I Had No Idea that Edinburgh Was the Colorado Springs of the UK

David Robertson continues to argue for Scottish independence. What is curious about his reasoning is how little he relies in the Bible or theology. He might have appealed to the Tower of Babel, for instance. But he doesn’t:

1) Britain is past its sell by date – The United Kingdom was formed on the basis of the Empire, Protestantism and capitalism. Capitalism has triumphed but the other two reasons have gone. I am particularly concerned that the Christian foundation of Britain has been removed and we will not long have the fruits once the roots have gone.

2) We should govern ourselves – There is a basic principle of self-determination. Scotland should be governed from Scotland.

3) Scotland is a wealthy nation –A great deal of the argument is about oil but there are many other factors involved as well. Scotland is a small country with just over 5 million people. We have substantial resources in agriculture, industry, education, whisky, fishing, renewable energy, commerce and the arts. We are an inventive and creative people.

4) Social, economic and political justice – I believe that in a smaller nation with a strong democratic tradition, and less dependence on the City of London and Big Business, there is a greater prospect of a more just and equal society.

5) The Church will have more influence in an independent Scotland –Isn’t the Scottish parliament an institution that wants to distance itself from Scotland’s Christian past? It’s a moot point whether the UK or Scotland is going downhill quicker, but the fact is that they both are. Indeed they have descended at such a speed that I think we have to say that Christendom has gone. I am very concerned at some of the statements and actions coming from the Scottish Parliament in general and Alex Salmond in particular. But then I am equally concerned at what comes out of Westminster and David Cameron. Besides which voting for independence is not voting for a particular political party or leader.

I believe it will be easier for the Church and Christians to have a say in a society which is not centred on the worship of Mammon (the City of London), and which is a lot smaller. I certainly feel far more connected to Holyrood than Westminster. An independent Scotland will mean a new beginning. And the Church should be in there from the beginning seeking to be salt and light.

I detect a bit of resentment directed at London, but I didn’t necessarily see a lot of Christian presence in Edinburgh (though I did see a lot of souvenir shops and pubs which was a lot like any other city in the West). In another post Robertson again expresses distrust of London:

I still believe that we could have a more socially just system if we were independent of London control, and it doesn’t really bother me too much if we use the pound, the euro or the new Scottish groat! I will be glad to be rid of Trident, the dependency culture and being involved in ill thought out and meaningless wars.

At the same time, Robertson takes the temperature of his feet (which seem to be increasingly cool):

What kind of Scotland will an independent Scotland be? What will be its foundation? Will it be a series of populist measures, based upon an untried, fanciful secular humanist system that totally ignores Scotland’s Christian foundation? Or will you forget all the gesture politics, meaningless language and instead give us some social justice, education, health care, housing, etc? Are you seeking to remove Christianity from the public square? Can you tell me how you hope to have the fruits of Christianity without the roots?

Over 50 per cent of people in Scotland profess to be Christian. So why do you appear to be keen to throw out our Scottish Christian heritage? I will probably still vote for independence because I am not sure that ‘Christian Britain’ exists any more. But many others who share my faith in Jesus will be very reluctant to cast away what remains of Christian Britain to enter the surreal world of secular Scotland. Can you reassure us that there is a place for Christianity (other than in the museum) in the new Scotland? I look forward to hearing your answer.

Fifty percent? Heck, America has upwards of 75 percent of its people professing to be Christian and I doubt pastor Robertson would look at the U.S. as a model for Christian society. That’s not an argument for or against Scottish independence. It does raise questions about the way Christians analyze and discuss temporal matters.

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31 thoughts on “I Had No Idea that Edinburgh Was the Colorado Springs of the UK

  1. The reason why I don’t use the Bible or theology to argue for Scottish independence is that neither the Bible nor theology say anything about it. One of the things we have learned from the American church is how daft it is to think that the Bible was written to give specific instruction for American politicians or anyone else about non-biblical issues!

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  2. David Rob., so why is a minister of the Word of God speaking on things for Christians about non-biblical matters? Doesn’t sound like you learned anything from us only that you set the bar for how many U.S. Christians think Christ’s kingship should apply to all manner of temporal institutions. We are victims of Scottish political theology.

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  3. Those who want “to have a say” will get “their say”, and what we will have heard is how they miss a Christendom in which they could “have more say”. Such is the vanity of those who want to be part of influencing the conversation that they never question the value of the conversation.

    But wouldn’t that reduce us all to silence?

    Matthew 6: 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret….For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

    Richard Gamble—-Hart finds American Christianity confused and distracted by its quest for political and cultural influence. Christians of all types distort and misconstrue their faith by substituting a new calling and mission for the church’s biblical mandate…. They trivialize their spiritual liberty into demands for crèches in front of city hall and trivialize weighty biblical doctrine into merely good advice for upholding public morality. …Hart defends the secular realm primarily as a means to defend from politicization the church’s higher calling.

