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The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Paperback – October 30, 1989

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About the Author

(1909-1998) Lesslie Newbigin was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, U.K., in 1909. He completed his undergraduate studies in Cambridge and then served as Staff Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied theology at Westminster College at Cambridge and was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, Church of Scotland in 1936. That same year Newbigin married Helen Henderson and the two of them left for India where he was to be missionary of the Church of Scotland.

In 1947 Reverend Newbigin was consecrated Bishop in the Church of South India, formed by the union of Anglican, Methodist, and Reformed churches. He also served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and as Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the main theme of the Second Assembly. Other members of the committee included famous theologians such as Barth, Brunner, and Niebuhr.

In 1959 Newbigin was called to be General Secretary of the International Missionary Council with offices in London and New York. He was responsible for carrying through final negotiations for the merger with the World Council of Churches. In 1962 he became the first director of the Division of World Mission and Evangelism, and Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches with headquarters in Geneva.

In 1965 he was recalled by the Church of South India as Bishop in Madras and remained there until his retirement in 1974. He lived in London, England, until his death in 1998.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (October 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802804268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802804266
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Patrick O VINE VOICE on February 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I initially picked up this book, I thought, "oh, another one of these books." There seems to be a new book on pluralism and postmodernism coming out every day. I had read bits of Newbiggin before, and knew that a missionary in India for forty years would have something to say worthwhile. I was not mistaken. Newbiggin's clear voice and wise, yet succinct, observations make this an extremely valuable book to read. I was greatly influenced by this book, and found new insights and confirmation of my own undeveloped thoughts which encouraged and challenged my thinking.
Newbiggin develops his thoughts by showing why and how a Christian message can be conveyed and understood in a pluralist society. He first shows how a pluralistic understanding views religion in general. Coming from an Indian perspective he has an excellent understanding of this. Pluralist societies tend to be religious, accepting the transcendent as something which is greater than one single philosophy can grasp hold of. Yet, Newbiggin approaches this directly, asking "why?" What makes a person know that the transcendent is greater than one religion? He challenges the view by showing that those who claim this are asserting a source of knowledge on their own, establishing for themselves a point of reference which they deny to others. In addition, Newbiggin shows the now common fallacies which are involved in a true pluralistic view. A person can not be a pluralist in a math class. Thus, there are accepted areas in which Truth can be established. The role now before us is to show, and proclaim, that religion can be this area, and that Christianity is this truth.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By John C. Tittle on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lesslie Newbigin has written a penetrating analysis of the gospel in our western, pluralistic society. Although this book is over a decade old, it will remain a standard on issues of gospel, culture, contextualization, and postmodernism for quite some time. Newbigin presents with such clarity the pitfalls of many assumptions from Enlightenment and contemporary postmodern thought. With a "baptized" postmodern approach, Newbigin urges for the harmony of private and public life and thought. The church's application of this in faith and practice will be her most effective apologetic for the 21st century. The author makes a strong case that no one (including scientists or historians) can completely stand outside the influences of their particular culture and tradition. All understanding,whether religious/moral values or scientific information, involves faith and tradition. Other helpful aspects of the book reveal that we need a more wholistic approach to understand ourselves and the goal of history. Christ is the Truth embodied who is the universal clue for all men and women from every culture and age to break through this subjectivity to find their destiny and hope in this life and beyond. Newbigin beckons the church to continually reshape the unchanging gospel message in a culturally relevant way in order to most effectively impact the unreached locally and globally. We must clear away all stumbling blocks to Christ, except for one. The stumbling block of the cross. This attitude demands a willingness to reform traditions to connect with changing perspectives in society. My copy of this book is well marked and is an oft used resource for my ministry.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I first read this book for my History and Theology of Mission class in college. Leslie Newbigin's book was a treat to read. He offers a very good look into the Gospel and modern culture and tries to offer a solution to the question of where Christianity fits in a pluralistic world. In an age where no one can claim to know the whole truth anymore, how can Christians go around proclaiming that we know the only way? In modern culture, this makes us seem arrogant and prideful and causes more and more modern people to view the Church in an increasingly harsh light.
However, evangelism can best be served, he argues, by the living witness of a community of Christians and by the activism of ordained ministers to help guide and teach this community. Jesus formed a community, he says, and the best way to witness is simply by being an active part of a flourishing community that praises, has truth, is involved with the neighborhood, where people are sustained to minister to the world, that is responsible, and that has hope. We are not called to defend the faith but instead to simply witness.
Another answer to the increasingly hostile view of many towards Christianity can be found in dialogue. New begin argues that true dialogue serves as a "starting point in our relation to people of other faiths." (180) All humans share the same need to answer the question "Why?" and he believes that dialogue can open the doors to a renewed sense of spirituality because it involves the telling of the story of Jesus. Of course to have true dialogue we must also listen to those we are conversing with, but instead of seeing this as something fearful that could possibly cause us to lose faith we should instead look upon it as an opportunity to check our own biases.
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