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The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Paperback – 1 Jan 1989

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Product details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Ethics & Public Policy Center Inc.,U.S. (1 Jan. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802804268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802804266
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,417,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review


Christianity Today, "Number 9 Readers Choice"(1991)
Christianity Today, "Top 100 Books of the 20th Century"(2000)"

Christianity Today, "Number 9 Readers Choice"(1991)Christianity Today, "Top 100 Books of the 20th Century"(2000)"


Christianity Today, Number 9 Readers Choice (1991)
Christianity Today, Top 100 Books of the 20th Century (2000)

From the Back Cover

How does the gospel relate to a pluralist society? What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism? Should Christians encountering today's pluralist society concentrate on evangelism or on dialogue? How does the prevailing climate of opinion affect, perhaps infect, Christians faith?

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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 55 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound Book that Challenges its Readers 17 Oct. 2008
By Craig Stephans - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin provides a healthy challenge to the defenses of the secular humanistic plausibility structure, and he challenges Christians to live such lives that bear witness to the living Savior they profess. I have to agree with Newbigin that it is time for secular humanists and Christians to examine and prove their beliefs. If Christianity is true, we should see it demonstratively portrayed among those who profess it. Newbigin asserts that this is Christians' mission; he also challenges secularists to defend their worldview.

Newbigin calls out secularists as practicing hypocrisy by cynically questioning and dismissing Christian dogma while refusing to question or even admit our own secular dogma. He writes, "In our contemporary world...the readiness to question dogma is regarded as one of the marks of intellectual maturity and competence." (Newbigin 5) He cites the sharp distinction among us between what we call "facts" and what we call "values." Secularists, he writes, usually think of their own dogma as "facts" and any religious dogma as "values" that can therefore be dismissed.

Newbigin contends that secularism's belief in relative moral and spiritual truths is an avoidance of reality. He writes,

"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." (Newbigin 22)

Newbigin refuses and rejects any type of coercion to Christianity. Instead he turns to Christians and essentially writes that if they expect unbelievers to turn to Jesus Christ then they better start living lives that bear witness to their Lord's presence.

Newbigin calls Christians to a "radical kind of conversion...a transformation by the renewing of the mind so as not to be conformed to this world, not to see things as our culture sees them, but...to see things in a radically different way." (Newbigin 38)

If Christians begin consistently and generally living lives as Newbigin urges that "prove that faith true in circumstances which seem to call it into question," the world could not help but to take notice. (Newbigin 63) The witness of the church should, according to Newbigin, contradict the most fundamental beliefs of our culture.

He writes that God has chosen to save all people through Jesus Christ:

"The cross of Jesus is the place where all human beings without exception are exposed as enemies of God, and the place where all human beings without exception are accepted as beloved of God, objects of his forgiving grace." (Newbigin 86)

Newbigin is adamant to explain that this "good news" does not translate to universalism--a belief that everyone will gain eternal salvation, but it also does not exclude anyone as being beyond God's saving reach.

Newbigin emphasizes the community of believers that ought to exist in the world as a witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He writes that "the distinguishing mark of this community will be hope." (Newbigin 101) This hope springs from the belief that Jesus Christ who died and was raised to life will come again in glory. This hope contrasts what Newbigin calls the culture's "absence of any sense of worthwhile future." (Newbigin 101)

For Newbigin, Christians do not have the luxury of living isolated lives enjoying their personal salvation. He asserts throughout this book that Christians are called to live in fellowship and communion with one another as much as with the Lord.

According to Newbigin, the church might be falling short in its duty to overcome the enemy through its Lord. As its mission is to bear witness to Jesus Christ, it faces ongoing conflict with the forces of darkness. Newbigin challenges the church to target its real enemy. He writes,

"When it goes the way the Master went, unmasking and challenging the powers of darkness and bearing in its own life the cost of their onslaught, then there are given to the Church signs of the kingdom, powers of healing and blessing which, to eyes of faith, are recognizable as true signs that Jesus reigns." (Newbigin 108)

Newbigin exhorts the church to follow its Lord in self-sacrificing prayer and in taking on spiritual powers behind the evil in the world. He claims that it is only when the church engages in such battle that it will be empowered to bring blessing and healing.

Newbigin writes that the church in affluent societies keeps its faith and hope to itself. To Newbigin, this privatized faith is anathema to the mission of God in the world. This mission is to present a new reality to the world that prompts inquiries that can then be answered by the gospel.

He calls Christians to discipleship, which is a closer relationship with Jesus. He writes,

"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...is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost." (Newbigin 240-241)

Newbigin is not shy about admitting the church's guilt in allowing its own interests to get ahead of Jesus' interests. Newbigin implies that without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit the church's witness is not going to be effective regardless of what they do.

