Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Retirement of John Stott

Found this article at Christianity Today and was deeply saddened and at the same time impressed.

John Stott is one of the greats of Protestant Evangelicalism; a man at once eminently practical and solidly intellectual; a true and honest follower of Christ. I have heard him speak once, at EU Annual Conference some years back, where he spoke eloquently and passionately on the necessity of being intellectually engaged with our faith. He seemed a frail figure, with the kind of correct RP accent one associates with Oxford professors out of touch with the real world. Yet he spoke with such articulateness and determination, as though at pains to convey to his audience the importance to their souls of his message. One saw in him the passion of an American pulpit-pounder but without the guile, and a palpable love of Jesus Christ.

To see him retire is indeed a sad thing. I will be praying for him as his journey wends towards its close.

The other thing I find of interest here is the weird way in which the most honest of the sons of the Reformers somehow find their way leading back to the Universal Church without realising it. Luther would have been horrified to hear this speech from John Stott. 'Participation in the mystery of the Incarnation'? 'Christ-likeness is the will of God for the people of God'? None of this is entirely unprecedented within the ranks of Protestant Evangelicalism, but to see it said so explicitly from someone so influential is gratifying to say the least. And a far cry indeed from total depravity and 'sin boldly'.

It is an ironic thing that evangelism in many ways clears the head. The minute one starts sharing one's faith, the old Calvinist dregs that cling on so stubbornly to the Evangelical ship begin to lose their grip on the hull. It took two centuries before it occurred to Protestants to evangelise. Now, for those who took the very word as their own special label, the errors surrounding the whole justification issue seem to be very slowly melting away (though more often in practice than theory). It would be interesting to see what the consensus position is in another hundred years.