Why You Only Need One Priest

“Bishop Ryle was right to ask what the sense or reason was of going to an earthly confessor so long as we can have access to the best of all Priests, Jesus Christ Himself: ‘When His ear is deaf, and His heart is cold when His hand is feeble, and His power to heal is exhausted when the treasure-house of His sympathy is empty, and His love and goodwill have become cold then and not till then, it will be time to turn to earthly priests and earthly confessionals. Thank God, that time is not yet come!'” -quoted in John Stott, Confess Your Sins

No Vertical without the Horizontal

“Indeed, the Bible lays great emphasis on the importance of right relations with our fellow-men, teaching that a right relationship with God is impossible without them. The great Hebrew prophets of the seventh and eighth centuries B.C. constantly reiterated this theme. The offering of sacrifices to God was not only useless, but positively nauseating to Him, they said, if the worshippers were living lives of immorality or injustice to men.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

DL Moody’s Example of Humble Apology

“If we have sinned against our neighbour, we must confess our sin to him and ask for his forgiveness. It sounds easy. yet we all know from common experience how costly it is
simply to apologize to somebody and to say that we are sorry. It is a rare Christian grace. D. L. Moody, the famous American evangelist of the last century, exhibited it, and I think I was more struck by this than by anything else about him when reading a recent biography. Let me give you two examples which impressed me. In the early days at their home in Northfield, Massachusetts, Moody was anxious to
have a lawn like those he had greatly admired in England. But one day his two sons, Paul and Will, let the horses loose from the barn. They galloped over his precious lawn and ruined it. And Moody lost his temper with them. But the boys never forgot how, after they had gone to bed that night, they heard his heavy footsteps as he approached and entered their room, and, laying a heavy hand on their head, said to them: ‘I want you to forgive me; that wasn’t the way Christ taught.’ On another occasion a theological student interrupted him during an address and Moody snapped an irritated retort. Let J. C. Pollock describe what happened at the end of the sermon: ‘He reached his close. He paused. Then he said: “Friends, I want to confess before you all that I made a great mistake at the beginning of this
meeting. I answered my young brother down there foolishly. I ask God to forgive me. I ask him to forgive me.” And before anyone realized what was happening the world’s most famous evangelist had stepped off the platform, dashed across to the insignificant anonymous youth and taken him by the hand. As another present said, “The man of iron will proved that he had mastered the hardest of all earth’s languages, ‘I am sorry’.” Someone else called it the
greatest thing I ever saw D. L. Moody do’.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

The Importance of Daily Confession

“Such confessing and forsaking, immediate and detailed, are required of every Christian. It is a question of honesty versus hypocrisy. The uncovering of sins is painful and
humiliating. It brings us to our knees in lowliness before God. But if we want to receive mercy, both forgiveness for the past and power for the future, there is no other way. Let it never be said of us that we take sin lightly or presume on the mercy of God.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

‘You and Them Alone’ is Good For the Church

“A great deal of tension in Christian congregations would be eased if we obeyed this plain command of Jesus: ‘Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.’ Instead of having the courage to face a person with his fault, frankly but privately, we whisper behind his back and poison other people’s minds against him. The whole atmosphere of the church becomes foul. The best way to open the windows and let in some fresh air is to do what our Lord commanded: to go and tell him his fault privately, and other wise to keep our lips sealed.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

Confess Early, Confess Often

The apostle Paul affirmed before Felix: ‘I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men’ (Acts 24: 16). We should have the same ambition. As soon as any sin is on our conscience, whether committed against God or men we must confess it. This is what it means to walk in the light’ (I Jn. 1: 7). It has been described as living in house without ceiling or walls permitting no barrier to arise between us and either God or our fellows. It is a very serious thing to tamper with our conscience or to let it remain burdened and unrelieved. As soon as we have sinned against our neighbour we should apologize. As soon as we
are conscious of God’s face having become clouded, so that we are estranged from Him, we need to get away quietly, to uncover our sin, to confess and forsake it. As Thomas
Becon, Archbishop Cranmer’s chaplain, put it: “This kind of confession ought every Christian man daily and hourly to make unto God, so oft as he is brought unto the know
ledge of his sin.” It is an indispensable condition of abiding continuously in Christ.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

Uncovering Sin

“The uncovering of sin is in itself of
little value; it must lead us to an attitude both of humility towards God and of hostility towards sin. ‘Ye that love the Lord hate evil’, or ‘the Lord loves those who hate evil! (Ps. 97: 10, A.V. and R.S.V.); and it is this holy hatred of evil which is promoted by the faithful, systematic uncovering and confession of our sins.” -John Stott, Confess Your Sins

John Stott’s Gracious Yet Incisive Engagement with Liberation Theology

I was listening to John Stott’s classic, Christian Mission in the Modern World and came a cross a section where he offers some appreciation as well as thorough critique of Gustavo Guiterrez’s liberation theology. I consider this a model of how to engage a theological position with which you disagree.

“I admire the deep compassion of Gustavo Guiterrez for the exploited, his insistence on solidarity with the poor, his emphasis on social ‘praxis,’ instead of unpractical theorizing, and his call to the church for ‘a more evangelical, more authentic, more concrete, and more efficacious commitment to liberation.’ Several times he quotes with approval Marx’s famous dictum that ‘the philosophers have only interpreted the world… the point however is to change it.’

We should have no quarrel with the goal he defines, namely, ‘liberation from all that limits or keeps man from self-fulfillment, liberation from all impediments to the exercise of his freedom.’ This is fully biblical. God made man in his own image ; we should oppose all that dehumanizes him. Again, ‘the goal is not only better living conditions, a radical change of structures, a social revolution; it is much more : the continuous creation, never ending, of a new way to be man, a permanent cultural revolution.’

… All this–the need for man to free and to fulfill himself, and to take responsibility for restructuring of his society–is biblical and right. Both the end and the means are well-defined. It is when the author begins to theologize, to try to present social liberation as if this were what the Scripture means by salvation, and to dispense with evangelism in favor of political action, that–reluctantly, but decidedly–I part company with him.” John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World

At this point in the book, Stott then proceeds to unpack his critique of liberation theology with clarity and conviction for the next 10 pages. However, this section that I have quoted, preceding the critique is an example of how you ought to interact with another viewpoint.

Stott acknowledges points of common ground, he acknowledges aspects he appreciates in the opposing view, but he still holds his convictions firm. I thought about this passage especially in the wake of the passing of James Cone. There were some Reformed folks that were utterly shocked that any evangelical Christian could have anything nice to say about James Cone’s life’s work. Let me just appeal to the example of John Stott (from the 1970s!), evangelicals classically have had no trouble acknowledging points of appreciation even with opposing viewpoints (and also, historically Reformed Christians have not had any trouble with this either).