Lesslie Newbigin spent 27 years serving as a missionary in India. A prolific author, he is best known for his contributions to missiology (the study of Christian missions, their methods and purposes) and ecclesiology (theology as applied to the nature and structure of the church).
After Newbigin returned to the UK, he spoke and wrote powerfully about the “culture in crisis” he saw in his homeland, and the destructive effect it was having. Truth To Tell – The Gospel As Public Truth consists of three lectures he presented at the Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, US, entitled: ‘Believing and Knowing the Truth’, ‘Affirming the Truth in the Church’, and ‘Speaking the Truth to Caesar’.
Delving into the ideologies of pluralism, relativism and subjectivism, Truth To Tell is not an easy read – but to those wanting to engage with the Christian worldview debate on an intellectual level, it will prove a superb discovery.
This little book is a direct rebuttal to the “prevailing scepticism about the possibility of knowing truth”. It radically challenges the reigning assumptions about public life, including the persuasion that “the Christian church is not so much a source of true knowledge, as it is an agency which stands for good values”. This persuasion is a direct consequence of modern dualism – the sacred-secular divide that separates church life from ‘real’ life, private life from public life, belief from behaviour, and values from facts.
Rejecting “the attitude which regards belief as sufficient substitute for knowledge”, Newbigin provides a rational framework for overcoming dualism, and for asserting the relevance of the gospel to all of society. “We do not know the fullness of what the service of Jesus means until we have struggled to bring all the manifold works of learning and industry and politics and the arts into obedience to him,” he asserts.
This is a significant book for those who want to explore how the truth of the gospel should transform not just individual lives and hearts, but every sphere of public life too.
Reviewed by Lise-Marie Keyser