Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Read this classic by Lesslie Newbigin for a few reasons. Many of the authors I like to read quote him, I was going to be preaching on the topic and, I made a book club with some friends to read it together.

It’s a stellar book, but it is really really wordy. It’s not an easy read, or a quick read. To recover afterwards I have only been reading the back side of cereal boxes.

Here’s a few earth shattering lines:

  • p.8/9 “Reason does not operate in a vacuum. The power of a human mind to think rationally is only developed in a tradition which itself depends on the experience of previous generations.”
  • p.10, “When coercion of any kind is used in the interests of the Christian message, the message itself is corrupted…We must affirm the gospel as truth, universal truth…but we negate the gospel if we deny the freedom in which alone it can be truly believed.”
  • p.47, “innovation can only be responsibly accepted from those who are already masters of the tradition, skilled practitioners of whom it could be said both that the tradition dwells fully in them and that they dwell fully in the tradition; and …that one alleged new fact, or even a number of new facts, does not suffice to discredit an established paradigm. That can only happen when a new and more compelling paradigm is offered, a vision of reality which commends itself by its beauty, rationality, and comprehensiveness.”
  • p.87, “God’s purpose of salvation is not that we should be taken out of history and related to him in some way which bypasses the specificities and particularities of history. His purpose is that in and through history there should be brought into being that which is symbolized in the vision with which the Bible ends – the Holy City into which all the glory of the nations will finally be gathered.”
  • p.155, “The famous watchword ‘The Evangelization of the World in This Generation’ was a typical example of this aggressive imperialism. It is inappropriate for today’s world.”
  • p.199, quoting Alasdair MacIntyre’s  After Virtue, “So the questions ‘How shall I behave?’ is only to be answered by asking the more basic question, ‘What kind of a community do I want to share in?'”
  • p.224, “The question of power is inescapable. Whatever their pretensions, schools teach children to believe something and not something else. There is no ‘secular’ neutrality. Christians cannot evade the responsibility which a democratic society gives to every citizen to seek access to the levers of power. But the issue has never confronted the Church in this way before; we are in a radically new situation and cannot dream either of a Constantinian authority or of a pre-Constantinian innocence.”
  • p.225, “‘No one,’ [Jesus] said, ‘takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord'”

There’s also some full sections which I just loved, but I couldn’t spend all night typing these up, so, if you like reading really difficult books, pick it up for yourself!


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