As a boy, I remember seeing certain titles on my dad’s bookshelf: C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, a boxed set of Calvin Miller’s Singer trilogy, a hardbound Francis Schaeffer trilogy including Schaeffer’s The God Who is There, and John Stott’s Basic Christianity. There were more, but these were the ones I remember most, probably because, largely through my father’s influence, each of these books came to have quite an impact on my own life.
I should clarify: the writings of John Stott have had an impact on my life for some time, but I have only recently come to experience John Stott’s seminal Basic Christianity. “Seminal” is not a word that should be used lightly, but it justly applies to this amazing little work from the pen of one of Evangelicalism’s most prolific lives and ministries. I turned to this book after the recent death of Stott, and I regret now that it has taken me so long to do so.
Part introduction, part summary, part apologetic, Basic Christianity has achieved the unlikely goal of being both an illuminating explanation of the faith suitable for nonbelievers and an inspiring reminder of the faith suitable for long-time believers. The book is written in a style that is deceptively simple. I say “deceptively,” because, in truth, Stott has handled a number of profoundly deep truths in this little work in a style that is conversational and easily accessible. Part of Stott’s genius was his ability to communicate through clear explanation and deft illustration fundamental biblical verities that are, to steal from Luther, “shallow enough to wade through but deep enough to drown in.”
Stott covers aptly the nature of God, man’s sin nature and need for a Savior, the person, work, and ministry of Jesus, how one comes into the Christian life, and the privileges and responsibilities of one who has come into the Christian life. He writes convincingly, carefully, and with great erudition and learning. His apologetic for the resurrection is particularly noteworthy. Furthermore, his handling of the truths of justification and sanctification is tremendous and, for this believer, very helpful and thought-provoking.
If you would like a wonderful primer to give to a person with whom you are sharing the faith, I would highly encourage Basic Christianity. If you would like a compelling and, frankly, enjoyable refresher on the faith, I would highly encourage this book again.
Basic Christianity is wonderfully lucid, helpful little book that you will not regret reading or giving to a friend or loved one.