With gentleness and respect Stott makes the case for being a Christ follower
Why I Am a Christian
Author: John Stott
Publisher: InterVarsity Press (www.ivpress.com)
Eloquent and bold, Why I Am Not a Christian, caused a stir on March 6, 1927. Thirty years later mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell’s lecture became the first chapter in a book with the same title.
Rather than being a refutation of Russell’s address, Why I Am a Christian by John Stott seeks to make the case for Christianity through Scripture, testimony and reasoning.
Stott’s starting point may come as a surprise as he attributes the initiative “to Jesus Christ himself, who pursued me relentlessly even when I was running away from him in order to go my own way. And if it was not for the gracious pursuit of the Hound of Heaven I would today be on the scrapheap of wasted and discarded lives” (14-15). Stott goes on to briefly trace God’s pursuit in the lives of Saul of Tarsus, Augustine, Malcolm Muggeridge and C. S. Lewis.
The next chapter examines the claims of Christ and reaches a conclusion similar to that of C. S. Lewis, “The claims of Jesus are either true or false. If they are false, they could be deliberately false (in which case he was a liar, an impostor), or they could be involuntarily false (in which case he was deluded). Yet neither possibility appears likely” (44).
The third chapter explains the significance of Christ’s death. This leads to a look at human depravity. In conclusion Stott writes, “It is clear therefore from this that we have a double need: on the one hand cleansing from defilement, and on the other a new heart with new desires and aspirations. And to me it is truly wonderful that both these are offered to us in the gospel. For Christ died to make us clean, and by the inward working of his Holy Spirit he can make us new” (78-79).
This kind of brevity, clarity and simplicity make this a joy to read. Stott accurately summarizes Christian teaching in engaging ways. He masterfully draws upon theology, history, literature and pop culture to illustrate.
The last three chapters on freedom, fulfillment and a free invitation may be the strongest. He is at the height of his powers as he writes about how the deepest longings are satisfied through God’s great provisions.
Some of these magnificent truths appear contradictory. How can surrender bring freedom? Stott writes, “The burden we lose when we come to Christ is heavy, whereas his burden, he said, is ‘light.’ Again, the yoke we lose when we come to Christ is a misfit; it chafes on our shoulders. But the yoke we gain is ‘easy’; it is a perfect fit. ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ How is this? I think it is that both our mind and our will find their freedom under the authority of Christ. The only authority under which our mind is genuinely free is the authority of truth” (128).
Stott is not as well-known in the US and he is in the UK, his homeland. Thankfully, IVP Books is helping to rectify this by publishing his books once again.
Prior to his death in 2011, he was widely recognized as an outstanding ambassador of the Christian faith. He spoke and wrote truth in a dignified and respectful way just as he does in this book.
I have yet to read a book by him that is not informative, encouraging and challenging. This volume will be useful to anyone wishing to understand the foundational reasons for being a Christian.
Stott makes it personal, which is appropriate. Scripture is meant to be lived, and Stott nobly exemplified that high ideal.