Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Difficulties in Translating the Bible: ESV Video Session

I too would ask the same question as Kyle does when reviewing this video. Parsing the Bible by committee vote is never sexy and the overall conclusion we should draw from this example is that the reader of the Bible must try to get to the original source AND the intent of the manuscript as much as possible. And then make the hard choices as to how to extrapolate what the Bible says with what is being observed within society and the culture around us. It would look like this -

examination -->
                          text redaction -->
                                                       translation -->
                                                                              exposition -->
                                                                                                     relevancy (personal / societal)

(Ya gotta luv how I got to relevancy!)

...but humor aside, it is a difficult task to interpret the Bible requiring knowledge in hermeneutics, epistemology (languages, symbolism), theology (both biblical and systematic), philosophy, ancient textual sources and archaelogy, church history (the early Church Fathers, relevant Contemporary Theologians, etc), and a reasoned awareness of the practical concerns of life. While discerning various ecclesiastical interpretations favored by denominational traditions and preferences as well as redacting and elucidating corporate and individual regional-understandings. And then, over and above all this, to be able to speak street-wise to those around you in a personally directive, challenging, encouraging and motivating fashion offering hope, love, counsel, compassion and assistance. There's a lot more to speaking the gospel than simply speaking one's mind and biases, prejudices and judgments in cliche-like wisdoms bundled in cultural fluff and folklored-proverbs based upon popular hearsay and loudly acclaimed rhetoric.

That said, enjoy this snippet of information....

R.E. Slater
September 28, 2011


Biblical Literalists Doing Dynamic Equivalence?

by Kyle Roberts
September 21, 2011

This is a interesting look (filmed by the BBC) into the work of a Bible translation committee (the English Standard Version). What fascinates me here, though, is that the translators of this non gender-inclusive, “literal” version are using, in this clip (unless I’m misunderstanding), the same rationale for choosing “servant” or “bond-servant” rather than “slave” that the gender inclusive TNIV (and, in cases, NIV 2011) used for replacing “man” or “men” with gender inclusive pronouns. Or am I missing something?

So, I guess my question is this - what is fundamentally different between the rationale here employed to translate “servant” or “bondservant” instead of “slave” and that of responsible “dynamic equivalent” translations that render masculine pronouns as gender inclusive, when such rendering would be both better understood/received by contemporary readers and likely originally “intended” anyway (as gender inclusive)?

* * * * * * * * * *

[Moreover,] Wayne Grudem’s rationale [for a literal bible] stood out for me, because he has said things like:

I cannot teach theology or ethics from a dynamic equivalent Bible. I tried the NIV for one semester, and I gave it up after a few weeks. Time and again I would try to use a verse to make a point and find that the specific detail I was looking for, a detail of wording that I knew was there in the original Hebrew or Greek, was missing from the verse in the NIV.

Nor can I preach from a dynamic equivalent translation. I would end up explaining in verse after verse that the words on the page are not really what the Bible says, and the whole experience would be confusing and would lead people to distrust the Bible in English.

Nor would I want to memorize passages from a dynamic equivalent translation. I would be fixing in my brain verses that were partly God’s words and partly some added ideas, and I would be leaving out of my brain some words that belonged to those verses as God inspired them but were simply missing from the dynamic equivalent translation.

“But I could readily use any essentially literal translation to teach, study, preach from, and memorize.”

end of article

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*To view a historical timeline of the biblical texts
and bible translations -


Biography & Review: Lesslie Newbigin

The Missionary Who Wouldn't Retire

Lesslie Newbigin, born 100 years ago today, launched a new career at age 66 by calling Western churches to act like they were in the mission field.

Krish Kandiah | posted 12/08/2009 10:07AM

It was an unlikely adventure to launch a global ministry—a tediously long bus journey from Madras, India, to Birmingham, England. It was an unlikely background for a champion of the gospel to emerge from—the theologically liberal Student Christian Movement. It was an unlikely age at which to unintentionally initiate the emergent and missional church movements—age 66 after 35 years of cross-cultural missionary service. But Bishop Lesslie Newbigin made his most important contribution and did his most profound thinking in his 70s and 80s. Can this man, whose birth centenary was celebrated in December, help today's church navigate a critical period of change?

