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Title: A study of the Special Commission on Baptism (1953-63) and developments in baptismal doctrine and practice in the Church of Scotland since 1963
Author: Morrison, Ruth Helen Bell
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 3101
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2016
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In 1953 a Special Commission on Baptism was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, under the convenorship of The Very Rev Dr Thomas F. Torrance, to carry out a fresh examination of the Doctrine of Baptism, in order to lead the Church to theological agreement and uniform practice. The Commission had emerged after years of disagreement related to the meaning of baptism and its administration, especially in light of infant baptism. What followed was seven years of Interim Reports and the production of a Biblical Doctrine of Baptism. Since then, Act XVII (1963) pertaining to Baptism has been revisited on several occasions. It is the contention of this thesis that Torrance greatly influenced the work of the Commission and shaped substantially the doctrine that emerged. The result was an understanding of baptism that whilst rooted in the Reformed tradition, departed from it. By suggesting that baptisma was closely aligned to Christ’s vicarious death, and that the sanctifying nature of the incarnation was the primary justification for the baptism of infants, a different trajectory was proposed. This created a tension between two differing paradigms, one that led to discriminate baptism and another, that could have led to indiscriminate baptism. The result was confusion in the General Assembly, and failure to unify doctrine and practice. In light of this, this thesis will explore the baptismal theology of Thomas F. Torrance. It will then examine the reports of the Special Commission, the minutes of their meetings, and the verbatim minutes of the General Assembly during that period, in order to establish Torrance’s influence upon the Commission and the reception of the reports within the church. Identifying that the main areas of tension lay in sacramental and covenantal theology, it will then offer an overview of both the Reformed tradition and the Special Commission to see points of agreement and disagreement, in order to assess the extent to which the Special Commission departed from Reformed principles. Finally, it will explore the influence of the Special Commission’s work on the Church of Scotland since 1963, highlighting the watershed in baptismal theology that occurred in 2003, with the acknowledgement that believers’ baptism, and not infant baptism, was the theological norm.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BT Doctrinal Theology