The Declaratory Act (1892) and the forces of change

Kay, David (1980) The Declaratory Act (1892) and the forces of change. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the forces which influenced the thinking of the Free Church of Scotland and led it to pass the Declaratory Act And the Confession of Faith in 1892. The examination is conducted within certain limits. With regard to the period covered in the examination, it is limited to roughly 25 years preceding the Act. It was during this period that the main influences which led to the passing of the Act fully asserted themselves. One authority who will be cited in the Introduction dates the movement from 1860. However, on occasions it will be necessary to go outside this period in order to outline the start of forces which came to full force during the period being examined. A further limit is the nature of what is examined. The Declaratory Act indicates a shift in thinking and beliefs and so the influences which have to be examined have to do with ideas and thinking. Consequently people considered in this work are only considered from the point of view of how they or their ideas influenced the thinking of others. In order to appreciate the strength of the influences which brought this change in credal subscription it is necessary to understand what a great change was wrought in a comparatively short time. To this end the introductory chapter shows how firmly entrenched the Westminster Confession of Faith was in the Scottish Churches especially the Free Church; and how little sign of opposition or desire for change there was prior to the period being considered. In chapters II and III, forces which influenced the movement towards change are examined. In chapter II the forces examined are influences which were radical in their nature and so would appear to be obvious influences for change. In this chapter there is an attempt to get the strength of their influence in perspective and this shows that most of these things were not as influential in Scotland as contemporaries thought. The influence of radical forces examined in chapter II is brought further into perspective by the examination of a conservative force in chapter III: evangelicalism. This examination will show that in some important aspects evangelicalism was departing from the theology of the Westminster Confession as well as the more obviously radical forces. Thus, it is shown that evangelicalism, as much as radical influences, influenced the move towards the Declaratory Act. Chapter IV shows the Hyper-Calvinist understanding of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This represents the old and generally correct interpretation of the Confession when strictly interpreted, as it once was. By comparison with the position revealed in this chapter it can be seen how far evangelicals as well as radicals had moved from the theology contained in the Confession. Unless radicals and evangelicals alike had admitted they had erred and returned to an interpretation of the Confession such as is seen in chapter IV - which clearly they could not do. - then some solution had to be found which would not only ease troubled consciences, but make the situation with regard to the relationship of Free Church ministers and elders to the Confession a more honest one. The question of how adequate a solution the Declaratory Act was, is outwith the scope of this thesis and the work is concluded with a final assessment of the extent to which the various forces examined influenced the move towards creed revision. It is stressed that some of the radical forces did not have the direct influence contemporaries imagined but they did create an intellectual climate in which more direct forces could exert their influence. The final point, and the main one which this thesis seeks to make is that the apparently conservative force of evangelicalism was in fact an important influence towards change and one which has been greatly underestimated.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Ian A Muirhead
Keywords: Religious history
Date of Award: 1980
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1980-72790
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72790

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