I have been on a John Stott kick lately. It started with The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor and then moved to The Cross of Christ. I have since picked up Stott’s commentaries The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World and The Message of Galatians.
I have been aware of Stott for years, but had never read him. What a mistake.
Stott’s writing is exquisite. I told a friend recently that when I read Stott, I find myself repeatedly exclaiming, “Now THAT’S a sentence!” But it’s not all about style. Stott presents cogent arguments and careful exegesis. He engages the Biblical text thoroughly while also engaging modern and past theologians. That he can do all this and be such a clear and compelling writer is a rare gift.
What Other People Say
Stott comes highly recommended. Here are a few blurbs for The Cross of Christ from other contemporary pastors and scholars.
J. I. Packer: “John Stott rises grandly to the challenge of the greatest of all themes. All the qualities that we expect of him–biblical precision, thoughtfulness and thoroughness, order and method, moral alertness and the measured tread, balanced judgment and practical passsion–are here in fullest evidence. This, more than any book he has written, is his masterpiece.” (Me: Packer really nails Stott’s style.)
D. A. Carson: “There are not many ‘must read’ books–books that belong on every minister’s shelf and on the shelves of thoughtful laypersons who want a better grasp of what is central in Scripture–but this is one of them.”
David F. Wells: “Profound in a way that few evangelical books have been in recent years. It is compelling in its simplicity and comprehensive in its grasp of the way in which God conquers our sin, our rebellion, our ghastly evil through the person of Christ.”
Also, Tim Keller has said elsewhere, “I have relied on John Stott’s books for decades.”
But what if I don’t agree with John Stott?
As with any writer, Stott has some views we will disagree with, perhaps most notably, his view on hell. John Piper helps us out here. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Piper said, “Well, I don’t like John Stott’s view of hell either, and I never said anything about John Stott (in comparison to his comments about Rob Bell). I kept learning from John Stott. I would have sat at John Stott’s feet until the day he died.” Piper’s endorsement is telling. It reminds us not to take a writer in toto but also not to dispense of a writer in toto. (Piper has recently posted another reflection on Stott at desiringGod.org).
Give John Stott a try. Read The Cross of Christ. It will stir your affections and sharpen your mind. I feel confident you will be blessed in your reading.