John Stott: A Fundamentalist in Sheep's Clothing?

The Anglican leader has decided to retire. What he needs to recognize is that his evangelical ideas retired long ago

In 1992 on a July night in Vancouver, I debated human sexuality with a man named John Stott before an audience of more than 2,000 people. The debate was videoed and played across the English-speaking world.

Who is John Stott? He is probably England's best known and most published evangelical Christian. So I read with a bit of nostalgia a recent notice that floated across the wire services announcing that this 79-year-old single man had finally decided to retire.

John Stott struggled all his life to make his dated version of Christianity relevant to the modern world. That is not easy since he, like all evangelicals, starts with the assumption that the Bible is "revealed truth." For John Stott, the proper method for settling questions for Christians is to search the Bible's pages for answers. Revealed truth for him is timeless, and thus Holy Scripture provides eternal solutions for all contemporary issues--an argument made by fundamentalist Christians.

John Stott would not be happy being tightly linked with fundamentalists. They are too strident, too unlearned to suit him!

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Hubert Humphrey once called Ronald Reagan "George Wallace with perfume." In a similar fashion, John Stott might be called "Jerry Falwell with perfume." Stott is sophisticated enough to know the literal Bible is filled with land mines, so he steps delicately around those places in Scripture where women are defined as the property of men, where polygamy is affirmed, where menstruation is regarded as a source of uncleanness, where slavery is viewed as an acceptable social institution, and where capital punishment is prescribed for such offences as being disobedient to one's parents, worshiping a false god, or being a homosexual.

Yet all of these things are present in the Bible Stott calls "the revealed truth of God." One wonders what he means by the use of both of those words "revealed" and "truth."

When challenged, Stott's pious smile disappears and his soft voice becomes edgy and rejecting. He suggests that anyone who disagrees with him disagrees with the revealed will of God. He seems never to have heard of Bible 101.

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