There are a handful of Christian thinkers who have inspired and shaped my Christian identity. They have particularly provided clarity to the biblical witness that I believe is foundational to a faithful and fruitful Christian life. On of those men died a week ago. His name was John R.W. Stott.
John Stott was an English theologian and evangelist, a champion of world missions, and a passionate and intellectually powerful defender of the Faith. I first encountered Dr. Stott as a keynote speaker at Urbana 78, a student world missions conference sponsored by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I was covering the conference for two denominational publications and arrived there scrambling into my seat in a cavernous field house in Bloomington just as Stott was introduced. I was so mesmerized by his eloquence and understanding that I barely wrote a note. I didn’t want to miss a word from his lips.
Later I found great wisdom and understanding as a writer, teacher, evangelist and pastor in such works as Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ, and Christian Mission in the Modern World. Even to this day, those tomes hold an honored place on the shelves in my study,
Stott had made many powerful observations that kept the Christian church grounded in authentic faith and invited the world at large to take a more honest approach in its pursuit of truth. Here are some of those quotes that particularly shaped me.
“If you find it hard to believe in God, I strongly advise you to begin your search not with philosophical questions about the existence and being of God, but with Jesus of Nazareth. … If you read again the story of Jesus, and read it as an honest and humble seeker, Jesus Christ is able to reveal himself to you, and thus make God. … real to you.” – I Believe in God
“The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.” – Christian Mission in the Modern World
“God’s Word is designed to make us Christians, not scientists, and to lead us to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. It was not God’s intention to reveal in Scripture what human beings could discover by their own investigations and experiments.” – Christian Basics
“His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice.”
“I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross……In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statute of Buddha – – his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agony of the world. But each time, after awhile, I have had to turn away. And in imagination, I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross — nails through his hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me ! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering. The cross of Christ is God’s only self justification in such a world as ours”.
“Our God is often too small because he is too religious. We imagine that he is chiefly interested in religion – in religious buildings (churches and chapels), religious activities (worship and ritual), and religious books (Bibles and prayer books). Of course he is concerned about these things, but only if they are related to the whole of life. According to the Old Testament prophets and the teaching of Jesus, God is very critical of ‘religion,” if by that is meant religious services divorced from real life, loving service and the moral obedience of the heart.”
Stott has left an indelible stamp upon the character of the Christian faith. We mourn his passing.
For an excellent post on Stott go to Kemp