This interview with John Stott was originally published in 'Working
Together', the magazine of the Australian Evangelical Alliance. The
second half will be included in the May 2007 issue of Oz-e-Con.
QUESTION (TIM STAFFORD): AS YOU SEE IT, WHAT IS EVANGELICALISM, AND
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
JOHN STOTT: An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian standing in
the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can
recite the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our
fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the
Holy Spirit. Having said that, there are two particular things we like
to emphasise: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation
on the other.
For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken
supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or
salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation
What God has SAID in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and
what God has DONE in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek
word, 'hapax', meaning once and for all. There is a finality about
God's word in Christ, and there is a finality about God's work in
Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word or add a work
to his work is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord
YOU DIDN'T MENTION THE BIBLE, WHICH WOULD SURPRISE SOME PEOPLE.
STOTT: I did actually but you didn't notice it. I said Christ and the
biblical witness to Christ. But the really distinctive emphasis is on
Christ. I want to shift conviction from a book, if you like, to a
person. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me.
Their main function is to witness to Christ.
PART OF YOUR IMPLICATION IS THAT EVANGELICALS ARE NOT TO BE A
NEGATIVELY INSPIRED PEOPLE. OUR REAL FOCUS OUGHT TO BE THE GLORY OF
STOTT: I believe that very strongly. We believe in the authority of
the Bible because
Christ has endorsed its authority. He stands between the two
testaments. As we look back to the Old Testament, he has endorsed it.
As we look forward to the New Testament, we accept it because of the
apostolic witness to Christ. He deliberately chose and appointed and
prepared the apostles, in order that they might have their unique
apostolic witness to him. I like to see Christ in the middle,
endorsing the old, preparing for the new. Although the question of the
New Testament canon is complicated, in general we are able to say that
canonicity is apostolicity.
HOW HAS THE POSITION OF EVANGELICALS CHANGED DURING YOUR YEARS OF MINISTRY?
STOTT: I look back – it's been sixty-one years since I was ordained –
and when I was ordained in the Church of England, evangelicals in that
church were a despised and rejected minority. The bishops lost no
opportunity to ridicule us. Over the intervening sixty years, I've
seen the evangelical movement in England grow in size, in maturity,
and certainly in scholarship, and therefore I think in influence and
impact. We went from a ghetto to being on the ascendancy, which is a
very dangerous place to be.
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE DANGERS?
STOTT: Pride is the ever-present danger that faces all of us. In many
ways it is good for us to be despised and rejected. I think of Jesus'
words, 'Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.' Going back to
the 'hapax', it's a very humbling concept. The essence of
evangelicalism is very humbling. You have William Temple saying, 'The
only thing of my very own which I contribute to redemption is the sin
from which I need to be redeemed.'
WE HAVE ALSO SEEN AN IMMENSE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH WORLDWIDE, LARGELY
AMONG EVANGELICAL LINES. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS ITS SIGNIFICANCE?
STOTT: This enormous growth is a fulfilment of God's promise to
Abraham in Genesis 12:1-4. God promised Abraham not only to bless him,
not only to bless his family or his posterity, but through his
posterity to bless all the families of the earth. Whenever we look at
a multi-ethnic congregation, we are seeing a fulfilment of that
amazing promise of God. A promise made by God to Abraham 4,000 years
ago is being fulfilled right before our very eyes today.
YOU KNOW THIS GROWING CHURCH PROBABLY AS WELL AS ANY WESTERNER DOES.
I WONDER HOW YOU EVALUATE IT.
STOTT: The answer is 'growth without depth'. None of us wants to
dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been
largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been
sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in