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Saturday Sermon: John Stott and Genesis 1

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August 6, 2011 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's sermon features John Stott. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Each Saturday, we present an ongoing series recognizing sermons (and the pastors who give them) that are helping to promote the harmony of science and faith. Today's sermon comes from the late John Stott, who passed away last week. In honor of Stott’s work in promoting “balanced and thinking biblical faith”, we feature an audio excerpt from Stott’s address “Genesis 1: Called to Full Humanity”, which he delivered at the Lambeth Conference in 1998. The full audio can be found here..

On July 27, 2011, renowned evangelical John Stott passed away at the age of 90. His work was integral in moving conservative evangelicalism from a minority faith movement, particularly in his home country of England, to one of the leading movements in modern Christianity. Stott was a man of many talents – teacher, pastor, author, leader, Biblical expositor – and many passions -- missions, social issues, evangelism, intellectual growth. He was a man regularly described as “brilliant”, “hard-working”, “confident”, “intellectually strong”, and, perhaps most importantly of all, “a man of integrity” (for more on Stott’s life and legacy, see Christianity Today’s wonderful eulogy).

Chris Wright, the Langham Partnership International Director (appointed to the position by Stott), offers perhaps the best summary of Stott’s legacy:

His leadership of the evangelical movement, both in the Anglican Communion and in wider inter-denominational settings, was a major factor in moving it from rather narrow-minded fundamentalism after the Second World War, to the fastest growing part of world Christianity that it is today… His books have challenged and nourished millions of Christians into a balanced and thinking biblical faith.

Stott wrote about his views on evolution, which in many ways paralleled those of BioLogos. Here is an excerpt from his 1999 book Understanding the Bible:

“What may we say about the ‘how’ of God’s creative activity. Not many Christians today find it necessary to defend the concept of a literal six-day creation, for the text does not demand it, and scientific discovery appears to contradict it. The biblical text presents itself not as a scientific treatise but as a highly stylized literary statement (deliberately framed in three pairs, the fourth “day” corresponding to the first, the fifth to the second, and the sixth to the third). Moreover, the geological evidence for a gradual development over thousands of millions of years seems conclusive. …”

“It is most unfortunate that some who debate this issue (evolution) begin by assuming that the words “creation” and “evolution” are mutually exclusive. If everything has come into existence through evolution, they say, then biblical creation has been disproved, whereas if God has created all things, then evolution must be false. It is, rather, this naïve alternative which is false. It presupposes a very narrow definition of the two terms, both of which in fact have a wide range of meanings, and both of which are being freshly discussed today…”

“I myself believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve, as the original couple from whom the human race is descended*….But my acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously. These hominids began to advance culturally. They made their cave drawings and buried their dead. It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. You may call them homo erectus. I think you may even call some of them homo sapiens, for these are arbitrary scientific names. But Adam was the first homo divinus, if I may coin a phrase, the first man to whom may be given the Biblical designation ‘made in the image of God’. Precisely what the divine likeness was, which was stamped upon him, we do not know, for Scripture nowhere tells us. But Scripture seems to suggest that it includes rational, moral, social, and spiritual faculties which make man unlike all other creatures and like God the creator, and on account of which he was given ‘dominion’ over the lower creation.” (John Stott [1999], Understanding the Bible: Expanded Edition; 54-56)

* Please note that in this regard, Stott’s view runs contrary to current scientific consensus and the BioLogos position. Although Adam and Eve may have been historical, the data indicate very clearly that there was never a time when there were just two human beings that gave rise genetically to all human beings on earth.

John Stott has been referred to as "the most influential clergyman in the Church of England during the twentieth century." He was appointed rector of All Souls Church in London after WWII, and it remained the only church he served at throughout his life. As a church leader, he sponsored two groundbreaking National Evangelical Anglican Congresses and started John Stott Ministries, which sought to equip and train pastors with the Word of God. Stott authored more than 42 books, edited 14 books, and has written 500 chapters, essays, articles, and booklets. John Stott passed away on July 27th, 2011.

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Cal - #63676

August 6th 2011

“It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them”

I always wondered about this and I was curious to the idea that man was made out of the dust. Everywhere else in the Bible the dust is symbolic of death. Was Adam breathed alive by the Breath of God (the Spirit) turning a homo into a man? Or perhaps the dust is the primeval material in which case the same conclusion could be drawn.

Food for thought I suppose.

JohnWMorehead - #64030

August 12th 2011

Stott was one of my heroes of the faith, and I appreciate his work in theology, his willingness to take science and the natural world seriously, and his work in mission and social action. I am pleased to read of his perspective on this topic. However, I would humbly offer one disagreement with his thinking near the conclusion of this quote. I think he, and many evangelicals, have misunderstood the imago dei as referring to something within human nature that sets humans apart from the rest of creation. If we put Genesis back in his cultural and historical context of the ancient near east, then deity was represented by an image in the area where the deity had sovereignty. From the Genesis account is is human beings who function as the divine image representing God to the rest of creation. In this view, the imago dei is representative not ontological. This view better fits the cultural and historical context of Genesis, and provides no conflict with the scientific evidence.

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