Tag Archives: john r w stott

John Stott’s 100th Birthday

John R.W. Stott would have been 100 years old today. He died ten years ago, but the man left his mark on the history of the worldwide evangelical church. A tribute website to Stott’s influence rightly states that Stott was “an English Anglican who impacted evangelical Christianity in the 20th Century more than any other individual.”

John Robert Walmsey Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011)

I discovered John Stott as a college student, through a series of small booklets Stott wrote for InterVarsity. Over his life, Stott wrote about 50 fifty books, but what set Stott above many of his peers was a combination of three qualities:

  • John Stott combined the warmth and heart of a pastor with a crisp and keen intellect.
  • John Stott was a gifted leader.
  • John Stott had a heart and passion to reach the world for Jesus.

John Stott came to know Christ at age 17 in the United Kingdom, on the eve of World War II, after hearing a talk by youth evangelist Eric Nash, “What Then Shall I Do with Jesus, Who Is Called the Christ?  Stott would eventually go onto becoming the Rector of All Soul’s Church, Langham Place, in London, where he would serve for most of his life. He studied the Scriptures for hours and hours, and appreciated the value of sound, verse-by-verse expository preaching.

Though Stott never married, he was very much a “people-person.”  He partnered with the American evangelist, Billy Graham, to sponsor a series of revival meetings in England in 1950s, that sparked the worldwide ministry outreach of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Yet Stott was not content simply to be a pastor, as he believed that cultivating a Christian heart should also be accompanied by cultivating a Christian mind. He encouraged the development of British-based Bible commentaries, to revive an interest in thoughtful evangelical Bible scholarship, that had languished by the mid-20th century. One of my favorite Stott books to this day is his commentary on the Book of Romans. Stott was both a pastor and a teacher.

Together with Billy Graham, John Stott drew together evangelists and missionaries from all over the world to convene at Lausanne, Switzerland, where the Lausanne Covenant was drafted, one of the most important statements of evangelical belief and practice, during the modern era. A tireless supporter of the work of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, John Stott traveled the world as a leader to promote the global work of spreading the Gospel.

Stott was not without controversy, as he clashed with fellow senior evangelical leader Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the 1960s, over evangelical involvement in the Church of England, which had grown increasingly liberal in theological direction. Lloyd-Jones urged evangelicals to leave the Church of England, while Stott urged evangelicals to stay, and maintain their influence in the national church. Stott also urged other fellow Christians to affirm God’s design for marriage, as being between one man and one woman for a lifetime, contrary to certain popular trends today.

Stott steered a middle-way through theological disagreements, that still plague 21st century evangelicalism. In the 1960s, he gently admonished the leaders of the Keswick Holiness movement to abandon their late-19th and early-20th century commitment to “let go and let God” theology and embrace a more classic, Reformed view of sanctification, that emphasizes gradual growth and change in the Christian life.  Stott was a critic of excesses in the charismatic movement, while avoiding knee-jerk reactions against the charismatic movement, by advocating an “open yet cautious” approach to modern manifestations of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Stott sought a middle-way in the debate over “women in ministry,” by affirming the principle of an all-male-only eldership in local churches, while simultaneously encouraging the development of female leadership in other ministries of the church. Stott accepted the antiquity of the earth, and was open to the scientific theory of evolution, while firmly believing in an historical Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, who later fell into sin.

Stott was no mere traditionalist, simply accepting tradition for the sake of tradition, as he sought to follow Scripture wherever it led him. Most controversially, Stott eventually adopted a “conditional immortality” view regarding the doctrine of hell, at least in a tentative matter, as opposed to holding to the view of hell as conscious eternal torment.

My favorite John Stott book is The Cross of Christ, which is my view the best, contemporary well-rounded exposition of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. In The Cross of Christ, Stott affirms the classic Reformation of view of penal substitutionary atonement, while emphasizing that God’s self-substitution at Calvary corrects certain misunderstandings that many often have about penal substitution.

Check out the John Stott 100 website to learn more about Stott and about his many helpful books.

Moving Beyond Confusion with the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (#7)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

The seventh (and last) in a multipart blog post series

Let me share with you some of my personal journey. When someone says “charismatic,” with respect to the Christian faith, it can evoke a lot of different reactions….

