Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The final authority (Newbigin)

It's been too long since I posted anything from Lesslie Newbigin. The following quote is from a 1993 article "Religious Pluralism: a Missiological Approach".

The final authority for the Christian faith is the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. If I am pressed to give reasons for being a Christian, I can only reply by speaking of the calling of Jesus Christ which has come to me through his Church and is authenticated by the working of the Holy Spirit as mediated to me through the word and sacraments of the gospel and the life of the believing community. If I have accepted that calling, I cannot accept the widely prevalent custom of putting the cross in a whole list of symbols of the world's religions. The cross is not a mere symbol like the OM often used to denote Hinduism, or the crescent denoting Islam. The crucifixion of Jesus was an event in history, the mighty act of God by which at infinite cost he reconciled the fallen world to himself and rescued it from perdition. To suggest that there is a reality more inclusive than this is to deny it.

Newbigin wasn't one to shy away from dialogue with people of other faiths; going so far as to say that Christians should look eagerly for "evidence of the work of God's grace" in the life of devout adherents of other religions. If Jesus is "the eternal word of God active in all creation and in all human life" then this shouldn't be surprising. But for Newbigin "dialogue" didn't mean (as it often does these days) giving in to religious pluralism in which all truth claims are equally valid -- the kind of sentiment I suspect is behind the popular bumper sticker above. One of Newbigin's unique contributions as a theologian is to provide a model for how to coexist in a pluralistic world without compromising the uniqueness or universality of the Christian gospel.

Quote from Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: a Reader (p. 179)

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