Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Review of John Stott--The Cross of Christ

Author: John Stott

Pages: 384 pages

Publisher: IVP

Price: 17.50

Genre: Theology/Christian Living

Quick Summary:

From the beginning John Stott recognizes the impossibility of exhausting that which will take an eternity to unfold. He also acknowledges that the cross is not something that we can distantly analyze and discuss. As Stott says, “we can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit”. Throughout this work our author appears to be a man that is bowed and broken himself. Stott, on the topic of the Cross of Christ is a sure guide.

He begins by approaching the cross (his introduction) and then moves us to the “heart of the cross”. This is the meat of Stott’s book. It is his argument for substitutionary atonement. After attempting to convince the reader of the substitutionary core of the cross our author discusses the benefits that this sacrifice has produced. Many authors prior have stopped at this point in their discussion of the cross, not Stott. He introduces a much needed fourth section; what it means to “live under the cross”. Perhaps the many books that have hit our shelves since 1986 owe a debt of gratitude to Stott’s premise that, “the cross transforms everything”.

What I Enjoyed:

Perhaps the best section is Stott’s fourth. The entire book is worthy of our read, yet the practical application of “living under the cross” is priceless. In fact, Stott does a wonderful job of keeping the entire book “out of the clouds” and into the life of the every day believer. It will speak to those in the ivory tower but also will touch the lives of those in the marketplace.

The book may be a little difficult for the typical lay person, but by no means unreadable. The learned scholar will not be in the least bored by this work, nor would a newer believer be completely lost. Stott teaches on the Cross in a clear and concise manner.

What I Disliked:

Something about Stott’s writing style (which I typically enjoy) caused me to get distracted occasionally. It seemed as if at times Stott would walk us up to the foot of the cross, and then point across the street at something else. By no means would this have ever been his intent, yet the book is wrought with some arguments that took place 20 years ago and are less relevant today. In the 20th anniversary edition perhaps this should have been edited.

There are also a few things with which I disagree with Stott on. Occasionally it appears that his desire to be ecumenical makes the truth seem more fluid than it needs to be.

Should You Buy It?:

How can you not by a book that CJ Mahaney recommends as the elite book on the cross? In all actuality if I were to recommend a book on the cross to a typical believer it would not be Stott’s it would be Mahaney’s The Cross Centered Life. Yet, Stott’s is an essential companion. To the pastor/theologian this work is a must have. To the everyday reader it is not a “must-have” but one that would be very beneficial to own.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Additional Note to the Reader:

I am fully aware that Stott believes in Annihilationism. I consider this as I recommend this book. The truth is his Annihilationism, from what I could tell, did not affect this book. I am certain that he might have taken a few different roads had he held to an eternal conscious torment in hell. Nevertheless, Stott does acknowledge the punishment and wrath of God, as well as the idea of separation from the Godhead. Therefore, Stott’s view on Annihilationism does not cause me to refrain from recommending this work.


  1. Mike,

    I enjoy your reviews.

    When he talks about "living under the cross", how is that applied?

    Is it as victory as crucified with Christ and resurrected with Him? And the victory therein, and the enabling of doing God's work?

    Or is it an inward focused life? Analyzing your own life and reviewing your life for problems?

    I'm curious if it is an outward or inward focused life I guess is what I'm getting at, if that makes sense?

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for the encouragement. As per your questions: when Stott talks about "living under the cross" it is primarily horizontal. He discusses the community of believers, loving our enemies, etc. It is outward, yet not triumphalistic.



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