Robert Mackintosh

(1858—1933) Congregational minister and theologian

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Robert Mackintosh was born in Dunoon, Argyllshire on 23 May 1858 and died in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire on 12 February 1933. On the death of his father, the Free Church of Scotland minister Charles Calder Mackintosh, the family moved to Glasgow. Mackintosh won a scholarship to Oxford, but his mother dissuaded him from taking it up. Instead he went to Glasgow University (1872–7), where he studied under Edward Caird. He graduated with first class honours in philosophy, and second class honours in classics. He proceeded to New College, Edinburgh, with a view to training for the ministry of the Free Church. He found the Old Testament Professor, A.B. Davidson, inspiring, but received little help from the Professor of Doctrine, James MacGregor, whom he branded an arch Calvinist. He graduated BD, and there followed a period of study in Jena and Marburg; a missionary assistantship to Dr Walter Smith; and a bout of scarlet fever which led to a recuperative voyage to New Zealand, during which he worked on his first book, Christ and the Jewish Law (1886). Mackintosh agonized over the distance between the confessional statements to which he was expected to assent, and what he could actually believe. The fruit of this turmoil included his pamphlet of 1888, The Obsoleteness of the Westminster Confession of Faith. In the same year he published another provocative tract, The Insufficiency of Revivalism as a Religious System–though in later years he admitted that he owed his conversion to the visit to Scotland of the American evangelists Moody and Sankey. In 1889 his collection of Essays towards a New Theology appeared; he was awarded the Glasgow DD; and he went as assistant to Benjamin Bell at Withington Presbyterian Church, Manchester. Confessional difficulties remained, however, and Mackintosh, to use his own word, became a ‘refugee’ who found a home in the broader waters of Congregationalism. Mackintosh was ever sympathetic to those who were religiously perplexed or consumed by doubt: ‘one would thankfully spend one's whole life till one was spent out, for the privilege of removing a single obstacle from the path of hearts that are seeking God’ (Albrecht Ritschl, p. 4). Of all his works A First Primer of Apologetics (1900) was the only one to achieve a second edition. He was ordained and inducted to the pastorate of Dumfries Congregational Church on 11 December 1890, and there he remained until 1894, when he succeeded J.M. Hodgson at Lancashire Independent College, Manchester. From its inception in 1904, Mackintosh was a lecturer in the Faculty of Theology of the University of Manchester. He was Chairman of the Lancashire Congregational Union in 1918. He retired, having served under four principals, in 1930.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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