Stott on fundamentalist, liberal, evangelical

Posted in Blog, Christianity

Friday 29 July 2011

In his debate with the distinguished liberal thinker, David Edwards, John Stott developed a little parable. It used flight as a picture of freedom and sought to characterise (but not he hoped caricature) the essential difference between the fundamentalist, the liberal and the evangelical.

He wrote: The fundamentalist seems to me to resemble a caged bird, which possesses the capacity for flight, but lacks the freedom to use it. For the fundamentalist mind is confined or caged by an over literal interpretation of Scripture, and by the strict traditions and conventions into which this has led him. He is not at liberty to question these, or to explore alternative, equally faithful ways of applying Scripture to the modern world, for he cannot escape from his cage.

The liberal seems to me to resemble (no offence meant!) a gas-filled balloon, which takes off and rises into the air, buoyant, free, directed by its own built-in navigational responses to wind and pressure, but entirely unrestrained from earth. For the liberal mind has not anchorage; it is accountable only to itself.

The Evangelical seems to me to resemble a kite, which can also take off, fly great distances and soar to great height, while all the time being tethered to the earth. For the Evangelical mind is held by revelation. Without doubt if often needs a longer string, for we are not renowned for creative thinking. Nevertheless, at least in the ideal, I see Evangelicals as finding true freedom under the authority of revealed truth, and combining a radical mind-set and lifestyle with a conservative commitment to Scripture.