Monday, August 15, 2011

The Death of John Stott

When I went into a religion class at St. John's College, Winfield, Kansas, so many years ago, two of the textbooks I carried with me were called Basic Christianity and Basic Introduction to the New Testament.  Their author was an Anglican named John Stott.  Perhaps you might have used the same texts if you had taken a religion or Christianity class in a college in the early 1970s.

Stott studied modern languages at Trinity College and then transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge, so that he could become ordained as an Anglican cleric.  He was ordained in 1945 and then served first as Curate and then Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, until being named Rector Emeritus in 1975, so that he might devote his energies to his many writing and speaking projects.

Stott played a key role as a leader of evangelicalism within the Church of England, and was regarded as instrumental in persuading evangelicals to play an active role in the Church of England rather than leaving for exclusively evangelical denominations.  David Brooks noted in 2004 that if evangelicals elected a pope, John Stott just might be it.  He remained celibate his entire life. He said, "The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those He calls."

Archbishop Rowan Williams noted:  "he will be remembered most warmly as an expositor of scripture and a teacher of the faith, whose depth and simplicity brought doctrine alive in all sorts of new ways."  This was one of many tributes from those within the Church of England and those in evangelicalism who both saw in Stott a man of great gifts, humility, and dedication to the truth of Scripture, an outward view of the Church and the Christian life as one of witness, and to unity of faith in the basic doctrines of Christianity.

I still have his book although I have not opened its covers for many years.  I write because of the extraordinary influence of this man.  J. B. Philips and John Stott were two of the larger figures that loomed over my early Lutheran college life-- a testament both to their stature and to the nature of general Christian education even at LCMS colleges 40 years ago.

A couple of quotes. . . God has spoken; but have we listened to his word? God has acted; but have we benefited from what he has done? (p.16). . . nothing can convince us of our sinfulness like the lofty, righteous law of God. (p. 77). . .  This exposure of our sin has only one purpose. It is to convince us of our need of Jesus Christ… (p.88). . . Sin had separated us from God; but Christ…suffered for our sins, an innocent Saviour dying for guilty sinners. (p. 107) . . . from Basic Christianity.  These then are the marks of the ideal Church - love, suffering, holiness, sound doctrine, genuineness, evangelism and humility. They are what Christ desires to find in His churches as He walks among them. (p. 163-4). . . Basic Introduction to the NT.

Stott died 27 July 2011 at The College of St Barnabas in Lingfield, surrounded by family and close friends, as they read Scripture and listened to Handel's Messiah... If in our generation we raised up people of his stature and integrity, we would do well... He was an articulate spokesman for the faith. . .

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