Lutheranism In The Scottish Reformation -- By: W. Stanford Reid

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 07:2 (May 1945)
Article: Lutheranism In The Scottish Reformation
Author: W. Stanford Reid


Lutheranism In The Scottish Reformation

W. Stanford Reid

SCOTLAND in the eyes of many today is “naturally” Presbyterian. While there may be a few Episcopalians and some Catholics, Presbyterianism is regarded as characteristically Scottish. This opinion has developed largely from the common view that the Scottish Reformation was essentially a Calvinistic revolt against the medieval church. It is not generally realized that the Scottish Reformation commenced some years before Calvin had ever entered Geneva. But above all, the part that Lutheranism played in the Scottish religious change receives scant notice. Even Knox, who knew something of the importance of the Lutheran movement to Scotland, gives it practically no place in his history. It may be that this is the reason why little has been done to evaluate the part played by Lutheranism in the Scottish protestantism. In order to make up in a small way for this deficiency, the present article has been written.

When we come to a study of the roots and origins of Scottish protestantism, we are soon forced to take cognizance of the influence of Lutheran teachings. Only a few years after Luther’s first attack on papal indulgences, the German doctrines appeared in Scotland, and when they did there was a warm reception awaiting them. Thus Lutheranism became the match which fired the fuse leading to the powder-keg. It became the starting point for what was to be both a religious and political revolution. The influence of Luther, therefore, must always be taken into consideration when we attempt to make any evaluation of the Scottish Reformation.

The conditions in Scotland during the fifteenth century and the first quarter of the sixteenth prepared the way for early Lutheran inroads. For one thing, the condition of the church was such that even its most loyal supporters saw the need for reform. The clergy were exceedingly corrupt — ambition, pride, tyranny and greed being common characteristics.

Many bishoprics and abbacies had fallen into the hands of Scottish noble houses, with the result that they were nearly always filled by men appointed for political or economic reasons, rather than for the church’s welfare. This meant that the upper clergy were seldom interested in the good of the church.1 Such an attitude was also current among the lower orders of the clergy who were grossly ignorant and none too moral.2 A church with such ministers could have next to no influence upon as wild and lawless a people as the Scots. The clergy in general possessed little ability and had no desire either to instruct or to furnish an example to the fl...

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