Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary-Theologian par exellence

There are times when we could have read a certain book few years earlier, we think that perhaps our outlook might have changed and our life might have taken a different course. Lately, I had picked up Lesslie Newbigin’s book, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. I became familiar with Newbigin's excellent ideas because when reading books about theology and mission, his name usually would appear as an authoritative source.

In this book, I learn that Newbigin was an internationally esteemed British missionary, pastor, apologist, theologian and ecumenical statesman. He also served in India as missionary evangelizing in the villages. He was a minister in the United Reformed Church in United Kingdom and a bishop of the Church of South India. He served as the general secretary of the International Missionary Council and associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches. Upon learning that he was both a missionary and an illustrious theologian compels me to read his books.

Thus I would like to share some thoughts as an outcome of this reading (I intend to do it on all the books I will read). This will be done in series of short summary and I will try to include my personal comments based on my experience in the mission field and student of theology. I expect that this would be good learning experience.

In chapter 1, Newbigin laments the fact that missions had no place in the central teaching of theology. Mission, for a long time, in any seminary is studied as branch of practical theology. And this is true even in the Asian seminary that I had attended. Today, mission is very important to the life of the church because the radical secularization of the Western culture, its churches are no longer missionary. There is a renewed debate about missionary task in the older churches. More Christians in the “old churches recognize that a church that is not ‘the church in mission’ is not a church at all.” Newbigin states that the book hopes to place the debate about the church’s missionary tasks will be placed in a broad biblical perspective and in the hope that to do so will release new energies for the contemporary mission of the church, not only its global dimensions but also in its application to the tough new paganism of the contemporary Western world.” (2)

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