Thursday, April 3, 2014

Authentic Scottish drizzle--Knox and Covenanters

I never get tired of exploring church history where it happened in Edinburgh, Scotland (join us in June on the Knox quincentenary Scotland tour It's a bustling city, not as pretty and nicefied as London or Cambridge, as most English towns, but it has a primal ruggedness about it that makes one feel that maybe, just maybe, it has not fully emerged from the Middle Ages, not just yet. Think of England as the string chamber ansemble and Scotland as, well, a bagpipe band; or England as steak and ale pie and Scotland as Haggis, neeps, and tatties. There's nothing quite like being here on such an important year for Scotland and the church and Kingdom of Christ anywhere on the planet: Knox's birth year, 1514, born 500 years ago. 

Knox took zero credit for the powerful and gracious working of the Spirit of God in Scotland; his explanation of one of the greatest revivals in the history of the church? "God raised up simple men in great abundance." May he do so again! 

After guiding my students up the cobble stones of the Royal Mile, we began with push ups in the rain on the steps of St Giles High Kirk (for a couple of tardy young gents, I at their side offering moral support and setting the pace--I never do this on my adult tours, trust me!). The push ups out of the way, I began orienting the young people to the one-time cathedral's Medieval roots, then Knox preaching here and Reformation revival, then Jenny Geddes and the Covenanters. Knox's totally unpretentious grave under parking stall 23, the Mercat Cross where Covenanters were martyred--some like David Haxton hanged, drawn, and quartered, then Greyfriars Abbey where the National Covenant was signed--in blood, then the stone momument to 18,000 Covenanter martyrs, next the prison where many Covenanters were crammed after the Battle of Bothwell Brig, then the Grassmarket at the West Bow where the gallows were kept busy, and lastly to the imposing ramparts of Edinburgh Castle. In all likelihood The Scots Confession 1560 was presented to parliament in the Great Hall after being crafted in only four days on nearby Cowgate Street at Magdalen Chapel (by Knox and four other Johns).

The Scots Confession was overwhelmingly approved as the best summation of the Bible's teaching. Later the Church of Scotland would adopt the Westminster Confession, a still more refined and careful encapsulating of what the Bible principally teaches. Confessions of faith are imminently biblical and essential bulwarks against the enemy's constant stratagem to corrupt the gospel little-by-little. Here is an excerpt from the SC on the so critical topic of sanctification and good works. 

� "The cause of good works, we confess, is not our free will, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, who dwells in our hearts by true faith, brings forth such works as God has prepared for us to walk in... For as soon as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, whom God's elect children receive by true faith, takes possession of the heart of any man, so soon does he regenerate and renew him, so that he begins to hate what before he loved, and to love what he hated before." (Dickinson, John Knox's History of the Reformation in Scotland, 2 :263)

Make a mimgle mangle of grace here and the whole of reformational gospel and understanding of Scripture collapses, gets turned into haggis, the good news chopped up like sheep guts crammed in a sheep stomach and tied at both ends. And then consumed.


  1. Oh my! Push-ups in the rain on St. Gile's Cathedral steps! I sure wish I could have been there for that! : )
    I sure love seeing all these pictures! It reminds me of when I was there with you all, just a few short years ago...I got to do it again sometime.

    1. It was a bit rainier this time then with your tour. Glad you have good memories from our time together in Scotland, 2011. Trust all is well with you and your family. Keep in touch