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Macintyre, Ronald George (1863–1954)

by Susan Emilsen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Ronald George Macintyre (1863-1954), Presbyterian clergyman, was born on 30 August 1863 in Melbourne, youngest son of Angus Macintyre, a Scottish-born Roman Catholic pastoralist descended from the Macdonalds of Tulloch, and his wife Catherine, née Cameron, a Presbyterian. After his father's death in 1864, Macintyre returned with his mother to Fort William, Scotland, where he was raised a Presbyterian. He was educated at the Public School, Fort William, and then spent three years in a solicitor's office undertaking preliminary training in law.

In late adolescence Macintyre experienced a 'great spiritual change' and, offering himself for the Free Church ministry, attended New College, University of Edinburgh (M.A., 1886; B.D., 1889; D.D., 1919). He held pastorates at Birkenhead, England (five years), and Dumfries, Scotland (eight years). In Edinburgh on 1 August 1895 he married Christina Cromb; they were childless. In 1903 Macintyre accepted nomination to become minister of St Columba's Presbyterian Church, Woollahra, Sydney. He was appointed in 1909 professor of systematic theology and apologetics at the Theological Hall, St Andrew's College, University of Sydney. He was also a council-member of St Andrew's College and chairman of the Scots College council.

An astute politician, prolific fund-raiser, and respected theologian, writer and orator, Macintyre was convener of the business committee of the General Assembly of Australia for forty years, and at various times of almost every assembly committee. His admirers pointed to his sagacity and deep commitment to the Presbyterian Church, but those who found themselves the butt of his sometimes Machiavellian diplomacy referred to him, in his absence, as 'King Ronald' or 'the Cardinal'. Macintyre displayed a shrewd capacity to align himself with popular causes within the Church. In 1904-09 he promoted the cause of 'Australian ministers for an Australian Church', and raised funds to finance a third professorship at the Theological Hall, filled by Rev. Samuel Angus. In 1912, at a time of marked enthusiasm for mass evangelistic missions, he chaired the organizing committee of the Chapman-Alexander mission. In 1916-18, while moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, he served at the same time as chairman of the State Recruiting Committee. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1918 for his organizing ability and stirring oratory in the cause of recruitment, and C.M.G. in 1926. Next year he retired from the Theological Hall and in 1927-34 was managing director of the Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes.

After the war Macintyre had turned his attention to the Church Union movement, and assumed increased responsibility for the financial basis of the Church. Through his influence, Presbyterian institutions received generous bequests from Sir Samuel McCaughey. In 1934 Macintyre chaired a three-man commission, with powers to 'do anything' to check the deteriorating financial position of the Church.

In his Theological Hall lectures, public speeches and writings Macintyre defended evangelical theology against the assaults of rationalism and liberal theology. In 1911 he declared that the 'so-called Liberal Theology' stood bankrupt and victory lay with orthodox scholarship. After the war, however, his examination of the doctrine of Christian eschatology and his wartime experiences caused him to recognize the need for a degree of theological restatement. His defence of a doctrine of potential, or conditional, immortality in The Other Side of Death. A Study of Christian Eschatology (1920) gained him a D.D. from the University of Edinburgh, and the censure of conservative churchmen, who questioned his orthodoxy and 'loyalty to Christ'. He resolutely denied the charge. Macintyre's critical review of Angus's scholarly work, Religious Quests of the Graeco Roman World (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1929) started public debate about Angus. At first Macintyre took a conciliatory role in the controversy, eschewing the potentially divisive effects of a heresy case. After the publication of Angus's polemic Truth and Tradition in 1934, however, he became a resolute opponent and that year published a pamphlet, The Theology of Dr. Angus: A Critical Review.

Following the death of his first wife, Macintyre married a widow Alice Mary Parkinson, daughter of Rev. Dr J. N. Manning, on 12 February 1935. In retirement he lived at Springwood where he enjoyed gardening and bowls. He died on 22 June 1954 in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, and was cremated. At his funeral service Rev. Victor Clark-Duff described him as 'the brightest luminary in the ecclesiastical firmament of our Church since the days of John Dunmore Lang'. Macintyre was survived by his wife and two stepchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. White, The Challenge of the Years (Syd, 1951)
  • Scottish Australasian, Nov 1916
  • New South Wales Presbyterian, 26 May 1927, 2 July 1954
  • Angus papers (Ferguson Memorial Library, Presbyterian Assembly Hall, Sydney)
  • Minutes, The Heretics (privately held).

Citation details

Susan Emilsen, 'Macintyre, Ronald George (1863–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/macintyre-ronald-george-7374/text12813, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 13 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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