Recently, I’ve been reading George MacDonald, a Scottish Congregationalist minister who also wrote fantasy literature (“fairy stories”) and influenced C.S. Lewis (if you’ve read The Great Divorce, MacDonald shows up to talk with the protagonist in heaven), as well as Tolkein, Chesterton, L’Engle, Oswald Chambers, Lewis Carrol and W.H. Auden. I’ve found MacDonald equally refreshing; and it turns out… in his first pastorate, his salary was halved because he was accused of preaching heresy. Now, I’m not sure what's more disturbing: that this inspirational Trinitarian lover of God was labeled a heretic or that his congregation THOUGHT he was a heretic, and decided to keep him on at half-salary!
Recently, I wondered: “I wonder if these guys ever met each other? Scotland is not that big. I should google something.” (Yes, when I wonder, I actually think, “I wonder…”) Anyway, it appears that at some points, they did run in the same circles. Even stranger (I thought), these circles seem to intersect with small-scale “charismatic” happenings in 19th century Scotland that I didn’t know anything about but which roughly correspond to the 2nd Great Awakening in the U.S.
So, why am I drawn to proto-charismatic heretical Scottish theologians? I would have sworn, “I just stumbled across these guys! I wasn’t looking for trouble! I’m not an incorrigible contrarian! It has nothing to do with ethnicity!” but… maybe its because I come from a line of Scottish non-conformists. James Hunter and the Regulators of North Carolina apparently come up in the popular Outlander series, but I just grew up hearing the tale of their opposition to colonial governance from my grandfather. In more recent history, an ancestor who might fall in line somewhere between myself and the aforementioned grandfather failed to pledge a fraternity at UNC when he knocked a senior frat “brother” off the frat-house porch when said brother threatened to paddle him for wearing Argyle socks with his penny-loafers (never try to separate a Highlander from his Argyle!). So, maybe it's in the blood.
Anyway, in the next couple posts, I’ll try to give some sense of what I appreciate about these transgressive Scottish evangelical theologians.