John Stott at 90

InterVarsity Press is privileged to have been associated with the ministry of John Stott for over fifty years. His clear, balanced, sound perspective on Scripture and life has been filled with a grace and strength that seems rare in this era of extreme viewpoints and harsh rhetoric. As tomorrow marks his ninetieth birthday, I want to consider just one aspect of his character and vast influence.

Throughout his ministry Stott (now retired) has

i-b084b7ba9cedf37d595dfcad822900a2-John Sottt.jpg

been an evangelical statesman, a decidedly vanishing breed. He has never sought to divide Christians, to win over people to the particulars of all his viewpoints. Rather he has worked to unite Christians in the basic convictions of the faith. Stott has not emphasized the differences Christians have with one another but what we have in common. He never aimed to win so much as to be winsome.

In this regard Stott was so fond of the following quotation from Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Charles Simeon (ed. William Carus, 1847) that he quoted it at least twice, once in Christ the Controversialist (p. 45) and again, more extensively, in Balanced Christianity (p. 10). Simeon begins with the comment: “The truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes. . . . Here are two . . . extremes, Calvinism and Arminianism.” Then Simeon imagines a conversation with the apostle Paul.

“How do you move in reference to these, Paul? In a golden mean?”


“To one extreme?”


“How then?”

“To both extremes; today I am a strong Calvinist; tomorrow a strong Arminian.”

“Well, well, Paul, I see thou art beside thyself; go to Aristotle and learn the golden mean.”

Simeon continues:

“. . . But, my brother, I am unfortunate; I formerly read Aristotle, and liked him much; I have since read Paul and caught somewhat of his strange notions, oscillating (not vacillating) from pole to pole. Sometimes I am a high Calvinist, at other times a low Arminian, so that if extremes will please you, I am your man; only remember, it is not one extreme that we are to go to, but both extremes.”

The supreme example of this came when Stott was the chair of the committee that framed the Lausanne Covenant in 1974, a document that still resonates with clarity and charity.

But there is an exception that likewise proves the rule. Stott famously confronted D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1968, drawing a line and saying he will go this far and no farther. What is remarkable about it is not just that there came a point when Stott felt compelled to clarify a key doctrinal difference he had with a brother in Christ; but rather that this was not a division over truth but over fellowship.

Lloyd-Jones called for evangelicals to come out of the Anglican Church because of the way Lloyd-Jones (a free churcher) perceived the established church of England to have become doctrinally compromised. Stott felt otherwise. History proved Stott correct; evangelical influence in the Anglican Church became very strong in the forty years since this confrontation, largely because Stott led an evangelical resurgence.

Rather than looking for ways to divide from or disagree with other Christians, Stott sought where possible to find common ground.

He truly has been pastor to the world.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

3 thoughts on “John Stott at 90”

  1. I was deeply influenced by the writings of John Stott as an undergraduate in the 1990’s. I imagine that I might be a part of the last generation of IVCF undergraduates to look to him as a model pastor/scholar. The Contemporary Christian might have been the first book by Stott that I read. I had picked up that Simeon was very much a model for Stott from reading the two volume biography by Dudley-Smith.

    Today, I noticed that pages 99 through 130 are missing in my copy of Vol.1: The Making of a Leader. Is this just a printing mistake with my volume or was this a mistake in every copy that rolled off the press? Was it ever corrected? Will IVP replace my defective volume?

  2. I also encountered Rev. Stott as an undergraduate, although in the late 80s — although I started with Your Mind Matters and then skipped to The Cross of Christ and Christ the Controversialist (found in a used bookstore in Chicago). Evangelical Essentials soon followed. You describe him eloquently and truthfully, Andy.

    He remains my personal model of a Christian leader: visionary, gracious, irenic, and biblical.

Comments are closed.