According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

John Stott - Authenticity Overcomes Controversy

by Kyle Roberts
August 2, 2011

In the days following John Stott’s death, I have read numerous reflections and eulogies on his life, writings, and impact on evangelicalism and Christianity. He has been held up by the NY Times Nicholas Kristoff as a foil to the “blowhards” and has been honored by several Gospel Coalition voices as a defender of the centrality of Christ and the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement. He dialogued with liberal mainline theologians and spoke regularly at conservative evangelical institutions, such as Wheaton College. During a chapel Q&A session at Wheaton, Stott responded to a student who asked him about his controversial annihilationist position, a notion that the unredeemed wicked will cease to exist after the general resurrection (they will be “burned up” in the flame of judgment). Stott’s modeled in his answer both a quest for the truth as well as a reverence for the authority of Scripture.

I have sometimes wondered, incidentally, why it is that annihilationism seems to be less threatening to conservative evangelicals than hopeful, inclusivistic universalism (the notion that everyone might eventually be saved through faith in Jesus)? I suspect, at least in Stott’s case, it has partly to do with his explicit attention to biblical texts in mounting his argument (and, correspondingly, with biblicism, as a high value in evangelical theology). Yet there are “evangelical universalists” today who are also mounting arguments from Scripture (see Gregory McDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist, for a good example).

In that controversial book referred to by that student, Stott wrote,

“Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it . . . my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?”

I suspect that Stott’s consistent reverence for Scripture and his stated desire to be faithful to biblical truth, enabled him to remain in the generally good graces of even the most conservative evangelicals. J.I. Packer, taking on Stott’s annihilationist position decades ago, concluded his essay by saying “it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship…”

In that 2003 chapel address I mentioned earlier, Stott answered a student who was looking for advice about evangelizing “post-modern people,” by saying that “I, myself, am persuaded that the major way in which the gospel can be presented to a post-modern age is not by anything we say but how we live. There needs to be in us Christian people an authenticity which cannot be denied, so there is no dichotomy between what we say and what we are…there must be no dichotomy between what we are in private and in public. What we say. What we are. That is authenticity. People have to see Christ in us and not just hear what we talk about.”

The admiration in these days expressed for the ministry and life of John Stott, despite an eschatological position that runs against the mainstream of conservative evangelical theology, can perhaps best be explained by the fact that he seemed to follow his own advice.

Authenticity can overcome controversy.

(for more reflections and a link to his 2003 talk, see this essay by David Malone)

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