Looking to end the divisive conflict tht has raged between Christians who attack each other either as “liberals” or as “fundamentalists”, Newbigin gives a historical account of the roots of this conflict in order to begin laying the foundation for a middle ground that will benefit the Christian faith as a whole and allow Christians to unitedly proclaim the gospel in a pluralistic world. “A masterful demonstration of the bankruptcy of secularism and all forms of Christian accommodation to it.” ~ Books and Culture “This is an important book for pastors and teachers serving in church settings where the temptation to soften the scandal of the cross is present or where the good news, for all its outward acceptance, is thought (deep down) to be a source of embarrassment…. The book is beautifully written, a powerful statement of faith in God, whose incarnation has changed the nature of human life forever and whose call to the church cannot be altered by the temptation to believe that the human being is the center of the universe.” ~ Princeton Seminary Bulletin
The Christian religion, [Pascal] claims, teaches two truths: that there is a God who men are capable of knowing, and that there is an element of corruption in men that renders them unworthy of God. Knowledge of God without knowledge of man’s wretchedness begets pride, and knowledge of man’s wretchedness without knowledge of God begets despair, but knowledge of Jesus Christ furnishes man knowledge of both simultaneouosly.
It is imperative that we turn the whole intellectual climate of our culture back to a Christian world view. If we do not, then what lies ahead for us in the United States is already evident in Europe: utter secularism. Throughout Europe, evangelism is immeasurably more difficult because the intellectual climate and culture there are determined by the conviction that the Christian world view is false and therefore irrelevant. Therefore, Christian missionaries often must labor years to get a handful of converts. If we lose the theoretical issues, then in the end our practical application will be fruitless.
A major new work of scholarship is raising eyebrows in many quarters: The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?1 This is the product of six years of extensive consultation by a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar (hereafter JS), who have set out to determine the authentic words of Jesus. The result is a book that (1) provides a fresh, colloquial, and at times racy translation of the five gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas); (2) colors every saying attributed to Jesus in these Gospels as either red, pink, gray, or black (red means Jesus said it; pink means it’s close to what He said; gray means He didn’t say it in this form but there are echoes of His teaching in it; and black means the saying didn’t come from Him at all); and (3) provides passage-by-passage commentary explaining the JS’s rationale for its decisions. As the book jacket and popular press releases emphasize, only 20 percent of all the sayings of Jesus are colored red or pink and a good number of these come from Thomas!
Justification by grace through faith is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; he knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: he loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods — the gods of human manufacturing — despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.
For people who are not convinced by the arguments of classical, rationalistic apologetics, for people who feel that Christianity must have a broader appeal than to reason alone if it is to be persuasive. Alister McGrath shows convincingly that reason is only one of many possible points of contact with the Gospel. In today’s world, nonrational concerns — such as a sense that life lacks focus, an unconscious fear of death, a deep sense of longing for something unknown we don’t have but know we need — are much more effective points of contact for apologetics. In this book, Dr. McGrath (who is both a theologian and a scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology) combines the clarity of a brilliant scientific mind with a deep commitment to Christ and to reaching non-Christians. Intellectuals Don’t Need God is for anyone who has questions about the validity of Christianity as well as for students, pastors, and lay leaders. Anyone who works with students and young people especially needs to read this book. As McGrath says, “apologetics is not about winning arguments — it is about bringing people to Christ.”
Often hobbling through our church doors on Sunday morning comes grace on crutches — sinners still unable to throw away their false supports and stand upright in the freedom of the children of God. Yet, their mere presence in the church on Sunday morning is a flickering candle representing a desire to maintain contact with God. To douse the flame is to plunge them into a world of spiritual darkness.
Any church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of grace. As Hans Kung say, “it deserves neither God’s mercy nor men’s trust. The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always disassociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.
Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually-abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick” whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the death-bed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust and raped the earth. “But how?” we ask. Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There they are. There we are — the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.
Simple, my dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do is to loosen it a bit. The trouble with our ideals is that if we live up to all of them, we become impossible to live with. The tilted halo of the saved sinner is worn loosely and with easy grace. We have discovered that the cross accomplished far more than revealing the love of God.
This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who out of love for us, sent the only Son he ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all. The God of the legalistic
Christian, on the other hand, is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease him. Sunday worship becomes a superstitious insurance policy against his whims. This God expects people to be perfect and to be in perpetual control of their feelings and thoughts. When broken people with this concept of God fail — as inevitably they must — they usually expect
punishment. So, they persevere in religious practices as they struggle to maintain a hollow image of a perfect self. The struggle itself is exhausting. The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.
