Christians in Politics: John Stott

John Stott Politics Political Involvement

There are many views on how Christians should (or shouldn’t) engage in politics. One view that I resonate with deeply is that of John Stott, a key figure in classic evangelicalism and a household name in the UK.

In my view, Stott’s view could be characterised as ‘thoughtful engagement’, in that he encourages Christians to engage in politics generally, but in the specific ‘active’ form of party politics only after great and careful thought and prayer. Given his general approach to things, this is not necessarily a surprise, but is an encouragement for Christians engaged in the political space.

I reproduce a quote from The World: A Mission to Be Accomplished, which is a recent update by Tim Chester and IVP UK of a section of his classic book The Contemporary Christian. Engaging with the question ‘shouldn’t Christians steer clear of politics?’, Stott writes:

If we define politics narrowly as referring to the policies and programmes for legislative change developed by political parties, then it it is true that Christians should not get involved unless they are prepared to do their homework. Politics is for the politicians who have gained the necessary expertise. There are few things more embarrassing than the sight of Chrstians pontificating on political issues from positions of ignorance.

The broader definition of ‘politics’, however, refers to the life of the polis, the city, and to the art of living together in community. In this sense, all of us are involved in politics, since Jesus calls us to live in the secular world. 

Social welfare is not enough. Campaigning for legislative change is an essential expression of neighbour-love. For example we have to go :
– beyond healing individuals to building hospitals where different medical specialities are concentrated;
– beyond feeding the hungry to the establishment of a new international economic order in which hunger is abolished;
– beyond binding up people’s wounds like the good Samaritan to the task of ridding the Jericho road of robbers;
– beyond the fair treatment of slaves to the abolition of slavery itself.

There may be no explicit biblical warrant for these things, and certainly Jesus never called for the emancipation of slaves. But are we not profoundly thankful that his followers did centuries later? Political action defined as love seeking justice for the oppressed is a legitimate extrapolation from the biblical emphasis on the practical priorities of love


But what do you think? Do let me know in the comments or on social media!

  1. Book Review: The World – Thomas Creedy's Blog

    […] Written by ‘an evangelical of evangelicals’, to misquote Paul and apply it to Stott, there is a robust challenge throughout to the evangelical movement that we have not always understood mission well. For example, Stott writes that “we must agree that contemporary issues of social justice should be of enormous concern to all Christians, since we acknowledge the dignity of human beings as people made in God’s image. We should therefore be ashamed that evangelical Christians have all too often tended to be in the rearguard, instead of in the vanguard, of social reform.” Amen! This challenge and question is teased out in a wonderful way, as I note in a post about Stott’s view on Politics. […]

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