I have had a number of friends who would consider themselves as “charismatic,” as well as friends who are “non-charismatic.” I have helped to lead worship at a Pentecostal church, back in college, as well as church fellowships that take a rather dim view of all things “charismatic.”Some friends really look forward to worshipping at a “Spirit-filled” church. Others will not touch anything “charismatic” with a 10-foot pole. I even had a girlfriend years ago who dumped me because she said I was too “charismatic,” which was strange, particularly since I do not think I have ever genuinely “spoken in tongues,” and certainly never around her!

Like British Bible teacher John R.W. Stott was, I consider myself open to the charismatic movement, but I am cautious. Like Stott, I do not believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be turned on and off at will, like a water spigot. Sure, there is the whacky stuff associated with many TV evangelists that drives me crazy, but my main concern is theological. It all started with that awkward conversation with my high school friend, some thirty years ago, that I mentioned in the first blog post in this series. I lost track of her over the years, but the theological conundrum she left with me has stayed with me:

Clarke, have you received the baptism in the Holy Ghost?

In one sense, the inner turmoil turned out for the best. I had to search the Scriptures for myself, seeking God deeper in my prayer life, asking that I might be filled more with His Spirit, in obedience to His Word. I still desire that, today. For that, I am most grateful for that conversation.

But in another sense, the question left me in a state of needless confusion. I read books by John R. W. Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this topic, and both had very different conclusions. Which one was right? I would have conversations with various pastors, all sharing conflicting views on the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

How was I to make sense of it all? What does the Bible really teach about the “baptism in the Holy Spirit?” Continue reading

Power to Witness in the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (#6)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Continuing on, with the sixth in a multipart blog post series

Revival: The church’s greatest need.

So reads the back cover of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic Joy Unspeakable…. and Lloyd-Jones is still right!! How can the church accomplish her God-given mission without the inward, transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

Once you observe how Old Testament prophecy works in the New Testament, regarding the Holy Spirit, such as in the narrative portions of the Book of Acts, then the whole framework of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” falls into place. But not only does “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the Book of Acts fulfill prophecy from the Old Testament, it does so for a purpose, namely, that the believer might experience the power to witness for the sake of the Gospel. Continue reading

Is the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” a Second Blessing Experience? (#4)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Fourth in a multipart blog series….

So, how did we get from the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, from the early church, to contemporary Pentecostalism? The key to this is understanding the idea of a “second blessing” experience, in the life of a believer. The “second blessing” has a history stemming back to the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Wesley had been an Anglican missionary in the early 18th century, in the English colony of Georgia. But in these early years, he considered himself to be mostly a failure, even from the very start.

On the ocean voyage across the Atlantic from England, Wesley’s ship was in a severe storm. But there was a group of Moravian missionaries on board that same ship, who calmly sang hymns and songs to God, praying for their safety, as their boat began to groan and crack under the beating of the pounding waves and swelling sea.

Wesley, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. This missionary was completely scared to death. He and the Moravians survived the storm, but Wesley knew that they had some kind of peace and spiritual courage that he lacked. It was not until Wesley returned a few years later to England, where at a Bible study lecture, he felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He was never the same after that moment, experiencing great power in delivering hundreds and hundreds of sermons that fueled the fires of the Great Awakening in England.

John Wesley, the 18th century evangelical leader, whose heart was “strangely warmed,” years after he had committed himself to follow Christ.

The Holiness movement in 19th century followed the theological lead set by John Wesley, and they began to speak of an experience with the Holy Spirit after conversion as a “second blessing.” It is therefore no surprise that William J. Seymour, and other leaders of the 20th century Pentecostal revival, built their theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” on the foundations of the Wesleyan inspired Holiness movement. It bears repeating that these early, pre-Pentecostalism advocates of a “second blessing” were not “charismatic” in the sense of possessing the gift of “speaking in tongues,” or other miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

Furthermore, as briefly mentioned in the last blog post, these Holiness groups were not the only ones who believed in “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” as a “second blessing.” Prior to Wesley, various Puritan thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries also made a distinction between becoming a Christian and “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”  Even though the Holiness movement, through groups like the Nazarenes and the Church of God, directly led towards contemporary Pentecostalism, in a way that the Puritan movement did not, it is helpful to examine this particular Puritan theology in some detail. A more recent example of this early, Puritan-inspired view can be found in the great 20th century Welsh pastor, Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Continue reading

Podcasts for the Thinking Christian

Plumb LineJohn’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed).  I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.

John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).

But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics.  Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!

Continue reading

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