How a Man Named Lesslie Changed the Way I Think
It is a real challenge to wisely know the best way to express our Christian voice into the public square. Here is a most helpful set of insights. Bruce Ashford writes in Christian Living (Sept 1) providing a summary of the brilliant insights from the hand of Lesslie Newbigin. A most worthwhile read. Here are some great paragraphs:
“…it is clear to me that I’m living in an increasingly post-Christian society. The majority of [westerners] no longer consider traditional Christian doctrine (e.g., original sin) or traditional Christian ethics (e.g., sexual morality) plausible in the modern world. Christians who don’t abandon these beliefs are increasingly considered morally inferior or even hateful.
“Given the fact that [we live in a democracy], the beliefs of citizens affect the lives of other citizens socially, culturally, and politically. This reality makes it increasingly important for Christians to figure out the best way to conduct themselves in the public square. Many theologians can aid us in this task; in this article, I focus on Lesslie Newbigin (1909–1998) and how his example is helpful for us …
“Newbigin’s public-square writings focused on situations in which Christians find themselves in the minority, and he endorsed principled pluralism. Newbigin believed Christians should take a missionary posture in the public square, focusing on the message of the gospel and demonstrating its relevance as public truth. In order to do so, we must gain a deep understanding of our cultural context so we can proclaim the gospel and work out its implications in a manner faithful to Scripture and meaningful in the cultural context.
“Newbigin wasn’t opposed to a Christian state, but he was opposed to a theocracy. He made it clear that the church shouldn’t impose gospel convictions on those who aren’t Christians. The institutional church shouldn’t directly influence public policy. Instead, the institutional church should equip individual Christians to reflect on—and act in—public life in a theologically sound and gospel-centered manner.
“ Fourth, Christians must pledge allegiance to Christ but affirm the right of others to hold and express different beliefs. Newbigin was committed to public pluralism; a healthy Christian society should maximize the possibilities for face-to-face public-square conversation. Christians shouldn’t suppress or exclude those who dissent, but publicly reason with others to persuade them that the Christian vision of the good life causes all members of society to flourish.
“ Newbigin knew he wasn’t a political philosopher or a political scientist. He never tried to develop a political program or agenda. Instead, he called Christians to recognize the gospel as public truth, preach it as such, and apply it to matters of public concern. Newbigin’s life and writings remind us of the value of cultivating a public theology and of raising up public theologians who can speak and act in the public square for the common good.
“ a helpful encapsulation of his thoughts on Christianity and public life can be found in a brief essay titled “Can a Modern Society Be Christian?”
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