New Developments

During the latter half of 2014, the Covenanter Theological Institute entered into discussion with a couple of American universities to see if they would be interested in developing a Semester in Scotland programme similar to one run by Geneva College.  As a result of that work I had the privilege of travelling in March to Bryan College, in Dayton, Tennessee to sign an agreement with them on behalf of CTI.  This agreement will see Bryan College begin offering a Semester in Scotland program to its students either in the fall of 2015 but more probably from the spring of 2016 on.  The Bryan College programme will run concurrently with the Geneva College programme but will also have scope for offering courses specific to its students if required.

This past year has also seen work done in conjunction with Geneva College on the development of a new Humanities course.   This new course, which will include a field trip week to London and Oxford, will hopefully make it possible for more Geneva College students to take the Semester in Scotland programme.   As well as the new Humanities course we have also reclassified some of our other courses to also make them more accessible to more Geneva students.

We trust that these developments will add to the student experiences for all the students who take the Semester in Scotland programme in the future.

Andrew Quigley

Why Study Theology?

man with BibleWhy study theology?  Sometimes people look at the Semester in Scotland programme and think that it is for ministry majors.  Why would any other student need classes such as Systematic Theology?  Surely there are more relevant classes to take for other majors.

No.  Theology is what grounds us in the faith, which is the most important thing of all.  Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, calls on them all to attain to maturity, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.”  Do you want to be grounded in the faith, or are you happy being tossed to and fro?  There is one true and orthodox doctrine, and that doctrine is in the Scriptures.

But it is not enough simply to know the words of Scripture.  We must understand the doctrine that those words teach.  Heroes and heretics will use the same words, but they will mean different things; both will quote Scripture, but who uses it correctly?  Will you be grounded or will you be tossed?  We must search the Scriptures like the Bereans to understand its doctrine.

Since our faith affects every area of our lives, it changes the way we look at Science and Maths, or History and Music.  Our worldview alters our actions, whether we are a teacher or a vet, an artist or plumber.  If our faith is grounded by good theology it will lead us in right paths in any profession.  If our theology is not sound, our faith will be ungrounded and we will experience the turbulence that ensues.

Do all Christian students need theology?  Absolutely!  We all engage in it every time we open our Bibles to study its meaning.  When we are asked questions about God or sin or faith or church or right and wrong, we systematise our thoughts into concrete statements of doctrine.  When we consider the place of God in our major or profession we have to engage in theology since the Bible may not directly address that job.  But do we want our doctrine to be Biblical?  Are we prepared to go back and challenge our views in the light of the Scriptures?  Why not do this while you are still a student?

Stephen McCollum

The Reformation Tour

A week ago we finally got to go outside the classroom and visit the places we had read and spoken about during our Reformation and Covenanter history lessons.

On Monday we headed to the east coast and visited the beautiful seaside town of St Andrews, the location of many significant events during the Reformation.  We also stopped off to see Richard Cameron’s house, visited Falkland palace, Leuchars Kirk, and walked out to the martyr graves at Magus Muir.

Richard Cameron's House

Richard Cameron’s House

On Tuesday we went through to Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.  There we did a walking tour of the old part of the city visiting various places including St Giles cathedral, the Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard, and we even walked down to the bottom of the Royal Mile to see the original National Covenant which was signed in Greyfriars on 28th Feb 1638.

The National Covenant

The National Covenant

Wednesday saw us touring through Lanarkshire and Ayrshire as we spent the day visiting some Covenanter battlefields like Bothwell Bridge, Drumclog, and Airds Moss.  We also visited many Covenanter ministers’ and individual martyr graves this day, finding out how ordinary people suffered for their faith during the “killing times” of the 1680’s

Drumclog Monument

Drumclog Monument

Thursday took us down into South Lanarkshire and the Borders region.  We visited the towns of Lanark, Douglas, Dalserf, all very significant towns during the Covenanter times.  We also headed out to the Devil’s Beef Tub, the location of a dramatic chase between some of the King’s dragoons and a Covenanter John Hunter.  Sadly he was killed during the chase.  We also went to the sleepy hamlet of Tweedsmuir to visit his grave, then went on to Talla Linn a beautiful spot where many thousands of people met in the open air to worship God.  Also on this day we found another place where Covenanters met for worship, it was a new location and very exciting to find.

