I believe in the new perspective...

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We had a special service in our church this evening.


The traditions of Scottish Highland evangelical piety in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gave rise to the 'Question' meeting. This was a meeting in which the laymen of the church could participate; and in which they often showed themselves to be more theologically astute than many ministers.


The format of the meeting was relatively simple. After a short time of public worship, one of the local elders would stand up to 'give out the question' - to highlight a verse from the Bible which speaks about the change that takes place in the life of the person who is truly born again. A visiting minister, presiding over the worship, would 'open the question', giving an extempore exposition of the verse in its biblical context, and suggesting one or two avenues of thought for the participants in the service.


These would be visiting elders, invited by the minister of the host church to 'speak to the question'. Some would do this by giving a testimony of how they came to faith in Christ; others by highlighting some marks of grace. Those most skilled in speaking at Highland Question meetings were those who could marry their personal experience of God's grace to the theology of the verse chosen for the evening, weaving a blend of personal testimony, doctrinal truth and experiential piety together for the benefit of the hearers.


Another visiting minister would then 'close the question', which might involve summarising the main points made, correcting any theological errors, and bringing the whole thing to an orderly conclusion.


Traditionally this service, which gave the greater part of the service to the contribution of the non-ordained men, was part of our Scottish communion season, and many of our Highland congregations still build it into the timetable of services. Twice a year our Presbytery organises such meetings, and we were the hosts tonight.


One of our elders gave out Isaiah 9:2 as the text on which the discussion was based, with its great emphasis on the light shining on those who sat in darkness. We had six speakers from other congregations, who spoke about the different ways they experienced the light of the Gospel, and two visiting ministers who opened and closed the meeting.


Traditionally also this service has been in Gaelic, but tonight's was bilingual. We had about 100 people in attendance. The form of tonight's Question Meeting has changed little since the eighteenth century (see a couple of pieces just added to my blog), and still has the powerful effect of grounding our theology in Scripture, and our practice in our theology. It weds together the twin towers of doctrinal orthodoxy and Christian experience, allowing each to interpret the other.


Long may it last, if only for the emphasis it brings to the fact that when the light of the Gospel shines into the lives of those who walked in darkness, varied as the experience of conversion is in the individual history of every Christian, it brings a new perspective on everything. When you come out of the darkness into the light of truth, you have a new perspective on everything; old perspectives have passed away; all perspectives become new!

Posted June 27, 2008 @ 5:47 PM by Iain D Campbell

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