Rev. Dr John Stott – Patron of LIFE
John R W Stott died on Thursday 27 July. Many, many tributes have already been made to this remarkable and self-effacing Christian. I want to honour the man with a brief comment, chiefly concerning his association with LIFE.
Undoubtedly, John Stott was one of the greatest evangelical Christian leaders of the last century and certainly one of its finest Bible teachers and writers. During my early days as a new Christian I read with profit his excellent Basic Christianity, which, in those days, was standard fare for Christian Union students – it has since been translated into more than 60 languages and sold more than 2.5 million copies. I also well remember hearing him preach to more than 12,000 university students on The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) over several days at the 1970 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s conference at Urbana, Chicago – he made it all seem so simple, yet so profound and necessary. He was, above all else, a wonderful Gospel communicator – as someone has said, he will best be remembered for, ‘… his success in decoding the complexities of theology for lay people.’ And he had that most beautiful voice and English accent.
Among his many other admirable characteristics was the fact that he was entirely pro-life. His chapter entitled The Abortion Dilemma in his classic 1990 book, Issues Facing Christians Today is typically full of insight and wisdom.
In 1982, several of us formed Evangelicals for LIFE as a specialist grouping within the LIFE organisation to encourage evangelical Christians to understand the abortion issue and to join LIFE. In 1984, John Stott was invited to become a patron of LIFE – he readily agreed.
I wrote to him over the next few years requesting him to speak at the annual LIFE Conference. He politely declined all such invitations excusing himself because of a full diary – little did I know then how truly self-disciplined and genuinely busy he was writing his many books and speaking at meetings around the world. Eventually, he asked me to refrain from my annual request, but instead kindly offered the following contribution, which appeared in a 1987 issue of the Evangelicals for LIFE Newsletter.
‘One of the surest characteristics of a civilised society is its respect for the sanctity of human life. Indeed, life in all its forms demands our respect, but it is human life in particular whose sanctity we affirm, because it is the life of persons made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
By this criterion our country has for twenty years steadily been slipping back into barbarism. For the abortion statistics are truly horrifying, and the framers of the 1967 Abortion Act never intended, or even anticipated that it would permit the slaughter of nearly three million unborn children. No, the Act has been seriously – even flagrantly – abused. In consequence, morally-sensitive people will not rest until it has been repealed and its provisions tightened. Nor can we come to terms with any legislation which tolerates experimentation on the living human embryo.
Moreover, the sanctity of human life extends beyond the foetus to the well-being of the mother, of the family and of the child after birth. I am thankful that LIFE cherishes this holistic vision. We are anti-abortion and anti-experimentation because we are pro-life. We need to be consistent in the seeking to protect human life at every stage in its journey from the womb to the tomb.’
What a man! He will be missed, but fondly remembered, as the man who opened the Book and lived the life. LIFE is very grateful for his whole-hearted support of the pro-life cause.