The Scottish Tragedy of 1955
Although my post-graduate studies in Scottish Church History were focused on the 19th century, I was occasionally side-tracked by 20th century history books, during my years in Scotland. I was intrigued by the 1955, “Tell Scotland” campaign, which included a rather ominous visit from American evangelist Billy Graham.
Why was 1955 ominous and even a tragedy? Why was this staged “revival” significant? Scotland’s total population in 1955 was 5 million people. Today, Scotland’s population is 5 million people. In 1955, 2 million people attended church regularly. Today, 389,000 people attend church services on any given Sunday (Note: my numbers are all rounded).
The decline in church attendance over the past six decades has been steady. Today’s church in Scotland is far from the strength of its Reformed roots. The national church, the Kirk, has almost entirely sold out to a deviant Liberalism. Every other denomination struggles with attendance, and pastoral vacancies remain problematic.
In reading a variety of articles offering solutions, over the years, I realize, today, the same story-line persists, as when I ministered in the land of Knox (A.D. 2003–2007). The gurus are still convinced, as they were over a decade ago, that the church needs to adapt culturally, in order to be more relevant. Not that the call for cultural relevance is uniquely Scottish, but it is sad that this is the generally accepted view of the diminished churches.
When Billy Graham followed the footsteps of D.L. Moody to assault the United Kingdom with man-centered theology, that is, free will decisional Arminianism, it sparked this decades long decline. Graham’s easy-believism remains the majority belief of most professing Christians in Scotland. They adhere to a gospel that is no Gospel at all.
The problem with telling everyone that God loves them, besides being deemed a “radicalization threat” by the government down in Bristol (Svetlana Powell, July 2016), is that the unbelieving culture clearly is not responding. Why should they respond? This “culturally relevant” message is not true, biblically. It is no wonder God does not attend, and has not attended, this misrepresentation for decades.
Moody and Graham not only cheapened the Gospel, but they took the sovereignty of God’s salvation and handed it to the people of England and Scotland. “God loves me? Well, of course, He does!…Christ died for me? Well, ok, if that makes you happy…You want me to decide to let Jesus save me? Right, mate, we are off to the pub,” and so goes the church when she gives the choice of salvation to reprobate unbelievers, and then expects something other than the slippery slope of decline.
Instead of gimmicks and cultural adaptation, the churches in Scotland (save for the faithful remnant) need to repent of their unfaithfulness to Christ, and turn again to the doctrines of grace (ie. Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Preservation of the Saints).
The remaining people in the pews need to scour the earth, if necessary, and bring in fearless preachers of the Gospel. Men of God who are mighty in the Scriptures and agreeable adherents to the Westminster Confession of Faith. These men need to catechize the people and teach them Reformed doctrine. Simply put, Scottish churches need to return to the ancient path that caused the world to laud the land beneath the Saltire.
Leaving the churches of Scotland to Liberals and decisional Arminians has proved-to-date, the magnitude of the tragedy of 1955 and the ensuing decades of decline. If Scotland needs relevance, the doctrine of hell is always a good starting point. May it never be that people of Scotland, blessed to be in the most beautiful country on the earth, should perish from it into everlasting damnation. Men of God, men of Scotland…preach the Word!
Who will pick up the sword of the Spirit and do battle with the lies of the politically correct secular government, the sexually deviant culture, and the rampant practical atheism? Is there no one who can echo the famous battle cry, “Give me Scotland, or I die!”? I pray there is such a man, and that he will take Scotland with a brave heart.
August 26, 2021