop their theology, i.e. go for what the majority agree and which offends no one.

    I don’t know where the C of E stands on the Sunday Trading issue. I suppose it is similar to that of the bishop who was asked for his view on sin, and he responded by saying that, by and large, he was against it! I have certainly seen little or nothing in the media in England to suggest a “robust” response by Christian leaders against the bill, although the 20 or so Conservative MPs who would vote against it are likely doing it from an Christian perspective.

  5. It would be encouraging to think that the SNP had discovered a new found enthusiasm for observing the Fourth Commandment but I suspect that the tactics at Westminster had more to do with giving David Cameron a kicking. I look forward to the day when the SNP at Holyrood moves to bring the law on Sunday trading in Scotland into line with that of the rUK for which they have just voted, but I am not holding my breath! We can but hope and Pray.

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