John Stott & The New Calvinism Hypocrisy
Many the world over are mourning and regretting the loss of John R.W. Stott, Anglican author. Obviously, many have been blessed by God’s work through him over the years, and all blessings from God should be returned with thankfulness.
Yet there is perhaps no greater indication to me that I am not among the ‘new calvinists’ movement than the response to John Stott’s passing. I thank God I’m not. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate Stott’s contributions. What it means is I reject accepting the herd mentality I see in so many of the young, promising, restless, reformed –and still spiritually immature– so called leaders of the ‘great calvinism resurgence.’
By all means, honor the man if you’ve been blessed.
But don’t be a hypocrite.
Some of you gladly, willingly and eagerly threw Rob Bell under the bus, so to speak, for his universalism that he actually put in writing.
And many of you who did that openly on your blogs, now praise a man who, as late as 1988, openly, and in writing, stated that he, albeit tentatively, denied the doctrine of eternal punishment.
Do you not see your hypocrisy?
You gladly crucify Rob Bell, yet you laud, exalt, and echo (and copy-shame on you) all praise from your heroic spiritual leaders regarding John Stott.
Put plainly, you condemn Rob Bell for his universalism, and kick John Stott’s error of annihilationism under the couch –not so no one notices it so much as rather so you can fall in line with the herd mentality that so permeates the driving force of ‘new calvinism and its popularity. Pride. Self-promotion. Theological career. You’d regurgitate anything your spiritual hero says if it served your purpose.
In other words, you’re looking out for you, your promotion, and your place in the next conference, perhaps.
Whatever your reason for doing that, there is one thing that is inescapable.
If you’ve done this, you are a hypocrite.
I disagree with your assessment of Stott’s quote on eternal punishment. It was obviously something he struggled with emotionally. However, I believe he was saying that, like all other parts of biblical teaching that may be abhorrant to what is merely human reasoning or human emotion, if it is a choice between what we feel and what the scriptures teach, the scriptures must prevail in every instance. I also feel it was a humble statement from such a learned man. Nothing tentative or unclear about that.
Amy, that’s exactly why I called it a ‘tentative’ belief. Did you miss that? 😉
Did not miss anything; my whole comment was that his statement wasn’t at all tentative, or that fair to describe it as such. I believe that it is very clear from his statement that he did believe in eternal punishment over against his own personal feelings, because the Bible teaches that.
“I find the concept [of eternal conscious punishment in hell] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it. As a committed Evangelical, my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?”
Assessing this quote is not easy. On the one hand, Stott clearly says he finds the doctrine of an eternal Hell “intolerable.” On the other hand, in his very next breath he affirms that Scripture, not our emotions is to be the supreme authority.
I think the most that Stott can be accused of based on just this citation is that he felt the need to apologize for God and theodicy in general. Certainly not the confidence we would want to see in the prince of evangelicals.
We must stop apologizing for Hell or other doctrines as if God needs our help.
That’s not the whole quote:
“Emotionally, I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it. As a committed Evangelical, my question must be—and is—not what my heart tells me, but what does God’s word say? And in order to answer this question, we need to survey the Biblical material afresh and to open our minds (not just our hearts) to the possibility that Scripture points in the direction of annihilationism, and that ‘eternal conscious torment’ is a tradition which has to yield to the supreme authority of Scripture.”
JT makes some good points with this post. Not to be rude but the young usually make bold, brash, sweeping judgements without thinking them through. It’s what young people do. Also, they place an inordinate amount of weight upon thier feelings.
I feel like the price of gasoline is $1.19 but I actually pay $3.69, for example…
I don’t fault the young for making mistakes but I do fault them if they continue to make the same mistakes year after year. Also, I think Bell has more problems that Stott did with the breadth of problematic beliefs… No?
This is not a comment really but a section from a Edwards sermon that is shortest strongest answer to the Question of eternal punisment I have ever read.
This is the sum of the objections usually made against this doctrine: that it is inconsistent with the justice, and especially with the mercy, of God. And some say [that] if it be strictly just, yet how can we suppose that a merciful God can bear eternally to torment his creatures.
