Book Review — Basic Christianity

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.

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Just Living Out Faith

There have been many reflections in all kinds of places on the life of John Stott since his passing this week. One of the kindest pieces I have read is from Nicholas Krisotff.

This piece demonstrates the mental contortions we enter into in our world. As a conservative, evangelical Pentecostal, I see and experience these moral gymnastics we go through because, doggone it, we just have to label people. We have to put them in pigeon holes to know what we’re dealing with. Everyone does it. I know I do. I am trying harder not to, but I still struggle.

Kristoff admits his prejudices, which I appreciate. The circles he normally travels in hold disdain for anything labeled “evangelical.” And, of course, many evangelicals would have that same disdain for anything labeled “liberal.”

John Stott helped break those molds for evangelicals. John Stott held up a standard that I wish more people would admit they see in more evangelicals, as Kristoff admits in this article. Too often it’s easy to allow our categories to be informed by the blowhards. We let the televangelists be the mold. Or, for evangelicals, we let the Bill Mahers and Keith Olbermans of the world be our whipping boys for our views of liberals. It’s easier that way. We can make fun, mock, and dismiss.

But John Stott didn’t let that happen. His quiet life and bold witness impressed guys like Kristoff. I’m just thankful Kristoff is strong enough to admit it.

But in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I’ve seen so many others. Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

I still hold to this mold of conservative theology, strong on the authority of Scripture, love for the Church of Jesus Christ AND trying hard not to throw all liberals into the molds that make it so easy to mock them. I will not be the intellectual stalwart Stott was in his wonderful ministry. Yet, I want to be faithful to the Scriptures I hold sacred. I don’t want to contort and distort, even though that may happen from time to time because I am indeed human and I am trying to wrap my puny little brain around the magnificent Divine.

I am thankful for the quiet witness of John Stott. Still around is the quiet witness of Dallas Willard. Those are the heroes I hold to in my tradition of the faith.