Category Archives: The Church

The Point of The Story Has Been Disclosed

“All telling of history is, of course, selective. No history is written except on the basis of judgments about what is significant. No ‘facts of history’ exist, except in so far as what happened was judged significant. The recorded facts will vary according to the judgement of what is significant, and that in turn depends upon what the ‘point’ of the story is. Normally we do not see the point of a story until the end. But we are not in a position to see the end of the cosmic story. The Christian faith is the faith that the point of the story has been disclosed: the ‘end’ has been revealed in the middle. The point of the story is not the triumph of human technology over nature, nor the cyclical rise and fall of civilizations. There is one human family and it has one centre, Jesus Christ, one history, the history of the making of faithful relationships with its maker. To accept that means to live as part of a potentially universal community, looking towards a consummation whose character has been revealed in Jesus Christ, and of which we have already a foretaste in his risen Body.”

~ Lesslie Newbigin, “Our Missionary Responsibility In The Crisis Of Western Culture”

The Cosmic Story

“The Bible is an interpretation of universal history as the history of the divine enterprise of creating faithful relationships, covenant relationships between God and his creatures, God and the human family, faithful relationships between persons and peoples founded on the covenant faithfulness of God. It has the whole cosmos as its theme. It sets the human story within the context of the cosmic story. It has its centre and turning point in the death and resurrection of Him who is the word of God, through whom all things came to be and are. It looks towards a consummation, which is beyond history and which yet gathers up all that has been wrought through history.”

~ Lesslie Newbigin, “Our Missionary Responsibility In The Crisis Of Western Culture”

The Vulnerability of Genuine Community

“A community cannot be made or preserved apart from the loyalty and affection of its members and the respect and goodwill of the people outside it. And, for a long time, these conditions have not been met. As the technological, economic, and political means of exploitation have expanded, communities have been more and more victimized by opportunists outside themselves. And as salesmen, saleswomen, advertisers, and propagandists of the industrial economy have become more ubiquitous and more adept at seduction, communities have lost the loyalty and affection of their members. The community, wherever you look, is being destroyed by the desires and ambitions of both private and public life, which for want of the intervention of community interests are also destroying one another. Community life is by definition a life of cooperation and responsibility. Private life and public life, without the disciplines of community interest, necessarily gravitate toward competition and exploitation. As private life casts off all community restraints in the interest of economic exploitation or ambition or self-realization or whatever , the communal supports of public life also and by the same stroke are undercut, and public life becomes simply the arena of unrestrained private ambition and greed.”

~ Wendall Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1992), 121.

Living in the “Overlap of the Ages”

“The meaning of this ‘overlap of the ages’ on which we live, the time between the coming of Christ and his coming again, is that it is the time given for the witness of the apostolic church to the ends of the earth. The end of all things, which has been revealed in Christ, is — so to say — held back until the witness has been borne to the whole world concerning the judgment and salvation revealed in Christ. The implications of a true eschatological perspective will be missionary obedience, and the eschatology which does not issue in such obedience is a false eschatology.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the CHurch (New York, NY: Friendship Press, 1954), 153.

Keller on Contextualization

“Contextualization is not ‘giving people what they want’ but rather it is giving God’s answers (which they may not want!) to questions they are asking and in forms that they can comprehend. ‘Contextualization’ ‘incarnates’ the Christian faith in a particular culture.”

~ Timothy Keller, “Being the Church in Our Culture” (Reformation & Resurgence Conference, 2006).

The Gospel’s Power & the Church’s Mission

“Martin Luther once said that the gospel is like a caged lion that does not need to be defended — only released. Indeed the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18). When it is at work in the words, works, and lives of God’s people, it will accomplish its purposes. But the gospel is ‘caged’ when it is accommodated to the story of humanism. Only when the gospel is set free from its captivity to the dominant cultural story will the church be equipped for its comprehensive mission in Western culture.”

~ Mike Goheen & Craig Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads (Grand Rapids, Mi.; Baker Academic, 2008), 11.

Church, State & Secularism

I’m really enjoying Hunter Baker’s book The End of Secularism and think he has many insights into the origins, character, influence, and weaknesses of secularism as an ideology. It is historically and philosophically well-informed. Baker helps Christians think through the challenges of living out their faith in a society pervasively influenced by secular assumptions. Here is one paragraph on the relationship between church and state:

When the church is provided for by the state, it becomes concerned with pleasing the state and gains a second master. Though Christians often bemoan the separation of church and state and claim angrily that the separation of church and state is not in the [US] Constitution, they are actually expressing their frustration with secularism as the preferred ideology of many elites in politics, media, and education. Christians should absolutely bring their faith to bear in the public square. They should reject the influence of secularism urging them to keep their faith private and not to argue for a Christian perspective in areas like politics and education. What they must not do is to repeat the mistake of mingling the church’s future with that of the state. Temporal kingdoms have no eternal destiny. The church does.

~ Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2009), 148.