Around six months ago, I read my first dose of Lesslie Newbigin simply because I heard him quoted from time to time. I read him because I like to get to know important church figures and their thought (at least to some extent). The Gospel in a Pluralist Society was the first book by Newbigin I dug into, and I’ve been “hooked” ever since. If you want to read some of Newbigin but don’t know where to start, you may want to check out Lesslie Newbigin Missionary Theologian: A Reader edited by Paul Weston (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006). In this book, Weston basically took all the writings of Newbigin and put them in a historical and topical order, giving the reader a great summary of Newbigin’s thought.
The book has two basic sections: 1) The Theological Foundations For Missions and 2) Missionary Theology in Practice. Here’s a chunk of the opening chapter (following a short biography of Newbigin) on The Knowledge of God.
“It is the mark of religion, among the activities of the human spirit, to claim to be the bearer of revelation; to claim, that is to say, that the message which it delivers and the facts with which it deals are not the fruit of unaided human processes of observation and inference, but have their root in transactions in which man plays the part of the recipient and not of originator. In Christianity this is central.”
“There have been divergences, sometimes wide, but the main current of Christian thought has echoed the words of Christ: ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding and didst reveal them unto babes.’ It has been the glory of Christianity to find its saints among those whom the world counts babes, and to exclude from the sphere where it is most intolerable the snobbery which makes blessedness dependent upon abilities which must always be the possession of a few” (p. 18).
In other words, Christianity is not a mathematical endeavor in which the “knowledgeable” have some sort of superiority (like science). Christianity is receiving something from Someone else and personally trusting that testimony which He has chosen to reveal to us.
It is a Newbigin summer over here in South Central Washington State. I’m going to read Foolishness to the Greeks next.