Talla Linn Conventicle Site

Talla Linn Conventicle Site

On Friday we headed off into the magnificent Scottish Highlands to see some Covenanter locations there and also to hear about what happened after the persecution had ended for the Covenanters and how the Jacobites who supported the Stuart King tried to regain the throne for the Roman Catholic James VII.  As well as the stunning Highland scenery we visited Inverlochy Castle where many hundreds of Covenanters were killed by the Duke of Montrose’s men during a battle there in 1645 and Glenfinnan where the Jacobites began their second attempt at regaining the throne in 1745.  We spent the night in the beautiful Highland town of Fort William before heading back down on Saturday stopping off to see Dunstaffnage castle, St Conan’s Kirk, and Inveraray Castle, the home of Archibald Campbell, the duke of Argyle, one time leader of the Covenanters and who was executed in Edinburgh at the restoration of Charles II in 1661.

Three Sisters of Glencoe

Three Sisters of Glencoe

We had a really good week travelling around the various parts of Scotland.  The Lord blessed us with safety and decent weather (it only rained when we were in the Highlands).  I’m sure the students thoroughly enjoyed it, and that they now have a far better understanding of how God worked in this nation in the past.

– Jimmy Fisher

Reformation Tour and Airds Moss

This week the students took a week long Reformation Tour.  Here Joseph writes about his thoughts on seeing Airds Moss.

Blood, running freely through marshy fields, flowing freshly from martyr veins, was a grotesque scene that over three centuries before, marked Airds Moss as a field of slaughter.  Cameron, a man singularly gifted and piously zealous was, with brother and fellow Covenanters, cut down on the ground upon which I stood.  Airds Moss.  The name, for years, resonated with me and I always esteemed it as a place of utmost importance, but as I stood where one of my chief heroes fell for owning Christ and His covenanted cause, it was not just an act of sight-seeing – it was deeply emotive and spiritual.  On the field, my mind traced the route that Cameron’s band had made, until met with their horde of murderers.  The recorded prayer of Cameron, “Lord spare the green, take the ripe” coursed through my mind, mixed with what I imagined the din of battle to have sounded like.  Horses thundering, swords unsheathed, flint ignited, screams, prayers…. And then the stillness of the aftermath.  As still and gentle as it was when I stood there.  The deed had been done.  The lives of men “of whom the world was not worthy” thrust into the bosom of their Princely-Redeemer.  And Scotland, in the stillness, without great grieving, was, on that field, bereaved of one of her greatest witnesses.  The quietness begged reflection on all of these things.  The breezes, coldness, light – all of it coaxed me to think upon the banner of Reformation that lost one of its greatest bearers on this field.  Oh that cause!  Christ’s cause!  On this field Christ suffered in his servants.

That cause must be raised again, not for Cameron’s sake, but for the sake of Him who Cameron loved above his own life – it must be raised for the glory of Christ.  It is not the Cameronian cause, as though he had concocted the whole doctrine, it is the cause of Christ.  And yet so few true witnesses – even among those who claim to be Covenanters.

On this field my singular prayer was that the Lord would raise more of Richard Cameron’s heart.  Oh that it may be so.

Let King Jesus Reign and All His Enemies be Scattered.

– Joseph Dunlap

St Andrews Cathedral

St Andrews Cathedral

At the Covenanter prison in Greyfriars kirkyard, Edinburgh.

At the Covenanter prison in Greyfriars kirkyard, Edinburgh.

At Airds Moss

At Airds Moss

Monument to John Hunter

Monument to John Hunter

 

Fear of God

Jason in John Knox pulpitsmallMatthew 10:28 (ESV)

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear  him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28 (KJV)

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

This verse has a very straight forward message to the reader.

Let’s break down this verse into two parts.  The first part being “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul….”  This first part is Jesus telling us not to fear man because man is only able to kill the body.  The worst that man can do to us is simply kill our bodies.