But the answer seems too easy, too glib. Yes, God saved us because he loved us. But he is God. He has infinite imagination. Couldn’t he have dreamed up a different redemption? Couldn’t he have saved us with a pang of hunger, a word of forgiveness, a single drop of blood? And if he had to die, then for God’s sake — for Christ’s sake — couldn’t he have died in bed, died with dignity? Why was he condemned like a criminal? Why was his back flayed with whips? Why was his head crowned with thorns? Why was he nailed to wood and allowed to die in frightful, lonely agony? Why was the last breath drawn in bloody disgrace, while the world for which he lay dying egged on his executioners with savage fury like some kind of gang rape by uncivilized brutes in Central Park? Why did they have to take the very best? One thing we know — we don’t comprehend the love of Jesus Christ. Oh, we see a movie and resonate to what a young man and woman will endure for romantic love. We know that when the chips are down, if we love wildly enough we’ll fling life and caution to the winds for the one we love. But when it comes to God’s love in the broken, blood-drenched body of Jesus Christ, we get antsy and start to talk about theology, divine justice, God’s wrath, and the heresy of universalism.
What’s missing here? Simply the essence of Christianity, which is not the Sermon on the Mount. When Christianity was proclaimed throughout the world, the proclamation was not “Love your enemies?” but “Christ is risen!” This was not a new ideal but a new event, that God became man, died, and rose for our salvation. Christianity is first of all not ideal but real, and event, news, the gospel, the “good news.” The essence of Christianity is not Christianity; the essence of Christianity is Christ… The Sermon on the Mount not only comes from Jesus but also leads us to Jesus. It does not divert us from Jesus to a set of abstract ideals, but its ideals lead us to Jesus. who alone can fulfill them in us, if we let him. The sermon is an arrow and Jesus is the bull’s eye, not vice versa.
Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all; why there are the scientific laws there are; why animals and then human beings have evolved; why humans have the opportunity to mould their characters and those of their fellow humans for good or ill and to change the environment in which we live; why we have the well-authenticated account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection; why throughout the centuries men have had the apparent experience of being in touch with and guided by God; and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does so better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true. This paper seeks to justify this answer; it presents in summary arguments given in more detailed form in my book The Existence of God,1 and seeks to rebut criticisms of those arguments given in J.L. Mackie’s book The Miracle of Theism.2
How does the gospel relate to a pluralist society? What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism? Should Christians encountering today’s pluralist society concentrate on evangelism or on dialogue? How does the prevailing climate of opinion affect, perhaps infect, Christians’ faith? These kinds of questions are addressed in this noteworthy book by Lesslie Newbigin. A highly respected Christian leader and ecumenical figure, Newbigin provides a brilliant analysis of contemporary (secular, humanist, pluralist) culture and suggests how Christians can more confidently affirm their faith in such a context. While drawing from scholars such as Michael Polanyi, Alasdair MacIntyre, Hendrikus Berkhof, Walter Wink, and Robert Wuthnow, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society is suited not only to an academic readership. This heartfelt work by a missionary pastor and preacher also offers to Christian leaders and laypeople some thoughtful, helpful, and provocative reflections.
Winner of two 1990 Christianity Today Awards: Readers’ Choice (1st place; theology & doctrine) and Critics’ Choice (1st place; theology & doctrine). A 1989 ECPA Gold Medallion Award winner! How did the books of the Bible come to be recognized as Holy Scripture? Who decided what shape the canon should take? What criteria influenced these decisions? After nearly nineteen centuries the canon of Scripture still remains an issue of debate. Protestants, Catholics and the Orthodox all have slightly differing collections of documents in their Bibles. Martin Luther, one of the early leaders of the Reformation, questioned the inclusion of the book of James in the canon. And many Christians today, while confessing the authority of all of Scripture, tend to rely on only a few books and particular themes while ignoring the rest. Scholars have raised many other questions as well. Research into second-century Gnostic texts have led some to argue that politics played a significant role in the formation of the Christian canon. Assessing the influence of ancient communities and a variety of disputes on the final shaping of the canon call for ongoing study. In this significant historical study, F. F. Bruce brings the wisdom of a lifetime of reflection and biblical interpretation to bear in answering the questions and clearing away the confusion surrounding the Christian canon of Scripture. Adept in both Old and New Testament studies, he brings a rare comprehensive perspective to his task. Though some issues have shifted since the original publication of this book, it still remains a significant landmark and touchstone for further studies. ~ Book Description
There is, I imagine, no body of literature in the world that has been exposed to the stringent analytical study that the four gospels have sustained for the past 200 years. This is not something to be regretted: it is something to be accepted with satisfaction. Scholars today who treat the gospels as credible historical documents do so in the full light of this analytical study, not by closing their minds to it. ¶ A problem arises in this television age from the exposure of the public to a bewildering variety of opinions about the gospels in particular and the New Testament in general, including both the current scholarly consensus (if such a thing exists today) and every sort of way-out interpretation of the data, with little or no guidance being given about the criteria by which competing views are to be assessed and a reasonable conclusion reached.
