Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

My wife and I recently spent five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there is much to commend in this very beautiful city, it did not take long to realize that God is no longer welcome for many of the inhabitants there.

On the last evening in Edinburgh, I watched a young street preacher proclaiming the gospel from a makeshift podium on Royal Mile Street, which stands in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral. Here, the mighty John Knox wielded the mighty sword of God’s Word, which brought reformation to Scotland in the sixteenth century. Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I will die,” demonstrating his great love for God and his countrymen.

However, the days of the Reformation are long gone in Scotland. The scoffs of the crowd which were directed at the street preacher bore witness to that:

“Who created God?” one man shouted. “What about the holocaust?” another queried. “Who wrote the Bible?” questioned one of the street performers. “How could anyone believe in a talking serpent?” “Where did evil come from?” “What about the dinosaurs?” “What about the other religions?” And, “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?”

These emotionally charged questions were all hurled at the street preacher who merely sought to proclaim the simple message of the gospel.

I stood and prayed for the young man who heralded the truth. I asked God to soften the hearts of this angry mob. In the midst of my petition, the thought struck me, This is the same kind of crowd that Noah encountered. These are the same kinds of people who spewed their venom at Jeremiah and Jonah. And these are the kinds of people who hurled their hate against the New Testament apostles.

Nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun. The hearts of men are continuously evil (Gen. 6:5). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Ever since the fall of man, sinful people continually suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

Every person carries a bag full of presuppositions. Atheism, evolution, immorality, homosexuality, and relativism. These are only a few of the presuppositions that I saw in the Edinburgh square. The people who embrace these worldviews are unwitting worshippers. They worship the false god of success. They worship the false god of autonomy. Or they worship the false god of another religion.

The angry mob who squared off against the preacher in Edinburgh willingly exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The Bible says unregenerate people realize that God exists; yet they refuse to acknowledge him: “For although they knew God, they did not honor God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

And so I watched a tragic scene unfold on Royal Mile Street in Edinburgh. I watched a frenzied mob reject the truth from a “voice in the wilderness.” I gazed upon a group of worshippers who willingly turned from the God of the Bible to a god of their own making.

A few thoughts echoed in my mind and pressed against my heart as I stood on Royal Mile Street in the heart of Edinburgh:

First, the unbelieving world who preaches “tolerance” fails to be tolerant when the truth is proclaimed. Tolerance is only a virtue when it lines up with a worldview that rejects God, turns from his law, and marginalizes his Word. The “tolerance mantra” is a smokescreen, in the final analysis. Anyone who repudiates the truth claims of Scripture is tolerated. But anyone who embraces the propositional truth of God’s Word is cast aside and criticized.

Second, followers of Jesus Christ are called to faithfully proclaim the truth. Most will be unwilling to stand on a makeshift platform and herald the gospel to a hostile crowd. But how many of us could utter the claims of Christ over a cup of coffee? How many of us could share the love of Christ in the workplace? Who among us could challenge the pagan mind with the gospel truth in the marketplace of ideas? Paul understood this mandate to faithfully proclaim the truth: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Rom. 10:14-15).

Third, when the truth is faithfully proclaimed, the unbelieving world will invariably become offended. The Edinburgh preacher recognized this reality when he stepped upon his makeshift platform. He realized that he would be opposed. He realized that he would be scoffed at. And he realized that the crowd would laugh. Scripture warns us that in the last days, people will not put up with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). The Bible says people will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Tragically, we will not only find these kinds of people in the public square; we will also find them in the church.

In his book, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day, John Leonard argues that people have stopped listening to the gospel “because we want to share it in the least inconvenient, least costly way. We want to save dirty people at a distance.” Leonard has touched upon an important truth. And we can certainly do a much better job of sharing the gospel up-close. But the real reason for their resistance to the truth is a rocky, stubborn, and unbelieving, sinful heart! Our task is to faithfully share the truth and trust the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and effectually draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44).

Finally, bold proclamation invites persecution. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet Scripture reminds us, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10–11, ESV) The promise of persecution should not hinder our passion to proclaim the truth. Rather, this reality should embolden our efforts to wield the mighty sword of truth!

Was the angry mob who ridiculed the preacher a fair representation of the feelings of the Scottish people? Were their harsh words and cackling laughs an accurate portrait of the people living in Edinburgh? Since I only met a handful of people in our brief stay, I cannot answer this question with any clarity. However, the Word of God informs us that what I saw on that cold winter afternoon is representative of the unbelieving world.

When truth is unhinged, we will face an intolerant audience. When truth is unhinged, the unbelieving world will be offended which will prompt persecution. But when truth is unhinged, some will hear and respond. Some will be cut to the quick. Hearts will be softened. Minds will be sharpened. For the truth of God’s Word will unlock the most resistant and callous heart. Truth unhinged will transform lives as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed.

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5 thoughts on “Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

  1. But there was nothing wrong with some of the questions posed. Earnest dialogue is part of the Christian way– it may be hard to engage in on a street corner, but not impossible. The only way to open hearts is to speak with them, not at them, so maybe your street preacher could spend less time proclaiming and more time talking to the people in the street, really dialoging. Faith isn’t always easy. Really, even Jacob had to wrestle his blessing from the angel. I don’t think it’s helpful to look at the people in the street as a “lost mob.” I think Christ would be more likely to see them as struggling individuals to be engaged. Just my two cents.

