The Cross of Christ (John R.W. Stott; 4)

Stott’s, The Cross of Christ:

“It is true that he also said ‘no one can come to me unless the Father … draws him’ (Jn 6:44), but only after he had said ‘you refuse to come to me’ (Jn 5:40). Why is it that people do not come to Christ? Is it that they cannot, or is it that they will not? Jesus taught both. And in this ‘cannot’ and ‘will not’ lies the ultimate antinomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility

An “antinomy,” according to the dictionary is a contradiction. Therefore Stott — and many other revolters with him — are saying that God contradicts Himself in the Scriptures. Some among them would define “antinomy” as a paradox or a seeming contradiction to their finite understanding that some day will be reconciled in heaven. This is nothing but the prattle of false piety vainly attempting to calm the raging sea of mutiny. They think that their psuedo-pious placement of the word “seeming” before the word “contradiction” exonerates them from the charge of blasphemy.

But however we state it, we must not eliminate either part. Our responsibility before God is an inalienable aspect of our human dignity. Its final expression will be on the day of judgment. Nobody will be sentenced without trial. All people, great and small, irrespective of their social class, will stand before God’s throne, not crushed or browbeaten but given this final token of respect for human responsibility, each gives an account of what he or she has done.

Stott, and so many Calvinists, refuse to jettison this humanistic medicine that has been fed to them. This “medicine” is in reality the poison of the serpent who said, “You shall be as God.” Stott asserts that human responsibility is an “inalienable aspect of our human dignity.” And Stott’s underlying assumption for human responsibility is that humans are free from the control of their Creator.

The necessary conclusion for Stott is that human dignity is bound up in being free from the cords of his Maker (cf. Psalm 2:3). Therefore, to Stott, human freedom from the control of their Maker is an “inalienable aspect of [their] human dignity.” Evidently, the king whose heart is turned by God whichever way He pleases, is ultimately being robbed of his human dignity (cf. Proverbs 21:1).

Stott’s presumptuous assertion that all people are given by God a “final token of respect for human responsibility” is quite breathtaking, really. That’s Stott’s version of humanism all dressed up in religious garb. But what does God say about this alleged “human dignity”:

“Lo, nations are as a drop from a bucket, and are reckoned as dust of the scales. Lo, He takes up coasts as a little thing. And Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him; to Him they are reckoned less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:15-17).

This Isaiah passage is speaking of humanity (“all the nations”) relative to God; I cite it for the purpose of refuting Stott’s idea of what constitutes human dignity. Here, I speak not of the in passages such as Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 which some may say implies a kind of “human dignity” by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God. But this definition of “human dignity” is a far-cry from the kind of “human dignity” that seeks to usurp the throne of the Sovereign Controller of the Universe.

“Emil Brunner is surely right to emphasize our responsibility as an indispensable aspect of our humanness.”

The multitude will rush madly up the mountain of mutiny in order to “courageously” (brazenly) declare their day of independence. But since the Biblical reality is that God is absolutely sovereign and that humans have absolutely no freedom relative to God’s active control, Brunner and Stott must conclude that humans are not truly human. Brunner and Stott follow the popular sentiment of mainstream “evangelicalism;” of popular and fashionable “Christendom.” But true Christians will not follow this multitude to do evil (cf. Exodus 23:2).

‘Today our slogan must be: no determinism, on any account! For it makes all understanding of man as man impossible.’ 23

Obviously Christians will reject any kind of atheistic determinism, but Brunner will paint all forms with the same broad brush. And since Brunner has ruled out ALL determinism he has necessarily ruled out the God of the Bible. Thus, Brunner (and Stott who approves of his sentiments) is the fool who has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

“A human has to be seen as a ‘thinking — willing being,’ responsive and responsible to his Creator, ‘the creaturely counterpart of his divine self-existence.’ Further, this human responsibility is in the first instance ‘not … a task but a gift, … not law but grace.’ It expresses itself in ‘believing, responsive love.’ 24 So then, ‘one who has understood the nature of responsibility has understood the nature of man. Responsibility is not an attribute, it is the ‘substance’ of human existence. It contains everything, … [it is] that which distinguishes man from all other creatures.’ 25 Therefore ‘if responsibility be eliminated, the whole meaning of human existence disappears’ 26” (Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 97-98).

Stott approvingly cites Brunner as saying that the one who has “understood the nature of responsibility has understood the nature of man.” In light of Stott’s and Brunner’s view of human freedom constituting responsibility, what does this imply regarding their view of the nature of man?

For Brunner and Stott, the nature of responsibility is that man is responsible to his Creator only if he is free from the active control of his Creator. From this we can conclude how they understood the nature of man since, as Brunner stated, to understand one is to understand the other. For Brunner and Stott, the nature of responsibility and the nature of man is independence from the sovereign control of his Creator. Therefore, their view of the nature of man is in hearty agreement with the devil’s lie, “You shall be as God.”


23 Brunner, Man in Revolt, p. 257.
24 Ibid., p. 98.
25 Ibid., p. 50.
26 Ibid., p. 258.

Brunner’s book title, Man in Revolt is very appropriate given the rebellious words contained therein. And since Stott cites it approvingly, it is clearly seen that they are men in revolt against their Maker.