Editor’s Note: God creates men for their times and John R. W. Stott is the epitome of this providential reality. Lessons from his life are many, but what is so clear is that if you want to make an impact beyond your life, then teach people the Bible. Therefore, after hearing of Stott’s death, the BibleMesh team is both mourning that the evangelical world has lost one of its clearest voices and rejoicing that he is now face to face with the Savior he preached. Below, then, are reflections from our team on the life and ministry of John Stott.
For me, the passing of John R.W. Stott marks the crossing of an important threshold in the fading memory of what I call “classic evangelicalism.” Stott modeled orthodoxy without being combative, cultural engagement without sensationalism, and conviction without fussiness. Like a great musician, Stott was not only concerned with playing the right notes. He cared about tone. There was a reliable, centering, and axiomatic effect to both his prose and his preaching. It made us believe that we were united in something transcendent and true — the Gospel, and that the things that divided us denominationally was decidedly less important.
Many of us can adduce testimonies in which we first read Stott, and we “got it.” For example, I vividly remembering reading this sentence in The Cross of Christ: “The meaning of the atonement is not to be found in our penitence evoked by the sight of Calvary, but rather in what God did when in Christ on the cross he took our place and bore our sin.”
After that moment, I would never see Jesus as a victim again as he was so often pathetically and romantically depicted throughout my youth. But more importantly, from that point forward, I would never preach to the people of God with a view toward manipulating their feelings of pathos toward Christ on the cross. Jesus was a king, who willfully laid down his life as an objective payment for sin.
Had I heard that before? Yes. But never in such clear and persuasive prose.
John R. W. Stott: I . . . We, giving thanks to God, stand in your debt.”
Gregory Alan Thornbury Professor of Philosophy Dean of the School of Christian Studies Union University in Jackson, Tennessee
John Stott was a great encouragement to me on a number of occasions, and I’ll mention two. First, he was a clear voice of evangelical, intellectual engagement back in the 1970s when skeptics ruled the earth in my discipline, philosophy. Those were the days when the writings of Bertrand Russell, A.J. Ayer, Antony Flew, Kai Nielsen, J.L. Mackie, Herbert Marcuse, John Searle, W.V.O. Quine, Paul Edwards, Philippa Foot, etc. were piled up against theism, the days before formation of the Society of Christian Philosophers, with the emerging influence of Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, George Mavrodes, and others. Today, we have any number of strong biblical voices in the marketplace of ideas, but back then, it took moxie to take on those who dismissed or marginalized the faith. We had C.S. Lewis to help us, but we also needed living apologists and communicators of the faith in what was often a hostile environment. In that connection, we were blessed by the likes of Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, Udo Middelmann, Os Guinness, and yes, John Stott.
Then there were the chilly days when, as a new pastor, I took a firmer line on divorce and remarriage than had my predecessor. I thought I was being faithful to the text (and still do), but a lot of people in the church were very unhappy with me, questioning both my interpretive skills and my pastoral heart. I’ll never forget the relief, even the joy, that came to me as I listened to a John MacArthur cassette and read a John Stott chapter on the topic. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t an ogre or dolt after all, or at least that this ogre and dolt had miraculously arrived at some of the conclusions advanced by sharp, honorable men.Mark T. Coppenger Professor of Christian Apologetics The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary —————————-
John Stott is no longer “between two worlds” but by God’s grace now knows as he is known. Issues Facing Christians Today taught a generation of us how to connect the dots between the Bible and contemporary culture. Though never married, his children are numberless.C. Ben Mitchell Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy Union University —————————-
One of Dr. Scott’s many initiatives was to establish the London Lectures focusing on Christian engagement with the wider world. I delivered the London Lectures in 2003, on the topic “Can Christianity and Islam co-exist in the 21st century?” Dr Stott attended the series and was inspirational by his presence, by his insightful questions and comments, and by his words of encouragement. I was humbled by his presence and felt that I should have been sitting at his feet, rather than him sitting in the front row of my lectures. The series was held at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, which serves as an enduring legacy of Dr Stott’s energy and vision.Peter Riddell Dean of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths Melbourne School of Theology, Australia —————————-
I can still feel the silence in St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, when John Stott neared the end of his exposition of Philippians 2:5-11. With his characteristic clarity he impressed upon our hearts that every knee will bow before the Lord Jesus: every Christian knee, every Muslim knee, every Hindu knee—every knee will bow before him. I remember buying two of his commentaries for the first time—Ephesians and 2 Timothy—and buying The Cross of Christ at the Oxford Christian Union. I’ve read all his works more than once—some many times—and been inspired by the story of life. The risen Lord Jesus gave us John R.W. Stott as a gracious gift and to God be the Glory!Michael McClenahan Irish Presbyterian minister —————————-
It was fitting that we should be sitting in a team meeting of BibleMesh when the news came through of the death of John Stott. For in his day, John did more perhaps than any other leader of the worldwide Christian Church to bring understanding of the Bible and its centrality to the faith on the one hand, to the lay Christian and on the other, to the pastor and to the biblical scholar and theologian. But it was not just intellectual rigor—though that and the use of the mind were vital in his eyes—but it was also a life lived out in obedience to the Saviour revealed in the Scriptures that marked his ministry and set an example for so many.
I first came across his writings as a confused undergraduate at university; my spiritual search was going nowhere—no one could answer my questions. Then someone put in my hands a copy of Stott’s Basic Christianity. I still remember the overwhelming feeling of relief when my questions were answered one by one as I read page after page of clear, concise explanation. Not long afterwards, I committed my life to Christ. I was profoundly grateful to God for His servant John Stott. I still am today.Charles Marnham Vicar. St. Michael’s Church Chester Square. London