John R. W. Stott on Social Action -- By: Gary T. Meadors

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 01:2 (Fall 1980)
Article: John R. W. Stott on Social Action
Author: Gary T. Meadors

John R. W. Stott on Social Action

Gary T. Meadors

The place of social concerns in missions has become an important issue in evangelicalism within the past decade. In the last year, one of the leading spokesmen for including social action as an equal partner with evangelism in missions has been John Stott. The salient points of Stotts arguments and his use of Scripture are examined and found to be wanting. Furthermore, the emphasis seen in Stotts recent writings illustrates a trend in the thinking of many evangelicals which is cause for concern.

* * *

The battle lines in the present debate over the Bible include the foundational issues of epistemology and authority. The authority of Scripture is also the battle line for another battle—the battle for world evangelization. The authority of Scripture is acquiesced to and even claimed, but its authority is rendered void by faulty hermeneutics and unbiblical emphases.

At the forefront of this battle is one of Evangelicalism’s favorite sons, John R. W. Stott, Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London and also an honorary chaplain to the Queen of England. There is some suspicion, however, that Stott is not a true friend to biblical evangelicalism.

The present paper is a selective review of John Stott’s articles in the “Cornerstone” column of Christianity Today from September 21, 1979 to May 23, 1980.1 Two themes are preeminent in this period of

writing: The Christian as a peacemaker and the need for Christian concern for universal opportunity for economic equality.

A proper and full evaluation of Stott would require an in-depth study of all of his publications in chronological order, especially from 1966 to the present, a period of shifting from his original position on missions to his present emphasis on social action. This study, however is not within the scope of the present review.

I. An Introduction to Stott’s Assertions

The purpose of this section is to give an overview of Stott’s assertions in the articles cited in the introduction. Several aspects of these articles will be dealt with in more detail in the following sections of this review.

A. Initial background

The articles presently under consideration take on more meaning when viewed in reference to Stott’s controversy with Arthur Johnston of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Johnston published The Battle for World Evangelism in 1978. In this work he surveyed the history of modern evangelism, particularly in light of the ecumenical moveme...

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