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  4. The Mosaic covenant may be silent about water but it is an “administration of the covenant of grace” and though the Mosaic covenant may be silent about some of the details, still the hope of Israel is not exile but our dominion in society in this age and the progressive exclusion of those who are not Israel.

    Oliver O’Donovan. The Desire of the Nations, p 194—-“Even our refusal of Christendom has been learned from Christendom. Its insights and errors have fashioned, sometimes by repetition and sometimes by reaction, the insights and errors which comprise the platitudes of our own era.
    Christendom, then,offers a reading of those political concepts with which Scripture furnishes us, and a reading of ourselves and of our situation from a point of observation outside ourselves … Either of these readings we are free to question or to doubt; but for neither of them can we find a ready substitute. The more the political character of Israel’s hope engages us, the more we need to know how it has actually shaped the government of nations. The more the problem of our own modernity engages us, the more we need to see this modernity against Christendom..”

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  5. As an Australian of part Scottish, part English ancestry I find it sad that Scotland may break the Union.

    I too detect a bit of a nationalist spirit and probably self deception as to who is more Christian.

    However as a citizen and a Christian, Robertson is able, indeed entitled to speak on this subject. Christians should be free to engage in the public square and they can argue w/o necessarily citing a Bible text. I think Robertson is arguing as a Christian, though I think thro’ blue tinted spectacles. But then, I’m not a Scot. Now if it was a game of rugby or cricket…….

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  6. David P., I don’t have a problem with Christians speaking. But when speaking on temporal matters, why should they identify themselves as Christian? Why not merely as citizen? It’s not like going into the public square as Christian is all that persuasive. But if you have a martyr complex, it may be effective. At which point it is all about the Christian and not the temporal realm.

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  7. There’s one reason a pastor might wisely choose to up-shut on this non life or death issue: it could go terribly wrong and his countrymen may blame his religion along with his judgment. And the populace is split almost 50/50. Can a pastor choose to alienate half of his neighbors over a non-essential?

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  8. Dear Cw,

    Your comment here is not very ‘unifying’… you mean to say that the Dutch Calvinists’ Kuyperianism in South Africa may have alienated many blacks (and English whites) from joining the Reformed Churches?

    You don’t say!

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  9. David Robertson,
    For a UK born person I find some of your comments have little back up with assertions petering out into generalities. Scotland is like much of the UK economy – living beyond it’s means on borrowed money. Scotland is not wealthy and echoes the rest of the UK in it’s awful decline since the First World War from which we emerged largely bankrupt and in debt firstly to the USA and now the rest of the world. I may be a simple Lancastrian, but being in debt has always meant living beyond one’s means, be it as an individual or as a nation.
    How your assertion that Scotland’s church would have more of a say in society “not centred on the worship of mammon (the City of London)” also leaves me scratching my head as to how you come to that conclusion. It reminds me of what our moral/social guardians over here in the BBC would drive at about the City of London. I think socialism has a lot to do with it.
    In my thinking the massive fault line in Scottish theology is that it wants to be separate from the state and yet have a vital, essential voice in the ordering of it’s affairs from education to law making. I also think that a certain John Knox may have left such a mind set among his Scottish brethren.
    My final thought is perhaps it would be better David if you poured your time and energy exclusively into the Free Church of Scotland which increasingly has an an American flavour (Keller, Piper, DeYoung etc. etc.) with it’s once staunch defence of Protestant psalm orbed worship now being gradually supplanted by more youth/student attracting Townsend worship. I can see the day coming when it will be hard to spot hardly any difference between some of the supposedly Reformed churches like the FCS and all the rest found in evangelicalism and charismatic circles, even New Frontiers.

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  10. The ‘securalist’ onslaught on ‘Western’ Culture is clearly too heavy for denominational distinctions to be taken seriously. IOW, culture wars are more important than doctrinal wars. Just sayin’.

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  11. D. G. Hart
    Posted September 7, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink
    David P., I don’t have a problem with Christians speaking. But when speaking on temporal matters, why should they identify themselves as Christian? Why not merely as citizen?

    Because the default is usually atheist materialism/utilitarianism, or in England’s case, increasingly Muslim. You “two Kingdoms” types are useless when it comes to preserving natural law and Biblical morality, and the default, like rust, never sleeps.

    Scotland is 32% Reformed [C of S], 16% Catholic, 5% C of E and others, and only 1.5% Muslim. I like their chances.

