Sunday, June 25, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909 – 1998)


Christian theologian and bishop involved in missiology and the Gospel & Our Culture Movement.
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Lesslie Newbigin
So we already have the evidence of the dichotomy that runs through our culture. We all engage in purposeful activity, and we judge ourselves and others in terms of success in achieving the purposes that we set before ourselves. Yet we accept as the final product of this purposeful activity a picture of the world from which purpose has been eliminated. Purpose is a meaningful concept in relation to our own consciousness of ourselves, but it is allowed no place in our understanding of the world of facts.
Newbigin quotes
What is striking about the books which were written, especially during the eighteenth century, to defend Christianity against these attacks, is the degree to which they accept the assumptions of their assailants. Christianity is defended as being reasonable. It can be accommodated within these assumptions, which all reasonable people hold. There is little suggestion that the assumptions themselves are to be challenged. The defense is, in fact, a tactical retreat. But, as later history has shown, these tactical retreats can--if repeated often enough--begin to look more like a rout.
Newbigin
The necessary precondition for the birth of science as we know it is, it would seem, the diffusion through society of the belief that the universe is both rational and contingent. Such a belief is the presupposition of modern science and cannot by any conceivable argument be a product of science. One has to ask: Upon what is this belief founded?




Newbigin Lesslie quotes
The leaders of this movement [The Religious Right in the United States], while accepting the biblical doctrine regarding the radical corruption of human nature by sin, in effect exempt themselves as "born-again Christians" from its operation. They identify their own cause unconditionally with the cause of God, regard their critics as agents of Satan, and are apparently prepared to see the human race obliterated in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which the nuclear arsenal of the United States is the instrument of Jesus for the fulfillment of his purpose against the Soviet Union as the citadel of evil. This confusion of a particular and fallible set of political and moral judgements with the cause of Jesus Christ is more dangerous than the open rejection of the claim of Christ in Islam [....] The "Religious Right" uses the name of Jesus to cover the absolute claims of one national tradition.
Newbigin Lesslie
must we not say that it is part of the deep sickness of our culture that ever since Descartes, we have been seduced by the idea of a kind of knowledge which could not be doubted, in which we would be absolutely secure from personal risk? And has not this seduction taken two forms which, even if they disclaim all relationship with each other, are really twin brothers? One is biblical fundamentalism which supposes that adherence to the text of the Bible frees me from the risk of error and therefore gives me a security which does not depend on my own discernment of the truth. The other is a type of scientism which supposes that science is simply a transcript of reality, of the "facts" which simply have to be accepted and call for no personal decision on my part, a kind of knowledge which is "objective" and free from all the bias of subjectivity.
Lesslie Newbigin quotes
The missionary calling has sometimes been interpreted as a calling to stem this fearful cataract of souls going to eternal perdition. But I do not find this in the center of the New Testament representation of the missionary calling.
Lesslie Newbigin
If the gospel is to challenge the public life of our society, if Christians are to occupy the "high ground" which they vacated in the noon time of "modernity," it will not be by forming a Christian political party, or by aggressive propaganda campaigns. Once again it has to be said that there can be no going back to the "Constantinian" era. It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But that will only happen as and when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God's redeeming grace for the whole life of society.
Newbigin Lesslie quotes
There is a need for what [Michael] Polanyi calls the critique of doubt. When we undertake to doubt any statement, we do so on the basis of beliefs which--in the act of doubting--we do not doubt. I can only doubt the truth of a statement on the ground of other things--usually a great many things--which I believe to be true. It is impossible at the same time to doubt both the statement, and the beliefs on the basis of which the statement is doubted.
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