This leads us to the second part of the verse; “but rather fear him which is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell.”  God is sovereign.  God is the Almighty Creator of everything around us.  God created us, and He has the power to kill us, too.  Not only does God have the power to kill our bodies, but He also has the power to kill our souls.

So why am I writing about Matthew 10:28?  During my class I came across a quote from Charles H. Spurgeon which filled my heart with sorrow and conviction which also leads to the second part of this blog post.

“If I never won souls, I would sigh till I did.  I would break my heart over them if I could not break their hearts.  Though I can understand the possibility of an earnest sower never reaping, I cannot understand the possibility of an earnest sower being content not to reap.  I cannot comprehend any of you Christian people trying to win souls and not having results, and being satisfied without results.”

Even as I read that a second time, I can feel my heart being ripped in half and filled with sorrow.  I live in a fallen world full of unconverted souls. Souls that will die in Hell.  My own heart breaks for these souls, but my heart breaks even more knowing that I’ve done little to try and reach these souls to share the Gospel with them.  Why haven’t I done anything to reach them?  It’s because I’m afraid of human judgment.  When I read Matthew 10:28, I realized that the fear of man is a pointless fear that leads only to further sin.  We should only fear God.

God commands us to go out into our neighborhoods, our cities, our world and spread the Gospel.  God wants every knee to bow to Him.  What’s stopping you from sharing the Gospel with your neighbors, your family, or friends?  Is it the fear of judgement?  The fear of not having the proper knowledge?  The fear of persecution?  Is it the fear of death?  None of those things matter.  It does not matter what the world thinks of you.  There are millions of the lost souls in our fallen world, and the only way that they will hear the Gospel is if we go out and spread the Gospel.  The number of lost souls in this world should break our hearts and make us all realize how urgent the command to share the Gospel is.  The only thing that matters is reaching the lost souls and sharing the Gospel.  The chief end of man is to glorify God.  We glorify God further when we follow His commands so what’s stopping us?

I challenge you to go out and try to win souls.  I challenge you to share the Gospel message with a non believer.  I challenge you to face your fears.  I challenge you to not be content until you see results.  I challenge you to pray for the salvation of the lost souls.  Don’t fear man.  The worst that man can do to us is kill us for the Gospel of Christ.  Fear the One who can kill both soul and body in Hell.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Jason Buchholz

Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology; what does that bring into your mind? Perhaps you think that it’s too complicated for you, or that it’s too dull, or perhaps you don’t really know what it is about.  For me Systematic Theology is about piety.  The point of studying anything is not merely to gain knowledge about it; no, it must be in order to use it to the glory of God.  The aim of Systematic Theology, therefore, is to become pious.

What is piety?  Often people speak of a pious person as if it’s a bad thing.  But piety is devotion and reverence for God, it’s putting Him first in all of our decisions in life, it’s hating sin and pursuing righteousness, it’s delighting in the things of God, loving His people, and caring about the lost.  In short, piety is being like our Saviour Jesus Christ.

As I teach this class, my concern is not that the students will gain in their knowledge about God, but rather that will become more pious.  In order to do this, I must first take the log out of my own eye before trying to extract specks from the eyes of others.  And when you think about it, that’s what makes studying Systematic Theology harder.  It’s easy to learn facts about God; you could easily pick up a book and learn that.  It’s harder to learn piety.  We like learning in the abstract, but we are defensive when it demands changes in our lives.  But that’s what makes the class dynamic, instead of a drudgery.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  We are doing exactly what David says in Psalm 27.  He desired to be in the house of God, beholding and admiring God’s beauty.  Systematic theology is about seeking God’s face.

StephenBrendaYou have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.” [Ps. 27:8]

– Stephen McCollum

Opportunity

SAQWhy do you keep having all those young Americans over?   It’s a question I have been asked a few times,  down through the years, by fellow ministers in a sister denomination.  The answer is simple – ‘Opportunity’.

