Book Highlights, Culture, Quotations

Book Highlights: Lesslie Newbigin – The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

April 25, 2015

I love reading books, and I love sharing what I read. This post and others like it are a small section of highlights from some of the books I’ve been reading recently. These ones are from Lesslie Newbigin’s book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.

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The minister’s leadership of the congregation in its mission to the world will be first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration which remains hidden from the world but which is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost.

However grievously the Church may have distorted and misused the concept of dogma in the course of history, and it has indeed done so grievously, the reality which this word designated is present from the beginning and is intrinsic to the gospel.

The presupposition of all valid and coherent Christian thinking is that God has acted to reveal and effect his purpose for the world in the manner made known in the Bible.

The gospel gives rise to a new plausibility structure, a radically different vision of things from those that shape all human cultures apart from the gospel. The Church, therefore, as the bearer of the gospel, inhabits a plausibility structure which is at variance with, and which calls in question, those that govern all human cultures without exception.

The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about “what is true for me” is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death.

It is obvious that the story of the empty tomb cannot be fitted into our contemporary worldview, or indeed into any worldview except one of which it is the starting point. That is, indeed, the whole point. What happened on that day is, according to the Christian tradition, only to be understood by analogy with what happened on the day the cosmos came into being. It is a boundary event, at the point where (as cosmologists tell us) the laws of physics cease to apply. It is the beginning of a new creation — as mysterious to human reason as the creation itself.

God’s saving revelation of himself does not come to us straight down from above — through the skylight, as we might say. In order to receive God’s saving revelation we have to open the door to the neighbor whom he sends as his appointed messenger, and — moreover — to receive that messenger not as a temporary teacher or guide whom we can dispense with when we ourselves have learned what is needed, but as one who will permanently share our home. There is no salvation except one in which we are saved together through the one whom God sends to be the bearer of his salvation.

The risen Jesus did not appear to everyone. He did not appear (as is often foolishly asserted) to the believers; there were no believers before he appeared to them.

A society which believes in a worthwhile future saves in the present so as to invest in the future. Contemporary Western society spends in the present and piles up debts for the future, ravages the environment, and leaves its grandchildren to cope with the results as best they can.

Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed.

The important thing in the use of the Bible is not to understand the text but to understand the world through the text.

The Church is not so much the agent of the mission as the locus of the mission. It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing mighty works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ.

Healings, even the most wonderful, do not call this present world radically into question; the gospel does, and this has to be made explicit. On the other hand, the preaching is meaningless without the healings. They are the true explanation of what is happening, but if nothing is happening no explanation is called for and the words are empty words. They do not answer any real question.

The very heart of the biblical vision for the unity of humankind is that its center is not an imperial power but the slain Lamb.

When God raised the crucified Jesus, this present age and its structures was exposed, illuminated, unmasked — but not destroyed. Cross and resurrection seen together mean both judgment and grace, both wrath and endless patience. God still upholds the structures; without them the world would collapse and human life would be unthinkable. But the structures lose their pretended absoluteness. Nothing now is absolute except God as he is known in Jesus Christ; everything else is relativized. That is the bottom line for Christian thinking and the starting point for Christian action in the affairs of the world.

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