    • My thoughts were they had heard and rehearsed the same old tired questions of the atheist writers and speakers. “What about the dinosaurs? ” They don’t really give a hoot about the dinosaurs, it’s just some lame question that is somehow supposed to throw the preacher for a loop. Do the hindus have a solid answer to that question? Yet no one shouts it at them.

      I do wish Christians would quit using two words:
      struggling and engaged. What are we really trying to say? Are there biblical terms for these words? If not, then why do we use them?

    • We cannot open their hearts. Only a sovereign God can. And the Bible makes it very clear that He does so by His Spirit using the Message of the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:17; cf. Eze. 36-37; Jer. 31:31-33; John 3:3-8; Acts 13:48, etc.). I’m not against “friendship evangelism,” as long as the “evangel” is conveyed not only in deed, but ultimately in truth. However, I wonder how OT prophets like Moses or Jeremiah or Elijah or Jonah, or what NT prophets like John the Baptist or Paul would respond to your “you need to spend less time proclaiming and more time talking with them.” Of course discussion is necessary at times. But God also calls some of His people to “lift up their voices like a trumpet and proclaim to the people their sin” (cf. Isa. 58:1, Acts 2, 13, 17, etc.). I agree that Christians need to dialogue with their friends, co-workers, family, etc. But have you ever thought that Scotland is not America? There are almost literally no Christians to do this there. The very few perhaps are called by God to “proclaim” (please do a word study on the Greek word….it’s doesn’t mean to dialogue [Luke certainly uses this word for Paul many times in Acts]). Dialogue is necessary. But please don’t think it eliminates all the NT commands for God’s people to “proclaim” and “preach” (monologue) the Word whether it is convenient or not (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). Faith isn’t easy. Correct. This is because the Bible teaches that faith and repentance are gifts from God that He grants through the regenerating work of the Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; cf. repentance in Acts 11:18). When Paul says people are dead in sins, he doesn’t mean ‘sick.’ He means dead. They cannot hear (cf. John 5:39) or see or understand (cf. Isa. 6 [and all the times this is referenced in the NT for the inability of dead sinners to respond to the gospel]). So, no matter what we may think, they are a “lost mob.” Perhaps this stark reality stings. But it’s true. And until we realize this, we’ll keep using silly, carnal, and unbiblical methods to ‘evangelize’ such people. Christ did see people as “sheep without a shepherd” and indeed had compassion on them (Matt. 9-10). He did indeed engage them one on one. But please realize that He ALSO preached to the masses when necessary as well, and not everything He said to was flowery and gentle. So perhaps it would be better to start you penultimate sentence with, “the Bible says or teaches”, rather than “I think”. Sola Scriptura will keep on the right path every time. Grace to you, travelsandtomes.

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  3. I would agree with the above article. It was well written and the use of scripture backing up what he saw was spot on. I would not even know about this article if it were not for my youth pastor sending to it to me. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. I rarely read these things and have never responded to one. It’s a great article. The people of Scotland are actually very open to conversation about the gospel. I do feel that I need to ask one question of the writer, why did you not try to engage with those people? I do commend you for at least praying for the young chap but this was a great open door to talking with these people. Claims had been made and questions were asked. I would pretty much agree with all the response but Travelsandtomes while I would totally agree with engaging in one on one conversation but you speak of things in which you have no understanding. we are called to herald/proclaim the righteousness of God. As did Noah to John the Baptist and Ultimatley as Jesus did. This kind of proclamation has been from the beginning. To look down upon it or thinking its not aplicable in today’s society would be a gross error in judgement. You may say to yourself well that’s just your opinion or it’s ineffective and if you knew that I was turkey farmer then you would truly roll your eyes but I have been the one on the box in the streets of London and have seen the hand of God move as the word of God was proclaimed to the lost mob. When I got off the box a Muslim guy runs up to me grabbing me by my shirt with this scared look on his face wanting know that Jesus is who He said He is and how he could know for sure. I was able to lead a 17 year old kid name Goerge to Christ and many other conversations took place. Open air proclamation(on the box) on Princess St in Edinburgh, Scotland I was able to lead a German girl named Anya to Christ but I absolutely agree with you on face to face. We also set up a table on Princess St giving away free hot drinks so that we can engage with people. I’ve had to become a scientist to talk to aethist, painter to do sketch boarding, a counselor to those hurting and pouring out their messed up lives and having to apologize to homosexuals for the church’s corporate sin towards them in order to bring down the walls so that I can speak the truth of Gods word to them. It’s not one or the other, this or that it’s ALL evangelism!! Pauls says he has become all things to all people so that he might be save some (1Cor9:22). Paul proclaimed the message and reasoned with them. I would say to anyone who reads this, what do YOU have to become in order to lead people to Christ? We have the only message that will change anyone’s life and it needs to be spread far and wide by all means possible. One day we will stand before the nail scared hands and our faith will be truly realized. We will give an account for every spoken or unspoken word. I could have quoted endless scripture, Greek words, words we shouldn’t use or which form of evangelism is the correct way but I wanted to share real life testimony and that our God is moving and working in ways far beyond our understanding. Let us not put God in some kind of box. All He wants from us is a surrendered heart. So we should pray that God would break us over lost souls and that’s what drives us to share the gospel with lost souls by any possible means!!!

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