American Christianity is a long way from disappearing, but it is embattled. Newsweek magazine, bus placards, and best-selling books are all proclaiming the death of Christian America. Over the past 35 years, American confidence in religious leaders has dropped significantly—and dropped farther and faster than confidence in leaders of other institutions. Of those under age 30, only 3 percent hold a favorable view of evangelicals, compared with 33 percent who hold a favorable view of gays and lesbians. The 2009 American Religious Identification Survey showed a 10 percent dip in the number of self-identified Christians while also reporting that the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent.

These figures come as no surprise to someone from the other side of the Atlantic. The European church has long struggled with plummeting attendance. The most optimistic reading of our latest church attendance statistics describes the U.K. as "pulling out of the nosedive." Penn State's Philip Jenkins sees Europe taking the lead as the "acids of modernity" (journalist Walter Lippmann's term) dissolve the Christian foundations of a continent.

Others, like sociologist Grace Davie, see Europe as the exception, the only place on the planet where the church is in decline and facing increasing marginalization. Despite the best efforts of the militant New Atheists, we have ended up not with secularism but with religious pluralism.

In the face of alarming statistics, secularist attacks, and media scaremongering, the church has an important ally in Lesslie Newbigin. His writings continue to call the church to its missionary vocation in the midst of cultural change and ideological pluralism.

Newbigin was born 100 years ago on December 8, 1909. After completing theological studies at Cambridge University and working briefly for the Student Christian Movement, he left for India in 1936 to labor as a missionary, evangelist, and apologist. There he was instrumental in bringing together the Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches from India, Pakistan, and Burma into one ecumenical denomination: the Church of South India. On his return to England, he was shocked to find that the West was as urgent a mission field as the East. Refusing to settle into retirement, he wrote prolifically, issuing a clarion call to the Western church to rediscover its missionary mandate.

This was not merely a response to the declining state of the church, but the result of Newbigin's wrestling with the interplay of such enormous ideas as election, modernity, contextualization, the end of Christendom, and missional ecclesiology. Seeing the bigger picture of the gospel has inspired many of Newbigin's readers to grasp more fully the interaction between gospel, church, and culture. Three major themes stand out as particularly pertinent to our time.

Bigger than we think

When I speak with students around the world, I find them confident in their ability to present the gospel. They tell me that God loves me, that I have sinned, that Christ died for me, and that I need to believe in Jesus to get to heaven. Their confidence is reassuring, but their content is worrying. Doctoral students and seminarians often seem to have no deeper grasp of the gospel than do Sunday school children. The gospel they present has been reduced to a personalized product that offers the ultimate bargain—exchanging spiritual poverty for eternal riches. The problem with much of our evangelism is not what we include but what we omit: the Holy Spirit, the church, persecution, obedience, mission, reconciliation, resurrection, and new creation.

The gospel according to Newbigin challenges this thinking in two distinct ways. First, he calls us back to a gospel that brings personal reconciliation with God, but also a gospel that connects us with God's reconciling purposes in conscience, culture, church, creation, and cosmos. Second, he calls us back to a gospel that is more than a series of bullet points, a story that centers on the flesh-and-blood character of the divine Christ.

Newbigin's call is earthed in his careful exposition of John's gospel, but it draws as well on thinkers such as Martin Buber, Michael Polanyi, Hans Frei, and Alasdair MacIntyre, synthesizing their reflections into a powerful, unwittingly postmodern-friendly apologetic. Newbigin encourages us to tell the stories of the gospel as part of the grand sweep of the biblical drama. This is vital if an increasingly biblically illiterate generation is going to hear the gospel for the first time. We must explain that the stories of Jesus, true both historically and experientially, are the only way to understand how our individual stories make sense, and we must demand a personal decision to follow the Lord of all history.

As Newbigin explained in 1994, "The true understanding of the Bible is that it tells a story of which my life is a part, the story of God's tireless, loving, wrathful, inexhaustible patience with the human family, and of our unbelief, blindness, disobedience. To accept this story as the truth of the human story (and so of my story) commits me personally to a life of discernment and obedience in the new circumstances of each day."

As we tell the Jesus story, we draw people to him as a person worthy of allegiance rather than as a proposition to be evaluated.

The gospel as public truth

In God Is Back, Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge cite economics as the reason Christianity has fared better in the United States than in Europe. They argue that the disestablishment of the American church opened a free market in which religious ideas flourished while their European state-backed religious counterparts disintegrated along with other politically enforced institutions. This insight offers us hope that European-style decline is not the future of global Christianity, and that the American model may hold the key to the re-evangelization of Europe.

