Tribute to John Stott (1921-2011)
God greatly used John Stott during his 90-year life.
John was uniquely gifted intellectually but also as speaker and writer.
He analysed complex matters of theology and biblical exegesis and articulated them accessibly for all.
He was effectively the father of modern day text-based expository preaching.
‘Uncle John’ – as he was affectionately called – was a humble man who lived simply, even we might say in a ‘Spartan’ way.
From his early years Stott emerged as the leader of classical evangelicalism, following in the footsteps of Calvin and Simeon. Yet Stott was above all a biblical scholar and teacher rather than a theological dogmatician.
Stott had a marvellous voice, which God used in the simple eloquence of a truly great preacher.
Many Christians looked to Stott as a kind of successor to C.S. Lewis – in the sense that his exposition of the faith was rational, ethical, loving and creation affirming.
Two World Wars and the Depression left Christianity in a poor state in the post-World War II era, compounded by the influence of sceptical Biblical Criticism. Amongst those God raised up in these difficult times were C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, F.F. Bruce, J.I. Packer, and John Stott.
Stott was deeply committed to the theology of the Reformation, as may be seen in his magisterial The Cross of Christ and his commentaries on Romans and Galatians.
At the same time he was deeply committed to informed ethical responses to the issues of our times. He cared deeply about the poor and for the spiritual and material needs in the developing world.
One time he stayed with us his suitcase was full of medicines to be taken by him to Burma.
Even his love of birds was an expression of his love for God’s creation.
In other words his theology of redemption was not at the cost of his concern for the creation and the needy people of the world. He travelled repeatedly to part of the world few would be prepared to visit.
Stott repeatedly declined preferment. Many dioceses would have been glad to have him as their bishop. But the world was his parish and the world was his diocese. He divided his time between the pulpit of All Souls in London and the world at large.
In some ways his greatness was more apparent in the secular press than in the world of the Christians. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Time Magazine each referred glowingly to the influence of John Stott.
It is as if one of the giant redwoods of Muir Woods has fallen silently leaving a gap that no one will soon fill.