John R.W. Stott, April 21st 1921 – July 27th 2011

I heard last night of John Stott’s death on Wednesday at the age of 90.

I wrote a tribute to John a few months ago on the occasion of his 90th birthday. He influenced me in countless ways, and I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a few days with him back in 1990 and to get to know him a little. In his last talk at the Keswick Convention he said that the goal of the Christian life is Christlikeness, and to me he was truly a Christlike man. Rest in peace and rise in glory, Uncle John!

Links:

John’s church, All Souls’ Langham Place, has a fine tribute page here.

The Langham Partnership Tribute is here.

The Daily Telegraph has a very fine (and mostly accurate) obituary here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s tribute is here.

The Church Times notice is here.

There are other tributes by Phil Ritchie, Simon Nicholls, Doug Chaplin, Archbishop Cranmer, Archdruid Eileen, Mark Meynall, Peter Kirk, and many others (Google ‘John Stott’ and you’ll be reading for hours).

There is also an online remembrance book.

What is an evangelical Anglican?

After my post about John Wesley a couple of days ago I thought I’d post a few more articles about the spirituality of the early Anglican evangelicals. I’ve excerpted them from a lecture I gave on the subject a few years ago, editing a bit here and there for clarification purposes. In this post, I thought I’d say a bit about what this term ‘evangelical Anglican’ (or ‘Anglican evangelical’, if you prefer it) means in its historical context.

Let me say immediately that ‘evangelical’ is not the same as  ‘evangelist’. Evangelists are people who have a particular gift for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and helping people to respond to it by putting their faith in Christ. Many of the early evangelicals did that, but so have many other people throughout Christian history who would not claim the title ‘evangelical’.

‘Evangelical’ is a description of a particular theological approach which claims to be rooted in the ‘evangel’, the New Testament Gospel, and especially in the Reformation interpretation of that Gospel. Evangelicals are children of the Reformation in their belief in two fundamental doctrines. First, they believe that the Holy Scriptures are the supreme authority for Christian faith and life. Secondly, they believe in the doctrine of justification by faith: which they understand to mean that we are accepted by God, not because of any good works that we do, but because of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, which we appropriate for ourselves by our faith in him. Evangelical theology is therefore atonement theology: that is, it focusses on Jesus and his Cross.

But the eighteenth century evangelicals added a third emphasis: their belief in the importance of personal conversion. They lived at a time when Christian beliefs and attendance at Christian worship were widely accepted as part of the makeup of English society. However, they were well aware that the Christian experience of perhaps the vast majority of people fell far short of the New Testament vision of the normal Christian life. Their diagnosis of this problem was that many people had been formally and  sacramentally initiated into the Christian faith (i.e. baptised, and perhaps confirmed), but had never been challenged to make a personal response to the Gospel by putting their faith in Christ. Therefore, in their preaching and in their pastoral work, evangelicals then and now have called on people to make this response.

One more characteristic of these early evangelicals was their love for simple forms of worship. They had a distrust for what they saw as excessive ritual, and this caused them to be deeply suspicious of the Oxford Movement when it began a century later. They saw the  danger of an outward participation in ritual without an inward spirit of worship in the heart; they felt that too much ritual could be a distraction from the genuine encounter with God which is at the heart of true worship. G.R. Balleine, in his book A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England, talks about their kinship with all ‘who have learned to love a simple worship and a spiritual religion’[1].

In the next post on this subject, I’ll say a bit about the condition of the church in England before the eighteenth-century evangelical revival.


[1] G.R. Balleine: A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England; London; William Clowes and Sons; 1908, 1951. p.1.