 

Semester in Scotland is an opportunity I would love to have experienced when I was at university.  It’s an opportunity to visit another country and slightly different culture.   An opportunity to be given structured time to read the Bible and good books.  An opportunity, because of the size of the class, to learn in a seminar environment where questions are encouraged, discussion is relevant, and there is no pressure to ‘cram’ to pass a test.  An opportunity to learn first hand about the history of Christ’s Church in a different land.  An opportunity to be part of and serve in another part of the body of Christ.   An opportunity to continue to grow and develop, building on the foundation that had already been laid in life by family, friends, church, and college life.

 

Semester in Scotland is all about opportunity.  That’s what I share with the students as soon as they arrive and many of them get it.  A fact borne out by the testimonies of those who have taken the program.

 

So if you’re looking for an opportunity to grow and mature as a person and experience the opportunities cited above, then come and take the Semester in Scotland program, you will not regret it!

 

Andrew Quigley

Scottish Reformation and Covenanter History

Jimmy and HelenMy name is Jimmy Fisher, and I teach Scottish Reformation and Covenanter history for Semester in Scotland.

In my class we begin by learning a little bit about how Christianity came to Scotland and the early Christians here.  Then we go on to discuss how God worked in Scotland during the First Reformation between 1528-1560.  We learn about the key players and events during those times and discuss how they impact Scotland today.  Names like Hamilton, Wishart, Knox, and Melville are all discussed.

Following that we move onto the Second Reformation from 1638-1688.  This is the time of the Covenanters, a time when many throughout Scotland were persecuted for their faith.  We learn about the likes of Henderson, Cameron, Cargill, and Renwick.  Men who stood against tyranny to proclaim the Kingship of Christ.  Again we discuss their lives, events, and deaths.

All of this classroom work is of course an important element, but it also sets a good background for the week long tour that the students take with us.  During that week, they get to visit the locations where many of these events happened.  From the place where the first martyr for the Reformation, 24 year old Patrick Hamilton, was burnt at the stake to the battlefields of the Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge, Airds Moss, and Drumclog.  This is the week when history really comes alive.  From crossing over windy moors to visit lonely martyr graves, to standing in mighty castles and grand cathedrals and churches where the likes of John Knox and Alexander Henderson preached.  This is an experience that can be life changing.  The people, places, and events that we read and discuss in the classroom spring to life as we stand where the martyrs stood, and where they gathered in the open fields for worship, often at risk of their lives.   As the tour guide for Scottish Reformation Tours, we can take the students to  remote locations that many do not know even exist.

Jimmy and Helen with some of last semester's students singing at Airds Moss.

Jimmy and Helen with some of last semester’s students singing at Airds Moss.

As well as the Reformation and Covenanter tour, my wife Helen and I also take the students on a cultural outing every Wednesday afternoon.  The places we visit on these trips vary greatly, like museums and art galleries, well known tourist locations like Edinburgh and Stirling castles, trips to the stunning Scottish Highlands where they can walk along the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond or go a bit further north to see the majestic mountains of Glencoe.  We also throw in some castles, battlefields like Bannockburn, and many other places of interest too.  All of these places hopefully leave memories of Scotland that the students will remember long after they have returned home.

Jimmy Fisher

Week 1 Recap

Today is the beginning of my second week of studies, and my eleventh day since arriving in the “Land of Knox” and already my dreams of Scotland have been superseded by an even greater reality.  The land is far more beautiful than I could have imagined and the people possess a rare degree of kindness – especially to two foreigners such as we are.  I have already been to Glasgow, stood inside its High Church where once the venerable Reformer and Covenanter, Alexander Henderson, presided as moderator of the first free General Assembly of the Church of Scotland since the time of Knox.  I gazed upon the original painting of the martyrdom of John Brown of Priesthill, and stood motionless and with the utmost sobriety and shock as I read the grave plaque of five martyred Covenanters, buried only yards away from me.  My mind has never been so actively concerned with the work of Reformation as it is now, and gazing upon the very real and very good reminders of what sufferings the Church has underwent for “Christ’s Crown and Covenant” has left me longing, more than ever, to see the banner raised once again over this, and every other land of forgetfulness.  Past grace, however, does not make a present reality.  The Gospel is barely spoken here, and already it is apparent that this land may be well under the impression that they are in a “Post-Christian world” where the riches of the Gospel are esteemed as antiquated coinage and of no real value, save only for historical inquiry.  Knox may be known – and his monument at the Necropolis in Glasgow is the largest on the whole hill, overlooking the city like the shepherd it is made in likeness of – but His Christ is not.  Those who are laboring here, with whom I have the delight and privilege to know, have a Gospel-fever that dwarfs my own and one much like their martyred predecessors.  The challenges they face in Christian ministry are met with rare graces, and a true love to God, which prompts them to look at the land as being exceedingly “ripe for the harvest”.  This is not the Scotland of the Covenanted Reformation anymore, but the Gospel is still preached by a remnant, and that remnant is tirelessly employed in the work.

