Category Archives: Leslie Newbigin

Affirming True Truth

Francis Schaeffer’s line true truth was coined as a result of the pluralistic culture he was a part of and which has in many ways engulfed our present society. Schaeffer was referring to a truth that is objective and not relativized by one’s preferences. The Gospel is true truth. The Church’s peculiarity stems from her unique message. It is indeed a message that is hardly embraced in the public square, but one which she must proudly proclaim: Jesus, the Messiah, is Lord.

Lesslie Newbigin’s classic work The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society addresses some of these  profound manifestations in the Christian world. He exposes the pluralistic and cowardly trends of the modern church a few decades ago and certainly still very much true in our own day. A Church can speak truth, but speak it so subtly and unwillingly that she permeates by her words a certain level of skepticism in her people. But there is also the type of belief that leaves the door open to other ideologies. Newbigin observed that,

As long as the church is content to offer its beliefs modestly as simply one of the many brands available in the ideological supermarket, no offense is taken. But the affirmation that the truth revealed in the gospel ought to govern public life is offensive (7).

Both are fatal. One slowly ceases to proclaim true truth, while the other leaves the door open for philosophical wolves. The Gospel is no longer that potent and offensive claim, but a powerless declaration that Jesus can be a lord, but is not necessarily interested in the job description.

True truth is declarational. Simple truth has its genesis in the One who claims to be the way, truth, and life. This three-fold declaration is not up for debate. Pluralism, religious pluralism, is doxologically impossible for you can only serve one master.

All Truths are Relative and Partial

Newbigin writing in the 70’s saw the growing pluralistic trends and how they were going to affect the missionary enterprise. “Today,” he wrote, “the affirmation of the final authority of Jesus must be made amid the clash of rival claims to religious truth and in a society which has become saturated with the idea that all truths are relative and partial.”

Finality and Sufficiency of Jesus for Mankind

Leslie Newbigin, the remarkable missiologist and theologian, writes in his delightful little book Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission that there was a time when religions were observed from afar in the Western world as “objects of compassion and curiosity.” But now (writing in the 70’s), students have the opportunity to discuss them openly in universities.

Critics of the Christian missionary movement argue that humanity “is now in a new situation where it must learn to live as one community or perish… All parts of the human race are increasingly involved with one another in all phases of human activity.” But Newbigin argues that the greatest need of mankind is not some form of unity founded on pluralistic ideals, but rather mankind is dependent upon the sufficiency and finality of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and Savior of the world.