Krish Kandiah, the executive director of churches in mission for the UK Evangelical Alliance, has written an article for Christianity Today, remembering the legacy and impact of Lesslie Newbigin (December 8, 1909 – January 30, 1998). Newbigin was a Church of Scotland missionary who served in India before becoming an important writer on the subject of missions, evangelism, and cultural engagement. His books include The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, and Foolishness to the Greeks: Gospel and Western Culture. Kandiah writes:
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.
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.
Read the whole thing here.