But there is a danger in free-market spirituality. Christianity becomes just another lifestyle option. As we become more aware of the multiplicity of worldviews and religions, and as we rightly value diversity, we can grow increasingly reluctant to commend the truthfulness of the Christian message. Privatized relativism is a real danger for the church. We are tempted to vacate the public square, avoid evangelism out of fear of offending others, and retreat into ghettos. The only alternative seems to be to try to impose Christian values on the wider culture by exerting moral muscle [(as seen in the current state of evangelicalism - skinhead)].

Newbigin offers a third way. He challenges the post-Enlightenment separation between so-called objective facts in the public realm (taught at school and presented without the need for the preface "I believe") and the subjective values of the private world of religion and ethics. He argues that the church needs to humbly yet boldly enter the public sphere with a persuasive retelling of the Christian story—not as personal spirituality, but as public truth. He takes the logic for this public dialogue from the scientific community. A scientist does not present research findings as a personal preference, but with hope for universal agreement if the findings stand up to investigation. In the marketplace of ideas, we should likewise present the gospel not as personal preference but as truth that should gain universal acceptance. This allows us to commend the faith with the humble admission that we might not have exhaustively grasped the truth, but that we have truth that needs to be investigated and seriously engaged.

The gospel in community

I remember being in a crowded living room in Birmingham as a group of university evangelists and apologists sat at the feet of a very old man who needed a magnifying glass to read his tightly typed notes. He explained that the bottom line of his whole theological project was "the doctrine of election." That was my first encounter with Newbigin, and after immersing myself in his writings for five years, I discovered that his entire missiology revolved around that idea. God's people are elected to join in God's mission to call others to God in keeping with the Abrahamic calling, "blessed to be a blessing." There is therefore a dual purpose: God wants to reconcile people to himself, but also to reconcile people to each other. The election of individuals cannot be separated from God's election of the church: we are elected to be God's missionary people.The church is, by its very nature, missional.

This has two major implications. First, the church, not the individual, is the basic unit of evangelism. A community that lives out the truth of the gospel is the best context in which to understand its proclamation. This insight is at the heart of courses like Alpha and of the best examples of church planting and church growth.

Second, the unity of the church matters to the mission of the church. Disunity undercuts the gospel of reconciliation that we claim to bring to the world. Newbigin the evangelist's own lifelong commitment to church unity throws down the gauntlet. Whatever we need to do to help this generation to hear the gospel, we need to do together.

As Newbigin wrote, "I have been called and commissioned, through no merit of mine, to carry this message, to tell this story, to give this invitation. It is not my story or my invitation. It has no coercive intent. It is an invitation from the one who loved you and gave himself up for you. That invitation will come with winsomeness if it comes from a community in which the grace of the Redeemer is at work."

Over the past 100 years, the church has made a global impact, and God has proved faithful through every cultural shift. He can certainly be trusted for every new challenge the church faces today. Hearing Newbigin's call to present Christ publicly with courage and humility, in all his glory and with the integrity of a united church that lives his message before a watching world, should fill us with eagerness to prove God faithful in our day and over the next hundred years.

Krish Kandiah is executive director of churches in mission for the Evangelical Alliance U.K.

Related Elsewhere:

Today marks the centennial of Lesslie Newbigin's birthday, who was born December 8, 1909 and died January 30, 1998. Andy Rowell, a doctoral student at Duke University, wrote 10 things you probably did not know about Newbigin. Christianity Today also profiled Newbigin in 1996. Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society was included in CT's "Books of the Century" and "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals."

Other books by Newbigin include The Open Secret and Foolishness to the Greeks, which are available from ChristianBook.com and other book retailers.


Lesslie Newbigin–a guide for the perplexed

by Roger Olson
September 21, 2011

I’m often asked for recommendations of good theologians to read. Usually the askers are not looking for academic theology; they are usually wanting to read something serious but relatively light. And more often than not they are looking for theology that will unconfuse them.

Over the years I have come especially to appreciate the theology of British missionary (to India) and theologian Lesslie Newbigin and I strongly recommend his books as guides for the theologically perplexed.

Newbigin is difficult to categorize, which is a good thing. He can’t simply be dismissed as “postmodern,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “evangelical” or anything else. I would label his basic approach to knowledge as critical realist, but that’s so broad as to be almost useless. He stood firmly within the broad, historic Christian tradition (“generous orthodoxy”), but its impossible to tell his denomination from his books.

Newbigin’s writing is exceptionally lucid; he explains what he means whenever he uses technical terms and his prose is crisp. He uses philosophy without giving it authority to determine theology’s content. He was culturally sensitive without being an accommodationist.

