Articles, Tracts and Letters

More Articles, Tracts and Letters from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.

A Bad Scene

by Rev. Wallace A. Bell

How may we describe the present religious climate of Scotland? We are grateful to a friend from foreign shores who presents his view below. The contrast between the state of things in the church at large today and the spirit of Knox and the Scottish Reformation could hardly be greater. Mr. Bell is Pastor Emeritus of the Puritan Evangelical Church of America, San Diego, California.

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 19, July-September 2000.

R ECENTLY, my wife and I visited Scotland.

Part of the reason for our going was to study the history of the Covenanters in Galloway in the south west corner of Scotland.

As part of my study, I attended a Church of Scotland Service. As I entered the almost empty church building a young male organist was blasting out tunes of every kind on an organ at the side of the building. It was deafening and a meaningless cacophony of sounds.

As the hour approached for the Service to begin a large group of young married and single people came in. One was carrying a child dressed in very ornate clothes. It was to be baptized. It appeared that the crowd had come to see and support the parents on this special occasion.

As they waited for the Service to begin they talked and laughed loudly, and one child was allowed to run up and down the aisle, in spite of its parents' efforts to stop it. Many in the congregation were amused by it. There was absolutely no sense of reverence, or preparation of the soul for worship, and no-one was carrying a Bible.

The minister had not yet appeared. Finally be entered, huddled in his academic robes, late. After he had mounted the pulpit a recognition ceremony took place. One of the elders bowed to him, and he back to the elder.

The Service began by his reading from a large blue folder some perversion of the Holy Scriptures, far removed from the Authorized Version.

After the singing of a hymn from a Hymnbook which contained both hymns and Psalms, the Minister read a prayer from his folder. He then baptized the child, which he considered to be a Christian. The parents made vows.

After the baptism the minister carried the child up and down the four aisles of the church building, so that everyone could see it.

A young woman, maybe in her thirties, dressed in a pantsuit, and wearing high heels, came up and stood on a step beneath the pulpit and read from 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 in the Authorized Version. After this, the minister read his Sermon. He had a strong delivery, but there was no Scripture used. He spoke, instead, about the forthcoming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which was to begin on the Monday morning following.

He was opposed to much that was on the agenda: the red tape, the thickness of the Book of Reports, etc., but he gave no true remedy. Behind the minister, as he preached, were two stained glass windows. One was a representation of Christ carrying His Cross. The other was of His appearing to His disciples after His resurrection. Beside one of these windows were two icon-type wall decorations. One was of the Burning Bush, and the other another representation of Jesus.

As I sat there, my mind was carried back to our Covenanting Fathers, back to the Confession of Knox; back to the Westminster Assembly, back to its Standards. The Burning Bush has sadly dimmed. Indeed it's almost out. It may be consumed.

I sat mystified: What is the use of all of this? Why are these people here? What is this minister about? There was nothing for the soul, except the reading, by the young woman, from the Authorized Version, and it was most apt. It is about "...wood, hay and stubble...." Here was idolatry: images of Jesus; the carrying of a child about to be admired.

Here was heresy: reading from a perversion of Scripture, and no true Word preached.

It was so sad to witness the faith of our fathers being so despised. Knox would have shuddered. This should lead those of us (in the James Begg Society and others) who are concerned, to work and pray for repentance and reform in the Church of Scotland.

"...earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." – Jude 3