Was John Stott interested in Orthodoxy?

translating Stott1
Translating for John Stott in Oradea, Romania, 1994

This blog post was prompted by a recent text written on his blog by my virtual friend Carson Clark, who argued, controversially, as he often does, that ‘it seems to him’, ‘Christians need to stop affirming the centrality of the cross’.

Intrigued? Good. Here is Carson’s (I believe) convincing argument:

In the christian life it shouldn’t be the crucifixion, then the rest of Jesus’ story around it. Instead it should be the crucifixion alongside everything else. This alternative framework in no way mitigates the importance or necessity of the crucifixion. It’s not removing the crucifixion from the center. It’s rather putting the putting the other elements beside it in the center.

And he concludes:

I propose a substitution. Instead of the “centrality of the cross,” I suggest the “centrality of Christ”–all of His story recorded in the New Testament, including His incarnation, life and ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension as well as His anticipated Second Coming. Surely the Bible’s entire redemptive narrative points to, culminates in, and centers on Jesus.

On his Facebook wall, Carson invites me and our common virtual friend Charles Twombly, to comment on this, and also includes in the discussion John Stott’s book The Cross of Jesus Christ and his relationship with Orthodoxy.

Here is my response. After a short comment on James R. Payton’s book Light from the Christian East. An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, I write:

Returning to your initial discussion on the evangelical ‘centrality of the cross’. I have to say I fully agree. Let me translate here what I have written on my blog on my own theological identity (the text there is in Romanian and I have never translated it; maybe I should). What I do there, among other things, is to present modified definitions of Bebbington’s four descriptions of evangelicalism. Here is how I redefine crucicentrism.

Trinitarian Christocentrism – a theology rooted in the reality of the Holy Trinity, made accessible to us in the person of Christ, the son of God – fully God and fully human, who was revealed to us through his incarnation for us in history, through the virgin Mary; through his sinless life; through his sacrifice in our place on the cross; through his resurrection which overcame death; and through his ascension, which made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit, through whom Christ is ever present in and with us,in order to sanctify and transform us, as members of his mystical body, the Church, according to his image.

I admit it is quite convoluted, but, as you can see, my main contention is that the entire work of Christ, the Son of the Father, from his incarnation in the power of the Spirit, to the sending of the Spirit following his ascension – not just the redemptive sacrifice on the cross – should be at the centre of our theology.

Charles responds too to Carson’s invitations, commenting on Stott:

Danut knew “Uncle John” better than I did (being one of his “boys”), but we’re both strong admirers, I’m sure. Stott must be measured in terms of his time: he worked within the limits of his experience (as we all do).

While studying theology at Cambridge, he basically skipped the lectures and studied on his own since he was out of sympathy with many of his teachers. A shame in a way, since CH Dodd and Charles Moule were among them.

Eastern Orthodoxy wasn’t on his radar, I’d guess, even though there was a thriving interchange between Orthodox and Anglicans in England in those days, represented most especially by the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius.

Interestingly, Michael Harper (a one-time curate of Stott’s at All Souls) moved on to be a major leader in Britain’s charismatic movement and then moved on again, years later, to become an Antiochean Orthodox and prominent in the “move East” of Brits and others. Not sure Stott paid much attention to either of these.

I think he had the “English disease” when it came to theology. Despite his great book on the cross, his interests and reading were almost wholly exegetical (as represented by the books in his study, which I examined–see next paragraph). Historical or systematic theology was not high on the priorities list.

My most precious memory of him was the forty-five minutes he gave to me in ’73 when I visited his townhouse and discussed with him my possible call to the “priesthood” (a term he didn’t like). He is a great hero to me, though I’ve moved in different directions.

I must confess I have the same feelings as Charles for ‘uncle John’. I have great respect and admiration for him, but I have moved theologically in a quite different direction than him.

Here is what I have added, in response to Charles’s comments:

Yes, Charles, as a Langham scholar, I had the undeserved privilege to meet uncle John a number of times in my life, twice of these in his home close to All Souls in Langham Place, which was my church during my theological studies.

John Stott
Talking with uncle John is his office

The first time I have visited him together with another Langham scholar, my friend Silviu Rogobete, who wrote his PhD on Staniloae’s ‘ontology of love’.

