St. Giles Cathedral

With family visiting, we spent the day in Edinburgh, and visited St. Giles Cathedral.  St. Giles is known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and the Mother Church of Presbyterianism.  It is the church of John Knox, the Scottish Reformer.

John Knox is buried under the car park next to St. Giles, and as today they drive over his burial place, so also the current regime at St. Giles tramples on his teachings.

What would Knox say today?

  • A statue of Knox, who opposed images in the church, stands near the entrance.
  • He rejected the use of prayer candles, but you can light them near the organ.
  • They sell a license to take photographs for £2.
  • The shop, which used to be downstairs, has now expanded.  There’s a section on the main floor of the cathedral, and the merchandise has spilled out into what might be called (in a church, if this were one) the sanctuary.
  • You can choose a tartan souvenir from your own clan right in the area where people used to listen to the preaching of Knox.
  • Also spilling out of the shop into the main area were the Holy Socks for babies.  At St. Giles you can buy Holy Socks for babies.  Words fail me.
  • If you go into the shop, you can find all kinds of tourist junk (remember this still claims to be a church).
  • I didn’t notice any Bibles or Christian books for sale.  Perhaps they have them in the downstairs portion of the shop.  I actually only spent less than 60 seconds in the shop, I couldn’t stomach any more.

What I did see in the shop was icons.  That’s correct.  Those things that Knox preached against, the images that Roman Catholics prayed in front of, and which were destroyed out of the churches during the Scottish Reformation. 

A few years ago, they were on sale downstairs, off in a corner.  I found that horrifying.  Now?  They are in the upstairs shop.  One second, you are in the main area of the cathedral, an area where John Knox’s voice could be heard.  A second later, you’ve passed through a doorway into a shop which sells all the normal tourist junk — and there, on a prominent display, are the icons.  You’ll see them before you see any Bibles, that’s for sure. 

You can buy an icon to take home, put it in a place of prominence, and kneel before it and pray.  You can purchase it at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, the church of John Knox.  It’s a good thing he died a long time ago.  If he were around, he would tell them to destroy those things, and that would be bad for profits.  It’s much better to honour him by putting up a statue in the church instead.  He’s not around to say anything about that, either. 

And they wonder why the entire Scottish Kirk is in decline.

But it’s a beautiful building.  The Gospel was preached there, a long, long time ago.  And they used to teach, a long time ago, that you should obey the second of the Ten Commandments. 

People in Scotland died for the Reformation, because they wanted to turn from idolatry and false traditions to a Biblical faith.  But that was a long time ago, too.

Exodus 20:4-6 (The Second Commandment)

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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