Peter Taylor Forsyth

P. T. Forsyth.

Peter Taylor Forsyth, also known as P. T. Forsyth, (1848-1921) was a Scottish theologian.

The son of a postman, Forsyth studied at the University of Aberdeen and then in Göttingen (under Albrecht Ritschl). He was ordained into the Congregational ministry and served churches as pastor at Bradford, Manchester, Leicester and Cambridge, before becoming Principal of Hackney College, London (later subsumed into the University of London) in 1901.

An early interest in critical theology made him suspect to some more 'orthodox' Christians. However, he increasingly came to the conclusion that liberal theology failed to account adequately for the moral problem of the guilty conscience. This led him to a moral crisis which he found resolved in the atoning work of Christ. The experience helped to shape and inform a vigorous interest in the issues of holiness and atonement. Although Forsyth rejected many of his earlier liberal leanings he retained many of Adolf von Harnack's criticisms of Chalcedonian Christology. This led him to expound a kenotic doctrine of the incarnation (clearly influenced by Bishop Charles Gore and Thomasius). Where he differed from other kenotic theologies of the atonement was the claim that Christ did not give up his divine attributes but condensed them; i.e., the incarnation was the expression of God's omnipotence rather than its negation. His theology and attack on liberal Christianity can be found in his most famous work, The Person and Place of Christ (1909), which anticipated much of the neo-orthodox theology of the next generation. He has often lazily been coined the 'Barthian before Barth', but this fails to account for many areas of divergence with the Swiss theologian's thought.

While many of Forsyth's most significant insights have largely gone ignored, not a few consider him to be among the greatest of English-speaking theologians of the early twentieth century.

In his textbook Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister E. McGrath makes note of Forsyth's Justification of God (1916). McGrath says this book "represents an impassioned plea to allow the notion of the 'justice of God' to be rediscovered. Forsyth is less concerned than Anselm for the legal and juridical aspects of the cross; his interest centers on the manner in which the cross is inextricably linked with 'the whole moral fabric and movement of the universe.' The doctrine of the atonement is inseparable from 'the rightness of things.' "[1]


  • 'Pulpit Parables for Young Hearers'. With J. A. Hamilton. Manchester/London: Brook & Chrystal/Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1888.
  • 'Religion in Recent Art: Being Expository Lectures on Rossetti, Burne Jones, Watts, Holman Hunt, and Wagner'. New York: AMS Press, 1972 (reprinted from the 3rd edition, 1905; 1st ed. 1889)
  • 'The Charter of the Church: Six Lectures on the Spiritual Principle of Nonconformity'. London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1896.
  • 'The Holy Father and the Living Christ'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1897.
  • 'Intercessory Services for Aid in Public Worship'. Manchester: John Heywood, 1896.
  • 'Rome, Reform and Reaction: Four Lectures on the Religious Situation'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1899.
  • 'The Taste of Death and the Life of Grace'. London: James Clarke, 1901, included in God the Holy Father. Blackwood: New Creation, 1987.
  • 'Positive Preaching and Modern Mind: The Lyman Beecher Lecture on Preaching, Yale University, 1907'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1907.
  • 'Missions in State and Church: Sermons and Addresses'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908.
  • 'Socialism, the Church and the Poor'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908.
  • 'The Cruciality of the Cross'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910.
  • 'The Person and Place of Jesus Christ: The Congregational Union Lecture for 1909'. London: Congregational Union of England and Wales/Hodder & Stoughton, 1909; London: Independent Press, 1948.
  • 'The Power of Prayer'. With Dora Greenwell. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910.
  • 'The Work of Christ'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910.
  • 'Christ on Parnassus: Lectures on Art, Ethic, and Theology'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.
  • 'Faith, Freedom and the Future'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.
  • 'Marriage: Its Ethic and Religion'. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.
  • 'The Principle of Authority in Relation to Certainty, Sanctity and Society: An Essay in the Philosophy of Experimental Religion'. London: Independent Press, 1952 (1913).
  • 'Theology In Church and State.' London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915.
  • 'The Christian Ethic of War'. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 1999 (1916).
  • 'The Justification of God: Lectures for War-Time on a Christian Theodicy'. London: Independent Press, 1957.
  • 'The Soul of Prayer'. London: Independent Press, 1949 (1916).
  • 'The Church and the Sacraments'. London: Independent Press, 1947 (1916).
  • 'This Life and the Next: The Effect on This Life of Faith in Another'. London: Independent Press, 1946.
  • 'Christian Aspects of Evolution'. London: The Epworth Press, 1950.
  • 'Congregationalism and Reunion: Two Lectures'. London: Independent Press, 1952.
  • 'The Church, the Gospel and Society'. London: Independent Press, 1962.
  • 'Revelation Old and New: Sermons and Addresses'. (ed. John Huxtable). London: Independent Press, 1962.
  • 'God the Holy Father'. Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 1987.
  • 'The Preaching of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ'. Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 1987.
(Forsyth died in 1921, and dates after that are re-prints of earlier publications)


  1. ^ McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1994; 3rd ed., 2001. p. 423.

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