on October 12, 2005
Stott, John R.W. Basic Christianity. Downers Grove: IVP, 1971. 142 pages.
Dr. John R.W. Stott was born in London in 1921. Dr. Stott holds a multitude of educational degrees, including French, theology, and various doctorate and honorary doctorates in theology. He has written over thirty books on various theological and religious topics and eight biblical expositions for the Bible Speaks Today commentary series. He has attended All Souls Place (home church) in London since his childhood. He has currently held the position rector emeritus since 1975. He continues to preach at the church several times throughout the year. Billy Graham has stated that Dr. Stott is "the most respected clergy man in the world today." One of his earlier publishing's, Basic Christianity, was first written in 1958 and has sold over two and a half million copies and has been translated into more than 63 languages.
Dr. Stott shows the reader that there is much hostility towards the `institution' of the church. It is not that this hostility is geared toward Christ Himself, but against the structure or the organization called `the church' and its fallible managers. The younger generation that is growing up, whether organic to the church or implanted from other religions, is seeking less and less the credentials that make Christianity true and valid.
He feels that many are making too much of the mind knowledge of Christianity and identifying less and less with the actions of Christianity. In essence, it seems he is stating that the culture at large is living a static or nominal Christianity where its participants are just identifiers and not spokesmen. The believers of the movement are only passively wearing the title Christian and not living a life of dynamism for Jesus. You see this by what he calls for in the theme-the return to basic Christianity:
"We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and
unreservedly to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust in
him as our Saviour and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community."
So with this vivid life that humanity is to envelop, Dr. Stott has essentially written a book that is to encapsulate the foundations of what the followers of Christ are to stand firmly upon. His structure is thus centrally based on four movements through his book: (1) Christ's Person: His claims, His character, and His resurrection; (2) Man's Need: The fact and nature of sin and the consequence of sin; (3) Christ's Work: The death of Christ and the salvation of Christ; and lastly, (4) Man's Response: Counting the cost, Reaching a decision, and being a Christian.
Dr. Stott has written the book so that the present culture/generation can learn to hopefully establish themselves in identity with a revolutionary leader, Jesus Christ. If it is the church where this generation sees the hypocrisy, they it is this generation that must respond to the initiative of God by becoming foundational Christians and creating biblical structure within the Church.
"Our purpose," Dr. Stott says, "is to marshal the evidence to prove that Jesus was the Son of God." So in section one, the three pillars of evidence concretely set around the person of Jesus-claims, character, and resurrection.
He unfolds through the study of scripture for the reader that there are four different kinds of claims Jesus makes. (1) Jesus teaches in a very `self-centered' manner, yet insists a deep set humility in others; (2) Jesus teaches in `direct' manner concerning his divinity, such as claiming to be the `I am' which identifies himself as the God of the Old Testament; (3) Jesus teaches in a very `indirect' manner concerning his divinity, which is seen through the actions of His ministry-forgives sins, bestows life, teaches as if authority, and claims to eventually judge the world; and lastly, (4) teaches through his `dramatized' claims, which were his supernatural miracles.
Dr. Stott's second pillar of evidence for Jesus is His character, which he divides into four areas. (1) What Christ thought about Himself, especially His identification of being without sin; (2) What Christ's friends said about Him, such as Peter's reference to Jesus as `a lamb without blemish or spot'; (3) What Christ's enemies conceded about Him, such as Pilate's declaration of Jesus being innocent; and lastly, (4) What the contemporary audience can see of Jesus themselves, which in essence consists of the readers validation of the first three items.
The last pillar of evidence for Jesus is His resurrection. Again, Dr. Stott uses a cubed structure to show the strong evidence that Jesus had indeed raised from the dead on that Easter morning. (1) The body was gone from the tomb; (2) The grave clothes were undisturbed; (3) Jesus was actually seen after the resurrection by multitudes of witnesses; and lastly, (4) The disciples were changed-from dark grief to joyous belief.
