InterVarsity Press is re-issuing some classics from their catalogue. Basic Christianity by John Stott is a standard. It is every bit a classic in the explanation of Christianity as Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Having read Stott’s book years ago, I took the opportunity to read it again.
Stott’s book has had a great impact on thousands over the years. It is the witness of many that this particular book led them to consider Christ and eventually follow Christ as believers. John Stott, while being a great Anglican pastor and theologian, was above all an evangelist. He wanted to engage people with the claims of Christ and ask those who would hear to simply consider Jesus.
At the heart of this book, however, one won’t find just information. Reading it, you will indeed find a lot of information, to be sure, but that is not the heart of Stott’s presentation. It is not about instilling the reader with information. It is about the claims of Christ and the result should be this: “Christianity is not just about what we believe; it’s also about how we behave. Our intellectual belief may be beyond criticism; but we have to put our beliefs into practice” (p. 15).
Stott will brilliantly lay out the claims of Christ. For those who have walked with Christ for many years, this is indeed “basic Christianity.” It is a refreshing reminder, but it is very basic. It is dealing with the deity of Christ, why Christ died, why he died on a Cross, the fact of the resurrection, etc.
It is about sin. Our sin. Our separation from God.
It is about our response to the work and claims of Christ.
But when all is said and done, there is a need to respond. We have to consider Christ and then consider what we will do with what have learned and thought about in the process.
This book is an invitation. Look at the claims. Consider the claims. Act.
This book was first published in the 1950s so it’s framed with that particular time period in mind. It is an apologetic in a form that was very useful in that time period and not as familiar to us in this time period.
That is what I wrestle with in this book. I am a big fan of John Stott. I love his theological and pastoral work. But when it comes to apologetics, while I love to dive into the intellectual pursuits, I also realize that particular methods just aren’t as used in this time period.
Apologetics, the discipline of being able to give a reason for our faith and hope, is still necessary. It’s the how that we need to keep adapting, in my view.
Stott’s book would be useful in some key situations. If I had someone who was very much interested in systematically going through some very basic questions and willing to walk through simple biblical answers, I would definitely utilize this book.
I would also utilize this book in basic discipleship. When someone comes to faith, this is an excellent tool to have as a “beginner’s guide” to Jesus and his work.
As a wider apologetic these days, I’m not as convinced this is the most useful tool.
IVP gave me this book for the purposes of posting a review. I am under no obligation to give a positive review.