Per Crucem ad Lucem
Posted by Phil Baiden
This is an adapted post from my personal blog:
Through the cross to light. That’s the title of a little biography by A.M. Hunter about a Scottish congregationalist called P.T. Forsyth, a minister and theologian at the turn of the last century. My interest in Forsyth came about after my return from Madagascar. That trip had clarified the importance of a vital trust in Christ, the beauty of Reformed worship and the great responsibility laid on me as a future minister of the Gospel. I also came to see that it was not upon the heads of ministers to run social services or to turn churches into community outreach centres but to proclaim the saving work of God in his Son Jesus Christ. I’d finished the journey from liberal to conservative.
I now saw that human sin was a terrible reality that needed to be taken seriously. I saw that God was sovereign and holy. I believed the cross was God’s solution to this problem. I saw that our Reformed forebears consistently taught this and should be studied and listened to. But this meant I felt out of place in a denomination where these truths were not central and many evangelicals were far from the Reformed practices I held dear.
I began searching the Internet for information about this Gospel I had to preach but much of it came from America. Was there a British theologian who could speak to the situation this country and my denomination found itself in? And then I stumbled on this quote:
“There was a time when I was interested in the first degree with purely scientific criticism. Bred among the academic scholarship of the classics and philosophy, I carried these habits to the Bible … [but] it also pleased God by the revelation of His holiness and grace, which the great theologians taught me to find in the Bible, to bring home to me my sin in a way that submerged all the school questions in weight, urgency and poignancy. I was turned from a Christian to a believer, from lover of love to an object of grace.”
Here it was. Someone who had taken the same path that I had. From the liberal academy to an object of grace. This was Forsyth writing in 1907 in the book “Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind”. I bought the book. I devoured it. I broke a lifetime’s practice and underlined passages in biro. Here was a theologian from my own denominational heritage talking of sin, grace, the holiness of God and the cross as being absolutely essential.
This book also reminds the preacher that he is not to read the newspapers and adapt his messages accordingly. The preacher is a herald, an ambassador with a message from a holy God to a sinful people. That message will always be relevant whereas the man that follows the press will be pulled from pillar to post.
Forsyth was a great reader of his times. Many of the things he warned about have come to fruition. 100 years on, his writings are still vital. Start reading – it’s worth it.