The second movement of his book speaks about the needs of man. Dr. Stott states that, "we must understand who we are as well as who he was." He emphasizes that Jesus just did not come to the earth in a passive manner, but for a specific purpose...to become `the Saviour of sinners.'
The fact is that all humanity is born into the grasps of sin. There is nothing naturally good to mankind because the reaches of sin are universal. Thus man being destitute to perfection, we need someone to bring us out of this eternal death grip of condemnation and alienation from God.
As Dr. Stott had shown the reader the foundation of Christ's identity; he then moved into showing where all men are as they are born into this world. Man has an immense flaw because of the decisions of human choice. And so understanding that fallible man can not possibly create an infallible solution, Dr. Stott moves into the third movement of his book by showing Jesus' action on the Cross by death and the salvation that is imparted to humanity. As Dr. Stott wrote it so eloquently, "Christianity is a rescue religion. It declares that God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sins. This is the main theme of the Bible."
The last section of the book deals specifically with man's response. As mankind understands who they are, sinful creatures, and then they acknowledge the divinity within Jesus, man must make a response to Jesus' death and plan of salvation. Man can only make two decisions to Jesus: reject or accept. There is no neutrality when it comes to religion. Dr. Stott leads the reader through, if it might by systematized, the process of how to come into the realm of Christianity and what it takes to daily live out the Christian existence.
Dr. Stott completes his book by speaking about the Christian's duty to the world. If this generation is rejecting the hypocrites of the institutions, namely the church and the `people', then it is this generation's responsibility to become biblical Christians and rebuild its foundations upon Basic Christianity.
The reviewer believes that Dr. Stott has accomplished his stated objective of calling mankind into action. He clearly stated that the foundations of Christianity were not mere understandings of factual information concerning Jesus, but must be held deeply within what the individual does with the information. He shows the reader that we must do-commit ourselves, humble ourselves, trust and submit to Him, and rightly/loyally take our places among the community of the body.
The reviewer believes that Dr. Stott has lain out a very strong apologetic for dynamic Christianity. This book could most definitely be read by the pagan and quicken them to new life. This book could most definitely be read by the Christian and be quickened to renew their spiritual walk with new power. And most assuredly, what he writes could also hit the disease of nominal Christianity dead in the face. Those that only passively bare the name of Christ could be called into repentance by Dr. Stott's demands of committed Christians. As God Himself is the initiator of all in our reality, so we must be the responders to God's call...either accept or reject.
The reviewer has not read any other books by Dr. Stott in their entirety, but after reading this thoroughly logical and fundamental view of Jesus, there will be many more books digested in the view near future. Dr. Stott is very thought provoking and makes an immense contemporary connection (even though he has been writing for over fifty-one years).
on January 28, 1999
For those skeptics who desire to have a purpose in life and who turn to Christianity for possible answers, but who don't want to "compromise" their intellect by believing in the "impossible," John Stott's book, "Basic Christianity," is an absolute MUST READ! Our God is one of intellect and logic as much as He is one of miraculous splendor. He gave us a thinking mind as well as a feeling heart, and he intends us to use them both when seeking Him. If one truly opens his/her mind and heart, the God of the Holy Scriptures will satisfy both. John Stott is a very well-educated man who wants to communicate the gospel in its entire intellectual and spiritual truth, and he will not leave one with unanswered questions.
on October 12, 2000
Stott is marvelous describing who is Jesus, what is sin, what did Jesus do, and what should be the individual's response. He has a clear way of describing the truly important beliefs of the Christian church. I do have two complaints, one major and one minor. I'm curious how a book entitled "Basic Christianity" could be devoid of any mention of the character of God, including the Trinity. Much is made of the nature of Christ, but I do not remember reading about God's nature. The minor complaint is that book's type is so small--maybe this is the way to keep the price down on a very powerful 142-page book. Don't let my complaints keep you away from a very wise investment.
on June 24, 2001
Basic Christianity is just that and more. Stott writes with the purpose to simply inform the novice. He does this in a way that is easy to read, and without a perpensity for big theological words. First and foremost the author centres on Jesus Christ, His person, and work.