Stott & Tofana
Uncle John & Fr Stelian Tofana

The second time I have visited uncle John with another dear friend, the Orthodox Fr. Stelian Tofana, the most important Romanian Biblical scholar, who was supported financially by John Stott to spend two months at Tyndale House in Cambridge. One Sunday, since I was myself working on my doctorate at London School of Theology, uncle John suggested that I should bring Fr. Stelian to meet with him.
Besides these visits, I have listened to him many times preaching, both in Romania, before the fall of communism, and after, when I translated for him during his visit at Emmanuel University in Oradea, where I was teaching, and many other times at All Souls.

I was always fascinated with his sermons. He impressed me as a person who was coming from the presence of God – that is what I would call a prophet. He was clear, warm and confident in his sermons. When he preached at All Souls, the church was absolutely full – sanctuary, balconies and the hall downstairs.

I must confess I was never attracted by his books. They seemed to dry to me compared with his live sermons. I think he could have done better with a less stiff editor (whoever that was).

Although he was very knowledgeable theologically, uncle Stott never pretended to be more that a Bible teacher. I tend to agree. This was not a statement of humility (although he was a very humble man), but one of reality.

I never got the impression that Stott was interested at all in Orthodox theology or, as Charles rightly says, generally in systematic or historical theology. We all have our blind spots, don’t we?

Middle Earth Mythology Explained

Enjoy, whether you have seen Hobbit III or not.

Thanks to my friend Carson Clark for this link.

Life Lessons from Bishop John: Men, Is Your Vice Wealth, Power or Sex? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Life Lessons from Bishop John: Men, Is Your Vice Wealth, Power or Sex? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This could not be more true.

Stars in the Margins: Philip Yancey Quotes from ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace?’ | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Stars in the Margins: Philip Yancey Quotes from ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace?’ | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This is a series of exceptionally well chosen quotes from What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, one of the most authentic evangelical authors I know,

Thanks, Carson Clark.

Miniblog #294: Pope Francis Isn’t a Marxist. He’s Just Criticizing Secular Capitalism’s Greed. | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #294: Pope Francis Isn’t a Marxist. He’s Just Criticizing Secular Capitalism’s Greed. | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

My virtual friend Carson Clark responds to the fools in the American Religious Right, like Rush Limbaugh, who accuse Pope Francis of being a Marxist.

These people are so much to the right that everybody else in this world, including Pope Francis, and Jesus Christ, especially him, is a Marxist.

As the prayer of the rabbi goes, ‘may God bless them, and keep them faaaaaaaar away from us’.

Carson Clark – Not ‘Sola Scriptura’, but ‘Prima Scriptura’

Since yesterday I have posted Carson’s text on his post-evangelical stance, I add now a continuation of that, his view of the Protestant principle of ‘Sola Scriptura’. To this view, which leaves no place for the concept of Tradition, Carson opposes the ‘Prima Scriptura’ position, a view which I also share, as it comes quite clear in the way I tend to handle Scripture on my blog.

Here is what Carson Clark says:

* * *

The historic Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura often gets a bad wrap because people fail to distinguish it from Bible-onlyism, which is its unfortunate, dumbed down contemporary heir. The former was critically nuanced and discerning. The latter is overly simplistic and ignorant. So when I say I don’t affirm Sola Scriptura, let’s all be clear about a couple things. It’s not for a lack of respect for the Reformers nor am I castigating a strawman position. Here I’m making a concerted effort not to contribute to the entrenched, heated idiocy surrounding this issue.

Within the context of the 16th century, I understand how and why Sola Scriptura came to be. The late Medieval Roman Catholic Church was heavy-handed and hegemonic. Its abuses, corruptions, excesses, and hypocrisies were obvious. This coincided with Renaissance humanism’s call of “Ad fontes!” or “Back to the sources!” Long story short, Martin Luther and Co. were trying to pull a Marty McFly by going back to the future. I get all of that. Lord knows had I been alive at their time I almost certainly would’ve been sympathetic to the Protestant cause. Continue reading “Carson Clark – Not ‘Sola Scriptura’, but ‘Prima Scriptura’”

Entering Post-Evangelical Faith: No Longer the Sort of Christian I Once Was | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Entering Post-Evangelical Faith: No Longer the Sort of Christian I Once Was | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

My friend Carson Clark has an amazing gift of putting his (or should I say ‘our’?) theological and spiritual struggles in the right words.

I fully agree with him. I still consider myself an evangelical, be it rather (post)evangelical.