The place to begin is Proper Confidence–a brief expose of Enlightenment-based secularism as well as Enlightenment-based religion (both liberal and conservative). For him, the rage for absolute certainty through reason and the myth of the “view from nowhere” (pure objectivity) are major diseases infecting modern culture and religion. Sometimes he verges close to something like Wittgensteinian fideism, but he always pulls back and admits that there are criteria for validity in religious beliefs (and other beliefs). But the criteria are not neutral; all of them except possibly one are value laden and tied to particular perspectives. (I would call Newbigin a perspectivalist.) The one he seems to fall back on is something like “adequacy to experience.”

Another Newbigin book I strongly recommend is a bit longer: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It covers many topics of theology including very practical matters of evangelism and worship. It’s difficult to sum it up in a nutshell, but if I had to I’d say Newbigin believes in a humble but faithful Christian approach to life within a pluralistic society. He opposes all proud triumphalism–whether secular or religious–and advocates dialog and presence (i.e., being in the world but not of it) without compromise (of the gospel) or coercion (forceful attempts to evangelize people by overwhelming them with pseudo-philosophical apologetics or strong arm evangelism tactics).

Newbigin is at his best when criticizing two modern phenomena–rationalism and triumphalism (and the two often go together). And he spreads his criticism around evenly to secular and religious people who engage in these dead end approaches to answering life’s ultimate questions and dealing with those who disagree.

His solution to Christian life in a pluralistic society is a call back to the pre-Constantinian Christian posture–faithful presence among the others.

Newbigin touches on many topics of Christian theology, evangelism, worship, church life and ethics. He doesn’t delve too deeply into dogmatics (i.e., systematic theology and doctrines). He was mainly interested in questions that revolve around being Christian in a radically pluralistic cultural context still infected by the excesses of Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern relativism. He charts a path that emphasizes obedience to the gospel and Christian involvement in the problems of the city without compromise of the gospel message.

For those with a philosophical background or bent–Newbigin is strongly influenced by Michael Polanyi and Alasdair MacIntyre. If you want to see how a Christian thinker uses these giants of post-Enlightenment thought in the service of Christian thought and presence in a pluralistic culture, read Newbigin.


10 Responses to Lesslie Newbigin

Hey Roger. Good to see a shout out to L. Newbigin. You said “Sometimes he verges close to something like Wittgensteinian fideism, but he always pulls back and admits that there are criteria for validity in religious beliefs (and other beliefs).”

Isnt this the best place to stand for Christians? I think for those in North America we are often too accomodating to the cultural forms of Christianity and need to chart paths that contain something which possesses more internal or existential integrity. However, we must be careful not to swallow the whole pill of post-liberal or post-modern philosophy. I absolutely loved the post-liberals in grad school but often wondered if the cultural–linguistic model of Lindbeck was too fideistic, perhaps to the point of being anti-rational.

However with that said, I believe the post-librals still have something good to say if not over-stated. Maybe Newbigin is some sort of mediating figure between traditional evangelical theology and the post-liberals? I read these two books mentioned above on my way to reading lindbeck and frei and they helped me along the way.

Me, too. I came back to Newbigin. I would classify him loosely as postliberal. He does mention Hans Frei approvingly and I think Frei is the real father of postliberalism. But Newbigin strikes me as more confident of the historical truth of at least the major events of salvation history including especially the incarnation and resurrection. I think “generous orthodoxy” really describes his theology well.

At your prior suggestion, I read Proper Confidence by Lesslie Newbigin and came away totally impressed with his implementation of Michael Polanyi’s approach to discovering knowledge. Newbigin showed how this approach could work in the service of creating Christian maturity. Usually I am happy if a book gives me one idea worth keeping — one idea that changes my mind. This book gave me far more than that!

“If you want to see….post-enlightenment thought in the service of Christian thought and presence in a pluralistic culture, read Newbigin”. So very well said by Dr. Roger Olson. It is refreshing to hear of a theology that will unconfuse me. I would like to add, and I have no reason other than I thoroughly believe it, Dr. Olson fits this description as well.

Wow! I’m almost impressed with myself. Don’t worry; my wife will keep me humble!

Newbigin is difficult to categorize…” Newbigin’s biographer Geoffrey Wainwright (at Duke), for lack of a clear category within which he fits, calls Newbigin a 20th century church father. I think it’s appropriate: Newbigin engages with the sophisticated philosophies of the day and carves out an appropriate and articulate Christian way.

