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 Lesslie Newbigin Quotes
17 Famous Quotes by Lesslie Newbigin
12/8/1909 - 1/30/1998
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About Lesslie Newbigin

The conception of the Church which we tend to reproduce as the fruit of our missionary work is so much a replica of our own, so much that of a fundamentally settled body existing for the sake of its own members rather than that of a body of strangers and pilgrims, the sign and instrument of a supernatural and universal salvation to be revealed, that our missionary advance tends to follow the lines of cultural and political expansion. and to falter when that advance stops.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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We know so well what the unique quality was that held this great and beautiful pride and exquisite humility together. It lay in the relationship he held with God. We know the familiar idea of Jesus' oneness with God: only we deal with it too much as a doctrine of the Church, not as an element in Jesus' own experience. If we never find it in reality, in life, we cannot reveal the true Christ-like character at all -- we will always be trying earnestly to be something, but on too superficial and obvious a plane. ... The Notebooks of Florence Allshorn June 28, 1996 Feast of Irenêus, Bishop of Lyons, Teacher, Martyr, c.200 The Church exists, and does not depend for its existence upon our definition of it: it exists wherever God in His sovereign freedom calls it into being by calling his own into the fellowship of His Son. And it exists solely by His mercy. God shuts up and will shut up every way except the way of faith which simply accepts His mercy as mercy. To that end, He is free to break off unbelieving branches, to graft in wild slips, and to call "No people" His people. And if, at the end, those who have preserved through all the centuries the visible "marks" of the Church find themselves at the same board with some strange and uncouth late-comers on the ecclesiastical scene, may we not fancy that they will hear Him say -- would it not be so like him to say -- "It is my will to give unto these last even as unto thee"? Final judgement belongs to God, and we have to beware of judging before the time. I think that if we refuse fellowship in Christ to any body of men and women who accept Jesus as Lord and show the fruits of His Spirit in their corporate life, we do so at our peril. It behooves us, therefore, to receive one another as Christ has received us.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of George Augustus Selwyn, first Bishop of New Zealand, 1878 If there were a righteousness which a man could have of his own, then we should have to concern ourselves with the question of how it can be imparted to him. But there is not. The idea of a righteousness of one's own is the quintessence of sin.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of Brigid, Abbess of Kildare, c.525 We can all call to mind movements which have begun as pure upsurges of fresh spiritual vitality, breaking through and revolting against the hardened structure of the older body, and claiming, in the name of the Spirit, liberty from outward forms and institutions. And we have seen how rapidly they develop their own forms, their own structures of thought, of language, and of organisation. It would surely be a very unbiblical view of human nature and history to think -- as we so often, in our pagan way, do -- that this is just an example of the tendency of all things to slide down from a golden age to an age of iron, to identify the spiritual with the disembodied, and to regard visible structure as equivalent to sin. We must rather recognise here a testimony to the fact that Christianity is, in its very heart and essence, not a disembodied spirituality, but life in a visible fellowship, a life which makes such total claim upon us, and so engages our total powers, that nothing less than the closest and most binding association of men with one another can serve its purpose.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Feast of Antony of Egypt, Abbot, 356 Commemoration of Charles Gore, Bishop, Teacher, Founder of the Community of the Resurrection, 1932 Continuing a short series on Romans 8: [Of vv. 11,17,23-25] The counterpart of this withdrawal of Christ [the ascension] from the reach of the senses was the gift to the apostles of the Holy Spirit by whom Christ was made present to them in a new way. They now knew him no more by sight and after the flesh; they had His Spirit. And this "having" is both a real possession and a foretaste, an earnest of what is in store... The Spirit assures us that we are heirs of a kingdom yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:17). The Spirit wars in us against the flesh (Gal. 5:17) and gives us assurance that even our mortal bodies shall be quickened (Rom. 8:11). Meanwhile the very mark of the Spirit's presence is that we groan waiting for our adoption (Rom. 8:23) and hoping for that which we do not yet see (Rom. 8:24,25).

