My theology has been shaped first and foremost by the reading of the Bible, the inspired Word of God. I have been a lover of and diligent student of the Bible for over 40 years. Yet also influencing and helping shape my theological perspective have been the writings of many godly men such as: Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, James Stewart, F.B. Meyer, G. Campbell Morgan, Marcus Dods, Arthur W. Pink, Leo Green, A.H. Strong, Donald Bloesch, J.W. Burgon, B.H. Carroll, Herbert Lockyer, Robert Dick Wilson, William Barclay, Oswald Chambers, James Denny, A.T. Robertson, Harry Ironside, Kenneth Wuest, Herschel Hobbs, Robert H. Culpepper, Vernon McGee, J.I Packer, Donald Guthrie, Dale Moody, F.F. Bruce, Gleason Archer, Francis A. Schaeffer and the list goes on and on.
However, there has been one theologian who has probably been more influential in helping shape my theology than any other. His name is Peter Taylor Forsyth. His passion for the holiness of God and the cross of Christ as the center point of all of God’s dealings with humanity and history is preeminent in all his writings. I was first introduced to him in college and have had a love affair with his works ever since. He is not always easy to read, but reading him is always rewarding and will always bring you back to the foot of the cross. A link to all his works can be found by clicking HERE (Per Crucem ad Lucem by Jason Goroucy). If you have never read him you are encouraged to do so. A brief biographical sketch of this remarkable man follows.
P.T. (Peter Taylor) Forsyth (1848-1921) was a Scottish preacher and theologian. The son of a postman, he studied at the University of Aberdeen and later in Göttingen. Ordained as a Congregational minister, he pastored several churches throughout his life. In 1901 he became Principal of Hackney College, London. In his early years he embraced liberal theology. Yet the inadequacy of liberal theology to answer many of his theological questions and satisfy him inwardly led him to a spiritual crisis in his life. A growing sense of his own personal sin led him to the foot of the cross where he came into the Light of the atoning work of Christ. Of his transforming experience Forsyth wrote, “I was turned from a Christian to a believer, from a lover of love to an object of grace. And so, whereas I first thought that what the churches needed was enlightened instruction and liberal theology, I came to be sure that they needed was evangelization, in something more than the conventional sense of that word…It also pleased God by the revelation of his holiness and grace, which the great theologians taught me to find in the Bible, to bring home to me my sin in a way that submerged all the school questions in weight, urgency, and poignancy. Our worst condemnation is not that we have sinned, but that we have refused to be saved from our sin…We are won from sin by an Act which at the same time makes us not simply innocent but holy…that Act is the cross of Christ.”
Forsyth’s transforming experience shaped his theology which he always kept at the forefront of his preaching and writings the holiness of God and the atoning cross of Christ. His book God the Holy Father is a classic emphasizing the holiness and the holy-love of God, grace and the atoning work of God in Jesus Christ. A prolific writer, his writings are deep and sometimes requires repeated readings to fully grasp. But no matter what he wrote on he would always repeatedly draw the reader back the holiness of God and the cross of Christ.
He wrote on practically every Christian topic: marriage, prayer, the relation of Christianity to the arts, the relationship of the state to Christianity, the preacher and his message, the church and evangelism, the danger of liberalism, theodicy (the problem of evil), and the list goes on. But whatever he wrote on he always came back to the cross as the only true compass for the Church of Jesus Christ. John Morley (1838-1923) said that Forsyth was “one of the most brilliant minds in Europe.” James Denny (1856-1917), also a Scottish theologian and preacher, said of Forsyth that he had “more true and important things to say than any other man writing theology” and that his “shining merit” was that he always kept returning to the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Theologian Emil Brunner (1889-1966) said he was “the greatest of modern British theologians.”
While Forsyth’s writings reflect his intellectual depth, more importantly they reflect his deep faith and spiritual depth. His life underwent many deepening experiences. As the result of his tireless travels to preach and his intense urgency to write his health was always fragile. At one point he suffered a breakdown. At another, he lost his first wife while she was still relatively young, a cause of deep grief to him. But his passion to preach and write on the holiness of God and the atoning cross of Christ was the driving power in his life. He died on November 11, 1921 at age 73 years. His works still remain influential because of their emphasis on the work the Holy Father in and through the Christ of the cross. To the last he insisted on the human need for atonement, which is found only in the Christ of the cross.
Forsyth’s motto, “Through the Cross into the Light.”