on 15 July 2014
Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) was a British theologian, missiologist, missionary and author. Though originally ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India's first bishops. These lectures were given to theological students in Glasgow in 1988 but have lost none of their relevance.
He tried to communicate the serious need for the church to once again take the Gospel to post-Christian Western culture, which he viewed not as a secular society without gods but as a pagan society with false gods] From Newbigin's perspective, western cultures, particularly modern scientific cultures, have uncritically come to believe in objective knowledge that was unaffected by faith-based axiomatic presuppositions. Newbigin challenges this ideas of neutrality and also the closely related discussion concerning the distinction between facts and values, both of which emerged from the Enlightenment.
He emphasises that it is the corporate task of the church to bear witness to all concerning the gospel. Jesus Christ is the absolute truth and only hope for mankind. There is no dualism between gospel witness and cultural transformation. This book is both intellectualy stimulating and heart warming for a Christian.
I have given only four stars because there are points where I think he is weak. We have a chapter on election but it not an election to personal salvation. It seems that all are elect in Christ. This leads to an agnostic view on the fate of those who do not hear or respond to the gospel. Both these weaknesses show a denial of penal substitutionary atonement. He fails to teach a real distinction between common and particular grace.He writes against what he calls a biblical fundamentalism but misrepresents it when he says that leaves the fundamentalist claiming to be free from error in his interpretation. In fact he seems to rarely if ever quote from scholars with an evangelical view of scripture preferring respectable theologians from academia who he says are operating within the plausibility structures of modern secularism, the very structures he is opposing. I think his thesis would have been helped by reference to the insights of sphere sovereignty as taught by Kuyper.
But my points of criticism do not diminish the force of this book contra pluralism and secularism. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The mission of the church is to bear witness in and to the transforming power of His Spirit.
on 13 July 2001
How can the message of the Christian gospel make sense in the modern pluralistic world?
From his vast experience in leading his Church in the culturally and spiritually diverse Indian subcontinent, the late Bishop Newbigin, helps to clarify the key issues of faith, and helpfully enables his reader to apply the messages learned to their context throughout the world.
This book is a must for anyone who is interested in seriously engaging with the work of Christian mission at home and abroad in this significant time of transition for the whole world.