John Stott embarks on a compelling course of study that first defends the fundamental claims of Christianity and then defines the proper outworkings of these basic beliefs in the daily lives of believers. Here is a sound, sensible guide for those who are seeking an intellectually satisfying presentation of the Christian faith.
My suspicion is that it is because there was a change in society's attitude during the 50s that suddenly exploded in the 60s, that being the realisation that one did not need to go to church every Sunday, and then the general acceptance that one did not need to be a Christian to be a member of society. Okay, there had been debates for the previous 200 years over the truth of Christianity, however many of the loudest opponents of Christianity were still in the minority. This began to change in the 50s and the 60s with the baby boomers beginning to throw off the shackles of society and beginning to embrace their own freedom.
Up until that point, pretty much everybody went to church, and it was only the die hard academics that would be promoting Atheism. This began to change, and the main reason that it began to change was that the idea of separation of church and state began to grow, a separation that basically said that there should be no national church, and that any church could co-exist within the state. This movement began in the United States and slowly spread across the Atlantic to Europe. Once the acceptance of multiple denominations co-existing had been established, it was a small step to take to accept that people not only did not need to belong to specific national denomination, but did not need to be a Christian, or follow the Christian creed, if they did not want to.
Thus the reason we are seeing pretty much every pastor and his dog writing a tract, book, or bible study, on what Christianity is and what it means to be a Christian, and how to be a Christian, is because people are not going to church any more, and because they are not going to church, they are no longer regularly exposed to Christian teaching. Okay, when people did regularly go to church, a lot of them weren't exposed to such teaching either, however things were beginning to change around the time Stott wrote this book.
As for the book itself, I found that it was very basic and there was nothing here that I had not read before. The book begins with evidence supporting the existence of Christ and his divinity, then goes on to his death and resurrection, and finishes off with how one becomes a Christian and then what one does after one becomes a Christian. However there are a few problems.
First of all, he writes as if Jesus is the only God-man in myth that took human form, died, and rose again. That, frankly, is wrong. Okay, the difference is that Jesus' incarnation and resurrection occurred in history as opposed to legend, but once again he is not the only one. As C.S. Lewis once indicated, the only thing that separates Christianity from the other religions is not the incarnation, the virgin birth, or the resurrection, but grace.
Secondly the thing about living a Christian life is very objective and does not seem to recognise that one's relationship with God, like all other relationships, exists on a subjective level. Okay, the ideas of reading the Bible and regularly praying are helpful, but I get the feeling that the evangelical Anglican movement (in fact the entire evangelical movement) has a very problematic attitude towards subjectivism to the point that the idea seems to scare them, and in respose tries to create a robotic, objective, version of Christianity.
Finally, the idea about sin was particularly harsh. Stott's writing suggests that the world is full of monstrous self-centered individuals, and while I don't accept the idea that everybody by nature is good, I feel that he has gone the opposite direction. Granted, in God's eyes we are all monstrous, but the problem with the teaching is it instils such a huge amount of guilt into people that it can be very difficult to escape. My position is that yes, in God's eyes, we are all monsters, but subjectively, people differ and differ a lot. There are a lot of really nice, helpful, and selfless non-Christians out there, and a lot of greedy, arrogant, and tyrannical Christians (or at least call themselves Christians). Somehow we need to find a way to create some sort of balance with these opposing truths.