John Stott, rest in peace (1921-2011)

John Stott passed away this morning after decades as one of the most influential voices in evangelical Christianity. As a writer, pastor, teacher, thinker, and leader, Stott impacted countless Christians, shaping an entire movement along the way.

My first experience with John Stott came from reading The Cross of Christ in seminary. Since that time, I’ve read several other books/articles and listened to a few sermons/lectures. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to hear him speak in person. But, throughout, his emphasis on the centrality of Jesus Christ and his atoning life, death, and resurrection had the greatest impact on me. Here is just one of many poignant sections from The Cross of Christ.

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.”  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.  ”The cross of Christ . . . is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours. . . . “The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.  ~John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 326-27.

I’m sure more information about his passing with be forthcoming soon. Until then, you should also read Tim Challies’ collection of tributes to John Stott from Twitter and Allen Yeh’s reflection on Stott’s influence through the Lausanne Covenant.

As Allen concluded in his piece: “The world has lost a man of faith, integrity, vision, resilience, and a rare combination of ecumenical spirit and Evangelical fidelity. Uncle John, we miss you. I’m sure God is saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”

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About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on July 27, 2011, in Misc. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I hate to nitpick Marc, but can you not say ‘Rest in Peace’ which is a prayer for the dead? John Stott IS at peace. He preached a gospel of full assurance, and is now ‘At Rest’.

  2. “One of the most searching tests to apply to any religion concerns its attitude to death. And measured by this test much so-called Christianity is found wanting in its black clothes, its mournful chants and its requiem masses. Of course dying can be very unpleasant, and bereavement can bring bitter sorrow. But death itself has been overthrown, and ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord’ (Rev. 14:13). The proper epitaph to write for a Christian believer is not a dismal and uncertain petition, ‘R.I.P.’ (requiescat in pace, ‘may he rest in peace’), but a joyful and certain affirmation ‘C.A.D.’ (‘Christ abolished death’)”
    John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy

    • I suppose, then that I should have respected his wishes and gone with a different title. But, I have to say that I disagree. Why does “rest in peace” have to be mournful and sad? Given the theological significance of “rest” and “peace” in the NT, this seems like a very apt phrase for an eschatologically oriented view of death. But maybe the poplar notion if R.I.P. renders the phrase useless for what I want it to indicate.

  1. Pingback: Who will fill his shoes? « The Good News

  2. Pingback: John Stott – The Passing of a Giant « Teh's Tales, Ian's Yarns

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