Free Church Moderator: Scottish secularism may have peaked

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The drift away from Christianity towards secularism may have peaked, the new Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland will say in his keynote address.

As the Free Church’s General Assembly opens in Edinburgh, Rev David Robertson will call on Scottish Christians to “bridge the gap between the church and the culture”.

The Dundee minister will acknowledge that Scotland had secularised quicker than any other nation, and that Christianity is at best “barely tolerated” with religious freedom of expression and action “under threat”.

In his opening address to commissioners, Mr Robertson is expected to say: “We need to think long and hard about how we connect with and bring the bread of life to a Scotland that is spiritually starving.

“I wonder if we have reached the point of peak secularism?

“A recent survey by Win/Gallup found that those under 34 are more likely to be religious than other age groups. “The recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that whereas the number of Scots identifying themselves as having no religion was 54 per cent in 2013, this had fallen to 44 per cent in 2014. Of course this does not yet indicate a trend but it is interesting.

“I have been in the ministry for 29 years and it is my view that people in Scotland are in some senses more open to the Gospel today than they have been at any period during that time.

“The question is, are we prepared to reach out?”

The Moderator is also expected to say that Scotland needs flourishing Christianity as “the conscience of the nation”, otherwise the present “secular utopianism” will lead to the “creeping absolutism of the State”.

Mr Robertson will say: “We have moved from ten commandments to ten thousand regulations per year, and the regulators that have to enforce them.

“Whilst any reasonable society needs laws the danger is that an increasingly powerful state will result in more abuse and corruption, without the checks and balances coming from outwith the State and within the heart.

“If you remove God and replace him with the State you will end up with some kind of fascist corporate all-powerful state.

“The other aspect of this secular utopianism is that its beliefs are not open to question.

“A curious and disturbing aspect of this is when this progressive, liberal secularism is mixed in with nationalism.

“Whilst it has been encouraging and good to see the level of political involvement in Scotland since the referendum, it is worrying that there has been an attempt to hijack the traditional nationalist movement and combine it with a more militant and emotive secularism.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting one’s country to be self-governing, but there is something profoundly wrong with believing that your own country has inherently better and more progressive values than anyone else.

“The combination of new hopes being raised, emotions being stirred and self-righteous assurance of our own superiority, can lead to a kind of mass hysteria that is dangerous.

“We would urge the Scottish Government to remain balanced, tolerant of other opinions and humble.

“Likewise we are concerned with a British nationalism which speaks of British ‘values’ but is unable to explain what those values are or where they come from. Being British or Scottish is neither a value nor a virtue.”

Mr Robertson will give his keynote address just after 10am on Tuesday 19 May in St Columba’s Free Church, where the Free Kirk’s General Assembly is being held this week.