The chapters 5 and 6 explain from the Bible the deity of Christ, both His direct and indirect claims to be God in man. The author's argument is uncomfortable when he calls Jesus claims to deity egocentric; for that would make Jesus a phony. Nevertheless, the author continues to unpack his fundamental disposition supporting Jesus' claims of deity as true. The point being that if Jesus' claims are not true, then He was a phony and no global people movement such as the church could be sustained for 2 millennium based on the distorted word of a egomaniac.
The author answers the central question of "Who needs Christ?" Stott does this by describing sin in a basic way, as pride and self-deification among its other Biblical definitions. Sin has sadly cut mankind off from God to the point that people perceive God as angry and far away. This then, is why people need Christ, to bring them back into fellowship with God. Therefore, Christ's unselfish sacrifice is the peace-making event that restores fellowship with God. This Easter triumph inaugurates the age of the promised Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church.
In the last chapter called "Man's Response" I found many helpful pointers for the novice. Stott points out that being born in a so-called Christian nation is not enough for salvation, but the seeking individual must open one's heart to Jesus to be saved. Using marriage as a good example for fellowship with God, Stott proposes a Christianity that can be distinctive from mere intellectual ascent to rational propositions. It is to be loving, caring and covenantal. The latter covenant is a un-breakable bond that God has promised to man, beginning with Abraham and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
I truly appreciate Stott's clarity in discerning a literal interpretation of the person of Jesus Christ from the Bible. It gives me security to be able to put my faith into the Jesus of the Bible when His person and work is clearly and simply defined. For this reason I would recommend this reliable book (after the Bible) for the novice who is seeking Jesus for his or her life.
on February 24, 2004
If the average non Christian consumer were to begin considering conversion, spending less than an hour perusing a Christian book section or facing the lists of churches in the Yellow Pages would be enough to confuse them to the point of reconsidering. Christians come in all shapes, sizes, and variants. Although Paul encouraged unity in the Body of Christ, it has never been achieved. What we all agree on is a short list.
Despite that, there are some essentials that belong in every church, whether Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, or non Demoninational. John Stott has taken the vital facts that you must believe to be called Christian and placed them in a straightforward easy to read book. With a precision akin to Lee Strobel's Case for Christ, he lines out the ABC's of faith. The logic of the Resurrection to the deeper meanings in the Ten Commandments are laid out concisely.
*** Long time believers may not have any "aha" moments, but if they read this, they will have more to defend their faith than "it's true because it is written and I believe it." New believers or seekers will know what is most basic without the rigamorole variations that difer from sect to sect. ***
on September 16, 2005
This great little book provides a wonderful introduction to Christian doctrine. Stott's writing is fluid, clear and accessible. It's not dumbed down, and it's not too academic. Stott has avoided the pitfall of sounding "too British" for some American readers. It's just right for the average person, in my view, but it demands a reader who is willing to think. Unlike some theological writing, Stott's is by no means dry. His wording is colorful and accurate, and he has a way of creating word-pictures that should appeal to men and women, young and old.
If I were to teach a class for "newbies" at church, or to lead a discussion group on the basics, this is the book I'd choose.
on January 21, 2006
Like C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity," among others, Stott decided to write a relatively short book, outlining the basic, foundational principles that undergird Christianity. From that perspective, he did a solid job with such an overwhelming task. Though not quite as engaging or thoughtful as Lewis, Stott makes a series of solid points and well-reasoned arguments to support and organize the process of becoming a follower of Christ. I would suggest that his apologetic case is insufficient to convince most adamant skeptics. However, this would be a great place to start for someone who is a genuine seeker or for someone who is interested in becoming a Christian but needs a place to start.
The organization of the book makes good sense, and it is easy to follow his sequence of chapters. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a straightforward book about "basic Christianity."