Thanks for mentioning Wainwright. He’s another theologian I’ve met and read and like very much. When I was studying in Munich with Pannenberg, Wainwright came to guest lecture in one of P’s classes. Two other American students (including Phil Clayton) and I took Wainwright to lunch and discussed Doxology with him. (The book had been published not long before that.) I was pleased that he heartily agreed with me, a lowly Ph.D. student, that Christology is the real heart of Doxology.

Thank you Dr. Olson for this post! Newbigin has been a huge influence upon my studies at seminary, and I’m incredibly excited to take a course examining his writings next term. We’re going to be looking at how his theology of mission can help structure approaches to mission in the post-Christendom West. Exciting!

I can also highly recommend his autobiography, Unfinished Agenda. Powerful stuff in there.

6. Phil Mullins says: September 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Newbigen was, as you point out, a serious reader of Michael Polanyi. Because of his interest in and use of Polanyian ideas, Newbigen comes up from time to in the discussions on the Polanyi Society discussion list (polanyi_list@yahoogroups.com). There are also occasional articles about Newbigen’s theology and its incorporation of Polanyi’s postcritical philosophical perspective in Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical which is online on the Polanyi Society web site. The archive of issues is indexed so anyone interested can easily locate articles treating Newbigen and Polanyi. There are also all sorts of other things (lectures, dialogs, essays, etc.) on the web site for anyone who wants to dig into Polanyi.


Lesslie Newbigin

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin in 1996.

Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) was a Church of Scotland missionary serving in the former Madras State (now Tamil Nadu), India, who became a Christian theologian and bishop involved in missiology, ecumenism, and the Gospel and Our Culture Movement[1].


Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Newbigin's schooling largely took place in Leighton Park, the Quaker public boarding school in Reading, Berkshire. He went to Queens' College, Cambridge in 1928. On qualifying, he moved to Glasgow to work with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in 1931. He returned to Cambridge in 1933 to train for the ministry at Westminster College, and in July 1936 he was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh to work as a Church of Scotland missionary at the Madras Mission.[2]

He was married to Helen Henderson a month later, and they set off for India in September 1936. In time they had one son and three daughters. He also had a sister, Frances, who was a regular worshipper at Jesmond URC (formerly Presbyterian), Newcastle upon Tyne, in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

In 1947, the fledgling Church of South India, an ecumenical church formed from several Protestant churches, appointed him as one of their first bishops in the Diocese of Madurai Ramnad – a surprising career path for a Presbyterian minister. In 1959 he became the General Secretary of the International Missionary Council and oversaw its integration with the World Council of Churches, of which he became Associate General Secretary. He remained in Geneva until 1965, when he returned to India as Bishop of Madras, where he stayed until he retired in 1974. He and his wife Helen then made their way overland back to the UK using local buses, carrying two suitcases and a rucksack.

They then settled in Birmingham, where Newbigin became a Lecturer in Mission at the Selly Oak Colleges for five years. Of the British denominations linked with the Church of South India, he chose to join the United Reformed Church (URC). In retirement he took on the pastorate of Winson Green URC, opposite the gates of HM Prison Birmingham. This small church provided support for people visiting prisoners. He was Moderator of the General Assembly of the URC for the year 1978-9. During this time, he preached at Balmoral and continued the prolific writing career that established him as one of the most respected and significant theologians of the twentieth century.

He is remembered especially for the period of his life when he had returned to England from his long missionary service and travels, and tried to communicate the need for the church to take the Gospel anew to the post-Christian Western culture, which he viewed not as a secular society with no gods but as a pagan society with false gods.[3] Newbigin believed that western cultures had unwisely come to believe they had access to an objective knowledge which did not require faith. As part of this critique, Newbigin challenged the ideas of neutrality and the distinction between facts and values that emerged from the Enlightenment. It was during this time that he wrote two of his most important works, Foolishness to the Greeks and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society[4] in which the strong influence of such thinkers as Alasdair MacIntyre and Michael Polanyi is apparent.

In his "theological/intellectual/spiritual biography" of Newbigin, theologian Geoffrey Wainwright assesses the bishop's influential writing, preaching, teaching, and church guidance, concluding that his stature and range is comparable to the "Fathers of the Church."[5]

He died at Herne Hill on 30 January 1998 and was cremated at West Norwood Cemetery. At Newbigin's funeral service on 7 February 1998 his close friend Dr. Dan Beeby said, "Not too long ago, some children in Selly Oak were helped to see the world upside down when the aged bishop stood on his head! Not a single one of his many doctorates or his CBE fell out of his pockets. His episcopacy was intact."