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  12. TVD, but what happens when the Christian and the Muslim (and/or atheist and/or whatever) agree on temporal matters, or when the Christian and the Christian disagree? It happens all the time, and it throws a wrench in the worldview machine that wants to draw straight lines from religious belief to temporal outlook. But at the end of the day, if my non-Christian neighbor agrees with me on some temporal matter then why should anybody care what each of us confesses religiously? Oh, that’s right, there’s a culture to take captive. Yawn.

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  13. Will Mr Robertson be happy if independence passes and in five years the socialistic SNP has made the country more secular and more hostile to his interests…and there’s massive recession that affects many of his congregants? Will he say “I was wrong about the last vote, but trust me now?”

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  14. …being involved in ill thought out and meaningless wars.
    This confuses me; in my experience, w-w’ists are all for ill thought out and meaningless wars…

    I certainly feel far more connected to Holyrood than Westminster

    First glance, I read that as “Hollywood”, which was pretty funny.

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  15. “The reason why I don’t use the Bible or theology to argue for Scottish independence is that neither the Bible nor theology say anything about it.”

    Doesn’t anyone read Daniel any more? “Plymouth Brethren” and others have been arguing since the mid-19th century that the British Empire would dissolve and the United Kingdom break up into its constituent elements as the Roman empire is revived.

    C.H. Spurgeon dismissed William Kelly on exactly this basis in Commenting and Commentaries: “Mr. Kelly finds in the Minor Prophets a great many things which we cannot see a trace of—for instance, he here discovers that we shall lose India. It is a pity that a man of such excellence should allow a very superior mind to be so warped.”

    Time to wake up and smell the curry … the “yes” campaign is now in the lead and private polling for the SNP is being reported to put this advance at 54%.

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  16. Zrim-

    You seem to assume that the Muslim arrives at the same conclusion as the 2k Christian for the same reason: secularist thinking. But their motivation could be their religious outlook. Motivations matter. Which is why even if I as a Christian agree with a Muslim on, say, abortion I have absolutely no desire to ally myself with the Muslim. Everyone has a worldview.

    The nature of a particular society has a direct impact on the church. Yes Christians must be prepared to be hated but given the choice I’m gonna choose Knoxian Scotland over Nero’s Rome: Established Scotland is just better than Christians being thrown to the lions. So any mice towards a society more hostile to the church should be resisted by Christians.

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  17. Alexander, yes, everyone has a worldview but not everyone has faith. That latter category is what the Bible cares about. So you would not ally yourself with a non-believer on a temporal matter on which you both agree? Does that mean you’d ally yourself with a believer on a temporal matter on which you both disagree? That makes no sense. Three boos for worldview.

    But here’s what makes sense though: ally yourself on temporal matters with those who agree with you (and oppose those who temporally oppose you, regardless of their eternal beliefs), and ally yourself on eternal matters with those who agree with you (and oppose those who eternally oppose you, regardless of their temporal opinions). Why is this so hard? This is how things actually work.

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  18. Zrim
    Posted September 8, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink
    TVD, but what happens when the Christian and the Muslim (and/or atheist and/or whatever) agree on temporal matters, or when the Christian and the Christian disagree? It happens all the time, and it throws a wrench in the worldview machine that wants to draw straight lines from religious belief to temporal outlook. But at the end of the day, if my non-Christian neighbor agrees with me on some temporal matter then why should anybody care what each of us confesses religiously? Oh, that’s right, there’s a culture to take captive. Yawn.

    Well, there’s a culture to preserve, although it’s probably too late. Between godless materialism and multi-culturalism I think England is lost, but the Scots have a shot.

    As far as your non-Christian [or non-theist] neighbor agreeing with you on temporal matters, I think you r2kers don’t appreciate that modernity rejects, and theists/Christians tend to accept and defend, natural law.

    It’s not a flip of the coin; there is a correlation. And it’s not a flip of the coin either that the world your children grow up and will live in–one under natural law or some dystopian Brave New World–doesn’t matter. You may not be interested in politics but politics is interested in you.

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  19. TVD, something tells me the same doomsaying has always been said in each generation–we’re on the brink, children. How Dispensationalist. But I’ll leave the Chicken Little theorizing to you worldviewers and be content to live in the real world where there is nothing new under the sun.

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  20. …but politics is interested in you.

    Should Catholic Schools Have the Right to Enforce Church Teaching?
    By Maggie Gallagher
    September 9, 2014 3:37 PM

    The Washington Post and The New Republic are joining in the effort to shame a private Catholic school for enforcing a “morals” clause in its contract against a woman, apparently a lovely teacher and gym coach, who has decided to have a baby by artificial insemination with her female partner.