I am learning as well.  Learning theology, history, and piety in the same part of the world where the fields once ran crimson with martyr blood is a phenomenon I truly did not expect to have.  Men and women, cities, buildings, and fields that I had read and dreamed about have come to life.  It, I imagine, is much like what a devout Tolkien fan would experience if ever he was invited to explore the shire, the city of Rivendell, and the stone fortress at Helm’s Deep.  My fantasy world has come to life.  I can stand and see what Cargill saw, look upon the Grassmarket, and wander the hills that were once killing fields for those who would rather die than forsake Christ, and deny His crown rights and royal prerogatives.

Joseph Dunlap

Grave plaque for Covenanter martyrs, Robert Scott, Matthew Patoun, James Johnston, Archibald Stewart, James Winning, and John Maine. All of which are interred near the Glasgow Cathedral. The plaque is more recent, and found beneath the nave of the Cathedral.

Grave plaque for Covenanter martyrs, Robert Scott, Matthew Patoun, James Johnston, Archibald Stewart, James Winning, and John Maine. All of which are interred near the Glasgow Cathedral. The plaque is more recent, and found beneath the nave of the Cathedral.

Myself (looking rather thoughtful and solemn..and pale) beside the original painting of the martyrdom of Covenanter John Brown of Priesthill, near the Glasgow Cathedral.

Myself (looking rather thoughtful and solemn..and pale) beside the original painting of the martyrdom of Covenanter John Brown of Priesthill, near the Glasgow Cathedral.

The nave at Glasgow Cathedral. At this spot the first free General Assembly since the time of Knox, took place with Alexander Henderson as moderator.

The nave at Glasgow Cathedral. At this spot the first free General Assembly since the time of Knox, took place with Alexander Henderson as moderator.

First Impressions

Hello, my name is Jason Buchholz.  I’m a pre-seminary student at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  I found out about the Semester in Scotland program through my friend Rosie.  In October, Dr. Watt asked my friend Joseph if he’d like to take part in the program.  Later that day, Joseph came back to our room and asked if I would want to go Scotland and take part in the program, too.  I immediately said yes because traveling to Europe has always been a dream of mine, and I really liked the classes that are offered through the program.  At the time, we both thought it was a crazy idea and neither of us thought we would actually get to come to Scotland.  During the next month until November, I had a huge fear of the unknown inside me.  Finally after Thanksgiving, we found out that we would definitely be able to come to Scotland.  We both got accepted and bought our plane tickets.  When we clicked the “complete order” button on Expedia.com, the fear quickly turned to pure joy and excitement.  Although I was full of joy and excitement, I had no idea what to expect.  Joseph and I wrote out this huge list of things we wanted to do in Scotland and looked at countless pictures of Scotland with hope that when we finally arrived in Scotland on January 15th, the trip would match up to the bucket list and all the countless pictures.  Fast forward to January 22nd.  Now that I’ve been here for an entire week, and I’ve had time to explore a few places while embracing the culture, I can honestly saw that Scotland has blown my expectations away and wiped any fears that I may have had out of my head.  Scotland is one of the friendliest places that I’ve ever visited, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Airdrie really focuses on making you feel welcome.  Thank you to everyone so far that has welcomed Joseph and I into Scotland.

Airdrie RP Church where classes and studying and ministry observation takes place.

Airdrie RP Church where classes and studying and ministry observation takes place.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

In the Cairngorm Mountains

In the Cairngorm Mountains

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