December 4, 2012
Stott's Influence (5): Limits and Legacy
On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments. The first installment can be found here.
Were there any limits on Stott's influence? At least three can be mentioned.
First was his Anglicanism (and its associations with both mainline Protestantism and Catholicism) which made him suspicious in the eyes of some evangelicals.
Second were his views on annhilationism. While he held this view based on his careful study of Scripture, not on the basis of some wish to make hell less harsh, he also said he did not hold this view dogmatically. And while annhilationism for decades has been a very acceptable minority position within British evangelicalism, it raised questions in the minds of North American evangelicals as to whether Stott was sufficiently orthodox (especially with those who confused annhilationism with universalism, the latter of which Stott said did not support).
Third was his unwillingness to be a Christian "personality." Stott was very reluctant to speak of his own experiences of any kind, whether spiritual or otherwise. Some of course saw this as a strength which actually enhanced his influence. But it did limit his notoriety in mass evangelicalism, such that he never became as well-known as Billy Graham.
Beyond the five influences I have mentioned, I have not had time to explore others such as Stott's emphasis on expositional preaching, whose most obvious publishing manifestation is The Bible Speaks Today Series. The five I have focused on have certainly influenced the ongoing work in North America of the evangelical church, of the Christian academy, of InterVarsity Press and, least in the list, of me.
Posted by Andy Le Peau
at December 4, 2012 8:15 AM
John Stott's exposition of II Timothy at Urbana '67 turned my life around. His presentation of the Lordship of Christ, who is the Savior who is Lord, changed the whole direction of my life and ministry. That influence is even stronger today, 45 years later.
I too have been tremendously influenced by Stott more than anyone else you ever published, or who ever spoke at Urbana. You may want to emphasize one more way he influenced the US church, and that is by his careful exposition of the Holy Spirit, which was how we IVCFers dealt with the burgeoning excesses of the charismatic movement, back in the day.
Thanks for this series, Andy. I've enjoyed it. I thank God for John Stott and his life time of faithful service to God. My first memory of him goes back to Urbana in 1961 (as I recall), where he was the biblical expositor. I was blessed by his messages and then and by his writing in the many years that followed, although I never met him personally.
Though I met with Stott on several occasions to discuss publishing projects, perhaps the episode that sticks most in my mind was when he spoke at the InterVarsity staff conference following Urbana 73 or 76. He gave the expositions in the mornings and was discussing a point of view he did not agree with, emphasizing the point by concluding, "My brothers and sisters, that ain't so!"
The crowd went up in bellows of hoots and hollars. No one could believe John Stott said "ain't"!
I was very sad when I heard of the knee jerk reaction from many evangelicals when Stott came out of the closet in regard to his doubts that hell was eternal conscious punishment. I heard of at least one church which took all his books out of their library, and pastors who no longer recommended anything that Stott had written. Since I do not consider annihilationism dangerous, this puzzled me as well as disturbing me.
Interestingly, the day before I read your post, I had written one myself about annihilationism, though Stott got no mention in it. The post is here: http://thoughtstheological.com/should-we-rethink-hell/