His father was an elder in the Church of Scotland with strong Gaelic roots. Macquarrie enlisted in the British Army and served from to He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland in and then served in the Royal Army Chaplains Department — Macquarrie returned to the University of Glasgow to study for a PhD, which he was awarded in while serving as lecturer in systematic theology at Trinity College, Glasgow.
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A prolific writer with more than 20 books to his credit, Macquarrie was a very successful mediator between the academic world and the parishes and although his theology was by no means conservative, he retained a deep commitment to the traditional practices of the church.
This inspired confidence among many who feared that modern theology was undermining the basis of the Christian faith itself. An Oxford chair linked to a canonry of Christ Church, and a world-wide reputation, did nothing to spoil his homely and friendly style. He retained the best traits of the Scottish parish minister he had once been and was revered by his pupils whose careers he followed and furthered until the end of his life.
As a young scholar his fluency in German took him into the sphere of existentialism long before it had entered the British theological scene, and he played a significant part in its importion. Like Bultmann, he had for a time served as an army chaplain - an experience which led both men to perceive the urgency of finding more contemporary expressions of faith. In Twentieth Century Religious Thoughts and Principles of Christian Theology Macquarrie attempted such an expression in two major works which ran to several editions and were widely read by clergy and students of all traditions.
Just how successful his attempt to combine existentialism and Catholic Christianity proved to be is still a matter of debate in theological circles. A common view is that he scored a highly commendable "near miss", but several generations of students owe a debt of gratitude to Macquarrie for helping them to understand and express their beliefs in language and thought forms that did no violence to their intellect.
In Search of Deity , which were his Gifford Lectures, and Jesus Christ in Modern Thought , another major work, indicated however that he was not prepared to give up the quest for an irresistible contemporary theology, and several of his smaller books, Paths in Spirituality , The Concept of Peace , Christian Unity and Christian Diversity , and Theology, Church and Ministry showed a distinguished theologian tackling some of the lesser practical issues facing the church.
John "Hugh" Macquarrie was born at Renfrew on June 27 , where his father was a pattern maker in the shipyards. His paternal grandfather had been a Gaelic speaker from Islay who had come to Clydeside in search of work. His parents, who married in , had had their first son die, and young John was not expected to survive for several weeks after his arrival.
But he recovered, and went from Paisley Grammar School to Glasgow University, where he took a First in Mental Philosophy and stayed on to complete a bachelors degree in Divinity.
By this time, however, he was marked out for an academic career and from was a lecturer at Glasgow University. Soon his work on German philosophy and theology was noted and when the prestigious chair of Systematic Theology at the Union Theological Seminary in New York fell vacant in Macquarrie was appointed. The international scene and an introduction to the American Episcopal Church in New York opened his eyes to the treasures of the Catholic element in Christianity and in he was ordained deacon, then priest, in the Anglican Church.
Thereafter the radical element in his thinking was tempered by the influence of the open, yet more conservative, Anglican theological tradition. When in the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury said, in an unguarded moment, that those opposed to the ordination of women were heretics, he received a magisterial rebuke from Macquarrie, who was not himself opposed to women priests.
In he was persuaded to leave New York for Oxford where he had many fruitful years, particularly with bright postgraduate students, and was a very congenial member of the chapter of Christ Church Cathedral. To his Glasgow D Litt and Oxford DD he added many honorary degrees and was in constant demand as a visiting professor. He was elected to the British Academy in Yet he was always ready to accept an invitation to preach in an Oxfordshire village church or to give a paper to a group of parish clergymen.
Formal retirement did little to halt his work and he continued to publish extensively. Two Worlds Are Ours: an introduction to Christian mysticism appeared the following year. He is survived by his wife Jenny, and by two sons and a daughter.
Principles Of Christian Theology
Principles of Christian Theology : Revised Edition
PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY