On a journey with Lesslie Newbigin

For the past few weeks I have been on a journey of sorts with Lesslie Newbigin, a man highly regarded in the field of mission theology. In his book, The Open Secret, he offers his thoughts on a passage of Scripture that I have wrestled with for quite a while: “Jesus came into Galilee announcing the good news of God and saying “The time is fulfilled, the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news”” (Mark 1:14-15)

Newbigin’s thoughts are foundational to our understanding of God’s mission in our world. Here he provides a powerful backdrop for our understanding of this passage:

“The announcement concerns the reign of God- God who is the creator, upholder, and consummator of all that is. We are not talking about one sector of human affairs, one strand out of the whole fabric of world history; we are talking about the reign and sovereignty of God over all that is, and therefore we are talking about the origin, meaning, and end of the universe. We are not dealing with a local and temporary disturbance in the current of cosmic happenings, but with the source and goal of the cosmos…

…The Bible is unique among the sacred books of the world’s religions in that it is in structure a history of the cosmos. It claims to show us the shape, the structure, the origin, and the goal not merely of human history, but of cosmic history. It does not accept a view of nature as simply the arena upon which the drama of human history is played out. Much less does it seek the secret of the individual’s true being within the self- a self for which public history of the world can have no ultimate significance. Rather it sees the history of the nations and the history of nature within the large framework of God’s history- the carrying forward to its completion of the gracious purpose that has its source in the love of the Father for the Son in the unity of the Spirit. The first announcement of the good news that the reign of God is at hand can be understood only in the context of this biblical sketch of a universal history. The reign of God is his reign over all things.” 

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2 thoughts on “On a journey with Lesslie Newbigin

  1. Jeremy says:

    I feel thoroughly convinced of the theological importance and truth of this topic. It seems to have transformed the very meaning of the gospel for me. Yet, many times I fail to see where in this world God is reigning. If the Kingdom was truly at hand, why does evil not only persist 2000 years later, but seem to grow ever more dark and constant? Will evil only increase until the final hour? If so, then where is the Kingdom?

  2. matthewjmcclure says:

    Jeremy, I live in the very same tension you do. I trust that the community of faith that lives by the Spirit of God will embody and bear witness to the already-arrived reign of God despite the evils orchestrated by God’s own enemy. The issue of continual evil may be the reason why some people believe the Kingdom is imminent but not yet arrived or fully realized. The belief here would be that we glimpse life under God’s reign but do not exist in that now and will not until the return of Jesus. I guess my belief is that it has arrived and that it is the unique calling of the church to bear witness to it, though our efforts are contested. Thanks for posting, friend.

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