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of Cecile Isherwood, Founder of the Community of the Resurrection, Grahamstown, South Africa, 1906 The problem of how an unholy concourse of sinful men and women can be in truth the body of Christ is the same as the problem of how a sinful man can at the same time be accepted as a child of God... Our present situation arises precisely from the fact that this fundamental insight, which the Reformers applied to the position of the Christian man, was not followed through in its application to the nature of the Christian church.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Western European civilization has witnessed a sort of atomizing process, in which the individual is more and more set free from his natural setting in family and neighborhood, and becomes a sort of replaceable unit in the social machine, His nearest neighbors may not even know his name. He is free to move from place to place, from job to job, from acquaintance to acquaintance, and -- if he has attained a high degree of emancipation -- from wife to wife. He is in every context a more and more anonymous and replaceable part, the perfect incarnation of the rationalist conception of man. Wherever western civilization has spread in the past one hundred years, it has carried this atomizing process with it. Its characteristic product in Calcutta, Shanghai, or Johannesburg, is the modern city into which myriads of human beings, loosened from their old ties in village or tribe or caste, like grains of sand fretted by water from an ancient block of sandstone, are ceaselessly churned around in the whirlpool of the city -- anonymous, identical, replaceable units. In such a situation, it is natural that men should long for some sort of real community, for men cannot be human without it. It is especially natural that Christians should reach out after that part of Christian doctrine which speaks of the true, God-given community, the Church of Jesus Christ. We have witnessed the appalling results of trying to go back to some sort of primitive collectivity based on the total control of the individual, down to the depths of his spirit, by an all-powerful group. Yet we know that we cannot condemn this solution to the problem of man's loneliness if we have no other to offer. It is natural that men should ask with a greater eagerness than ever before, such questions as these: "Is there in truth a family of God on earth to which I can belong, a place where all men can be truly at home? If so, where is it to be found, what are its marks, and how is it related to, and dis tinguished from, the known communities of family, nation, and culture? What are its boundaries, its structure, its terms of membership? And how comes it that those who claim to be the spokesmen of that one holy fellowship are themselves at war with one another as to the fundamentals of its nature, and unable to agree to live together in unity and concord?" The breakdown of Christendom has forced such questions as these to the front. I think that there is no more urgent theological task than to try to give them plain and credible answers.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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It is common to hear churchmen speak as though they did not really regard Christian unity as a serious question this side of the End. This is a disastrous illusion. Christians cannot behave as though time were unreal. God gives us time, but not an infinite amount of time. It is His purpose that the Gospel should be preached to all nations, and that all men should be brought into one family in Jesus Christ. His purpose looks to a real End, and therefore requires of us real decisions. If we misconstrue His patience, and think that there is an infinity of time for debate while we perpetuate before the world the scandal of our dismemberment of the Body of Christ, we deceive ourselves. In an issue regarding the doing of the will of God there is no final neutrality.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of Petroc, Abbot of Padstow, 6th century Wherever the missionary character of the doctrine of election is forgotten; wherever it is forgotten that we are chosen in order to be sent; wherever the minds of believers are concerned more to probe backwards from their election into the reasons for it in the secret counsel of God, than to press forward from their election to the purpose of it, ... that they should be Christ's ambassadors and witnesses to the ends of the earth, wherever men think that the purpose of election is their own salvation rather than the salvation of the world: then God's people have betrayed their trust.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Feast of Justin, Martyr at Rome, c.165 Commemoration of Angela de'Merici, Founder of the Institute of St. Ursula, 1540 To make the improving of our own character our central aim is hardly the highest kind of goodness. True goodness forgets itself and goes out to do the right thing for no other reason than that it is right.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Feast of Andrew the Apostle This means that we do not know what are the limits of human history, but it does not mean that there are no real limits. It is important to assert this, because if we do not do so, the limit which we know apart from Christ becomes determinative of our outlook. That limit is death -- the death of the individual, and the death of the social structure in which his corporate personality is embodied. When these are the only limits that men know, then they are left in a hopeless alternation between hope for an individual survival of death, which evacuates their corporate life of ultimate significance, and hope for the eternity of some social or political or cultural achievement, which evacuates personal existence of ultimate significance. This false alternation is overcome in Christ in whom we are brought into relation with the true limit -- a consummation of all things in which both the significance of each personal life and the significance of history as a whole are to be gathered up.