The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin was one of the required texts for our World Missions class last month, and it’s my first time reading his work. At first he seemed a little “out there” but the further I get into the text the more I like what I’m reading. He is at once very traditional (in theology) and very postmodern (in reasoning) and the combination is, among other things, very refreshing.
According to the cover, Newbigin (1909-1998) was a British pastor, missionary, apologist, evangelist in India, and Assoc. Gen. Secretary for the World Council of Churches among other things. Like most Brits I’ve read, the clarity of his thinking and writing makes even difficult concepts accessible. And, like most Brits I’ve read, what he writes challenges the reader to think.
Here are a few quotes. Bon apetit!
(regarding the modern belief in approaching all knowledge with scepticism): “The quest for certainty through universal doubt is a blind alley. The program of universal doubt… can in the end only lead — as it has led — to universal scepticism and nihilism, to the world which Nietzsche foresaw…” (p. 33)
“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of “the missionary mandate”. …misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel.” (p. 116)
“When I say ‘I believe,’ I am not merely describing an inward feeling or experience: I am affirming what I believe to be true, and therefore what is true for everyone. …if I try to keep my belief as a private matter, it is not belief in the truth.” (p. 22)
“Most ordinary people… still operate with the myths of “value-free facts” and a mechanical universe… The facts are “value-free” because the world of which they are a part is not the product of any purpose… It has been seriously argued that a monkey with a typewriter could — given time — produce by chance all the plays of William Shakespeare. I have not yet heard a scientist saying that the monkey could have manufactured the typewriter by chance.” (p. 38)