When I was in Scotland back a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of talking with the Rev. Eric Alexander about ministry. In the course of our conversation I asked him what books he would recommend on the sufferings of Christ. He commended, among other, R.A. Finlayson’s The Cross in the Experience of our Lord. Knowing that R.A. Finlayson is not as well known in the American ecclesiastical context, I thought that it might be helpful to introduce him to our readers.
“Roderick A. Finlayson (1895–1989) was a notable theologian and churchman of the Free Church of Scotland. Born in Ross-shire, schooled in Dingwall, and an MA (1919) of Aberdeen University, he was ordained in the Free Church after studying at the Free Church College (1922), and ministered in churches both in Ross-shire and Glasgow. He was appointed to the Chair of Systematic Theology in the Free Church College in 1945, and became Moderator of the General Assembly the same year. He served as Professor until 1966, and carried on an active preaching and writing ministry until the latter years of his long life.
David F. Wright’s summary in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography deftly sketches Finlayson’s gifts and contribution:
For Finlayson, theology belonged in the church rather than the academy. He was one of the sharpest and wisest conservative theologians of his era, with an influence extending far beyond his small church into the wider evangelical community in the UK and the USA. …
In Roderick Finlayson a richly devotional theology enlisted the services of a mastery of language, a wit that was variously mischievous and mordant, shrewd insight into characters and events, and a gift for the one-liner. (Examples are still traded freely on the mention of his name.) He rarely bucked controversy, in which he could be most elegantly acerbic, but in personal relations he was warm and courteous. He played a part in the intellectual maturing of British evangelicalism in the later twentieth century.”
Rev. Finlayson was “a founding member of the Scottish Tyndale Fellowship, which later became the Scottish Evangelical Theological Society; He was also active in the beginnings of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship; He was much in demand as a preacher and conference speaker, with a wit as sharp as his pen (321).” He was professor of the Free Church of Scotland College from 1946-66.
A few of his articles, lectures or sermon transcripts can be found online. These includes his writings on God the Father, The Person of Christ, God in Three Persons, The Holiness of God, The Theology of the Lord’s Day, The Doctrine of Judgment, The Assurance of Faith, A Fear of True Religion (Luke 8:25) and an exposition of Judges 9:7-15 .
You can listen to a few of his sermons below:
His bibliography includes:
Finlayson, R. A. “Contemporary Ideas of Inspiration.” In Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought, ed. Carl F. H. Henry. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1958.
Finlayson, R.A. “God’s Light on Man’s Destiny,” Edinburgh: Know Press.
Finlayson, R.A. “Reformed Theological Writings” Christian Focus: Mentor, 1996
Finlayson, R.A. “Terminology of the Atonement” Pt1&2, Banner of Truth 93 & 94/5 (Jun/Jul-Aug 1971) pp7-14 & 41-48.
Finlayson, R.A. “The Cross in the Experience of Our Lord,” London: Perry Jackman, 1955.