Thursday, June 06, 2013

Newbigin's six views of the church 1

Newbigin's six views of what the church will be...

1...a community of praise. That is, perhaps, its most distinctive character. Praise is an activity which is almost totally absent from "modern" society. Here two distinct points can be made.

a. The dominant notes in the development of the specifically "modern" view of things has been (as we have noted earlier) the note of scepticism, of doubt. The "hermeneutic of suspicion" is only the most recent manifestation of the belief that one could be saved from error by the systematic exercise of doubt. It has followed that when any person, institution, or tradition has been held up as an object worthy of reverence, it has immediately attracted the attention of those who undertook to demonstrate that there was another side to the picture, that the golden image has feet of clay. I suppose that this is one manifestation of that "disenchantment" which Weber regarded as a key element in the development of "modern" society. Reverence, the attitude which looks up in admiration and love to one who is greater and better than oneself, is generally regarded as something unworthy of those who have "come of age" and who claim that equality is essential to human dignity. With such presuppositions, of course, the very idea of God is ruled out. The Christian congregation, by contrast, is a place where people find their true freedom, their true dignity, and their true equality in reverence to One who is worthy of all the praise that we can offer.

b. Then, too, the Church's praise includes thanksgiving. The Christian congregation meets as a community that acknowledges that it lives by the amazing grace of a boundless kindness. Contemporary society speaks much about "human rights." It is uncomfortable with "charity" as something which falls short of "justice," and connects the giving of thanks with an unacceptable subservience. In Christian worship the language of rights is out of place except when it serves to remind us of the rights of others. For ourselves we confess that we cannot speak of rights, for we have been given everything and forgiven everything and promised everything, so that (as Luther said) we lack nothing except faith to believe it. In Christian worship we acknowledge that if we had received justice instead of charity we would be on our way to perdition. A Christian congregation is thus a body of people with gratitude to spare, a gratitude that can spill over into care for the neighbor. And it is of the essence of the matter that this concern for the neighbor is the overflow of a great gift of grace and not, primarily, the expression of commitment to a moral crusade. There is a big difference between these two.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
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