How can biblical authority be a reality for those shaped by the modern world? This book treats the First World as a mission field, offering a unique perspective on the relationship between the gospel and current society by presenting an outsider’s view of contemporary Western culture. “This is an extraordianry book on contemporary missiology. Writing from four decades of experience in Christian mission, Lesslie Newbigin applies the same discernment involved in contextualizing the gospel in another culture to the issues involved in contextualizing the gospel in our Western culture. He lays bare the pervasive and sublte synergism that alters the gospel, and he calls us to a thorough critique of our culture and of the way in which we understand or misunderstand the gospel of Christ and his good news of the kingdom of God.” ~ Mission Focus
In recent years, scholars arguing against a conservative understanding of biblical inerrancy have appealed to a wide range of issues. It has been argued, for example, that belief in inerrancy should be abandoned or redefined because inerrancy is not taught by the Bible and it was not the view of many leaders in the history of the church. Others argue that the concept of inerrancy is not adequate to capture the nature of the Bible as revelation. As important as these and related issues are, one suspects that Donald Dayton put his finger on the central reason why some scholars feel a need to abandon or redefine inerrancy: “For many, the old intellectual paradigms [including inerrancy] are dead, and the search is on in neglected traditions and new sources for more adequate models of biblical authority.” Simply put, many no longer think that it is rational to believe that inerrancy is true. What are we to make of this objection?
In the paper that follows I write from the perspective of a philosopher, and of course I have detailed knowledge of (at best) only my own field. I am convinced, however, that many other disciplines resemble philosophy with respect to things I say below. (It will be up to the practitioners of those other disciplines to see whether or not I am right.)
More than ever before I am convinced of the reality of a personal God. True, I have always believed in the personality of God. But in the past the idea of a personal God was little more than a metaphysical category that I found theologically and philosophically satisfying. Now it is a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life. God has been profoundly real to me in recent years. In the midst of outer dangers I have felt an inner calm. In the midst of lonely days and dreary nights I have heard an inner voice saying, “Lo, I will be with you.” When the chains of fear and the manacles of frustration have all but stymied my efforts, I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose, and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship. Behind the harsh appearances of the world there is a benign power.
Some people construct a Christianity which consists entirely of a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and has virtually nothing to do with the church. Others make a grudging concession to the need for church membership, but add that they have given up the ecclesiastical institution as hopeless. Now it is understandable, even inevitable, that we are critical of many of the church’s inherited structures and traditions. Every church in every place at every time is in need of reform and renewal. But we need to beware lest we despise the church of God, and are blind to his work in history. We may safely say that God has not abandoned his church, however displeased with it he may be. He is still building and refining it. And if God has not abandoned it, how can we?
A sermon arises out of silence, preacher and writer Frederick Buechner reminds us, and that silence is both an opportunity and a warning. An audience sits in the pews waiting, and each of those who sit there bring with them a long and complicated history. How will you reach them? How will you awaken them? “Tell them the truth,” Buechner says in this brief and powerful book. The Gospel begins here, out of this silence: “It is life with the sound turned off so that for a moment or two you can experience it not in terms of the words you make it bearable by but for the unutterable mystery that it is.” Out of this silence, he writes, the “real news comes, which is sad news before it is glad news and that is fairy tale last of all.” This series of lectures explores these three ways of seeing the Gospel: first as tragedy, as honest sorrow and suffering — this must be faced before anything else becomes possible. From this comes the comedy of new life: a child born to Abraham and Sarah in old age, Lazarus raised from the dead. This is the folly of the Gospel — what Buechner will ultimately call the fairy tale. Drawing deeply from the well of The Wizard of Oz and other stories, he reminds us in this final chapter that “there is a child in all of us,” a child in touch with a truth deeper than the logic of tragedy. ~ Doug Thorpe
Instead of always being one of the chief bastions of the social status quo, the Church is to develop a Christian counter-culture with its own distinctive goals, values, standards, and lifestyle — a realistic alternative to the contemporary technocracy which is marked by bondage, materialism, self-centredness, and greed. Christ’s call to obedience is a call to be different, not conformist. Such a Church — joyful, obedient, loving, and free — will do more than please God: it will attract the world. It is when the Church evidently is the Church, and is living a supernatural life of love by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the world will believe.