Here is the comment I have left on this post:

Dear Carson,
You did it again for me. That is where I am too, a post-evangelical Eastern Anglican Christian.
Like you, I adhere to a revised version of Bebbington’s four evangelical characteristics. which I label on my blog (in a post written in Romanian – https://danutm.wordpress.com/20… as:
1. biblical revelationism, rather than ‘biblicism’;
2. Christocentric Trinitariansm, rather than ‘crucicentrism’;
3. holistic transformism, rather than ‘conversionism’; and
4. incarnational engagement, rather than ‘activism’.
I admit it is a bit convoluted, but that is where I am now.
Unlike you, however, for me, post-evangelical is still, largely speaking, evangelical (in the same way that post-modern is still, to a large extent, modernistic).
Danut

The Growing Societal Disinclination Toward Protecting Religious Liberty | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

The Growing Societal Disinclination Toward Protecting Religious Liberty | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Here is another interesting post from my virtual friend Carson Clark. It is really worth reading.

Carson Clark on Seven Leadership Styles – Updated with poll

My virtual friend Carson Clark presents in his latest blog post his view on seven leadership styles. They are:

1. The Boss

2. The Politician

3. The Revolutionary

4. The ‘Cornerist’

5. The Mediator

6. The Doer

7. The Prophet

Find HERE how he defines them. Continue reading “Carson Clark on Seven Leadership Styles – Updated with poll”

Carson Clark on Four Kinds of Intellectual Perverts

spiral

My virtual friend Carson Clark shared today with us on his blog about four types of people that upset him. As these are getting on my nerves too, I have decided to also share with you  what my friend says.

But before that, here is what I have written to him:

Carson, I absolutely have to share these four types on my blog. I am sure my readers could illustrate all four types among some of those who comment sometimes aggressively on my blog.

* * *

  • The first is the guy who uses typos to flippantly dismiss someone’s belief, opinion, or perspective. For example, over the years I’ve met a number of these perfectionist goons who treat all dyslexics like morons because they commit the grave and sinister transgression of mistaking there, their, and they’re. Continue reading “Carson Clark on Four Kinds of Intellectual Perverts”

Is There No Evangelical Mind? – Update

Carson Clark has written another text that is worth considering. This time he responde to a post of Dr. Owen Strachen, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky, published on the Patheos platform, in which Strachan criticises Mark Noll, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, for being, in his estimation, too pessimistic about the place of the mind in the evangelical environment.

NOTE: I have read today this article on the Associated Baptist Press website, announcing that Dr Owen Strachan took leadership of the very conservative complementarian group called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Now I understand why Strachan is so upset with Noll’s criticism of evangelical anti-intellectualism. I have also remembered where I have heard this guy’s name before. He was the one who last year, made the totally stupid statement that stay-at-home dads are “man-fails”. Now I get it. As we say in Romania, ‘it is not good to talk of the rope in the house where somebody hang himself’.

In his new post, Carson offers an eight point very well articulated ‘cordial rebuttal’ of Strachan’s criticism. Here they are for your evaluation (you may find HERE Carson’s entire post): Continue reading “Is There No Evangelical Mind? – Update”

Miniblog #161: Evangelism in Light of Church History’s Great and Ironic Tragedy | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #161: Evangelism in Light of Church History’s Great and Ironic Tragedy | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Carson Clark tackles again a delicate matter:

‘Perhaps the great and tragic irony of Christianity is that the less Christians there are the more we seem to live like Christ and the more Christians there are the less we seem to live like Christ. We manifest a collective prophetic voice when we’re persecuted but silence it to then persecute others. This has been a fairly consistent pattern throughout church history, and I find it deeply disturbing. Moreover, it raises undeniable complexities in our evangelistic efforts amidst an ever-increasingly Post-Christian, Western cultural context.’

I wonder what my friends who are specialists in church history think of this? ESpecially Alex Nadaban.

Breaking the Cultural Wars Cycle: Commending & Critiquing Huckabee’s Shootings Comments | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Breaking the Cultural Wars Cycle: Commending & Critiquing Huckabee’s Shootings Comments | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Here is Carson again, this time with a comment on on reactions to the recent killings in the US.

And here is the comment I left on his blog:
‘Carson,
I tend to agree with Morgan’s comment. Huckabee was clearly out of line, in both instances. I simply do not understand why these fundamentalists cannot simply shut up for a while, when such tragedies happen.
No, it’s not a ‘cultural war’, whatever that means; its’ war on common sense (which, if they had, they would not be fundamentalists).’

