It’s been a great privilege to be involved in giving a new lease of life to John Stott’s great book, The Contemporary Christian, which is being reissued as a series of five short books on 20 June 2019. I was asked to provide a light edit of Stott’s work (removing dated references and discussions) and to add reflection questions to help readers think through the application today. The five books are:
(Also look out for my volume on John Stott in Crossway’s Theologians of the Christian Lifeseries which is coming out in June 2020.)
Introducing The Bible: A Book Like No Other
The volume on The Bible is a fascinating example of the very thing Stott advocates. In the opening chapter he expounds 2 Timothy 3-4 to call us to continue in the word. And his exposition show how contemporary the Bible remains. Is this passage addressed to the first century or the twenty-first century? Stott’s treatment very much makes it feel like both. Stott then shows how responding to the word is vital for every aspect of our discipleship and ministry.
In chapter 3 Stott provides a brilliant discussion on how we interpret the Bible in a very different culture to one in which it was written. He calls for what he describes as transposition. ‘In musical transposition the tune and harmonization remain the same; only the key is different. In biblical transposition the truth of the revelation remains the same; only the cultural expression is different.’
Finally Stott offers a summary of his approach to preaching. This involves an explanation his definition of preaching: ‘To preach is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and God’s people obey him.’ If you’ve read Stott’s book on preaching (I Believe in Preaching in the UK or Between Two Worlds in the US) then this will be great reminder. If you’ve not, then this is required reading, especially if you’re preacher.
Here’s an extract in which Stott links fidelity to Scripture with humility. It’s an argument he often employed against liberal theology which he saw as an attempt subvert the lordship of Christ exercised through his word.
Submission to the authority of Scripture is the way of personal Christian humility. Nothing is more obnoxious in those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ than arrogance, and nothing is more appropriate or attractive than humility. And an essential element in Christian humility is the willingness to hear and receive God’s Word. Perhaps the greatest of all our needs is to take our place again humbly, quietly and expectantly at the feet of Jesus Christ, in order to listen attentively to his Word, and to believe and obey it. For we have no freedom to disbelieve or disobey him.
The ultimate issue before us and the whole church is whether Jesus Christ is Lord (as we say he is) or not. The question is whether Christ is Lord of the church (to teach and command it), or the church is lord of Christ (to edit and manipulate his teaching). In the contemporary crisis of authority in the world, and loss of authority in the church, my plea is that we return to a humble submission to Scripture as God’s Word. We must submit to Scripture out of a humble submission to Jesus Christ as Lord, who himself humbly submitted to Scripture in his own faith, life, mission and teaching.
In so doing, we will find the way of mature discipleship and intellectual integrity, the way to unite churches and evangelize the world, and the way to express a proper humility before our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what I mean by the ‘wholesomeness’ of submitting to the authority of Scripture.