Monday, February 20, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XIX.

Robert Rainy's life is impossible to disentangle from the history of the Free Church of Scotland. One of the first Free Church students, by 1893 he had become the supreme leader of his denomination.
In 1894 the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland recieved an overture from the United Presbyterian Church requesting that union between the two Churches be sought. Evidently the Unted Presbyterians were of the opinion that the Free Church declaratory act had cleared away the barriers to union. Rainy, who was on very good terms with the United Presbyterian leaders, moved that the Assembly "welcome" the idea and "commend the subject to the interest and prayers of the people." While other Free Church leaders were much more enthusiastic, Rainy was cautious. The Send Ten Years' Conflict had nearly split the Free Church in two, and he was very conscious that a union could still have serious consequences in the Highlands.
Rainy had already co-operated with Professor James Orr of the United Free Church earlier in the year. In the winter session of 1893-4 the Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh had been given by Professor Otto Pfleiderer, one of the most advanced German modernist theologians. The Gifford foundation is a strange one, for it was established to discuss Theism on the grounds of natural religion, expressly excluding Supernatural Revelation. James Denney viewed the foundation as "a gigantic abuse,' and he had some reason to. Pfleiderer had used the lectureship to mount an all-out attack on the supernatural. Rainy was horrified. Not only could the Gifford foundation not be used to lecture for Christianity, it was being used systematically to argue against it.
Rainy had by this time established connections with the leaders in the other major Presbyterian denominations, and this time the foreign invader would be repulsed by the massed forces of Presbyterian orthodoxy. The plan was for four lectures, Professor Charteris of the Church of Scotland to take one lecture, Professor James Orr of the United Presbyterian Church to take one, and Principal Rainy and Professor Marcus Dods of the Free Church of Scotland to take one each.
In the event Professor Charteris was prevented by illness from giving his lecture, and the defence was lect to the Presbyterian dissenters. Rainy was on top form, laying out in a masterly fashion all the errors that Pfleiderer's position entailed. The German professor denied all miracle - therefore he denied that Jesus was the Son of God. Since God had planned the world on orderly lines, governed by natural law, He would not intervene in a miracle. Rainy retorted:
"Is it beyond belief that it might be in the design of God to make a worthy manifestation of Himself which should be personal?" why should not God intervene in the world? In fact, how could we know the love of God apart from His sending His Son to die for us? The power of Christianity is not only in its conception of God, it is in what God has done in history, sending His Son to die for sinners.
Professor Orr followed Rainy worthily, and to many the thought of the resolutely orthodox Orr teaching Free Church students was most appealing. The road to union had begun to be travelled.
God willing, we shall see something of that road next time.



Blogger goodnightsafehome said...

Sorry for using the comment box. Your link to our site on Cork FPC has an incorrect URL. There are wx4 instead of 3xw i.e. it should read:

Regards amd thanks!

Colin Maxwell
(Cork FPC)

9:00 pm  

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