Books No modern author has given the church a greater written treasure, at least regarding what is essential to Christianity and real faith, than John R. Stott. I have written about John R. Stott in several previous blogs over the last four years or so. I love to encourage a new generation of readers to discover the importance of his work for evangelism, apologetics and solid biblical theology. Stott's small book, Basic Christianity (first published in 1958) was recently released in a fiftieth anniversary edition, thus making it a true classic now available in a new format and special edition. I use this particular book to teach young believers. I also use it to guide those who have never had a "basic" introduction to the central truths of Christian faith, even if they've been in the church for decades. This is a book that both Catholic and evangelical readers can profit from precisely because Stott addresses the "fundamental claims of Christianity" not the polemical issues that still divide Christians.

Stott rightly claims that the fundamental question is this: "Was Jesus God?" We cannot dodge this question given the centrality of Christ's person to the faith that we believers hold dear. Is there evidence for the deity of Jesus? Is the evidence minimal or seriously flawed, or is it historically strong enough to commend it to an honest intellect? Sott says that Jesus' claims about himself are "extravagant . . . so bold and so unassuming" (Basic Christianity, 8). It is claimed that he rose from the dead thus Stott rightly concludes that "the circumstantial evidence for this resurrection is most compelling" (8). But, supposing Jesus was the Son of God is the acceptance of this fact what basic Christianity is really all about? Sott's answer, typical of the clarity of his honest insight, is "No."

Once we examine the nature of his work we must ask: "What did he come to do?" The biblical answer is that he came into the world "to save sinners." He is the Savior that all sinners need. Salvation is what he came to bring and he accomplishes this by his death and resurrection.

"Then is basic Christianity the belief that Jesus is the Son of God who came to be the Savior of the world?" Stott answers, maybe to some readers surprise: "No" (9). "To assent to his divine person, to acknowledge man's need of salvation, and to believe in Christ's saving work are not enough" (9). Stott says that our intellectual beliefs are important, indeed very important, but "we have to translate our beliefs into deeds" (9).

What then must we do? "We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly, to Jesus Christ" (9). We must humbly trust in him as our Savior and submit to his as our Lord. Then, "we go to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community" (9). "Such is basic Christianity" (9), Stott concludes.

I can't think of a better introduction, in only a few compact words and sentences, than this. And this is only in the preface of a superb book that I commend to all readers everywhere.

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  1. Gene Redlin May 26, 2009 at 9:25 am

    John, I am amazed once again at the division in the Body of Christ.
    For those of my own Spiritual Expression, we don’t dislike John Stott, we just never heard of him. He’s not on the radar screen.
    I’m guessing the same is for most Catholics.
    Or for most Lutherans.
    And certainly for most Pentecostal Charismatic Christians.
    We have books written by faith fathers we revere that are unknown by Evangelicals, Lutherans and Catholics.
    I have told you that YOU are Unity. I would like a way to understand that as the Body of Christ with one Father in heaven we are Brothers and Sisters, but we have been raised by such differing faith fathers and mothers that those who raised you are foreign to me, and vice versa, I’m sure.
    How is this solved? Do we have to agree to read each others’ stuff? To hear each others faith fathers?
    I wrote on this because I am discouraged about the ability to get past this division. God must be bemused by this mess.

  2. Chris Criminger May 27, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Hi Gene, John, and all,
    In response to Gene, discouragement is the opposite of courage so take courage my brother. What is impossible with man is possible with God!
    If you are not familiar with John Stott, maybe you are not familiar with Brittish Evangelicals. John Stott has been one of the best known Evangelicals for many years in America. His call to basic Christianity is much like C. S. Lewis to “mere Christianity” and now N. T. Wright to “simply Christian.” I am part of a heritage that has promoted simple Christianity and we are not the only Christians but Christians only (think Stone-Campbell folks).
    Stott is an Anglican Evangelical (although some American Evangelicals are not happy about the shift towards annihilationism, especially among the Brittish). John Wesley actually was not a Methodist but an Anglican!
    If you want to read an Anglican on church unity, get familiar with Ephraim Radner. His two works “The End of the Church: A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West” and “Hope Among the Fragments: The Broken Church and its Engagement of Scripture” are two of the best I have read in years. Paul Avis is another Anglican writing on ecclesiology which has much to do with the problem of disunity in the church today.
    Get to know some of these conservative Christians among the most liberal denominations (they have been through it all and have a wealth of knowledge to share).
    In the end, I will say after reading your blog today, if we all just stayed the course with reading great amounts of Scripture rather than books about the Bible, I agree, we would all be much better off in the end.
    PS – If I understand right, you are a charismatic prophetic Missouri Synod Lutheran. May your tribe increase!
    The church needs bridge builders like you Gene and John. I think of a Native American brother who said, “There is only one church, but many tribes.” May the tribe of spiritually led, ecumenically minded, and missional Christians rise up and be a part of a new revolution for God’s reality shattering- inbreaking kingdom now.

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