Christ In Conflict: Lessons From Jesus And His Controversies, by John Stott
It is unfortunate that people see in Jesus Christ a reflection of themselves and that is certainly the case here . As is often the case with books like this, I found much that related to myself, from the way that the author tries to take Evangelical and turn it into an general adjective rather than a party affiliation as often seems to be the case to the fact that the author has no problems tangling with those he disagrees with. Anyone who knows me who would probably agree that I am at least a bit of a controversialist who relishes a good intellectual fight every now and then to keep life from being too tedious. We learn a lot about John Stott by reading this book and unlike the case with some other examples of this sort of writing, what we learn is not bad at all. In fact, it’s quite interesting I must admit. I find a lot more to agree with in terms of the author’s claims for how believers are to be like Christ than I do with the actual performance of Protestants (including Evangelicals like the author) in living up to that standard, though.
The book itself has both a foreword and a preface that seek to frame the work and give praise to it, to provide some additional legitimacy to its contents. After that the book consists of two parts. The first part lays the foundational assumptions and worldview of the author, calling for clarity about terms rather than the sort of mush-mouthed confusion that often passes for peacemaking in many ecumenical efforts as well as a use of evangelical that seeks to claim for that term the Gospel message and not merely one interpretation of it. The rest of the book consists of eight different conflicts that Jesus Christ had with the Jewish leadership of his day that remain highly relevant for Christians who must fight against contrary tendencies in our own behavior that would make us like the Sadducees and Pharisees of old about matters like religion, authority, the purposes of the Bible, salvation, morality, worship, responsibility, and ambition. The author manages to hit his targets in a solid effort. This is really a great book to appreciate, and even if I think that the author falls short of the way he sees the Protestant world, there is still a great deal here that is worth celebrating and applying.
It is worthwhile at this point to talk about the author’s failures and successes, though. While the author would wish to have Evangelical be seen as something more than a partisan designation, unfortunately it appears that the term has too much baggage at this point, despite the author’s best interests. This is especially true in that the author criticizes the Roman Catholic church for its adherence to tradition when a great many Protestant beliefs (see, for example, the Trinity as well as their refusal to remember the Sabbath day as God commands) spring about because of mistaken views about progressive revelation and an adherence to unbiblical traditions resulting from mistaken human reasoning. This book is a case where a bit more self-knowledge would have made the author less strident, but where the author still manages to speak about areas of justice and involvement in the world in the right ways that are well worth paying attention to. This is a book that manages to succeed at presenting the conflicts of Christ’s ministry as relevant in the best use of the term, even if the author shows himself as not obeying the Bible in his own practice as much as he might claim.
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