General Assembly

Seminary thankful for growing number of new students

May 25, 2016

The chair of the Board of Edinburgh Theological Seminary told commissioners tonight that he is thankful for the growing number of new students coming for the next academic year.

Rev Dr Malcolm Maclean (above) encouraged congregations to regularly pray for students and staff at the Seminary.

Part of his presentation also highlighted the potential goldmine of studying historical Scottish theology.

Dr Maclean said: “We can learn a lot about pastoral matters from considering in a focused way the life and beliefs of previous theologians, pastors and preachers, and Scotland has had them in abundance.

“There are many treasures waiting to be mined by those willing to dig.”

He continued: “Our Scottish theology and Scottish church practice is very rich.

“Robert Bruce has a great deal to teach us about the Lord’s Supper, as have several other subsequent Scottish writers.

“Sinclair Ferguson’s recent book on the Marrow Controversy reminds us that there are biblical answers to legalism and on how to preach the free offer of the Gospel, and they were helpfully dealt with by Thomas Boston and his contemporaries.

“Theologians and ministers of the nineteenth century Free Church made significant contributions to the importance of the doctrine of adoption, and I suspect that a grasp of the doctrine of adoption and balanced preaching about it is the best way to deal with the problem of lack of assurance found in every congregation.

“Thomas Chalmers has a lot to teach us about aspects of urban evangelism and also why Christians should not identify themselves with a particular economic theory.

“The Board and the Seminary are convinced that the study of historical Scottish theology is an important part of what we can use in our promotion of the Seminary.”

Principal Iver Martin

Principal Iver Martin (above) spoke about developments with modern technology, particularly for distance-learning options, and how this will improve learning experiences.

ETS has engaged in major improvements, with the refurbishment of floors six and seven, which will hopefully lead to the existence of a Mission Centre.

This would help train local church office bearers and workers, church planting and cross-cultural mission, refresher courses and post-graduate courses for those involved in mission.

Professor David Jasper

The Assembly also paid tribute to the hard work of Professor David Jasper (above) from the University of Glasgow over the past 15 years, and after being presented to Moderator Rev Dr John Nicholls, Professor Jasper brought greetings from senior university officials, including Principal Anton Muscatelli, and received warm applause.

The B.Th run by Edinburgh Theological Seminary is validated by the university, and the final-year students successfully completing studies on this course will attend the University of Glasgow graduation ceremony next month.

Commissioners received a special brochure of information from the Seminary, and Principal Martin also gave the Assembly the first public viewing of a new promotional video.

Making reference to an Iain D Campbell who is drawing caricatures during proceedings at the Church of Scotland General Assembly, former Moderator Rev Dr Iain D Campbell (below) confessed to being the Free Church’s artist-in-residence, saying: “Our preachers are called to paint portraits showing the loveliness of Jesus, giving people the view of another world”.

Rev Dr Iain D Campbell

Conscious of societal changes, the Seminary Board believe the answer for Christians is to discover “the riches of the various branches of theology that are found within the Reformed Faith”. 

Dr Maclean concluded: “We are aware of the de-Christianising of our society, and who knows what consequences this huge change is going to bring about, perhaps for the next couple of generations, and we need to appreciate that a proper understanding of the Reformed Faith has enabled a countless number of Christians to persevere in the face of opposition. 

“Several times it has been suggested that an increase in the number of theological students points to the possibility that God has prosperous times ahead. Hopefully that will be the case. 

“Of course, it is possible that the current tide of opposition to Christianity will make it very difficult to have large congregations, and the increase in number of students may be happening because in the future the church will need more pastors to feed and direct numbers of smaller churches. 

“Whatever the future, the work of ETS is to bring about pastors well-taught and equipped to convey the message of the Bible in a manner suitable for the present.”

For more details about ETS, visit their website.

Tomorrow the General Assembly will receive the report of the Board of Ministry, and there will also be a visit from the Lord High Commissioner, Baron Hope of Craighead.