Carson Clark on Women Ordination

woman priest

My virtual friends Carson Clark is tackling again a touchy issue, even for Anglicans: women ordination.

I will begin by pasting here the comment I have left on his blog:

Clark, I agree fully with your first nine points, but, still disagree with you conclusion (the 10th). I hope we are still friends. 🙂

Here are his arguments:

  1. As one in favor of gender equality, I’m an openly espousing feminist yet am simultaneously and equally committed to not being a misandrist.22.H/T to Ellen Filgo for teaching me the term misandry. It’s a much better, more civil, and less inflammatory term than my previous Rush Limbaugh-inspired “FemiNazi.”
  2. It seems abundantly clear there’s a New Testament tension between ecclesiastical unity and doctrinity “purity,” for lack of a better word.33.That has been tragically neglected since the Protestant Reformation.
  3. In my own theological outlook I draw a strong line between historic orthodoxy and adiaphora; that is, between essential and important but ultimately secondary doctrine.44.Examples of historic orthodoxy: Creation and fall, Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the Trinity. Examples of adiaphora: Views of God’s sovereignty, modes of baptism, and the continuing role of the so-called “sign gifts.” Continue reading “Carson Clark on Women Ordination”

Miniblog #150: Do I Affirm the Necessity of a Born Again Experience? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #150: Do I Affirm the Necessity of a Born Again Experience? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This is one of those rare areas where I differ from my virtual friend Carson Clark.

I tend to believe that the ‘born again’ experience that is so central to evangelical spirituality is a marginal theme biblically, and that the concept is so marred by the abuse of it ‘from Charles Finney and the Second Great Awakening’ that it cannot be saved and would better be replaced with something less prone to misunderstanding and more rooted in ‘the whole counsel of God’.

Amidst an Affirmation of Women’s Ordination, N.T. Wright Explains Why I’m Not a Progressive (Miniblog #154) | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Amidst an Affirmation of Women’s Ordination, N.T. Wright Explains Why I’m Not a Progressive (Miniblog #154) | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

I can’t agree more with NT Wright. While voting, virtually, as he did on that contentious matter.

Carson Clark – Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Anglo-Catholic

I cannot keep the pace with Carson. He is too quick for me and I travel to much to be able to comment, as his texts deserve.

Yet, I think it is good for my readers to at least see what he does. here is his take at this Anglican topic.

10. Evangelical. Evangelicalism is an undeniable part of my spiritual DNA. I see myself as being within the lineage of such deceased figures as Whitefield, Wesley, Newton, Wilberforce, Webber, and Stott as well as such contemporary figures as Packer, McGrath, and Wright.22.The tangible connection with the ancient, undivided Church’s history and tradition was perhaps the #1 draw to Anglicanism, but I’m much more ancient-future than ancient alone. I’m much more Trinity (or Gordon-Conwell) than Nashotah, if you will.

9. Ideology. In my experience, the vast majority of Anglo-Catholics find a significant part of their identity in being uniformly conservative–theologically, politically, socially, etc. As the title of this blog makes clear, that ain’t me. I’m a hardlining moderate through and through.33.They’re unquestionably in the minority, but there are more than a handful of evangelical Anglicans who are moderate.

8. Epistemology. I stand with persons like N.T. Wright in holding to postfoundationalism. While this isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive of Anglo-Catholicism,44.One of my mentors and former professors, Fr. Michael Pahls, is welcome, living proof of this. my experience tells me such a position puts one at odds with the vast majority of its adherents. Continue reading “Carson Clark – Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Anglo-Catholic”

Historical Fidelity: A Call to Move Beyond Schaefferian Worldview Methodology | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Historical Fidelity: A Call to Move Beyond Schaefferian Worldview Methodology | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

I wish I had time to respond top this. Unfortunately, I am way too busy lately with my job and Carson is way too productive for my slow mind.

Like Old Shoes: Why It’s A Good Thing I’ve Become Less Self-Aware of My Tradition | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Like Old Shoes: Why It’s A Good Thing I’ve Become Less Self-Aware of My Tradition | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Has anyone of you been struggling with similar feelings? If you have, you will understand.

Miniblog #111: 10 Life Lessons | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #111: 10 Life Lessons | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This is worth reading.

Identifying My 15 Hot Buttons in Church | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Identifying My 15 Hot Buttons in Church | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Carson Clark lists in this blog post 15 thinks that still drive him mad in church. I have  the same feeling.