Newbigin advises his readers to accept the reality of pluralism but not the message it espouses. For him, Jesus Christ, the divine man, is the one way to salvation--not one among many. I am thankful that he also reminds Christians that their Lord and the heart of the biblical vision is not imperial power but the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.

Craig Stephans, author of Shakespeare On Spirituality: Life-Changing Wisdom from Shakespeare's Plays
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but... 3 Jan. 2013
By John Seale - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. I was excited to see such radical thinking in many places. He showed himself over and over again willing to step outside of the normal framework of Christian thinking to re-examine a topic. For example, he steps outside of the contextualization discussion to say that there is no Gospel that is not contextualized. He looks at traditional debates such as word vs. deed ministry and reason vs. revelation vs. experience to say that in each case, all sides are right and necessary. He does not limit himself to Christian subjects, either, taking time to attack the doubt claims of science and the possibility of a secular and pluralist society. I thoroughly appreciated his commentary on these subjects, as he always stepped outside the debate to redefine the terms and show how the entire reason for the debate was a misunderstanding of the Gospel. His focus on Christian community and on living it out fully in life is refreshing.
I did take exception at one point in the book, however. In chapter 14, Newbigin expresses his views on inclusivist, exclusivist, and pluralist views of the Gospel. He draws a line between all three on pages 182-183 that I find to be both untenable and incorrect based on Scripture. I felt, similarly to what he did in the chapter on election, that he sidestepped many of the major points of the arguments too much, and in the end missed the point. I failed to recognize how he could maintain a seemingly contradictory position, and particularly in chapter 14 felt like I disagreed with him. I found myself writing “Is this true?” and “I disagree here” in the margins, and in the end I may have to be content being an exclusivist as he defines it.
This book will be applicable to my ministry. I like the way that he redefines many core concepts, and I will work to incorporate his new definitions into my vocabulary. Additionally, his arguments in various debates will prove useful for future study and teaching.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 29 Dec. 2011
By Corey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A classic work which I'm embarrassed to be reading just now. Newbigin's book is a treatise on understanding and living Christianity in an age of pluralism, and his primary argument is that the Christian faith is both contextual and relatively understood as well as universal and intended as truth for all. He bases his argument in a comparison with science, arguing that faith and science are both ways of knowing that have their own fundamental assumptions. In this way, he attempts to demonstrate that Christianity is not just a matter of subjective belief opposed to reason but a different, equally valid set of lenses just as reason and science are.

Newbigin is fascinating and it's hard to pin him down. Every time he said something that I didn't buy or thought I disagreed with, I then couldn't find a way to refute it.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Missiological Worldview Books of Our Time 29 Oct. 2014
By Glenn E. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow! Where do I begin? Lesslie Newbigin was one the leading missiologists of our time. Newbigin pastored for many years as a Bishop in the Church of South India while serving as a delegate to the World Council of Churches. After retiring from his pastoral/missions work in India, Newbigin assisted in planting an inner-city church in Birmingham, England. With that in mind, the reader should know that the views expressed in this book have not only been conceived mentally, but lived practically. *The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society's* major strength is its thoroughgoing evaluation of post-modern pluralism. Newbigin exposes its weaknesses, inconsistencies, and methodological failures. On the positive side, Newbigin gives an excellent defense of the doctrine of election, the Gospel and its power to change, and the ministry of the church in the world. My favorite quote:

"The cross of Jesus is the place where all human beings without exception are exposed as enemies of God, and the place where all human beings without exception are accepted as beloved of God, objects of his forgiving grace" (pg. 86).

However, I do have two disagreements with Newbigin: I grow weary of the pitting of God's story/truth as narrative against doctrine/propositional theology (pg. 12). The Apostle Paul did both, he told the story of salvation from Abraham through Israel to Jesus and taught doctrinal truths that should be accepted and believed by every Christian. Second, Newbigin's embrace of Karl Rahner's anonymous Christian idea I found rather curious. To think that a sincerely seeking Hindu is really an anonymous Christian is actually insulting to the Hindu and still does not adequately explain how God judges those who have never heard the Gospel.

*The Gospel in a Pluralist Society* was ground breaking when written in 1989 at a time when the West was accepting the presuppositions of the post-modern worldview and the book still maintains its relevance as our society fully embraces the mindset of a supposedly tolerant, pluralistic, non-judging culture.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Describes faith from God's point of view 27 April 2016
By Hope - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent! Describes faith from God's point of view. Newbigin expresses the challenges our faith faces. He speaks of the church being weeded from its 15th century stance to one that addresses the 21st century's concerns of building a new brotherhood among all faiths.
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