20th Century Scottish Reformed Theology


By coincidence, I’ve been lately reading a varying sampling of Reformed theology, all from Scotland, and all from the last century. I’m continually impressed by the quality — and, more than quality, a fervor and excitement — that inheres in so much of Scottish theology for the last hundred years. The theologians I have in mind truly loved God and loved the discipline of theology; the humility and joy given to them by the Cross is as present in their theology as it is in the greatest of the evangelical hymns. So, in the interest of proselytizing, here is my recommended list:

James Denney

The Death of Christ (1902)
The Atonement and the Modern Mind (1903)
The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation (1918)

P. T. (Peter Taylor) Forsyth

Christian Perfection (1899)
The Person and Place of Jesus Christ (1909)
The Cruciality of the Cross (1910)
The Principle of Authority (1913)
The Justification of God (1916)

H. R. (Hugh Ross) Mackintosh

The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ (1912)
The Christian Experience of Forgiveness (1927)
Types of Modern Theology (1937)

John Baillie

A Diary of Private Prayer (1936)
Our Knowledge of God (1939)
The Sense of the Presence of God (1962) 

John McIntyre

The Shape of Christology (1966, rev. 1998)
Faith, Theology and the Imagination (1987)
The Shape of Pneumatology (1997)

T. F. (Thomas Forsyth) Torrance

Theological Science (1969)
Space, Time and Incarnation (1969)
God and Rationality (1971)
Space, Time and Resurrection (1976)
The Ground and Grammar of Theology (1981)
Reality and Evangelical Theology (1982)
The Mediation of Christ (1983, rev. 1992)
Reality and Scientific Theology (1986)
The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (1988)
The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (1996)



  1. Kevin. It’s encouraging to see you reading such a great list of authors. I am curious, though, as to your use of the term ‘Reformed’ to describe Forsyth. What do you think makes Forsyth ‘Reformed’? While Forsyth certainly had a great appreciation for the best insights – or perhaps, more properly, the best ‘instincts’ – of the Reformers, ‘Reformed’ is certainly not the first word that comes to mind when I think of Forsyth’s theology.

    I’m keen to hear your thoughts on this.


  2. Interesting, Jason, since I’ve never thought of Forsyth as anything but Reformed; but, I’ve never actually considered why I thought this. It’s the general impression that I’ve gotten from reading ‘The Person and Place of Jesus Christ,’ ‘The Principle of Authority,’ and bits from ‘Cruciality of the Cross,’ ‘Rome, Reform and Reaction,’ and ‘The Church and the Sacraments.’ Of course, he’s not Dordtian/Westminster Reformed, so I’m certainly using the label more broadly, but he is fairly big on locating the source of our redemption solely in the work of God in Christ and in the Spirit’s reordering of our desires and bestowing of faith. There’s nothing that I’ve seen in his works concerning anything on our end (the redeemed) that will qualify the salvation received in Christ by the Spirit; i.e., our failure in works or even quality of faith does not negate that Christ died for our sins and we are accepted even though we are sinners. However, Forsyth, contra certain Lutheran approaches, is not keen on “at once, sinner and saint,” since Forsyth shares the very characteristic Reformed optimism in the fact that sin and death are truly conquered and, thus, they truly can be conquered in our lives; we need not limit the regenerating work of the Spirit as if Christ didn’t redeem all of our fallen human nature. As well, this sort of optimism is shifted to the social sphere, since the Rule of Christ can truly be effected (to varying extents) in our communities as in our lives, but not in any theocratic or establishment model but by the simple preaching of the Word and conversion of hearts (I find this to be a very Reformed characteristic, despite the existence of Reformed state churches; the Reformed Church is the mother of the Free Church, as Hendrikus Berkhof noted and rightly so). So, those are some reasons why I think of Forsyth as Reformed, but I’m certainly no expert and could very well be off track.

  3. WTM,

    Got Mediation up there now. Torrance just wrote too much; it’s still not an exhaustive list. As for Mackintosh, I’m currently reading Types of Modern Theology, and it is a gem of constructive analysis.

  4. Kevin,

    Thanks for your response. You may want to rethink Forsyth’s debt to Lutheranism, however, after you read his essay on ‘Christian Perfection’, available in God the Holy Father, which you can download from my site.

    I unequivocally second Travis’ call for The Mediation of Christ. A must read!

    And while you’re happy to add to your list, consider Denney’s The Atonement and the Modern Mind, John McLeod Campbell’s The Nature of the Atonement, Thomas Erskine’s The Brazen Serpent and, of course, more Forsyth!!


  5. Thanks, Jason, for the reference to “Christian Perfection.” I read it and truly enjoyed it (especially the distinction between sinful volitions and the entire personality, pp. 112-113). Now, everything that I said about Forsyth will have to be severely qualified! — to say the least. Oh well.

    I added ‘The Atonement and the Modern Mind,’ even though it was/is included in later editions of ‘The Death of Christ.’ As for Campbell and Erskine, they are solidly 19th century (albeit intimaters of what was to come, as Newman was for Catholics), but otherwise I would have included them.

  6. Kevin,

    It just occurred to me that the other obvious omission here is the Oban-born philosopher and theologian Donald M. MacKinnon, whose book, Borderlands of Theology (1968) is a must read. He also penned Explorations in Theology (1979) and Themes in Theology, the Three-fold Cord: essays in philosophy, politics and theology (1987).

  7. Thanks, Jason. I’ve never heard of MacKinnon (at least, not that I can recall), but I’ll have to look-up some reviews on the books you mention.

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