Growing (Painfully!) In The Gospel: P.T. Forsyth

One of the neat things about running a book blog is the recommendations we get from time to time.  We appreciate it when you notice the different kinds of books we enjoy and then let us know what you think we’d enjoy based on our blog posts.  Awhile back one of you mentioned that we might like P.T. Forsyth.  I finally got around to reading something by him.  I chose The Soul of Prayer because I’ll be preaching through the Lord’s Prayer this spring.

This is a strange book – but it is strange in the best sense of the word.  After reading it, I can see why someone called Forsyth the English precursor to Karl Barth.  Though there are parts of the book that I’m not too wild about (i.e. his use of the term sacrament and his discussion of God’s will), other parts were amazing and profound.  Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of Forsyth’s book on prayer.  In this section he is talking about the preaching and praying pastor.

“If it were only texts or men we had to handle!  But we have to handle the gospel.  We have to lift up Christ – a Christ who is the death of natural self-confidence – a humiliating, even a crushing Christ; and we are not always alive to our uplifting and resurrection in him.  We have to handle a gospel that is a new rebuke to us every step we gain in intimacy with it.  There is no real intimacy with the gospel which does not mean a new sense of God’s holiness, and it may be long before we realize that same holiness that condemns is that which saves.”

He continues,

“There is no new insight into the Cross which does not bring, whatever else come with it, a deeper sense of the solemn holiness of the love that meets us there.  And there is no new sense of the holy God that does not arrest his name upon our unclean lips.  If our very repentance is to be repented of, and we should be forgiven much in our very prayers, how shall we be proud, or even pleased, with what we may think a success in our preaching?  So that we are not surprised that some preachers, after what the public calls a most brilliant and impressive discourse, retire…to humble themselves before God, to ask forgiveness for the poor message, to call themselves most unprofitable servants – yea, even when they knew themselves that they had ‘done well.’  The more we grasp our gospel the more it abashes us.”  [note: abash means humble or shame.]

Quotes taken from The Soul of Prayer (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2002).  I forgot which of you recommended P.T. Forsyth’s work, but thanks!

shane lems

3 Replies to “Growing (Painfully!) In The Gospel: P.T. Forsyth”

  1. The Soul of Prayer is one of my favorites. I’ve learned a lot from Forsyth over the last few years. More than merely genius, he has great wisdom, i.e., the sort of wisdom that comes from a theologian who is also a “philosopher,” in the broader sense of the term. His theology is his philosophy. That, more than anything else, is what relates him to Barth in my mind.

    I would check out the Wipf & Stock website if you are looking for some more Forsyth to read. The Person and Place of Jesus Christ is probably his greatest work, including the best account of kenotic Christology that I’ve ever read — of course, this was before kenosis was taken-up by liberation theologians, giving it a bad name.


  2. Thanks for the comments, Kevin. I’ll check out that one “The Person and Place of Jesus Christ” perhaps in the Spring. I look forward to it!


  3. “We appreciate it when you notice the different kinds of books we enjoy and then let us know what you think we’d enjoy based on our blog posts.” I really have to let my Facebook group know about that! There’s a really animated debate that I thought would be of interest on evolution vs. intelligent design going on at


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