Happy Belated 104th Birthday, Lesslie Newbigin!

My internet connection was down over the weekend so this is a delayed post.

Leslie Newbigin (1909-1998) is the premier contemporary missiologist of the 20th and 21st centuries. Newbigin’s passionate reflection upon the Gospel and Christian mission remain unparalleled in our time. His writings have yet to be fathomed; his preaching, lectures, and publications are regularly read by pastors, missionaries, and routinely challenge theologians and missiologists. Newbigin served 40 years in missionary service in India, and in service to the worldwide church; his subtle influence upon Vatican II is only now becoming public. Upon retirement, Newbigin began serving as a pastor in London to an inner-city church. In honor of what would have been Newbigin’s 104th birthday, I post the following:

“When we speak of finding in Jesus the clue to the meaning of the whole human story, we are not speaking of a mere cognitive exercise. We’re speaking of that act of atonement wrought in Jesus through which we are brought into a loving obedience to the will of God as it is exercised through all human and cosmic history. It is not merely a matter of illumination, of new understanding; it is a matter of reconciliation, of rescue from alienation, of obedient response to the divine initiative of love. It is illumination and new understanding only because it is first a divine action of reconciliation through which we are brought to that state in which we can say and know that God works all things together for good to those who love him. It is only through this act of atonement that Jesus becomes for us a clue to history.” (Truth and Authority in Modernity, 1996:39-40.)


Rob Bell, Theological Kerfuffles, & Universalisms…Pt. 13

OK: So, by popular demand: I have ordered Love Wins by Rob Bell. Actually, because we’re packing: I downloaded it to my Kindle. 🙂 If I added another book to this household of boxes, my wife would brain me. So, in my copious free-time, I will read it before chapter camp…which is two weeks away.

In a very convoluted way: this book has come into my messy home before I ordered it. I’ll withhold the details, but I was surprised to learn that the same kind of “behaving-badly” type of conflict you easily read on blogs reviewing Bell’s book intersected with my colleagues here in Houston. For now, let’s call it guilt-by-association: GBA. I hasten to add: my colleagues and I are more exclusivist in thought, speech, and behavior than those with loose lips.

I wish such people would simply ask us, “What do you think about Bell?” before yakking…I don’t know, maybe it’s about the following:

ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα συναρμολογούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας κατ’ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ. (Eph. 4:15-16)

I intend at another time to describe what could be an important way forward in both the formal discussion as well as how we discuss the perceived discrepancies. Part of the wider discourse conflict involves the determination of universalism within Bell’s text. For a good- no, really, great- discussion starter in this regard, especially as it applies to Bell et al, see this recent post by James K.A. Smith.