Back in 1982 or thereabouts, I hired a car and drove from my home in Norwich (in the South-East of England) – to Carlisle (in the North-West of England) in order to attend a conference organised by the Banner of Truth Trust. I particularly wanted to hear Donald Macleod speak. I was not disappointed. To be sure, you don’t listen to Macleod for the beauty of his voice (once referred to as a cross between a fog-horn and a set of bagpipes), but rather for his penetrating insights into the Christian faith.
For a number of years, I was an avid reader of the Monthly Record of the Free Church of Scotland. Macleod was editor, and each month there would usually be a major theological article from his pen as well as a number of incisive (and often hilarious) comments on current affairs. I have continued to read his books and (more recently) to hear him preach and lecture via the wonders of the Internet.
It amounts to something approaching a tragedy that during the 1990s Macleod’s name became tarnished within his own denominational and confessional circles due to allegations about his moral behaviour and theological teachings. With regard to the former, both the civil court and his own denomination decided that there was not enough evidence for a trial. With regard to the latter, his views are in the public domain, and I can only say that if he is a heretic, then so am I, and (more to the point) so are (say) J.I. Packer and John Stott. That is not to say that I agree with everything that Macleod says (any more than I agree with everything that Packer and Stott say, or that the three men would themselves agree on every point). I would just add that it stretches credulity to breaking point to suppose that such a man could continue in Christian ministry if he knew himself to be guilty of serious and unacknowledged moral misdemeanours. And yes – you can have smoke without fire.
The Macleod affair led to the breaking away from the Free Church of Scotland of a minority of ministers and congregations, and to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in 2000. Macleod himself has continued to teach systematic theology at the Free Church College in Edinburgh, and has been Principal there since 1999. It is from this latter post that he plans to retire in June of this year.
It is difficult to say how far the controversy surrounding Professor Macleod has affected the influence and impact of his ministry on the wider Christian church. My guess is that the effect has been quite considerable. I recall that there was a plan in the late 1990s for him to speak here in Norwich, but the invitation was rescinded. I also think that the whole affair had a damaging effect on the reformed witness here in the UK, with good Christians finding themselves in opposite ‘camps’.
I thank God that, in addition to Professor Macleod’s preaching and teaching ministry in Scotland, he has continued to write and publish.
His books include:-
- A Faith to Live By – an excellent primer on Christian doctrine
- The Person of Christ
- Shared Life – on the Trinity and Christian fellowship
- Jesus is Lord: Christology Yesterday and Today
- Behold Your God
- From Glory to Golgotha – on aspects of the life of Christ
A number of sermons and lectures are also available on the Internet. I particularly recommend this series of five addresses on the Great Commission.