The 65th Free Church School in Theology, which receives support from the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (FCC), met in Carronvale House, Larbert, from 4-7 September 2017.
It was encouraging to see numbers up on the previous year and, as usual, there was plenty of warm and joyful fellowship with brethren from various churches throughout the UK, Ireland and Netherlands.
We met for dinner at 6.00pm on the Monday, followed by the first paper. As 2017 is the year of commemoration of Martin Luther, it was fitting that this was on ‘Luther the Reformer’, by Rev. John W. Keddie.
Mr Keddie reminded us Luther was God’s man for the times. He was a man of courage, conviction and prayer, and a man of the gospel and evangelical religion, which he came to embrace with his whole being. He believed in the authority of Scripture and sovereignty of grace. The evening closed with worship and fellowship.
Each day began with a prayer meeting. Then breakfast was followed by devotions, led by one of the men. Then the morning session began. This was either a missionary report or book reviews, a tea and coffee break and then that morning’s theological paper. We then broke for lunch, when much theological discussion around the morning’s deliberations would take place around the dining tables.
After a short period of free time, walking the grounds of Larbert, visiting the book table, kindly provided by the Evangelical Bookshop, Belfast, or on the 18-hole putt course of Carronvale House, the afternoon session took place.
Tuesday’s missionary report was from Rev. Gerald Procee, a board member of Come Over and Help Us (COAH), a missionary organisation helping Christians in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Tuesday’s theological paper was given by Rev. Iain Smith on the ‘Typology of the tabernacle’. It looked at the types found in the tabernacle, which all point to Christ.
Tuesday’s afternoon paper by Rev. Dr Pieter De Vries, minister of the Restored Reformed Congregations, was an ‘Overview of the church in the Netherlands’. It explained the complex history of the Netherland churches situation, which is not dissimilar to the complexity of Scottish church history, with its various splits and unions.
Tuesday evening’s paper was ‘What is allegory in Galatians 4:22-31?’, by Rev. Murdo Maciver. He explained that Galatians 4:22-31 is an allegory of the two dispensations of the one covenant of grace. A man is justified by faith alone, with no confidence in the flesh, law or works, but trusting and relying on the promises, which, in Christ, are yea and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20.).
Wednesday morning’s session was spent on book reviews, and a theological paper, ‘Pastoral implications of marriage and divorce’, by Rev. James I Gracie. This helpful paper created much discussion, which carried on into the break. Wednesday’s afternoon session was a business meeting that including planning for the 2018 School of Theology (3-6 September).
Rev. Malcolm H. Watts gave Wednesday’s evening paper, on ‘The place of faith in justification’. This was a moving, experiential and Christ-honouring session.
Thursday morning’s paper was by Rev. James MacInnes on the ‘Use and abuse of digital media’. It recognised social media presents a great gospel opportunity, to be used wisely, so that the message is not compromised by the constraints of the medium. In the providence of God, the development of the printing press was key in advancing the Reformation and allowed Luther’s writings to be ‘retweeted’, ‘liked’ and ‘shared’. All the lectures are now on Partick FCC’s SermonAudio website.