Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary, Bishop, Theologian (January 30, 1998)

Newbigin is one of the best and most important theologians of the modern era. He served as a Bishop in India and in other missionary ministry positions for several decades before returning to find his native England radically different from the England he had left in the late 1940’s. Much of his writing was in response to the cultural shift he witnessed. In a radical shift from the norm of modern Christian apologetics, Newbigin approached the modern west from a cross-cultural perspective. Some have said that his missiological and ecclesiological work is comparable to the church fathers. In commemoration of his passing I share this passage from his book, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth.

I am trying to talk about the gospel–good news about something which happened and which does not change…There is a gospel to announce today because in the light of the resurrection the whole story of Jesus can be seen not as a series of ghastly misunderstandings and disappointments, but as the supreme action of God’s Holy love, and the whole story of Israel can be seen–as the two disciples on the Emmaus Road began to see–as having its fulfillment in this action.

And when the Church affirms the gospel as public truth it is not engaged in a self serving exercise. It is not simply promoting its own growth…But when the Church affirms the gospel as public truth it is challenging the whole of society to wake out of the nightmare of subjectivism and relativism, to escape from the captivity of the self turned in upon itself, and to accept the calling which is addressed to every human being to seek, acknowledge, and proclaim the truth. For we are that part of God’s creation which he has equipped with the power to know the truth and to speak the praise of the whole creation in response to the truthfulness of the Creator (12-13).

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