Here they are:

  1. Pragmatic anti-intellectualism.
  2. Unwavering binary schemas.
  3. Ahistorical restorationism. Continue reading “Identifying My 15 Hot Buttons in Church | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate”

Miniblog #107: A Critical Spirit as a Good Thing? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #107: A Critical Spirit as a Good Thing? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

I have to reblog this short text, too, because I, again agree with it. Sorry Carson 🙂

I Plead Guilty to Surrounding Myself with Like-Minded People | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

I Plead Guilty to Surrounding Myself with Like-Minded People | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Carson has written again a short text that is good food for thopught.

Here is his conclusion, as a teaser:

In conclusion, I suppose the social preference I’m speaking to is largely reflective of these four quotes:

Your humility is revealed in how you treat those you disagree with. – Rick Warren

A lot of people today who have strong convictions are not very civil and a lot of people who are civil don’t have very strong convictions. What we really need is convicted civility. – Richard Mouw Continue reading “I Plead Guilty to Surrounding Myself with Like-Minded People | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate”

Carson Clark – Why I Don’t Defend My Church Tradition from Criticism

Those who visit this blog from time to time may be aware that I agree to a large extent with my virtual friend Carson Clark, who is, like me, an Evangelical turned Anglican.

In his latest post he formulates four arguments against the general tendency (that one of his commentators calls ‘churchmanship’ – horribile dictu) of Christians of defending at any cost their own church tradition, often by attacking and diminishing other such traditions.

I paste below Carson’s arguments (you may find HERE the entire text), because they explain very well why I feel at home in Anglicanism, in spite of all odds.

  1. Experience tells me that other doctrinally – or historically-inclined Christians have a much stronger sense of loyalty than do I and, therefore, feel the need to defend their traditions from criticism. This has always seemed odd to me as I feel no such impulse. I invite critical feedback so long as it’s valid. I don’t do well with ignorance. How else is one to learn and grow? Few things are worse than being surrounded by like-minded Yes Men who pat themselves on their backs in honor of their own brilliance. Yuck.22.Such ecclesiastical inbreeding fosters the worst self-assured arrogance evident throughout church history. No thank you. Continue reading “Carson Clark – Why I Don’t Defend My Church Tradition from Criticism”

Scale of 1-10: How Big of a Problem Is It That I Relate So Much to Oscar Wilde? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Scale of 1-10: How Big of a Problem Is It That I Relate So Much to Oscar Wilde? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

I really like these quotes from Oscar Wilde, via Carson Clark. Don’t you?

* * *

20. America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

19. The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic. Continue reading “Scale of 1-10: How Big of a Problem Is It That I Relate So Much to Oscar Wilde? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate”

On the Absurdity of “Reformed Theology” and “Calvinism” (Please note the quotation marks) | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

On the Absurdity of “Reformed Theology” and “Calvinism” (Please note the quotation marks) | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This is a short text that, I think, those Calvinistically inclined should read.

A Consensus of Diverity: Proposing A Biblically Faithful and Historically Informed View for Anglican Baptism | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

A Consensus of Diverity: Proposing A Biblically Faithful and Historically Informed View for Anglican Baptism | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Here is a very well written article concerning the Anglican view on baptism, from Carson Clark, who is, like me, a concert from Evangelicalism, but, unlike me, considers that, in principle, credobaptism is preferable to paedobaptism.

Miniblog #82: Three Thoughts on Roger Olson’s ‘Against Calvinism’ « Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #82: Three Thoughts on Roger Olson’s ‘Against Calvinism’ « Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Here is a little good post by Carson Clark on the useless polemic on Arminianism vs. Calvinism.

Those Silly Credobaptists & Paedobaptists: They’re Spitting Images of One Another! « Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Those Silly Credobaptists & Paedobaptists: They’re Spitting Images of One Another! « Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

Carson gives us a new reason for good reflection on things to which we often give more importance than they deserve.

Carson and Piper on Hermeneutics

I thank Carson Clark for this clip (his post on it can be found HERE).

Here is the comment I have left on his blog:

[DA] Carson is surprisingly good in this video (like you, I am not a fan of Carson, nor, I would add, of the Gospel Coalition – too modernistic and fundationalist for my postmodern taste), while Piper is as aloof as always.
I may also add that, even if I preach sometimes (I have just accepted the invitation to do it on 7 August), and I enjoy a good sermon (they are so rare these days) I am not a great fan of preaching either. I think the ‘laleo’ version of sharing the good news is much more fitting with our times.