First, I shall briefly show that it is not inconsistent with the justice of God to inflict an eternal punishment. To evince this, I shall use only one argument, viz. that sin is heinous enough to deserve such a punishment, and such a punishment is no more than proportionable to the evil or demerit of sin. If the evil of sin be infinite, as the punishment is, then it is manifest that the punishment is no more than proportionable to the sin punished, and is no more than sin deserves. And if the obligation to love, honor, and obey God be infinite, then sin which is the violation of this obligation, is a violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Again, if God be infinitely worthy of love, honor, and obedience, then our obligation to love, and honor, and obey him is infinitely great. – So that God being infinitely glorious, or infinitely worthy of our love, honor, and obedience, our obligation to love, honor, and obey him (and so to avoid all sin) is infinitely great. Again, our obligation to love, honor, and obey God being infinitely great, sin is the violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Once more, sin being an infinite evil, deserves an infinite punishment. An infinite punishment is no more than it deserves. Therefore such punishment is just, which was the thing to be proved. There is no evading the force of this reasoning, but by denying that God, the sovereign of the universe, is infinitely glorious, which I presume none of my hearers will venture to do.
And so it is. Thank you for that!
I don’t think it’s hypocrisy if you can avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Stott had much good to say in his life and ministry and many of the fathers I’ve learned from ceased using his writings after his declaration. Stott made his declaration decades ago. Rob Bell has a current ministry of great influence where he preaches this heresy.
The Gospel is foolishness to the perishing. Dressing the scripture to make it more “relevant” to the foolish, as Rob Bell does, is not going to save them or anyone else.
Jesus was very explicit in His description of hell. Reverend Stott no longer sees through the glass darkly, but the light of Christ which illumines him now reveals secrets to him that we should all anticipate as our day approaches to see Jesus as He is. Thank the Lord for His Gospel which justifies us and gives us eternal hope from damnation.
Nobody touched the baby. Stott is still influential, so your argument in that regard is moot. Point is, Stott’s error was swept under the rug, the same error of Bell….denial of eternal punishment.
Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus…all translated as Hell in the king Jimmy but far from the actual translated meanings. There were about 6 major schools of teaching in the first century and the school at Alexandria taught annihilation. another taught eternal punishment (Rome), and still another taught universalism (Ephesus). First century Christians seemed to lean harder to the Alexandrian school of thought as a majoity viewoint of their time
Your comment is not only shallow and misleading but it is a gross over simplification.Let’s go back before the english right to the 1st century about the thirtyith year or so. we can by pass the terms used for hell and start in the 25th chapter of Matt. at verse 46 and as I read this verse in greek in the TR, W&H, Tishendorf, Stephanus and the Byzantine mor. I see no textual variation. and what we read here is plainly two groups going somewhere both for the same period as αἰώνιος is the same accusative singular in both case in the same sentence they mean the same thing.
Or we could go also to John 5:28 now if the dead (who have done evil) who are in the grave rise then clearly they have not been annihilated. and if they come forth for judgement what kind og judgement could this be if they are at this time annihilated? for what purpose have they come forth from the dead? be be show their lawless deeds but then noe punishment? and where have they been since they died until now? we could go on and on with out even touching on the Shoel or Gehenna at all. I know it is hard to make long replies here in this format but if you are going to make a claim that first cen. Christians (i.e. Jesus and all the apostles lived in the first cen.) as amajority believed in annihilationism you need to provide proof.
My belief is conditional immortality..To regrees and give a more accurate historical background during the first 4 centuries there were six schools of thought…Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Ephesus, Odessa and another which escapes my recollection…4 of which taught christian universalism…Ephesus taught annhilationism (not universalism as I had previously stated)…Rome taught eternal torment…the traditional view…A lot of the validity of the traditional view comes from the idea that human beings by nature are immortal and that they have eternal souls…that when the body dies the soul lives on neccesarily. I believe this of christians but it is hard to find anything is scripture to state that the lost have any kind of eternal life. Because of the default assumption that people are immortal by nature it follows that they have to spend eternity some where and if you never are born again this place is a place of eternal torment away from God. Now considering the three views we cannot base our viewpoint upon which is most ancient as all were present during the first 4 centuries. The Roman view of eternal torment was the viewpoint of Augustine but was taught by the Roman Catholic church of which protestantism has come out of…carrying the traditional roman viewpoint of eternal torment with it. Theology by default. I agree that the wicked are judged, as we all are. But after judgement what then? Christians shall always be with the Lord as we are His body, His bride and are ‘in Him’ and have eternal life. But what about the non-believer who does not have eternal life? I am sorry that I have to present my viewpoint using history and logic but if we got into Greek and Hebrew this would become a full fledged debate, I am sure.
