John Stott – Champion of Penal Subsitutionary Atonement Retires

The Langham Partnership sent out the following announcement today:

“John Stott would like his many friends around the world to know that, having reached the age of 86 in April, he has taken the decision finally to retire from public ministry after fulfilling one final speaking engagement at the upcoming Keswick Convention in July.

He will be moving from his flat in central London where he has lived for more than 30 years, to a retirement community for Anglican clergy in the south of England, which will be able to provide more fully for his present and future needs. Dr Stott has made this decision with the strong belief that it is God’s provision for him at this stage.”

The ministry of this man has spanned many decades and he was truly a leader among leaders. He will be sorely missed. It seems quite timely that this announcement should occur this week when the atonement is once again stirring controversy. A new generation of God’s people wrestling with this subject may not have the man himself, but they do still have his book The Cross of Christ. A few days back I shared a quote from that book, which is often used by those who disagree with penal substitutionary atonement to argue that Stott does not believe the version of PSA being defended in modern times. I thought it would be fitting to share another quote that makes plain that, in fact, he most certainly did uphold the glorious doctrine of Jesus’ penal substitutionary death.

“How then could God express simultaneously his holiness in judg­ment and his love in pardon? Only by providing a divine substitute for the sinner, so that the substitute would receive the judgment and the sinner the pardon. We sinners still of course have to suffer some of the personal, psychological, and social consequences of our sins, but the penal consequence, the deserved penalty of alienation from God, has been borne by Another in our place, so that we may be spared it. I have not come across a more careful statement of the substitu­tionary nature of the atonement than that made by Charles E. B. Cranfield in his commentary on Romans . . . He writes:

God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.

John Stott

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