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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What is the relation of a secular, this-worldly unification of mankind to the biblical promise of the summing up of all things in Christ? Is it a total contradiction of it? Is it some sort of a reflection of it? or perhaps a devil's parody of it? Or has it nothing to do with it at all? Perhaps there will be many Christians to whom it would not occur to pose the question whether the process of secularization has anything to do with the biblical understanding of the goal of history. The Bible, for them, belongs to a religious world which is not admitted to belong to the world of secular events -- the world in which we are when we read the daily newspaper. But this is to read the Bible wrongly. Whatever else it may be, the Bible is a secular book dealing with the sort of events which a news editor accepts for publication in a daily newspaper; it is concerned with secular events, wars, revolutions, enslavements and liberations, migrants and refugees, famines and epidemics and all the rest. It deals with events which happened and tells a story which can be checked. We miss this because we do not sufficiently treat the Bible as a whole. When we do this, we see at once that the Bible -- whatever be the variety of material which it contains: poetry, prayers, legislation, genealogy, and all the rest -- is in its main design a universal history. It is an interpretation of human history as a whole, beginning with the saga of creation and ending with a vision of the gathering together of all the nations and the consummation of God's purpose for mankind. The Bible is an outline of world history.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Feast of Henry Martyn, Translator of the Scriptures, Missionary in India & Persia, 1812 Continuing a series on the church: The apostle asked the converts of Apollos one question: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" and got a plain answer. His modern successors are more inclined to ask either "Did you believe exactly what we teach?" or "Were the hands that were laid on you our hands?", and -- if the answer is satisfactory -- to assure the converts that they have received the Holy Spirit even if they don't know it.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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We feel that other churches must accept, as the pre-conditions of fellowship, such changes as will bring them into conformity with ourselves in matters which we regard as essential, and that a failure to insist on this will involve compromise in regard to what is essential to the Church's being. But for precisely the same reason, we cannot admit a demand from others for any changes in ourselves which would seem to imply a denial that we already possess the esse of the Church.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, spritual writer, 1893 We feel that other churches must accept, as the pre-conditions of fellowship, such changes as will bring them into conformity with ourselves in matters which we regard as essential, and that a failure to insist on this will involve compromise in regard to what is essential to the Church's being. But for precisely the same reason, we cannot admit a demand from others for any changes in ourselves which would seem to imply a denial that we already possess the esse of the Church.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Feast of Mary, Martha & Lazarus, Companions of Our Lord There is a covenant, ... and God is faithful to His covenant. But the substance of that covenant is all pure mercy and grace. If men presume to claim for themselves, upon the basis of the covenant, some relationship with God other than that of the sinner needing God's grace, the covenant has been perverted. And when that has happened, God, in the sovereign freedom of His grace, destroy these pretensions, calls "No people" to be His people, breaks off natural branches and grafts in wild slips, filling them with the life that is His own life imparted to man. There is no law in His Kingdom save the law of pure grace. That is why they come from east and west to sit down with Abraham and Isaac, while the sons of the Kingdom are cast out; for the sons of the Kingdom have no place there unless they are willing to sit down with all whom the Lord of the feast shall call, and to receive His mercy in exactly the same way as the publicans and sinners.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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Commemoration of Swithun, Bishop of Winchester, c.862 Commemoration of Bonaventure, Franciscan Friar, Bishop, Peacemaker, 1274 We must frankly face the fact that there is in this teaching a revolutionary element which could be dangerously subversive of our existing ways of thought. Let us admit that it is part of the fallen human nature of ecclesiastics, no less than of others in responsible positions, to desire always criteria of judgement which can be used without making too heavy demands upon the delicate faculty of spiritual discernment, clear-cut rules by which we may hope to be saved from making mistakes -- or rather, from being obviously and personally responsible for the mistakes. We are uncomfortable without definite principles by which we may guide our steps. We fear uncharted country, and the fanatics of all kinds who, upon the alleged authority of the Holy Spirit, summon us with strident cries in all directions simultaneously. Only those who have never borne the heavy burden of pastoral responsibility will mock at the cautious spirit of the ecclesiastic.

Christianity Quotes, by Lesslie Newbigin

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