Actually it boils down to believing the Word of God doesn’t it? of course it does. Eaith you believe what Scripture teaches, which is the soul is immortal, and that those outside of Christ spend eternity in eternal torment, a just, infinite punishment for sin against an infinite, righteous God.
Scriptural proof please…If you use scripture to support the statements of an immortal soul please give text and verse please. I do believe the Scriptures…I just do not see the textual proof that you are alluding to
These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. – Matthew 25:46. NASB. eternal in Greek is aiōnios, everlasting, perpetual, or, to quote Thayers, without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be. Punishment is kolasis, penal infliction (Strongs).
Many scholars feel that it is not the punishing that in eternal, but the punishment. If their punishment is annihilation than that will go on eternally in that they will not be brought back. That punishment has eternal duration. Not the punishing.. Aionios means age abiding or age enduring or unto the age and does not need to be interpreted as everlasting. The language of eternal punishment can be understood apart from that thesis.
Think I’ll stick with the Bible Jo. See, the thing about scholars is they’re not God.
It is amazing isn’t it! well we spoke the truth.
Humm…Wasn’t John Calvin a scholar?
Rev. Joseph: “Many scholars feel…”
God’s Word: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev 14:9-11)
Scholars and schools of thought never saved me from sin, death and Hell. God did, in Jesus Christ. I’ll stick with HIS word.
Amen and amen!
Though this may be a reference to persons suffering eternally in hell ( a traditional association with these verses), the imagery might refer to the permanent destruction of the city of Babylon-whether Jerusalem or Rome-and those in it who participated in it’s worship of the beast. That they must drink of the wine of the wrath of God (v.10) may allude to the practice of giving wine to condemned criminals just before they were crucified (cf. Mark 15:23). In this case it would be a sign of impending death and judgement. That the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever (v. 11) may not be intended literally, as the image of their permanent doom is taken from the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone, when “the smoke of the land ascended like a furnace” (Gen. 19:28; cf. it’s symbolic use in IS. 34:9-190, describing the fall of Edom)
If one argues that Sodom’s smoke did not ascend “forever and ever”, it should be noted that Jude spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). The context in Jude does not indicate that the verse refers to the personal damnation of the inhabitants, but rather the visable destruction of the cities as a historical witness to God’s wrath toward sin.
Blind, Blind, Blind…
Every one of you.
Hey, is anybody there? Any comments being taken?
See comment policy.
As a person who believes both the gospel of effectual atonement and also denies that the Bible teaches that all humans “have immortal souls” (I teach conferred immortality), I certainly am not guilty of hypocrisy on this matter. I have been clear that the “gospel coalition” folks are not telling the entire story when they talk about Bell. See my blog For the Elect Alone.
Perhaps some time we can have a civilized conversation about the nature of permanent redemption and permanent punishment (the second death). But I don’t think that important question is ultimately a gospel question. What I do think we should be talking about is how John Stott can write an entire book about the cross and never once talk about the sins of the elect being imputed to Christ.
I know it’s good politics to leave out any discussion of particular and definite atonement, but nobody can teach the truth about the cross and the nature and purpose of Christ’s death without talking about election. A death which is not for the elect is not a penal substitutionary death. This should be the focus of any discussion of Stott. What was his gospel?
Also, as Gordon Clark has pointed out, there are other questions about Stott in terms of his position on regeneration. He sounds at times like those Dallas four pointers who think regeneration is something you get after you have already been effectually called and justified.
I suppose that discussion would get us back to the question of “eternal life”. is that life forensic, or is it regeneration, or is it the immortality to be given on resurrection day? Or all three?
To be fair, I was born only one year after the late John Stott came out of the closet concerning the issue. I only knew him from the bible studies that he produced.
I don’t understand why you’re trying to put Annihilationism in the same boat as Universalism. Annihilationism, at least in my humble opinion, is a relatively easy conclusion to which on might through careful study of the scripture, just a much as is Eternal Conscious Torment. But Universalism is almost always accompanied not by a solid, scripture based case, but by philosophical gymnastics with a side of healthy eisegesis. That isn’t to say that one might not be a sincere follower of Christ and err toward Universalism (Consider Karl Barth, Gregory MacDonald, Shirley Guthrie) but in most cases I’ve experienced, there is a great divide between the overall attitude toward scripture and the God of scripture of a Universalist and an Annihilationist.