Edinburgh Theological Seminary – What Really Goes on Inside?

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Walk past the imposing Scott Monument, along the side of the National Gallery, then up the several stone flights of the Playfair steps – you are met with a building that is viewed by many as some sort of a mysterious (and ever-so-slightly sacred) place. Where young men go in, and out come ministers, suited and booted – ready to go.
Edinburgh Theological Seminary, no doubt, is imposing – it just seems to grow greyly out of the ground.

So what is this mysterious place really like?

I’ll happily admit the first time I walked up to this door I little real idea what I was going to face – possibly a line of men in dark suits, staring unblinkingly as they assess my theological weak points? Or maybe even a 50 page questionnaire as to my defence on infant baptism?

What I actually found as I walked in was a room full of smiling faces, a mix of current students welcoming us and new students just as nervous as myself.

The @freechurchscot offices have been located in the heart of #edinburgh since the 1850's. The building also houses the Edinburgh Theological Seminary, a bookshop and cafe which is open to the public . Built in 1727 by James Brownhill, he named it 'James Court' after himself . On 15th August 1857, the western half of the building was gutted by fire and almost a hundred people were made homeless. There was no loss of life, and it is recorded that there were many heroic acts of rescue . In early 1858, a prominent Free Churchman, Mr John Maitland, realising the importance of the site, bought the building and decided to rebuild the western portion. It was ready for occupation in 1862 . #fcos #themoundedinburgh #ets #bookshop #offices #denomination #instafollow #followme #follow

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In no particular order, here’s what I’ve seen in my first few weeks of ETS, bearing in mind that it’s still very much early days:

Diversity
One thing you immediately realise is that the college is made up of a diverse group of students (and indeed lecturers). There are several nations, colours, languages and cultures to be found in the building.
When you look to the history of the Free Church, you will quickly see that diversity (as long as it has no impact on the message or spread of the  Gospel) is accepted and in some cases promoted. This diversity has allowed the college to help train and send out different people back to their own nations – ready to share a solid and firm biblical faith.
This diversity can be seen wonderfully in the fact that in my small class there are at least 2 guys planning (Gw.) to become Reformed Baptist ministers.
We have our differences, but the reality is – time is short, Scotland grows ever darker, and we need to work together for the Gospel.
That’s not to say there’s not a good amount of banter between us. I’d show you the group chats – but perhaps it’s safer not to…


Banter & Fellowship
That brings me on the next point, and I say this with utmost respect – there is fun in the college *cue collective gasp & hushed whispers*.
It’s true, I have not yet seen a day where there has not been some a joke shared or comment made that has not resulted in one of the lectures breaking into, at least, a smile.  In the dining room (more on that later) at break and lunch there is often plenty of banter and laughter. This is not the result of a laid-back attitude to the work or even to the massive reality of our calling, instead this flows from the fact that we are all family together. Just as we work together, and wrestle with all the many difficulties, we also join together to have a laugh – almost always at our own expense. We grow together.

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Prayer & Worship
Every class is bookended in prayer, all that is taught – all that we attempt to learn and put into practice, has been wrapped in prayer. It’s a simple thing, but it is also a wonderful thing. It brings to mind that we are not training to be dry academics, we are training to work for the glory of God and to be useful servants in his service. The class prayers also help to ease the pressure and stress of the work. In a class where you’re tackling ‘Masculine, 3rd declension, Greek Nouns’ you are really thankful for the reminder that we are to work hard, but to ultimately place our worries onto our Saviour.
We sing a few verses together from a Psalm after our morning break, and then after lunch we gather together for a time of student-led worship. Again, just cementing the fact that we are here to serve the God that saved us, all glory must ultimately go to Him.


Scones
Nothing else quite soothes the mind like butter melting on a warm scone (or bacon roll on Fridays). Our 10.50 scone & coffee break along with sharing lunch together after classes offers even more time to fellowship and to get to know each other as fellow servants.


 

 The work is hard, it’s rigorous, it covers ground at a seemingly breakneck pace. But not one day has passed without the reminder that we are all one family, both lecturers and students, we are all there to seek to do the will of God. Seeking to serve him, seeking to see Him glorified in all that is done.

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3 very short thoughts on the Church of Scotland and Scripture

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Plenty will be said in the upcoming days about the decision taken by the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the decision which allows an individual in a same-sex civil partnership (and undoubtedly after Thursday, also those in same-sex ‘marriages’) to become an ordained minister.

I would like to start by saying that I know there are many brothers and sisters in the COS who are upset and sad about the decision, please continue to pray for your Church, as we all will.                   For any in the COS, a group called Covenant Fellowship Scotland  has been established to seek the “reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland.”

So what 3 points can be drawn from this decision:

1. The real problem is not ministers in same-sex relationships
The vote is a blatant disregard for scripture’s definition of marriage and also for it’s definition of what it means to be a minister, though these two points alone are terribly sad and very revealing, they are only the symptoms of the real underlying problem.

2. The real problem is a blatant disregard for Scripture
The COS’s (current) deviation from scripture did not start after yesterday’s vote. No, it started the very moment that it was proposed a clear Biblical principle could be argued in the courts of the Church, and the clear words of the creator debated by his created beings. Not for a second would I discourage the discussion of God’s word, we are instructed to  do it:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
To be living as Christians we must study and discuss the scriptures, and in our study we might well disagree on some points.
But in saying that, some points of scripture are so piercingly precise and obvious that when read in context with the rest of the book and with rest of the bible, the message cannot be mistaken.
Yesterday’s vote is one of these points, and  the bible is clear on the topic.
The fact  that the COS believes that the clear points of Scripture can be argued in a General Assembly, and be decided by a vote, show’s it’s opinion on God’s revealed word.
An opinion which seems to be that God’ word is completely infallible and perfect, that is, apart from the parts we don’t like and that make us feel uncomfortable, those bits aren’t so important.

3. Emotion over Scripture?
This is more of a point 2.5 rather than a point 3, but just to piggy-back on the previous point, we can ask the question:
“Is the COS following the Scripture or following the will of man?”
Take a look at any of the social media posts about this decision, about half the posts are from Church members who are “proud of the bravery shown today”, and the other half are from people apparently out-with the Church who are also congratulating the Church on the decision that was made.
In watching the debate today, and after following it for a few years, the same issue has appeared time and time again, that is the emphasis is on emotion and feelings rather than on scripture.
The arguments in favour of the change almost exclusively drew on stories and personal anecdotes, all very genuine and sincere, but also all lacking in any scriptural backing.
The arguments against the change were all clearly and logically argued from our  “only infallible rule of faith and practice”, not on the changing and sinful bases of our own emotions and thoughts.
The two cannot be compared, one side arguing from sinful human reason and emotion, the other arguing from the very word direct from God.

Again these are just my initial thoughts on what went on yesterday, although blatantly against God’s revealed word there is still hope for renewal and reformation for the Church of Scotland, there still remains plenty of faithful members and congregations who also long for such a day.

As always, comments and thoughts are very welcome