    Should Catholic schools have the right to require the teachers who teach in their schools believe what the Church teaches? Should they not practice what the Church preaches?

    Apparently not, according to the hatred now directed at this one school.

    Freedom of association, which is the freedom of individuals to form together to build institutions that advance their beliefs, is now the forgotten freedom in liberal America.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/387505/should-catholic-schools-have-right-enforce-church-teaching-maggie-gallagher

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  21. DG, I would think you would be in favor of an independent Scotland? Isn’t smaller and more local almost always better? Isn’t the insistence on a large unified (read Imperial) governing conglomerate a mark of modernity? Would it almost create a type of competition between Scotland and England? Perhaps scotch distilleries could fall in price as they escape London’s regulation,taxes, and tariffs? Perhaps I know absolutely nothing about UK politics.

    The last option is more likely, but if independence is what the Scots want I see no reason why they should be forced to be part of the UK just because that’s the way it is right now.

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  22. Brian, I am undecided. Plus, it’s not my call. I don’t think the Scots know what’s in store and that includes the pain. How can a nation of 5.5 million sustain 23 (I think) universities? Probably can’t. Are the Scots willing to pay more tuition fees? Are they willing to see institutions made redundant? Plus, I worry what this does to Northern Ireland where union is clearly preferred to independence by some of the Brits.

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  23. I heard one wonk say that an independent Scotland would become Venezuela without the sunshine. Ministers taking sides on so risky a proposition cannot help but do harm to the church and their own credibility. And Scotland’s share of the UK debt is something like 100 billion. The independence leader has joked that they might not pay their share, saying “What can they do, invade us?” An auspicious start.

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  24. The Paisley’s weigh in:

    Scotland’s referendum on independence has been described as “a ticking time bomb” for Northern Ireland.

    Some Unionists fear a “yes” vote would encourage the terrorist campaign of dissident Irish republicans.

    Ian Paisley junior’s North Antrim constituency is closer to Scotland than it is to Belfast.

    Descended from the Scots who sailed west to establish Ulster, he is passionate about the union.

    He said: “If Scotland decided to leave the union, it would encourage nationalists, who in Ireland have been violent in the past, to up the ante again and think that they can pull and wrestle Northern Ireland from the union also.

    “Now, we’ve got to send a very solid message, that won’t happen and that’s why we’re relying on our Scottish cousins and on our Scottish neighbours and on our Scottish people to maintain this union.”

    A “yes” vote in Scotland would leave Northern Ireland with independent countries on either side.

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  25. I would say that if you want the guy running the local convenience store to stop selling pornography then you preach the Gospel to him. If that doesn’t work then you continue to preach the Gospel to everyone else in the neighbourhood. When the neighbourhood is converted, no one will buy those materials and he’ll quit selling them…. I do not believe that the Christian calling is to make converts so that we can pass legislation and call on state power to enforce Gospel conformity. That’s using violence (the threat of law) to create a pseudo-kingdom.

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2013/02/sparring-with-elder-over-state-of.html

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  26. This might give Pastor Robertson pause:

    The king [Robert the Bruce] also ordered all these parts of the plain, where it was probable that the English cavalry would advance, either upon his centre or flank, to be filled with deep pits, covered over with turf, so that they might not be perceived. On the highest part of the field was erected the royal tent, where a stone, perforated to receive the royal standard, is still shewn to strangers by the common people in that neighbourhood. The rear division, consisting of the men of Argyle, Hebudse, and Carrick, was commanded by the king himself. Douglas and Walter Stewart commanded the centre. Randolph, now Earl of Moray, commanded the left wing, and Edward Bruce the right. In this posture, the intrepid and brave Scots waited the attack of that mighty army, with which the English monarch had invaded his dominions.

    Nor did King Robert neglect to animate his men by the solemnities of religion.

    The day previous to the battle, his men were employed in confession, according to the popish system, which then prevailed [indeed…], in order to prepare them to receive the sacrament the day following, and he himself continued all night in prayer. Early on the morning of that eventful day, which was to decide the fate of Scotland and England, the abbot of Inchaffray said mass on the top of a hill, and administered the sacrament to the king and his principal officers, which the other clergy did to the army.

    Then the abbot advanced before the first ranks, with a crucifix in his hand, the whole following in procession; and when they had arrived at a proper place, they all kneeled down, to implore the protection of him who was represented on the cross, and to receive the benediction of the priest.

    The enemy, who was near, beholding this kneeling, when they should have been preparing to fight, concluded that the vast superiority of their numbers, and their glittering weapons, had struck such a terror into the Scots, that they were begging for mercy. But they were soon assured of the contrary; for the Scots, rising from their devotion, presented undaunted countenances, and were impatient to engage in close combat.

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