Wednesday, April 18, 2007


NOTE: this post has been rewritten
Foolishness to the Greeks
Lesslie Newbigin
160 pages
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (April 1986)

Post-enlightenment culture, chapters 1-2

Modern culture has three key features: the public-private dichotomy, the fact-value dichotomy, and the abandonment of teleology. In this culture, it is assumed that one's public and private worlds operate independently. One has little influence on the other. In this culture, facts are public matters whose validity is determined by science. Values are private matters determined by personal choice. How should the church proclaim the gospel in the language of this culture and in a way that radically calls it into question?

The gospel and its missionary encounter with culture, chapters 3-5

The Christian testimony is that Jesus is the ultimate authority. All of life is ordered under him and finds its explanation in him. From the perspective of modern culture, this testimony is foolish, meddlesome, and dangerous. Yet it must be proclaimed. Modern culture--its science and its politics--must be called into question and all persons must be called to submit to the one by whom all things consist.

Implications and applications for missionary encounter, chapter 6

The church is...
  • an advance community of the kingdom of God to yearn publicly for the consummation of the kingdom.
  • a witness of the ultimate authority of Jesus to engage in honest conversation with others.
  • an earthly and temporal outpost of the kingdom to speak a theology that flows from daily life.
  • one church to witness to the one truth.
  • one church to engage with one another so that we may more accurately declare the one God.
  • composed of those who trust Jesus as the ultimate authority to declare him in a culture that rejects the very notion.
  • a community of praise to broadcast the overflow of our praise as a witness to the nations.

NOTE: This is a rumination ("1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud." American Heritage Dictionary) in search of synergy ("1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.")


See CC License

“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”


  1. Wow! That is a challenge - proclaiming the Kingdom to a culture whose world view in no way accommodates the claims or positioning of the Kingdom, its King or its authority.

    So, does verbal proclamation serve any function?

    So, is the only way proclamation of the Kingdom by demonstration, by living it, by showing its reality by pilot implementations and proof of concept demonstrations? What do those look like? Maybe small communities of believers, living close to the culture, yet instantiating the Kingdom by living under the authority of Jesus? In the world (understandable to the culture) but not of the world (under the authority of the Kingdom of God).

  2. Newbigin speaks of both proclamation and demonstration. The gospel must be proclaimed clearly, boldly, and in faith. In addition, every faith system (for all ultimates are faith systems) that trusts anything but God must be confronted with the truth.

    The gospel must also be lived, for we must have a corporate life that gives a glimpse of the kingdom.

    One thing Newbigin said over and over was the importance of helping people see that ultimate commitments--even commitments to science--are based on faith. That is the nature of an ultimate: there is no proof behind it.

    As to small communities, living close to the culture: Yes! Though, in the best of worlds, even a large congregation could have small communities, living close to the culture. The other part of it, and Newbigin hits this hard, is teaching believers that they are missionaries in daily life and training them to be better missionaries.

    It is assuredly a challenge. Newbigin has given me much to consider.