Religious titles
Preceded by
Hospet Sumitra[6]
P. Solomon[6]
Deputy ModeratorChurch of South India
Succeeded by
A. G. Jebaraj[6]
Solomon Doraiswamy[6]
Preceded by
Bishop in Madurai-RamnadChurch of South India
Succeeded by
George Devadoss[6]
Preceded by
D. Chellappa[6]
Bishop in Madras
Church of South India

Succeeded by
Sundar Clarke[6]
Other offices
Preceded by
General Secretary
International Missionary Council


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See also
·         Missiology
·         Unfinished Agenda, St Andrew's Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-7152-0679-9
Major works
·         A South India Diary, SCM, 1951 (revised 1960)
·         The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church, SCM, 1953 (reprinted Paternoster, 1998, ISBN 978-0-85364-935-9)
·         Sin and Salvation, 1956, SCM
·         Trinitarian Doctrine for Today's Mission, Edinburgh House Press, 1963, (reprinted Paternoster, 1998, ISBN 978-0-85364-797-3)
·         Honest Religion for Secular Man, SCM, 1966
·         The Finality of Christ, SCM, 1969
·         The Good Shepherd, Faith Press, 1977
·         The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, SPCK/Eerdmans, 1978, ISBN 978-2-8254-0784-4 [2nd Edition, Eerdmans, 1995, ISBN 978-0-8028-0829-8]
·         The Light Has Come, Eerdmans, 1982, ISBN 978-1-871828-31-3
·         The Other Side of 1984, World Council of Churches, 1983, ISBN 978-2-8254-0784-4
·         Foolishness to the Greeks: Gospel and Western Culture, Eerdmans/SPCK, 1986, ISBN 978-0-281-04232-6
·         The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, SPCK/Eerdmans/WCC, 1989, ISBN 978-0-281-04435-1
·         Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, SPCK, 1991, ISBN 0-8028-0607-4
·         A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions, edited by Eleanor Jackson, Saint Andrew Press/Eerdmans, 1994, ISBN 978-0-7152-0704-8
·         Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, SPCK, 1995, ISBN 978-0-281-04915-8
·         Truth and Authority in Modernity, Gracewing Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-1-563-38168-3
·         Signs amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, edited and introduced by Geoffrey Wainwright, Eerdmans, 2003, ISBN 978-0-802809-896
Popular works
·         A Walk Through the Bible, SPCK/Westminster John Knox Press, 2000, ISBN 9781573833578
·         Discovering truth in a changing world, Alpha International, 2003, ISBN 9781904074359
·         Living Hope in a changing world, Alpha International, 2003, ISBN 9781904074366
Secondary literature
·         Bearing the Witness of the Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin's Theology of Cultural Plurality, George R. Hunsberger, Eerdmans, 1998, ISBN 978-0-8028-4369-7
·         Lesslie Newbigin: A Theological Life, Geoffrey Wainwright, Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-19-510171-5
·         "As The Father Has Sent Me, I Am Sending You": J. E. Lesslie Newbigin's Missionary Ecclesiology, Michael W. Goheen, Boekencentrum, 2000, ISBN 978-0239-0976-3
·         Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: a Reader, Paul Weston (ed.), SPCK/Eerdmans, 2006 ISBN 978-0802829825 (includes nearly 30 texts by Newbigin)
·         Grasping Truth and Reality: Lesslie Newbigin's Theology of Mission to the Western World, Donald LeRoy Stults, Wipf and Stock, 2008, ISBN 13: 978-1-55635-723-7
·         Christian Mission in Eschatological Perspective: Lesslie Newbigin's Contribution, Jürgen Schuster, VTR Publications, 2009, ISBN 13: 978-3-941750-15-9

2.      ^ Newbigin, JE Lesslie (1993). Unfinished Agenda. Edinburgh: St Andrews Press. ISBN 9780715206799.
4.      ^ ""Lesslie Newbigin"". The Ship of Fools magazine. 1998. http://www.shipoffools.com/Cargo/Features98/Newbigin/NewbiginMain.html. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
5.      ^ Wainwright, Geoffrey. Lesslie Newbigin: A Theological Life. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. 2000. page v.
6.      ^ a b c d e f g K. M. George, Church of South India: life in union, 1947-1997, Jointly published by Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Christava Sahitya Samithi, Tiruvalla, 1999. [1]