Aberdeen Doctors

A group of early seventeenth-century Scottish divines, so called because they had all taken the degree of doctor of divinity by thesis at King's College, Aberdeen. (The degree had been in abeyance since the Reformation, but was revived by James VI.) They came into prominence because of their opposition to the National Covenant* of 1638. The Covenant had revived the anti-Romanist Negative Confession of 1581 and had given it an anti-episcopacy and anti-Prayer Book interpretation. The Doctors objected to this and to the undermining of the royal authority implicit in the Covenant, to take which, they asserted, was to separate the Church of Scotland from the other Reformed churches and from the early church. They had hoped to dispel the notion that the Fathers were on the side of Rome and to show the essential catholicity of the Reformed Church, but despite them episcopacy was abolished, Presbyterianism restored. Most famous of the Doctors was John Forbes.* The effectiveness of their advocacy of episcopacy is seen in the comparative strength of the Episcopal Church in NE Scotland even today.